Painting Caroline's Parlor

I've just begun to transform my American Girl Caroline's Parlor. I wanted a darker, more neutral palette as a backdrop than the one provided.

To begin with I tested some house paint on the back of one of the units. It was a high quality Benjamin Moore paint left over from the renovation of our master bath and it is only about one year old. The surface of the piece took the paint very well but it was too light and I didn't like the faint eggshell finish. I tested one of the Behr colors we used in the rest of the house and decided to use it as my main color. The color is called wet cement.
The Ott lamp I was using is on the left. If your computer monitor renders accurate colors you can see how much cleaner the whites look. By comparison on the right, I had a halogen bulb in a lamp and the white is yellower.

That paint did not have the coverage of the Benjamin Moore and I had to apply two coats. The finish is nice and flat which is exactly what I need for photographic purposes.

This color is perfect as a backdrop for my Horsman French Chaise and sets of chairs in sage.  Pretty much any color upholstery will look good in this setting.

Before you open a can of paint you might have in your garage do consider the age of the paint. Test it on the back of the piece. Then you need a few good brushes. I'm using synthetic sable-like flat brushes in several different sizes.
You want to avoid brushing over and over and making strokes in different directions. Let each coat dry before beginning the next or you will get ridges and a generally uneven finish.
Use pointy tipped brushes to get into hard to reach corners.

One place you do not want paint to get on is the clear plastic window! I cut out a piece of oak tag to fit over that while I was painting.

The base color was easy to apply but I couldn't help getting some on the white trim. It wasn't as easy to do the fine edges where the white trim meets the rest of the piece. No problem, right? I'll just use some white paint to go over the wandering gray. WRONG.
 The paint I tried, and will not continue with, is a flat ceiling paint and it's not covering the gray. You may be able to see the parts I have tried to fix as the flat finish is contrasted to the existing low gloss finish of the original piece. I plan to use a high quality acrylic to do the trim. I am resigned to the fact that I probably will have to go over all the white even if I haven't gotten gray on it in order to get the same finish. All whites are not the same.

At one point I began wondering why I even started. When you paint the inside of the bookcase you may rue the day you started.

The large raised frame over the fireplace and the fronts of the drawers are painted using the same color as the background with 1/3 of the volume white added. The drawers do not pull out all the way which would have been ideal. I just painted them while they were open. I did not paint the insides, the undersides or the full sides of the drawers.
The floor and ceiling of the fireplace have been painted as well as the area under the shelf between the brackets. I'm considering doing a faux marble finish on the fireplace tile surround eventually. 

Don't look at the pile of doll boxes..
I love the window seat section!  I want to make a few of my own backdrops to insert in the slot. The possibilities are limitless. Another collector made a cover for their yellow cushion and a beautiful valance.

A lot of collectors posting on Prego and the Studio Commissary are putting up pictures of their Caroline's Parlor set-ups.  Did you get one?


  1. This is going to look great, too bad it's way too big for my dolls.

    Before you paint the white trim, you might want to use a stain blocking primer. It's an extra step, but you may be able to only have to use 1 coat of white after that, instead of multiple coats to cover misplaced gray.

  2. The more subdued color really brings this piece up a couple of notches. Can't wait to see it in your shots. as always love the blog.
    Will C.

  3. I didn't get one :( I just don't have the room and need to save money for a new people sized sofa and chairs.

    I love the new color, more grown up than the light blue was.

    1. I wasn't going to get any more large doll stuff but this was irresistible. You know how that goes. See you soon!

  4. Those look so nice! I really wanted to get one- then two to stick together- then I talked myself out of them because they are HUGE - then they went on sale- I hesitated for a minute, and they were sold out!

    I really like them but I am going to try and do my own roombox at some point- I have the supplies, just need the time and courage...

    1. I hope you get the motivation to go forward with your own room setting.