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 17, 2012

'Tis the season to be jolly!

The merriest of the merriest to one and all! 

Toad Hall--

Well, with my re-found enthusiasm for miniatures, I went a little crazy making ancestor and other family pictures. The upstairs hall at Toad Hall cried out for family pictures; besides the house is hard to “picture” anywhere else. Thus the upstairs hall became a chronicle of Max’s life: the larger wall with pictures of growing up in Williamsburg with Great-Uncle Jacques, and the smaller wall with pictures of his family and their vineyard in Provence, France. (The wall is removable so that Max’s bedroom can be seen. See Behind the Build: Toad Hall for details.)

Toad Hall
Max, his family and friends
If you would like to read the heart-warming story of orphaned Max growing up in the U.S. with Great-Uncle Jacques (a Botany professor and vintage car and Grand Prix participant), please read the post:
The Wells’ Home (the Original Rowbottom Manse)
I thought it would be nice to finally put the edge trim on the exposed edges of the walls and floors. I found very nice 4-foot long small (3/16 x ½ inch) detail trim at Home Depot. This was especially nice for the floor trim since the house is almost 4-foot long! The outside walls were trimmed with dollhouse corner trim and the interior walls with 1/8 x 3/8 stripwood, both from HBS. The exterior trim was painted to match the exterior and the interior was simply stained Min-Wax Natural, and both coated with semi-gloss varnish.
Edging trim, finally, on the Wells' house.

As usual, Christmas parties require a lot of planning and setting up. The most fun is deciding on guest lists and we always invite too many people! It’s a good thing they all get along. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do all of our usual intricate decorating and we didn’t decorate any exteriors this year, but I think that everyone is having a good time anyway —after all, being with friends and family is really what this is all is about!

2004 Oddjob Lane--
Christopher and friends
Living Room
Sitting Room
Dining Room
Casa Lobo--
View of all
Dining-kitchen room
Roof patio
2nd floor roof is the "observatory"
Wells (The Original Rowbottom Manse)-- 
Wells interior - left

Middle rooms
Interior - right
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If I don't get to post again this year, I wish all my friends out there in Blog-Land, the best of everything, and I thank you for all your wonderful posts with all sorts of great ideas, and I want to especially thank you all for remembering me when I wasn't posting very often.

To all -- may all your dreams come true in the coming year!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stop the World - I am getting off

La Malcontenta -- a wonderful picture of a woman cooking in a Mexican kitchen.
I don’t know where the time has gone—I did do a lot of work in my gardens but not that much—or did I? Anyway, just as I was putting the garden to sleep and planning to work with the little people, along came “Sandy”, and then came the cleanup from Sandy (I have never seen so many uprooted very large trees and downed power lines and in every which direction), then along came a snow storm, and then some hectic family situations and illnesses, and now we are into the hectic Christmas-New Year season!
I am sorry I have not posted-I think of you all and have tried to keep up with your posts. I think it will be the New Year before things here get back to normal—whatever normal is around here.
Anyway, I am trying to get the many things done for my dollhouses that I had planned to do way back when...

Things I have, or have not, done:

2004 Oddjob Lane:
The attic roof front is still not decided upon. I did sketch out a number of ideas between a center gable and,or dormers windows. So far, I am not happy with any of them. I did slate the roof sides, though and that looks good.

La Malcontenta:
Finally, a wonderful picture of a woman working in a Mexican kitchen is hung in the kitchen. I found it on the Internet, printed it, glued it to illustration board, protected it with acrylic medium semi-gloss gel, and framed it with white cotton cording to complete its “homey” look.
The landscaping is still not started, sad to say.
MacPherson Farm:
I haven’t worked on this house in ages and I decided that it’s time had come. I had always thought that this would be a great home for lots of paintings of ancestors, Scottish things, and horses (since this is a horse farm).
Finally, I have begun buying and making ancestor paintings, and even have some of them hung! The purchased paintings are from Miniatures by Amber on eBay. She has a nice selection and she prints on matte paper, which is my paper of choice.
Picture of back living room wall: the MacPherson extended family were privateers during the American Revolution and the War of 1812: one of their ships, the Timberwolf, and two of their captains, James and Charles.

The MacPherson progenitors: Jacob and his wife Patience, and their daughter Faith.

More ancestors.

It’s been a lot of fun making “ancestors” and I now have more ancestors than wall space—I guess it’s time to move to another endeavor at Mac Farm, such as finishing the chimneys!
Casa Lobo:
We finally finished the kitchen lighting. These are “swag” lamps from HBS and fit in well with the kitchen-dining room. The lamps are electric but the chandelier is battery operated.
I also bought an outdoor fireplace from HBS to help warm the astronomers on those cold Santa Fe nights at 7,500 feet.

At first, I was not going to decorate any houses for Christmas, but I decided that since we always do something for Christmas, we would do Casa Lobo, 2004 Oddjob Lane, and the Wells home (the Original Rowbottom Manse). Pictures in the next post.

I will try to do better with my miniatures. I am on a very serpentine yellow brick road of life, but I guess I will get somewhere at some time!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Down the garden path, tra-la!

Ascelpias tuberosa - Butterfly weed, my favorite perennial
I have noticed that I have not posted for quite a while—the weather has been pretty darn good (except for a couple of monsoons), and I have been outside gardening and sometimes just watching the grass grow. My little people are unhappy but are trying to bear up. I have been reading your wonderful posts and I would usually feel guilty about not working on minis and blogging—but not this time.
Since I have no mini-talk I will tell you something about what I have been doing in my garden which,I guess, tells you a little about me in my non-mini persona. I used to have a large garden area but some years ago, I stopped gardening. A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided that we should bring back the gardens and what a lot of work (and money) that turned into. But we enjoy it, and that’s important. The pictures in this post are from various times during the season. I didn’t take all the “in-progress” pictures that I had planned. I will take pictures before I close down for the season.

Cardinal Shrub (Weigela), my favorite shrub
My Cottage Garden is (and most of my gardens) based on the English cottage garden and the traditional perennial garden (some of the best gardens in the world) with a slight difference: I read that a cottage garden is defined as “controlled chaos”, mine are a “wee bit” uncontrolled in plant selection and placement while my outlines borrow from the traditional perennial garden. I strive for a somewhat romantic, somewhat unexpected, vista. By the way, the "cottage" of the cottage garden is the gazebo.

One of the first things that we had to face was a deer who decided to lunch in my nascent perennial garden. We decided that we would fence the main perennial garden (the Cottage Garden) this year to get it started, and next year we would look into the effectiveness of deer repellents (I’m thinking …moat with alligators). That is why you see that temporary fence in the picture. I think of this garden as a “zoo for flowers”—calling it this makes the fence seem less tacky!
Bird's eye view of the Cottage Garden early in the season

Bird's eye view of the Copper Beech Garden

Out the French doors and into my special place which needs lots of work in all directions, but we are getting there!

The Cottage Garden as "zoo for plants" with its tempoary deer deterrent fence

At the far end is the gazebo, which for this season became the garden shed-- next year it will be a place for relaxing and sipping ...
There is still tons of work to be done here into next year, but we have made great progress.

It’s been a fun time in the garden, but I am starting to get thoughts on the things that I want to do for the many dollhouses I have “in progress”, and besides, soon it will be time to clean up the garden for the year. Of course, now I have to save up money for minis since I spent all my mad money on plants!

I do have a garden blog if anyone is interested, although I have been negligent with blogging for this one also this year.
Gardening with Gertrude, Jim, & Grandmother named for my favorite gardeners: Gertrude Jekyll, Jim Crockett, and my maternal grandmother Giuditta, the best teachers a person could have -- truly a garden of memories.

I hope you all enjoy it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Room for Christopher at 2004 Oddjob Lane

A room for Christopher--expanding the attic. I built a two-room attic to replace the orginal "non-attic", and stairs to go to it..

Why, oh, Why?
A word about this dollhouse, why I bought it, and why I am trying to modify it and still keep it in the “mode” of the original structure.

This is a commercial dollhouse of a kind I have seen advertised as “Quick Build”. The whole house is finished; one just slips the pieces into groves, screws on the door hinges, and plays with it. I am sure many children were very happy to receive this house.
Original roof with "non-attic". I stuccoed the exterior of the house over a glossy white enamel paint..
Now you ask: “Why did I buy it?” –because I am a child at heart. I found it in a discount store at Christmastime on 2004. I walked in and there it was, surrounded by other toys and many kinds of Christmas decorations. I was enchanted and taken back to my childhood and the couple of Christmas dollhouses I received. I could not resist it. I called my sister and she wanted one too! My husband just rolled his eyes and got into the Explorer to pick up the dollhouses with no questions asked!

Well, then, you ask: “Why am I fussing with it?” I am just trying to make a few changes that the home owners, Dorothea and Ned Rumford want. (Always blame someone else!) The idea is to keep the nostalgia I felt about the house when I first saw it, but just add a thing or two. No going off on the deep-end stuff here—keep it simple. 
Ned and Dorothea read off the list of changes to be made to the house.
Some time ago, I did make a few small upgrades to the house:
Behind the Build: 2004 Odd Job Lane (Store-bought dollhouse) and Build Update#1 2004 Oddjob Lane exterior upgrade.

A project presents itself:
I always thought the roof on this house was a bit lacking the charm of the rest of the exterior (especially since I gussied it up a bit), but since I had plenty of other things to work on, I just made notes and put it aside.

In the last months, during a “I am disgusted with a lot of things” moment, I was just looking for something I didn’t have to do, but would be interesting, different, and keep me amused--something I could work on, on and off. Of course, Andrew was "willing" to help me!

My eyes fell on 2004 Oddjob Lane and its roof! OK, that was the project—but what was the project? I decided that since my sister had decided that a young child, Christopher, also lived in the house, he should have a bedroom. Now I had a definite project: remove the old roof, and make a Mansard roof with two rooms in the attic. Since the roof (attic floor section) is a complete structure and a separate piece from the first three floors, I could remove the attic and roof, and bring it to my workbench to work on. The house is 3/8” MDF exterior and ¼” MDF interior walls and roof.

The first thing was to investigate the roof composition. I drilled some holes to use to start cutting a small piece out with my jig saw. Once I saw inside, I put my hand and a large hammer in the hole and banged away from the inside. Bingo, the roof top left its base. 
The original roof is off! Now we can begin!
Now I had the attic floor which is solid 1/2” MDF as the starting point. This house is not very big (~30” x 13”) and since a Mansard roof would give more floor space than a hip roof, it was chosen. I decided on the pitch of the Mansard (15 degrees off vertical), figured out the sizes and shapes of the four pieces I needed, found ¼” MDF in my wood supply and cut the pieces. The front and side walls slope but the back wall is vertical. The attic roof is flat (see first picture). The attic will have two dormer windows in front.

The next thing to decide was how to cut into the third floor ceiling and in the attic floor for the staircase. We decided a straight run staircase would be best (the other floors have “U” turns). This did not leave any room for an attic landing, but since I could enclose the staircase in the attic, no one would know. I did decide on a bit of faux in that the working doors to the two rooms would be on the back walls “implying” that the stairs ended in a gracious, unseen rear hallway.

We tried to make the attic stairs look as much like the existing stairs as possible and this worked out with a minimum of grief (well, sort of...).
The stairs to the attic from the 3rd floor.
Stairs from the 3rd floor poking through the "ceiling".
Rooms being glued in place--the bricks and the bulldog binder clips hold the "angle" until the glue dries. The enclosed staircase from the 3rd floor is between the two rooms.
The two rooms:
First, I thought that Christopher would have a bedroom and a bathroom. But then I thought, “oh no, not another bathroom”!

So I decided that Christopher would just have a bedroom and it would be the larger room (11” x 13”) and that the other room would be a "den, library, game room" (11” x 11”). As with all my smaller houses, I first looked in my vintage Shackman stash for furniture. My sister and I loved this stuff and bought (and still buy) it. It tends to be on the “smaller” side of 1:12 scale and fits well into small rooms. Most of ours is well-made, cherry-wood, authentic copies of colonial/Early American furniture.

Putting a den in the attic allowed me to re-work the original den in the main house to make it more like a casual “second” living room.
I am not quite finished redecorating the casual living room. The lovely rug is from Minibeesknees' shop on Etsy.
Both attic rooms have 3” high knee-walls on their side walls so that furniture can be placed nicely.
A picture of the whole house. (Sorry, the picture is crooked, not the house.)
We bought working, pinned doors from the Wonham Collection (UK). They came beautifully finished in walnut.

--Wallpaper - Christopher:
We chose MiniGraphics “Brownstone” (I don’t know about this name since the wallpaper has a top border of cats, and cat or dog paws prints below). I decided to use the top border at the top of the wall and just use the “paws” as a wainscoting. I used YES glue.

--Wallpaper - Den:
MiniGraphics “Raffina” in blue gave the nicest Colonial look to this room.

--Flooring – both rooms:
To keep with the casual look of the interior finish of the rest of the house, I created a flooring of pine wood-tone Con-tact (vinyl shelving paper). This is something that I have done in other houses: Con-tact stuck to poster board and then cut into random-width strips. I glued the strips directly to the MDF with Elmer’s Glue-All. These strips are also used for the dado and baseboard in Christopher’s bedroom.

--Furniture - Christopher:
The furnishings are Shackman cherry wood trundle bed, dresser, and chest; “cat” chairs from a local dollhouse shop, and a rug and round table from our general stash.
Trundle bed closed.
Trundle bed open.
--Furniture - den:
The furnishings are Shackman sofa, desk, combination chair-table, candlestand round table, bookcase, and piano stool; and a table lamp from our stash
Chair-table as chair.
Chair-table as table.
--The Attic and roof:
The attic (its roof is still to be finished) has been placed on the house (so I can admire my handiwork). It looks so nice and Christopher is thrilled, and the den has a pleasant, cozy look.
The den with an Early American look.
Christopher's bedroom with an animal motif.
Christopher and his friends: Freddy Miller and Juanito Duran, and his wonderful yellow lab, "Mr. Doggie".

The Mansard roof will have two (yet to be made) dormers, grey slates, and probably a flip-up front. I will have to redo the chimneys.
House with unfinished Mansard roof.
I am making the slates. I found a great vinyl “slate” flooring tile at Home Depot. I scanned it into my computer and printed it out on Kodak Premium matte photographic paper. I then glued it onto illustration board with 3M Super 77 Multipurpose (spray) adhesive. When dry, I cut it into 1” x ¾” “slates”. I put a sample on the roof and liked the way it looked. Now I just need about five more sheets to do the roof. It’s time-consuming so I guess I will be "slating" for a while...And before I can even slate the front, I will have to decide on the style of the dormers and their placement!
The scanning the "slate" tile worked out well.

In retrospect, while this project is fun it definitely has not turned out to be the smallish, casual project I was imagining!