The everyman's guide to building your daughter a fairy door

What child's bedroom is complete without a fully functional fairy door?

I usually write about ecommerce and digital marketing on this blog, but it’s time for something different.

Recently, I remodelled my daughter’s bedroom, spending almost 2 months planning, designing, demoing, and then rebuilding her bedroom. In addition to the pink paint and white trim I had planned, I wanted to add a special touch. What does every 3-year-old girl want in her bedroom? A full-sized princess castle wasn’t going to happen, so I built the (almost) next best thing: A fairy door.

I think a child’s bedroom should instil a sense of wonderment and be a special place, so a fairy door seemed like a good choice. For a touch of authenticity, I wanted it to be fully functional, with a mini room behind the door where the fairy could leave little presents and notes for my daughter.

There wasn’t much in the way to ready-to-install, fully functional fairy doors on the market, so I set about building my own. Besides, I had a vision in mind of how it would look and work, so building it from scratch was the only way to go.

Without further adu, here is the everyman’s (or just a handyman’s) guide to creating a functional fairy door for your daughter.

Tools

You’ll need the following tools for this project:

  • Miter saw (for baseboard installation only, otherwise you don’t need it)
  • Jig saw
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Drywall saw (jab saw)
  • Dremel or equivalent
  • Sandpaper, including sanding block
  • Cardboard (thin)
  • Craft wood (for the door)
  • Mini hinges and door knob (I simply took these from a small jewelry box)
  • Masking tape
  • Decorative wrapping paper
  • Paint (white and purple were my colours of choice)
  • Decorative stickers (such as flowers and/or butterflies)

Step 1 - Planning

Good planning is essential for any project and I had a specific vision in mind for how the fairy door would look and function. For example, I wanted the fairy door to sit in the new baseboard, but not extend beyond the top of the baseboard’s decorative curve. That meant the door would be about 3 inches high, and I wanted it to have a rounded or arched top. I also wanted the fairy door to be positioned somewhere in her room where she would be able to see it and get access easily. Finally, I wanted the door to be functional, which meant figuring out where in the room I could safely cut a hole out into the wall and insert the interior of the fairy room.

With a vision in mind, I set about writing down the details, including a shopping list. I already had a lot of the tools, so I created a materials list, which consisted of the following:

  • Cardboard (thin)
  • Craft wood (for the door)
  • Mini hinges and door knob (I acquired these from a small jewelry box)
  • Masking tape
  • Decorative wrapping paper (for the interior)
  • Paint (white and purple were my colours of choice)
  • Decorative stickers (such as flowers and/or butterflies)

Most of these materials are available at your local craft store, such as Michael’s.

Set up your workplace. Be sure to clamp down your baseboard

Set up your saw on a sturdy table

Step 2 - Create the template

I measured my baseboard and determined that I had 4 inches of height to work with. I estimated a width of about 2.5 inches. Taking a piece of regular white paper, draw a box measuring those dimensions. The tricky part here is creating the arched top of the door. There more than a few ways to create a half circle for the top, but I just choose to trace a juice glass with a dimeter of about 2.5 inches.

Cut out the template and place over top of your baseboard. Using a pencil, carefully trace the template on the baseboard.

A paper template to help trace the door shape onto the baseboard

Trace the shape of the door onto the baseboard

Step 3 - Cut the doorway

For this step, it’s a good idea to test out your cutting skills on a scrap piece of wood first, especially if you haven’t previously used a jig saw. Needless to say, be sure you’ve clapped down the baseboard well before cutting.

Using the jig saw, carefully cut just inside the pencil line. Watch out for the corners; jig saws don’t corner well. Don’t worry if it’s rough, as you’re going to smooth it out in the next step.

Be careful with the jig saw

Use a jig saw to cut out the shape that you just traced

Step 4 - Fine-tune the cut

Using a Dremel with a medium sanding bit, carve out the rest of the inside of the door jam, until you can’t see a trace of the pencil line anymore. I used sandpaper and a sanding block once I was right on top of the line.

Step 5 - Trace out the door

Take your craft wood and place it under your baseboard. Using a pencil, trace out the door using the inside of the door jam. The craft wood I used for my door was quite thin, so I was able to trim it using only tin snips.

Step 6 - Ensure a good fit

Sand the door as well as the door jam to ensure you have a snug fit. Don’t worry if the top edges don’t fit perfectly, just get as close a fit as you can, leaving about a millimetre or so of clearance for opening and closing the door.

Step 7 - Cutting out the fairy room

What makes this project special is that the fairy door actually opens and closes, revealing a hidden room! So, let’s create it now.

By now, you know where in your daughter’s room the door will be located. Measure up from the floor to 4 inches — this is the top of the baseboard that you don’t want to cut above. Then measure 2.5 inches wide. Double check your measurements by placing the baseboard against the wall and ensuring your cutting in the right place.

Using a drywall saw, cut out the wall area where the fairy room will be. Removing the drywall will reveal the bottom plate (the 2 x4 piece of wood that runs along the bottom inside of the wall). Using a reciprocating saw, remove the 2.5 inch wide chunk of the bottom plate. Watch out for your floor! I ended up scratching the heck out of my floorboard and had to replace a small section afterward.

Watch out for the floor – I scratched mine and had to replace a section

Use a reciprocating saw to cut out the area where the room insert will go

Step 8 - Create and install the fairy room insert

To create the actually fairy room, I used a 5 small pieces of cardboard. I used thin cardboard as opposed to the think corrugated board to make working with it easier. Before taking the boards together, decorate the “walls” with your choice of wrapping paper. You could also paint them, too.

Tape your room pieces together and try several test fittings inside the wall area to ensure you’ve got a good fit.

Important note: If you’re using wrapping paper for the inside of the fairy room, don’t wrap the sides around the inset box. Instead, tape the paper against the wall. This way, when you add the baseboard, you won’t see piece of drywall poking out.

Create the room insert with a little cardboard and some nice wrapping paper. Tada!

It's easy to create the room insert with a little cardboard and wrapping paper

Step 9 - The door

Paint your baseboard and fairy door. I used white trim paint for the baseboard, and an acrylic purple paint for the door.

Once the paint is dry, screw the hinges onto the door. Position them as close to the edge as possible without splitting the wood, which I half expected would happen but never did.

Paint your door before adding on the hinges

Paint your door before adding on the hinges

Step 10 - Add baseboard, paint, and install door

Okay, so you’ve got your baseboard cut out, a door cut to size and painted, and your room insert is in place. Install the baseboard as per normal. Then, position the door into the jam and secure the hinges to the baseboard. Keep the screws a bit loose until you find the correct positioning — if the hinges are too far away from the edge of the jam and door, the door won’t swing open and close properly.

Push the room insert into the space you’ve cut out in your wall. Be sure to tape the wallpaper for the room to the bedroom wall. This ensures that the drywall doesn’t show through once you’ve covered it up with the baseboard.

Insert the room insert

Install the baseboard. Voila, a little room in a room.

Install the baseboard

I added the door knob/hinge after I installed the door to ensure a good fit.

Add doorknob

Decorate the door with cute flowers and other pretty things.

Cute flowers go a long way

A final test

Done.

Note that the screws I used for the door actually poke through a bit, so be sure to file them down or grind them off with a Dremel.

With any luck, your fairy door is looking awesome and you’re ready to show it off. I told my daughter that I was building her a fairy door and that eventually I fairy would move in if she liked it. My daughter squealed with delight when she saw the door for the first time and she checks the door every morning and night to see if a fairy has moved in. Then, one day a fairy did indeed move it. We never see her, but she leaves little gifts inside the little room, including fairy dust and other traces of her presence.