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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Friday, May 20, 2011

Behind the Build: Westerly- The Beach Landscape

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

I was certain that the Greenleaf Westville could be bashed into a wonderful beach house. What I wasn’t certain about was how to build a beach. However, I did know that the landscape and house had to fit on a base not larger than 4 x 4 foot. Fortunately, the new footprint of the Westville was only about 34" x 14" so there would be areas for grass, beach, and ocean. I allotted 24"for house and grass, 12" for sandy slope, and the rest for beach and water. I named the house Westerly.

In order to have a slope down to the water, I built a 2 1/2" tall platform for the house and grass, and in front of this I glued a 2 ½" tall x 12" deep x 48" piece of Styrofoam in a stepped fashion. Part of this would be a level planting area and part would be the sandy slope. I glued a ½ inch tall x 24 inch deep x 48 inch long piece of builder’s foam over it for a planting base. I used a Noch brand grass roll from a train store for the level grassy area.

... ...

This sandy slope would go down to a flatter sandy area going into the water. Now to make that surface I needed to make and carve an uneven slope. To help make the slope I sprayed the “sandy” area with uneven levels of Great Stuff expandable foam insulation. After this was dry I carved a rolling and curved slope. This was not as easy as I thought. The foam dried very hard. When I had the surface I liked, I cut into it to place the wooden steps to the flat beach. I then painted the sand a “sand” color, darker by the wet edge, and lighter up the slope. After this was dry, I sprayed the sand with glue and sprinkled play sand over it all. I touched up as needed.

... ...

I decided that I would not use resin water but simply paint water on the plywood with colored, thick, semi-gloss acrylic paint in various shades of blue and green with white “foam” over a sand-colored area.

Now I needed to place some plants and birds.

I made a stone wall around the house for a shrub and flower area, and picked out other areas for beach vegetation. I used purchased, and my own mini plants, and placed them around. I bought a wooden slat and wire fence and placed it on the sand dune as a “sand stabilizer” fence. I added some plant residue here and there along the sand to indicate the stuff that washes up with the waves. Then I placed different varieties of birds in the scene.

Now I just needed to have a beach party!.. ...

I dressed some little people in shorts and bathing suits, and I even bought two doll kits with “bare feet”! I set up a barbeque and eating area and let everyone have a good time – ah, those hazy, lazy, hot and humid days of summer!

Behind the Build: Westerly- Kit bash of GL Westville

Original Westville


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

My helpers were very skeptical with what I could do with this house. My sister who refuses to work with 1/8" plywood, said she would buy the furniture if I could get this done. My husband wasn't sure if / how this was going to work out. I had an idea; I didn't think it was going to be easy -- and of course, it wasn't. By the time I worked out my list of "must haves" there were a lot of changes to be made.

The Greenleaf Westville is a very nice-looking house. For those who can leave well-enough alone, or only want to make a small change, the build should go fairly smoothly. I liked the "bones" of the house, I just thought it needed to be more of a house, a summer Nantucket seashore looking house.
... I wanted a larger house.
... I wanted an open plan first floor
... I wanted a large porch across the front on the first and second floors.
... I wanted the chimney to be in line with a fireplace.
... I wanted a more interesting and open staircase.
... I wanted a second floor hall so that rooms (especially the bathroom) could be private!
... I realized that the bedroom furniture would be hard to place without some decent wall space.
... I wanted doors to the second floor porch.
... I did not like that the house roof line almost reached the roof of the porch and those tiny "on the floor windows" under that roof line. It looked claustrophobic! It looked dangerous! It looked like the builder miscalculated!

Fortunately, the Westville had a depth that was usable for my design but the length needed 10 inches. In retrospect, I should have added 12 inches.

I raised the roof and added full sized windows. I added a large bedroom dormer. I added a large chimney and stuccoed it. The house has grey clapboards with white trim. I added a porch across the entire second floor front with doors to it from the bedroom and the den; and across 2/3 of the first. I added some nice columns and steps. This house front is made for sitting and relaxing and watching the ocean! In fact, the whole house is made for seaside fun!

The beginnings of the interior:

To this:

~~The Main Floor:
...A completely open space was made. I put a fireplace (and its chimney) on an outside wall in the "living room".

...The kitchen appliances were put along the bay window on the other side.

... I bought the narrowest stair I could find and turned the stair to face the back of the house. This allowed me to make a nice open, flying staircase and put a buffet under it. To keep the staircase as narrow as possible, I used 1/16 inch dowels as spindles and put them on the outside of the stairs so that the little people would have some room on the stairs for themselves. The upstairs hall would be narrow, too.

~~The Second Floor:

...The upstairs has three rooms (den, bathroom, and bedroom) and a stair hall.

...The height of the second floor in front was much too short, so I had to add to make the wall 8 inches tall. Then I had to make the little windows in front regular size windows. And I had to raise the roof line -- this was not easy since it affected the adjoining roof line of the bedroom.

...I added a balcony door in the bedroom and in the den. I added a dormer in the bedroom. I gave the den a ceiling to the roof and I should have done this in the bedroom also -- a peaked ceiling is so interesting.

...I should not have made the stairwell have a walkway next to the stairs. I should have made the "hallway" in the front of the house. Then the bathroom could have been pulled to the back and its door to the "hall" visible. The room I would have gained by not having a walkway next to the stairs would have added a couple of inches to the width of the den --which could have used it.

I thought of this too late; I was to0 excited about my hall. The door to the den would have been to the hall in front of the house. It is cute to have the hall across the back and see the doors opening to it, but doesn't add that much. The removable wall with the bathroom door is still waiting to be done.

Finishing touches need to be done.

The beach landscape is discussed in its own Westerly "Behind the Build" post.

Westerly- The Beach Cottage of Sarah Spencer & Franklin Wells, Maryland coast

********************************************************* Sarah Victoria Spencer & Franklin Eric Wells: Biographical Information
Sarah is the daughter of Abigail...... and......Samuel Spencer of Williamsburg, Virginia (see Abigail’s Teashop & Bakery). She has a younger sister Robin...... a physicist at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

Sarah was in her sophomore year at the University of Chicago and was still wondering what to do with her life. As she became more and more interested astronomy, she started to wonder if she could be an astronaut and fly amongst the stars. Before she knew it, she applied to the Air Force Academy. After intensive pre-processing, she was accepted. She finally found her milieu—she loved flying. She is now a pilot in the Air Force and is currently stationed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. She has logged combat hours and has been part of the Air Force One Flight crew. Sarah has recently been promoted to Captain.

Franklin is the son of Helen... ... and Arthur...... Wells of Silver Spring, Maryland. He has an older sister Dorothea......(see 2004 OddJob Lane) and an older brother George...... (see Original Rowbottom Manse).

Franklin attended the University of Pennsylvania and then Johns Hopkins specializing in infectious diseases and pulmonary surgery. After working for the Center for Disease Control, he joined Doctors without Borders. While treating military personnel, Franklin decided he could best serve by being with the troops in the field. He is now a Major in the Air Force and is presently stationed at Andrews Air Force Base.

For reasons that are still classified, Franklin was asked to join the crew of Air Force One......on one of its lengthier flights. Sarah Spencer was also on the crew. The trip went well and on the way back there was ample time for everyone to get to know one another. Also on the flight was Angus MacPherson......(see MacPherson Farm) as CIA liaison. This gave everyone something to think about and nothing to talk about.

Sarah and Franklin kept up their friendship between separations for military business. Their friendship flourished into romance and in 2000, they married at the Air Force Chapel in Colorado Springs....

In 2001, they decided that while living at Andrews was fine, they wanted a vacation home and bought and renovated a “get-away” cottage on the Maryland shore. Their family and friends loved this idea and the cottage quickly became very popular. Thus the “get-away” became the “get-together”! Shortly, they truly understood how important this all was as they both became involved in the Afghan War.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2004 Odd Job Lane- The Queen Anne Townhouse of Dorothea & Edmond Rumford, Alexandria, Virginia

Dorothea Therese Wells & Edmond (Ned) Paul Rumford: Biographical Information
Dorothea is the daughter of Helen (Duffy) & Arthur Wells. Arthur is the owner and publisher of the Daily Chronical, a position he took over when his father retired. The newspaper has been in the family since Arthur's grandfather left politics, bought the paper, and moved his family from Boston to Potomac, Maryland. Duffy is a professor of Political Science at the University of Maryland. Her family has always lived in Maryland and her parents are retired professors. It seems that Duffy also followed a family tradition! Arthur and Duffy meet as students at UM, and even Duffy worked at the newspaper while going to grad school.

Dorothea has two older brothers: Franklin (Johns Hopkins U.), is a surgeon and a Major in the Air Force, and George (UVA) is a partner with Derek Rowbottom in their architecture & landscape firm, Potomac Landscapes. Dorothea and her brothers grew up in the womderful older home in Silver Spring, Maryland...... where their parents still reside.

Dorothea decided to check out her Bostonian roots and to study Literature at Havard. She chose to live in Boston after graduation and to work at the same newspaper as her great-grandfather had so many years ago. She really thought she would stay in Boston forever until she came home one summer and met Ned Runford at a Derek Rowbottom party. As they say, the rest is history. She and Ned married and settled in Alexandria. One day, she realized that she would like to write children's books. Much to her delight, she now writes children's books-- books that are often illustrated by her good friend Rebecca Rowbottom .

Edmond, usually called Ned, is the son of Arlene and Douglas Rumford. His father is a founding attorney of Spencer, Mason, & Rumford, a firm specializing in Estate Planning with offices in Williamsburg and Fairfax, Virginia; and Washington DC. His mother is Head of the Science Department at Fairfax High School. Douglas and Arlene met when they were both undergrads at American Univerity in DC.

Ned's younger brother John is a graduate of the Curtis Institute and a clarinetist with the Washington DC Symphony Orchestra; his younger sister Nina has a degree from Georgetown U. Law and is an attorney, also. Ned and his siblings grew up in a c.1850 classic revival home  in Fairfax, Virginia where his mother grew up and his parents still reside.

Ned followed in his father's footsteps, obtained a law degree from Stanford, and then joined the firm. He handles the multi-faceted legal work for Potomic Landscapes and for Rebecca's endeavor's. Between both of these, Ned is quite busy. He pretends to grumble, but he enjoys every minute and does a bit of traveling as a result of the business needs.

As Virginians, the Rumfords like to tease the Wells family about having "Yankees" roots!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Behind the Build: 2004 Odd Job Lane (Store-bought)

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

Strictly speaking, this house has no "behind the build" type of story that my other houses have. The house was a kit with completely finished rooms and came with wonderful furniture. I bought it Christmas 2004 from Odd Job Stores (a discount store) in my town. It was displayed at the entrance of the store and looked so welcoming that even I (who only "roll my own") could not resist. The house just captured my fancy. I make no excuses! I had to have it! It is a front-opening, six-room house, and is made of 3/8" MDF.

Soon, I was at home putting it together. It was a very easy build -- the pieces just slid into one another. The doors had to be hinged but all hardware was supplied and pilot holes were already drilled.

I like all the wallpaper patterns but I do not like that the wallpaper is glossy. (Perhaps I should spray it with a clear matt spray.) The floors are paper covered, also. These papers are usually damaged when I move something put in place with "sticky wax". So far, I am living with those drawbacks. The other thing is that while the dining room and kitchen are a nice size (11 1/2" x 13"), the other rooms are only about 11 1/2" by 11". The walls are 10" high.

Dorothea and Edmond (Ned) Rumford live in this Queen Anne style townhouse located in Alexandria, Virginia.

I did make some changes to the house as directed by the new home owners:
1. I replaced original dark wood kitchen cabinets with white.....
2. I changed the dining room solid door to a French door.....
3. I removed the doors from the living room and den and added faux, open pocket doors since the rooms are small.
4. I added a fireplace in the living room and den. I cut through the walls to make a slight firebox for them.
5. I kept the living room furniture but added some nice pieces including a vintage piece by Fantastic Miniatures, a pre-Bespaq company........
6. The den was originally a nursery. I added all new furniture including some nice Shackman pieces.....
7. The bedroom furniture was replaced by wonderful Sonia Messer pieces.....
8. The bathroom set was perfect and included a separate shower.....
9. The stairs were painted white. I repainted the treads and banister a wood-tone brown.....
10. I hung curtains, added rugs, curios, pictures, etc.

At one point, I considered making the living room and den deeper but decided against it. I think the house has considerable charm as is. I may add crown moulding, though.

I am planning to put some landscaping around the house. Since it is a townhouse and quite close to its neighbors, I will do something charming but small. I have a lovely white (wire) gazebo for their yard.

Well, that is about it for the "build"!