Much thought and effort is placed into the design, building, interior decorating and furnishing of a dollhouse. Often, however, the actual dollhouse residents are given little or no thought. While some dollhouses sit as empty and vacant showpieces, many dollhouse owners prefer to add a bit of realism to the dollhouse by adding a doll family.
The dolls that you select will depend on the age and interests of the dollhouse owner, as well as the function for which the dollhouse is used. If the dollhouse is for a small child, dolls should definitely be included in the package. It is by playing with the dolls that the child will learn important life lessons. Be sure that the dolls are sturdy and large enough that no pieces will present a choking hazard. Also, be prepared for the dolls to end up in extremely strange locations and situations. Some unexpected occupants will also move in, mostly other dolls that the child owns. A childs dollhouse should be considered a toy rather than a showpiece.
For a display dollhouse, the dolls should fit with the theme of the house. You can custom make dolls, have commissioned pieces made from your own design, or order pre-made dolls. A wide variety of pre-made dolls are available. Most are designed to fit the common 1:12 scale, but you can find dolls in all miniature scales.
The number of dolls and their apparent ages will vary according to the style and era of the dollhouse, its size, and the story you are trying to portray. If you wish to show the everyday life of Victorian aristocracy, the dolls you select will be far different from those used to show life during the American Great Depression.
Remember that the focus should remain on the dollhouse. Feel free to take artistic license in selecting the dolls. If the average number of children in a family of the era was 12, you do not need to fill the house with 12 individual child dolls. It would be perfectly appropriate to have three or four children of a range of ages.
Doll clothes can be either purchased or made by hand. When making doll clothes, remember that scrap fabrics from a variety of sources work extremely well. At the scale of a dollhouse doll, elaborate detailing can be implied more than created outright. A simple scrap of black velvet, for example, can be formed and decorated with a gold pen to create the illusion of a ball gown.
Whether you purchase or create your dolls and their clothes, keep in mind that the dolls function is to balance the dollhouse and create a sense of life. Do not become so focused on elaborate dolls that you throw the dollhouse out of proportion. Bring the dolls into the overall interior design plan of the dollhouse for the most realistic and harmonious effect.