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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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Behind the Build: SunnyBrook Farm - A Scratch-built Georgian

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

Early in 2001, after we did our first kit-bash, I fell in love with RGT Foxhall Manor. I wanted to build it, but differently. I wanted to turn it into a Georgian/Palladian style with the appropriate windows and doors within a slightly larger house, and make it front-opening.

We spoke with a dollhouse shop to have the house shell custom-built to my specs. The builder argued with some of my ideas, gave an estimate beyond my budget (and I still had to buy all the components), would only ship a completed shell rather than a flat package, and could not do the project for at least six months! I was heart-broken and we were annoyed. My husband said, “Heck, we’ll build it ourselves”. As we were mulling this, I saw a different Georgian house I liked better, anyway!

I like front- opening dollhouses and the Georgian/Palladian style, and I saw a beautiful one in Doll’s House World magazine. Buying it was not an option so my husband said we should scratch-build this one instead! I am attaching the dollhouse picture. This was mid-2001.

Of course, the house grew in size and number of rooms as we designed it. I had thought that this was going to be the only other dollhouse I would build (hah), so I put as many things as possible in it, and I had no idea how to build many of those things. The only power tools we had were a drill, a jig saw, and a circular saw. We quickly went out to buy a table saw, a scroll saw, a band saw, and a Dremel. We built a workshop in the basement and renamed it “Judith’s Dungeon”. Boy, were we babes in the wood!

The building and creative process did not go smoothly. At one point, I was so discouraged; I stopped building for a couple of months. Two big early problems were the kit-bashing to make Palladian windows and doors from a couple of different components, and the Foyer. I wanted an elegant Foyer and none of the commercial staircases seemed right (besides, the ceiling was 11” high). For the Foyer staircase, I ended up bashing a Classics curved staircase (I needed a different curvature), widened the staircase (needed more elegance), and added an extra turn at the bottom and more steps.

The windows, doors, and the curved staircase were such an important part of the design that once we resolved those issues, I finally felt that I could do this house.

My family’s ideas and help got me back on track. Believe me, without my husband’s MAJOR support and help, I could not have done it (and still could not). My sister also has always been there whenever I needed her – even before I asked.

This is the design we did (see Webshots for more views and details):

The major mistake on this house is that I didn't follow my own advice. I did build the two wings as separate structures-good. I knew that the main house was going to be large and heavy to move so I had planned to make it as three units: basement, main floors, and attic, but I didn't --very foolish of me not to listen to myself. Oh well ...

Some of the hardest lessons I have had to learn were to accept frustration, to have to do something more than once, that everything takes longer than expected, and that it is nothing personal -- some of this is really hard to create. Also, I had to learn to relax and to have fun!

Some of my ideas worked; some did not and had to be scrapped. I have tape wired, and pulled out tape wire and grommets, glued walls in and taken them out, put in doorways and windows where there weren’t any, and glued the wall pieces back when I no longer wanted the openings, I have recut sections, etc, etc, and etc. Believe me, nothing in this house was easy.

I keep learning and I am still working on this house.


  1. Wow! The "Big G" interior is really great! I like the way the front (door) walls are decorated to match the rest of the rooms.

  2. Now this is a dollhouse! Puts a new perpective on the creative process.

  3. Now this is a dollhouse to die for!

  4. What you accomplished with this house was worth the effort!