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 26, 2011

Behind the Build (#1): Abner Raleigh House, Williamsburg, Virginia.

The William Lightfoot House, constructed before 1782, Williamsburg, Virginia. (This photo and the next two are from Colonial Houses: The Historic Homes of Williamsburg by Hugh Howard.)

View from other side. This is a good view of the details of the front with its Mansard roof.
Floor plan of the house, more or less present day, but with the structure (size, interior walls, fireplaces, etc.) of the original, to the best of my knowledge.)

A step back in time (Fall 2008):
Back in the fall of 2008, I was in a funk because the dollhouse I wanted to buy from DHE was no longer being made and the RGT one that I could have used as a substitute (with modifications) was too expensive. It was to be a glorious Edwardian. It wasn’t as if we didn’t have houses to finish, it’s just that I like to be thinking of the next project, be it however far down the road. Thinking about the next house is always relaxing – no pressure to start it; no pressure to finish it--just something to think about while watching the grass grow.

While I was in this “bad mood”, I decided to re-read Colonial Houses: The Historic Homes of Williamsburg (by Hugh Howard and published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. in 2004) as therapy. (I love the houses and gardens of Colonial Williamsburg.) All of a sudden, on page 107, my eyes rested upon the most delightful little colonial -- the William Lightfoot House (constructed before 1782) on Duke of Gloucester Street. This house was nothing like the Edwardian that I had wanted to contemplate, but I was charmed! To heck with dollhouse manufacturers and their whims, I would just scratch-build. I discussed this with my family and they immediately wondered where we would put this house--but for the moment we didn’t need a spot since this was a house for planning and daydreaming!

The build of this house will follow our usual: my husband cuts the wood (the woodworker’s shop also offered to cut some of the wood), I build, and my sister furnishes.

Design Features:
The design and floor plan of the William Lightfoot house was used as the model. I will take the spirit of the house but make some changes as my whimsy takes me. I wanted to keep the house small and I thought I could keep the footprint at 24” wide by 28” deep but the kitchen addition required a “bump-out” to have a proper size. I didn’t like this look, so the house grew to 28” x 28”. Besides the photos from the book, I have actual plans and historic references to the house from various Virginia archives and the Library of Congress.

The house will open front and back for the main floor, and the Mansard roof will flip up. I am considering a two-door opening front: one from the left edge to the hall wall and the other from there to the right edge. I still have a lot of thinking to do for how the house will open on the main floor since there are porches front and back

The house is being built from 3/8” Baltic Birch plywood. The house is two rooms deep. The outside will look as close to the William Lightfoot house as possible. MDF clapboard siding (from HBS) will be used on the exterior and the roof will be wood shakes. I will build the corner fireplaces, or I may buy them from Jim Coates on eBay. (I love his fireplaces). I will buy standard “pinned” doors and change them to hinged doors. The ground floor windows have been purchased from the Dolls’ House Emporium and are 6/6 wooden, working windows. I had wanted to use Timberbrook 6/6 wooden working windows in the attic, but the company seems to be no longer--too bad, the company made great products. Since the roof is a Mansard, I will build my own dormers; I think that this is easier than trying to modify the size and slope of the standard commercial 45 degree dormers. I had to do that once before for Hawthorne’s Rare Books bookshop, and was doable but tricky

Fast forward to the present (December 2011):
I have been following a numbers of builds of houses this year and I am thinking of a build also. I have much to do yet on a number of my houses but…so I have pulled out my project notes (transcribed above) for William Lightfoot. Since this house is in private hands, I am calling mine the Abner Raleigh House and it will be, as all my houses are, set in the present, and as a renovated ca. 1792 house.

Shortly, I will post some more pictures.

A couple of years ago, my sister surprised me with a RGT Foxhall Manor so that at some point in time I could have my Edwardian! It is lying flat in its boxes under the guest room bed until its time comes.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reflections on art work

My goodness, life has been a blur since Thanksgiving! Once I did Sunnybrook for the holidays, I got into a "musing" mode and just drifted.

One area that had a lot of thinking time was the purchase of "artwork". I found a number of nice vendors on eBay and I already have a bunch of the Jacqueline pictures. One thing I noticed immediately was that it is not easy to mix and match paintings from different vendors. The size and type of the frame, the type of paper used, and the printing process varies quite a bit. This, added to trying to compose harmonious groupings of pictorial content, could drive a person crazy. Sometimes, one can carefully merge vendors, but when this fails--one room, one vendor; and then pick groupings from that vendor.

The next sticky points are that some of the commercial paintings are not the size I want, and some of my favorite painters' works are not to be had. With regard to sizes, I like my paintings to be scaled from the "real" size, unless I need it in a different size, but still keep the aspect ratio. The other point is that the colors are "off". I love Van Gogh but his colors often lose "in the translation", plus I can't find many of my favorites. Edward Hopper's work is sadly missing so far. Also, often I find a painting I like but not any for companions!

OK, enough grumbly ... what to do? I am buying DVD/CD-Roms of artwork (eBay and Amazon), cutting pictures out of magazines (mine), and scanning artwork from books (mine and the library's). In the spring I shall take trips to my favorite museums in New York City and browse the giftshops. They often have postcards with great artwork on the picture side. I have the start of a large collection.

My collection will be printed as needed on my Epson printer. I can adjust the size and get the colors as correct as possible on my system. I print onto good quality cardstock or matte presentation paper. Posters are printed onto semi-glossy photo paper. Artwork is then glued onto another layer of cardstock, illustration board, or Bristol board--I am still experienting here. If I decide the artwork needs "brush strokes", I use gel medium. I am experimenting between little brush strokes and stipling. Some of my friends put a light spray of "lacquer" as a final coat. I think I may just use a gloss gel...We'll see.

Another solution for printing is to "outsource" it to Staples. My friend puts the artwork in a Word document and emails it to them to be printed as photos. She then picks up the printouts.