It All Starts Here

Sometimes our ideas flow from an existing kit to bash, a house style to scratch (aka custom) build, or from an interesting doll who needs a place to live. Our settings are always modern-day (ca. 2001 when we started this hobby). We try to create things that will make people smile and feel good.

We think that if we had to build the same house twice, we literally could not do it! Fortunately, we have very unique little people who have definite opinions and so far, no one has wanted a house “like so-and-so” has.

We work as a family unit: my wonderful husband, my beautiful sister, and I. We don't always agree as to the direction of the build, but I think that we end up with a better dollhouse because of all our grumblings -- and we do have a lot of fun!

The Purpose of this Blog

We needed a place for all we wanted to say about the background of the build and the nuts and bolts of the design and build process. Thus this blog.

All our dolls' homes have families living in them and a story is built around their personalities and lifestyles. This story is an integral part of our building process. We would like to share these stories -- actually, the little people insist upon it!

Many of our houses are located in Fredericksburg, Virginia because that is my sister's favorite place.

Also, we have started a Rouges' Gallery with photos of our little people and information about the dolls.

If you would like to start with the dollhouse that "started it all", it is the Original Rowbottom Manse; if you would like to see the scratch-built Georgian that our first build gave us the confidence (or fool-hardiness) to do, it is Sunnybrook Farm.

Let the stories begin!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Behind The Build: MacPherson Farm (Custom Build)

(For a complete pictorial chronicle, see the Webshots album listed on the left.)

This build started in the winter of 2007. When I was looking for a home for the MacPhersons, I realized that I could now build a plantation house style (aka “Southern Colonial” -- Tara is a good example of this style).

As soon as I bought “Angus”, I knew that he lived in this type of house and that he raised Saddlebred horses. I also knew that he worked for the CIA (but that’s another story). I had already built an elaborate Georgian (The Big G) so I didn’t want anything of that scale, and I didn’t even want a hint of Palladian. The MacPhersons are a casual folk.

I researched real houses and found a great range of stunning plantation houses. I kept looking and finally found a very nice "homey" style. The following picture is the model I am using for the exterior of Mac pherson Farm.

I bought an Earth & Tree Hancock 3/8 " birch plywood kit to turn into a front-opening house. When I unpacked the kit, I realized that the dimensions were not what I thought they would be and some of the wood was warped. This, plus the bashing that I had planned to do: front-opening with different size windows and doors than the cut-outs, and expanding the attic, made me realize that I should have scratch-built. I decide to go ahead and simply bash it into what I wanted. Big mistake! As a result, not very much of the original remains and I had a lot more work this way. My husband and sister kept saying to start from scratch, but I didn’t listen. We like the way the house is turning out, but it has been a discouraging build.

I decided to build a six-room house since I was tired of doing kitchens and bathrooms. The interior is a basic center hall colonial with living room and dining room on the first floor, 2 bedrooms on the second, and an expanded attic with a den for really relaxing and a “collections” room for rare books and objects .

As with all best laid plans, my sister decided to build an addition: a ground-floor kitchen, and a 2nd floor bathroom and dressing room for Celestine! This is on the dining room side of the house and is a separate unit just pushed against the main house. So much for just a six room build.

Design Features:
This is a front-opening dollhouse. The front section (with 2-story porch and its roof) pulls away from the house in one 36” section and turned out to be heavier than I thought. The attic roof flips up. The house is electrified by pulling the wires of the lights under the flooring or straight out the back and plugged into a power strip attached to a transformer. This method needs no tape wire – me hates tape wire!

The house exterior is brick – but a simple and inexpensive way. I bought Handley House brick sheets and sprayed them with Fleck-Stone “Fiesta”. This gave them a wonderful color and texture! The house has a wood shake roof. The chimneys use a form made of builder’s foam insulation and then covered with the brick sheets. These were very hard to use around the chimneys. Actually, it was a mess and I wouldn't use this method again! All the windows and doors open.

To have the floor space I wanted in the first floor hall, I cut off two steps of the staircase and turned the straight run staircase into an “L”. I also added a niche in the dining room for a wonderful Reutter breakfront. To have more room in the fireplace fireboxes, I cut openings in the walls to give depth. For the first floor flooring, I made patterns with parquet and regular wood flooring sheets.

To have good sized rooms in the attic, I added a long back dormer with an 8" back wall. Also, to have the roof come down over the porch, I increased the height of the peak and increased the length of the main section. This hinged roof section comes down over the static roof section of the porch.

The pull-away front includes the entire 2-story porch section. The porch will have steps. The porch was a bit complicated to make. I did measure and sketch it out, but it still needed adjustment as I was building!

The kitchen addition is a separate section with a flat, walk-out roof. The front is also a pull-away section. Since this was a late-comer, to make internal doorways easier, I used faux connecting doors.

=-=-=-November 25, 2010-=-=-=
I thought I should add a long-overdue comment on this house: I am still working on it! I took almost a year off from it due to other demands on my time. As a result, now that I have time again, I have to remember what I wanted to do and what I have to still think about doing, such as how to build the "pull-away" front and steps for the addition. Also, some thinking is still needed for the front of the main house.

I do have the electricity working in the house (except for the attic) and in the the addition. The rooms have all their furniture and incidentals-- except for Celestine's dressing room where I am fighting with little clothes and little hangers! There is even a pre-Christmas party going on inside the house!

A note about electricity:
Having the wires connect to power strips beings a problem since one power strip can only handle 20 bulbs. This house will need two to three power strips and they all will connect to one 40-watt transformer (the transformer can light up to 60bulbs); therefore, I will need an electrical connector block into which I will connect the transformer and the power strips. I am also considering making my own "power strip" from 1in x 3 in pine, lay down tape wire, put in grommets for the plugs, add a junction splice, and connect the transformer to that. Then I will not need any commercial power strips.

1 comment:

  1. I like your house ideas. I agree sometimes kits go bad. The house looks very nice in spite of all the problems.