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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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Original Rowbottom Manse- The Second Empire Victorian Home of Martha & George Wells, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Martha Nancy Randolph and George Laurence Wells Biographical Information...

The Wells Family:
George’s ancestors were latecomers to the United States. He laughs that he feels like a “newbie to say nothing of being a Damn Yankee” next to the Randolphs! The Wells family came from Britain in 1870 and settled happily in Boston!

George’s paternal grandfather Hugh was a newspaper editor when he decided to run for Congress. He won and went to Washington. After being there for a number of years, decided that he liked Southern living but he did not like politics! His wife, Louisa (also a proper Bostonian) agreed! Hugh gave up politics, went back to his “inky” roots and bought into a local newspaper. He then moved his family from a Boston townhouse into a rambling Tudor in Potomac, Maryland.

George’s father Arthur joined the newspaper after he received his Journalism degree from the University of Maryland. Once he felt secure in his job, he married his college sweetheart the former Helen Irene Mac Duff (Duffy) who was now also working for the paper. They bought a wonderful 1920's home in Silver Spring and are still living there. . Besides son George Laurence, they have another son Franklin Eric who is a surgeon and a Major in the Air Force, and a daughter Dorothea Therese who writes children’s books.

The Randolph Family:
Martha's parents are Stuart John Randolph and Elizabeth Martha Lee . Both families have been in Virginia "since the Ice Age", Stuart jokes. After Stuart graduated from Duke University with a degree in Civil Engineering, he accepted a position with the Commonwealth of Virginia. ("Time to come back home", he said.) The following summer, while working in Fredericksburg he met his future wife, Elizabeth. After Elizabeth graduated from college, they married and settled in a charming 1930's house in Fredericksburg . Stuart took a position with the city and Elizabeth became a research librarian. Besides their daughter Martha Nancy, they have a son Peter Charles .

Martha and George:

George graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Landscape Architecture. While in college, he became good friends with Derek Rowbottom . He then met his future wife Martha Randolph when Derek started dating her cousin Rebecca . (Martha’s father Stuart and Rebecca’s father Graham are brothers.) George immediately started taking a lot of good-natured ribbing about having Yankee roots!

George is a senior partner with Derek in the esteemed architectural and landscape design firm, Potomac Landscapes. Their pet projects are historic preservation and restoration, and urban renewal -- which they often do pro bono. George and Derek give classes on Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington and also give lectures to various civic groups.

Martha graduated from William and Mary with a degree in Economics. Through the years, she has worked her way up to become the business manager at a public TV and radio station. She often has her cousin Rebecca, a well-known wildlife photographer, develop Nature programs for television. Martha teaches classes about the business of running a TV station at the University of Mary Washington.

Martha and George bought a small home in downtown Fredericksburg when they married but they really liked the home that Derek and Rebecca had bought a few years earlier (another "needs work" but "loaded with charm"). It was a spacious 1891 Second Empire Victorian on Smith Farm Road just outside the Historic District. It had been the manor house of the Josiah Smith Farm. The farm was subdivided after he died but his widow kept the house on almost two acres of property for herself. The house remained in the family until the Rowbottoms bought it.

Even before the Rowbottoms finished renovating the Victorian, they started planning the home of their dreams. They sold the Victorian to Martha and George when their new home was completed (see Sunnybrook Farm), The Wells then turned the Victorian into the home of their dreams and are living there happily ever after.

Martha plays the violin and George has a wonderful baritone voice thus they both get "volunteered" for the many musicales that the Randolphs like to organize. Another area of participation: Fredericksburg is a very historic and wonderful city and George and Martha do all they can to preserve and protect it.

They have three children: Jane Elizabeth, Erica Helene, and James Richard ; and a shetland collie named Millie and a cat named Mini.

Behind the Build: My First Kitbash--The Original Rowbottom Manse - Now the Wells Home (Alison Jr Look-alike)

It all began here! The original Rowbottom manse kit bash! This is a RGT Alison Jr. look-alike made by Petite Dreams and sold by Target.

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

One day, near the end of 2000, my sister came bearing gifts – a RGT Alison Jr look-alike dollhouse kit, a houseful of furniture, and a family to live in it. At the time, since our dollhouse building career had not started, we did not know about the RGT Alison, Jr. It was after we got into the hobby, that we discovered the whole big world of dollhouse miniatures.

Since I think on a personal level, I decided that the house would be peopled, the people would have names, the house would have a location, and the occupants of the house would have a lifestyle. All of these would contribute to the ambience of the house.

I named the family Rebecca and Derek Rowbottom; and since my sister bought the original supplies and just loves Fredericksburg, Virginia, she got to pick that town as the location. The Rowbottoms have since moved into a large Georgian (Sunnybrook Farm). Martha and George Wells now live here. The time is the present.

With some trepidation, my husband and I built the house. It is MDF and actually, went together very well. After it was finished, it looked small, and when I tried to place the furniture, I realized that the house was small! The rooms were not wide enough nor were they deep enough for all the furniture and the Rowbottom life style. The Rowbottoms have lots of family and friends and needed room for entertaining.

Well, what to do? The family had a discussion (including my Derek Rowbottom who, fortunately, is a highly qualified architect). We decided to make it bigger, but not longer than 48”. My husband bought a 2’ x 4’ piece of plywood on which it would rest, and THAT was immutable.

We bought a second dollhouse to make more, and larger, rooms, but we still needed to add 4” to the depth. Ye gad! Unfortunately, we could not find 3/8” MDF so we used 3/8” cabinet grade birch plywood where we didn’t have enough MDF. (Merging MDF and plywood was not a problem, thankfully -- I used wood glue and “plugs” to hold them together.) Now I had a scheme for length and depth.

The first tool I bought for this venture was a Dremel with flexi-shaft. The second thing I did was to get an HBS catalog.

The Bash -- Before and After Pictures:

We broke apart the house we had just put together and modified the design to use the two houses. As you can see in the photos, we added an entire vertical section with three rooms (dining room , living room
and master bedroom), and added 2" in width to the middle section, and enlarged the kitchen . We now had extra parts so I added three porches to the sides of the house. The larger roof area gave room for a large rooftop garden.

I also changed and moved the front door, added three French doors, and added internal doors in the kitchen, dining room, and living room. The staircases were too narrow and came without rails. My husband cut an extra staircase in half and I glued each half onto a “full” stair and added railings. I carpeted the stairs to hide the seams.

The entrance room, a combination foyer and sitting room with stairway came about because I wanted a nice sitting room but did not have enough room for a hallway for the stairs. Cake decoration Grecian columns made cheap and elegant additions to the foyer to “mark” a line for the stair hall.

On the third floor, I decided that I would rather have room in the rooms so the third floor stair hallway is “hidden ” .

The attic was expanded a bit to have more storage area and a sewing room and the rest of the roof became a wonderful rooftop entertaining area .There were some siding problems because the siding was milled onto the MDF and I had some trouble blending the seams (now hidden by foliage). The house is completed except for some finishing touches here and there, including making a much taller main chimney. Landscaping was made from dried, silk, and plastic items from Michaels, with some items actually bought from dollhouse shops!

The size of the original dollhouse was about 24" wide x 14 ½ “deep x 38” tall; the modified house is 48” wide (includes side porch) x 19 ½” deep x 38” tall.

Funny thing-- I did not realize that people kit bashed all the time; I thought I was committing some kind of sacrilege by modifying an “existing” design!