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, January 30, 2012

Interior Design-Dining Room & Kitchen: La Malcontenta

I think I forgot to mention in the previous post that this house was started summer of 2004 and is still being built!
The dining room and kitchen complete the main floor.
The Dining Room:

Before I show pictures of the dining room, I would like to show my inspiration for this room and the design of the columned entrance to the living room and dining room. I also must apologize that I can’t find the name of the artisan who created this magnificent room. I would love to give credit where it belongs. (I do have the note that it is called “Morning Splendor”.) This just took my breath away:

Miniature Collector magazine in 2004?
 My version:

Dining room with view across foyer and into living room.
I copied the style of the arch and used cake columns from a craft store and painted Delta Creamcoat Eggshell. I am happy with the result. I did find the same wallpaper (Brodnax) and even (I think) the moulding that was used. I bought the Unique Miniatures moulding but I could not apply the right amount of heat to get it to curve—it kept breaking. After a few heartbreaking minutes, I realized that I had to do something else. I found an interesting blue, thin trim at a craft store, stiffened it with glue and curved it. When dry, I glued it to the arch. I think I may need a second row but that’s for another day.
I could not find the cabinets in the picture so I decided to do something different. I found a six-sided, thick clear acrylic shape at the craft store (I spent my life there). I cut it in half with my handy-dandy band saw, and I had two glass table tops! I placed them on “stone” landscaping pedestals from Dolls’ House Emporium, placed them on either side of the arch. I did find harmonious paintings to hang. The front wall has Japanese woodcuts.

The walls are painted Delta Creamcoat Light Ivory as is the cornice and baseboards. I can’t tell you the blue because I made it up somehow.

The ceiling is real-house wallpaper. I found a beautiful chandelier from Cir-Kit. I purposely did not put a ceiling canopy, but now I think want one! Oh well.

I love the glass dining table in the picture. Even if I found it, I am sure I couldn’t have afforded it. Then I found the Bespaq Chinese Chippendale dining table and chairs—end of search.

The flooring did not turn out very well and I am going to redo it.

Fireplace wall to be finished.
 The next thing to be done is the wall above the fireplace. I have Unique Miniatures items for the scrollwork and the brackets, and I have a set of blue and white Chinese jars to display. The sconces may go away.

I think that someday I would like that glass-topped dining table with the dolphin pedestals in some dollhouse, and that I will be able to bend thin resin moulding into an arch—or maybe I have to mould it in that form?

The Kitchen:

The kitchen completes the main floor. Nothing too exciting here except I love roosters in kitchens. The tile is a glossy paper from HBS which I don't think he sells anymore.
I love roosters in kitchens!

The problem area.
I decided to make a large dining room which became a slight problem when I went to the kitchen—there was no room! So my ever patient husband cut some lumber so I could “bump out” the back wall so the necessary kitchen appliances could be placed. It worked out well, just time-consuming. Also, the kitchen ended up with beams so I could get the lamp wire out the back of the house where the tape wire is located.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Interior Design-Foyer & Living Room: La Malcontenta

Well, I did get the pictures taken, As usual, some didn't turn out too well. I need to figure out how to work without the flash, amongst other things. The interior design write-up will be done in sections.

Just to remind us "who is La Malcontenta" (besides a villa by Palladio-the most beautiful house in the world!). Mine is an Art Deco Spanish Eclectic, a bash of the RGT Thornhill. I did post a Behind the Build for this house, but never added all the details. I intended to get back to it, but somehow ....

We made all the windows except the two HBS Palladian triparate windows, and all the windows work. We added working dormers, "wrought iron" railings, and designed and made the main entrance. The house is still not finished, but we intend to live a long time.

Just a comment on the designated style for this house. When I started this house it was a Spanish-Eclectic Art Deco style, but before I finished it was an Art Deco Spanish Eclectic, where "eclectic" covers all the previous words. See my post The impotance of Being Eclectic to see what I discovered and how this came about.

Today we will discuss two of the four rooms on the main floor:
First floor floor plan.
 Enter here: The Foyer:
The Foyer -- My take on 1930's Art Deco Hollwood glitz
I did want either a more Spanish-looking staircase or a more Art Deco staircase. I couldn't buy or figure out how to do what I wanted, but I am happy with what I could do. I love the arches (my jig saw does it all) and my Ionic columns are cake decorations from Michaels. The flooring is real house stone-like wallpaper, cut into 1-inch squares and glued onto a posterboard template. I added a half-round piece of wood onto the bottom step of the stasircase to give it an elegant look. The railing and the ballisters are walnut stained wood.

The silver tables are "custom" found at a dollhouse shop. I should have taken a separate picture of the mirrors-- lots of glitz and angels! The table on the left has a wonderful Art Deco lamp which I got for a pittence because it doesn't light, but I think I know how to fix it--just need some time. I like the tiles on the back wall but I wish they didn't have such a gloss finish.
Faux door to basement under the stairs; also a view of the mirror and lamp; and into living room through the arch.
 The Living Room:
Living Room
Real house wallpaper lines the ceiling. It's great but it is tricky to glue down embossed paper without squashing it! Plus, this room is 15 3/8 x 25, so I was in the room working up! There had to be an easier way! The flooring is a customized HBS flooring sheet of black walnut with a trim of red oak stained MinWax Provincial.
The fireplace, a OOAK from a dollhouse shop. I modified the color to blend in with the copper foil paper (very tricky to use) on the wall. I also painted a "real firebox" in the fireplace, and gave it an Art Deco Brooke Tucker firescreen. See above picture.
Living room looking toward French doors.
We made the working double French doors with Palladian arches and stained glass.
The curio cabinets are trinket boxes with the drawers removed. The working Art Deco lights on the top of the cabinets are made from Art Deco style perfume bottle tops. I added a wonderful eclectic mix of objet d'art (including Eqyptian, Chinese, Italian, and Clarice Cliff) and paintings (including Tissot, Klimt, Monet, and Constable). I just LOVE eclectic! The wonderful triple tulip floor lamp was another bargain because it didn't light -- but I fixed it!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A little chit-chat

I know I was going to have new pictures of La Malcontenta in my blog by now -- let's see, what excuses should offer?

In the meantime, I distracted myself with choosing artwork for SunnyBrook Farm's dining room, living room, and music room. I did find many wonderful Chinese paintings--too many, in fact! My husband and I spent many hours first printing them for review and mix and match. Then we narrowed down the selection and then had to decided on the appropriate size of each picture and its placement in the room. Then we printed them out again, this time on good paper (premium presentation matte by Kodak) and with the right amount of "ink" as in "Best Photo" on my Epson. This whole process used a lot of ink as well as time!

Now I have to make 15 frames! I am planning to do them all:
HBS chair rail #81424 for simple frames for my Chinese paintings.
Frame for Chinese paintings, painted Delta Creamcoat "Metallic Gold"
A note on printing pictures for the little people:
Possibly because the pictures are small and their resolution is good, I didn't see much, if any, difference printing on Michael's 65 lb. cardstock, Epson basic presentation matte paper, and Kodak premium presentation matte, and using "text", "text and photo", or "best photo" printing options for my Epson Stylus NX625 printer.

As I mentioned, using all the high end printing options uses a LOT of ink. I think it is worth a little time and effort to make  some test cases before printing the final versions. No sense using ink that won't affect the quality. There is a difference in the paper weight that I used. The Epson basic presentation paper is the lightest. It is a good paper and makes a nice print but the print should be glued to card for support. I liked the Kodac paper the best. It has a nice surface and is sturdy. I still may glue it to card.

Some of the paintings we have chosen:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hawthorne's Rare Books at Christmas

Hawthorne's at Christmas
Front windows
Shop floors
Living-Kitchen room with guests

Behind the Build: Hawthorne's Rare Books RGT Kit Bash

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

This is mostly a pictorial review of the building process. This was an involved kit bash of the RGT Front Opening Shoppe. It started small and grew as inspiration struck.The house is made of 3/8" baltic birch plywood added to the orginal kit plywood.

It is bookshop on the first two floors and above, two floors of living quarters for the owners. The main floor is a general bookshop selling books, magazines, records, newspapers, and general interesting items. The second floor (mezzanine) sells rare books, antiques, and other objet d'art.

The stucco is stucco vinyl sheets. The bricks are brick sheets. The roof tile is a slate vinyl sheet. The dormers are from HBS and presented a small problem since the slope of the roof in our design is greater than 45 degrees.
Front of shop
Interior of shop

Early interior showing enlaged mezzanine and 10" ceilings.
Closeup of shop floors.

Unfinished front showing large display windows.
Looking through the display window
Happy customers

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Importance of Being Eclectic

When I start to think about a house to build, I go to my reference guide: McAlister’s Field Guide to American Houses. This book is invaluable for style types, details, and nuances. The examples are given in drawings, pictures, and discussions. There I learned that there was a style qualifier: eclectic. Now, they use as a stricter guideline than I do for La Malcontenta; I use it as way to add other interesting, but harmonious, “things” to the style when the style must allow the use of things that I can get, or things I simply want to use. It allows me, for one reason or another, not to be a purist.

I noticed recently that when I started La Malcontenta, I referred to the style as “Spanish-Eclectic Art Deco” but before I was finished it became “Art Deco Spanish Eclectic”. I started with many “purist” ideas for the house. Unfortunately, as I looked to buy items—many were not available, were very expensive, or I simply didn’t like them; as I thought about making items—I realized that I didn’t have the ability and, or the wherewithal to find or buy the basic materials. I did find some Bespaq Art Deco furniture, some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t.

As I was pondering all of this, a miniaturist friend of mine said: “Art Deco … Spanish ... go for 1930’s Hollywood glitz, and make it whatever you want”. This was the turning point since I could not get all the Art Deco nor Spanish that I wanted—I could not be a purist. So the family and I decided to build and have a good time with it. Anything we liked that wasn’t “pure” became “eclectic”, et voila, we had “style”.

I guess that without actually thinking about it, I always preferred to work this way. It didn’t take me long to start bashing dollhouse kits and to do my own designs and scratch building. I love factual representations and admire and respect all the attention to detail and work that goes into them. I read The Pistner House and anything by Mulvany & Rogers (amongst others) over and over and drool over every authentic detail.

Being eclectic is fun—to me it is great freedom and lots of fresh air. So I no longer worry if, as I build, my design changes, I buy different furniture, change the colors—heck I just add Eclectic to the style name and keep going! And, besides, I build for the little people of 2001, and their homes, like mine (and as in many homes in the past) are a blend of things past and present.

Monday, January 23, 2012

La Malcontenta--forgottten, even at Christmas?

I was doing a review of dollhouse photos and write-ups the other day and I was surprised to find that I had never finished discussing the interior of La Malcontenta on this blog! The Behind the Build blog post talks about the exterior and some generalities, but that's it! Even the Christmas blog has nothing about Christmas at La Mal (as I affectionitely call it). La Mal, as for a number of my houses, is not 100% finished--every once and a while I get a brilliant idea or find a great painting or piece of furniture, and I am back at it.

Anyway, I have decided to take current pictures of the interior and post them on Webshots and here with some chit-chat. That will take a couple of days, but in the meantime, I can at least post the few pics of a previous Christmas festivity. I love La Malcontenta and I can't believe I haven't been up to date with it. My only excuse is that for the last year or two, my dollhouses have had to take a back seat. I am just starting to feel that I am finally going forward again. As I mentioned in the Abner Raleigh posts, that that house was supposed to be built at the end of 2008--but that was not meant to be.

Anyway, here are the few of a previous Christmas.

Living room.

Living room.

Dining room. I have no idea why the coffee service is on the floor!

Well. I feel a little better.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Framed picture update

Didn't think I would be back so soon, but I did find the pictures framed (as mentioned in the previous post) with the Home Depot small detail lumber and the HBS baseboard.
Family dining room at Sunnybrook Farm with nicely framed pictures. On the rear wall, the picture was cut from a magazine and framed with the HD lumber. On the left side wall, the picture was a poster downloaded from a freebie site and printed on gloss photographic paper to get the "poster" look, and framed with HBS baseboard.
While I am back on the job here, I should mention that sometimes I frame with commercial frames. Unfortunately, the pictures I have more often than not, do not fit in those frames. Yesterday, I printed two paintings by Constable, and while they are a little wider than the largest Jacqueline gold frame, I decided that I could lose a little width and not lose much from the picture. These frames do have a "lip", but I think I didn't have any problems because the frames are molded in one piece and sturdy.
Road with Figures and Entrance to the Fen by Constable, one of my favorite artists.
These will replace the pictures around the fireplace in the living room of La Malcontenta.

More on framing

Well, some of  my framimg experiments have worked out and some have been a real trial. I really want to get a technique so that I can make a good frame and not have to recut nor take forever to do it!
HBS framing lumber #4185. That little "lip" that I thought would be so helpful for holding the picture, wasn't!
I did make a frame from "official" framing lumber from HBS. They have a few styles and sizes. Interestingly, something that gave me a lot of trouble, was the "lip" in the frame into which one puts the picture. I didn't make the frame with the "underframe" so I had a difficult time having the frame hold together at the mitered cormers (little area for glue) when I tried fitting the picture into the frame. I finally got it but the frame was definitely weak at the corners. Fortunately, I had planned to completely cover the back (picture and frame) with sturdy card, so this firmed up everything.
HBS framing lumber frame for The Hay Wain by Constable. Unfortunately, the flash makes it hard to see the paintng. This is the Library at Sunnybrook Farm.
Home Depot small detail moulding -- one of many styles. These are great since they come in four-foot lengths and are great for crown/cornice moulding.
I have also made a good frame from some very small detail moulding I found at Home Depot. I made this frame with the underframe and it worked well to make good corners. I also made a simple frame from baseboard moulding. I thought I had pictures of these but since I can't find them, I guess I have yet to take them, but they are hanging in the family dining room at Sunnybrook Farm.

I have a number of Chinese paintings I clipped/scanned from books and magazines that I want to frame and hang at Sunnybrook Farm in the dining, living, and music rooms. All these will need frames and I have decided on a simple gold frame made from HBS chair rail #81424.

HBS chair rail #81424 for simple frames for my Chinese paintings.

HBS chair rail #81424 made into simple frame, and even my miters were good!

Frame underside, braving made without an underframe.

Look how well it looks!
It's time for a break but I will be back later with some more ideas about making frames, besides the thought that I will skip any "lip-making" frames!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Real Life intervenes & some frames for artwork

Well, I had plans for all sorts of progress last week and this but I have to deal with some unhappy-making dental problems for at least this week coupled with my usual sinus problems. I keep trying to concentrate on the little people but my thoughts keep drifting and my nerves keep being jangled. Oh, to be a "cool cumcumber"!

I did lay out the cutting scheme for the Abner Raleigh house so now I have no excuse not to order the plywood. I am still working on the wiring diagram.

HBS had a 25% off sale last week and I did manage to keep my head together long enough to order a few things.

I am still searching through magazines, art books, and the internet for pictures to hang in my dollhouses. I have come to the conclusion that I will have to make my own frames if I want to have paintings of the sizes of my choice. I like to keep the aspect ratio of the originals when I make them miniature. Of course, this may not always work out since I did buy a number of empty frames through the years and I would like to use at least some of them. I have bought some "official frame stock" from HBS and some imteresting trim from Home Depot in small dimensions. Also, some of the miniature mouldings can be used for picture frames as well as for the intended purpose.

The tricky thing is, as expected, making perfectly mitered corners so that the frames corners meet at 90 degree angles. These corners will be on close display so all inperfections in the corners (and the frames in general) will be seen. Besides using something with perfect 90 degree corners as a gluing guide, I have found that if I make an "underframe" of 1/16 thick x 1/4 inch wide strip wood by cutting the four pieces straight across (easier to cut) and then glue them together at right angles (using the gluing guide), I get the best right angle I can make.

Then still using the gluing guide, glue the mitered top strip wood to the underframe. Now, I can still get a right angle and let the miter be a little off if needed. The imperfections can be fixed when the frame is dry with gesso, spackle, or wood filler, and then sanded and painted or stained. I will take some pictures the next time I do this since a picture should be "worth a thousand words"!

More on framing, with pictures, in another post.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Can we finally move forward Abner Raleigh?

My goodness, I think I am going over this too much! Time to buy and cut the plywood, and move on.

I have been arranging and re-arranging the furniture until I am dizzy. I think I have two possible living room furniture arrangements that will work with a door to the dining room next to the fireplace. For a simple house (at least on the first floor) ... hmmm....

View of composite layout showing the living room, dining room, and the entry hall with its bookcase for the library area.

Close-up of the hall and bookcase, and the dining room. The kitchen is "in front" of the dining room in place of the back of the entry hall. The real house has a front-to-back hallway with doors on both ends to allow cross ventilation breezes for those hot and humid Virginia summers.

I have decided that the dimensions are: 29" width x 28" deep. The ceiling height will be 10" on the first floor, and I am pretty certain that the the second will be 9" as I originally decided.

I still have to decide on the slope of the roof for the second floor. Mansard roofs have a slope of 11 degrees and I think I will follow this-- no sense re-inventing.. Then there is also the break in the roof to make a top portion at a different angle... hmm.... I think there could be some interesting building here. But first things first--build the first floor.
View showing "broken" Mansard roof--should be interesting!
Now I have to lay out a cutting diagram for the carpenter. I think the house can be built with two sheets of Baltic Birch 3/8" plywood which comes in 60" x 60" sheets. I will buy two and if I need more my woodworker's shop can get more.

I will have him cut just the wood for the first floor and its ceiling since this will be as a complete unit with ceiling. The second floor (attic) will be built later. And then will come the "broken" roof topping. And then, I will have to complete my ideas for the porches and the front-opening doors.

I will be going back to the layout of the house to plan out the electrical system. I think I will use tape wire with transformer(s) in the storage area under the house. I like the power strip system but I think the house design makes pulling wires through and hiding them problematic.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More prelim ruminations for the Abner Raleigh House

Funny that I thought we had worked out all the basic design decisions! Anyway, I have added another inch depth to the living room and therefore taken away one inch from the dining room. The dining room does not have much furniture and the table is small, so it should be all right.

I do think that I have to add two inches to the width, otherwise, no matter how I rearrage the living room furniture (and like the arrangement), the door to the dining room gets to be a problem. The door to the dining room is necessary otherwise I would have to take room from the kitchen to have a door to the dining room from the hall. And, for the moment, the kitchen is too small to lose floor space. Thus the interior will be 30 inches x 28 inches. --Stay tuned, nothing here is written is stone!

We have been spending some time trying to find the wallpaper and in for some rooms, we are having second thoughts about "which wallpaper". Fortunately, we still like the living, dining, and kitchen wallpaper! One nerve-wracking thing about the living room wallpaper is that my sister only could get three sheets. This does not allow for any mistakes, nor does it let us paper the door wall. I will take a scrap of the paper (after wallpapering!) to Home Depot and get a custom color paint of the background color, and just paint the interior door wall.
Chinese Fantasy. Made by X-acto ( I think this is old, but spectacular paper).
Symphony Stripe by MiniGraphics. It is a soft blue with a purple cast-- gorgeous.
Fruit Sprays by MiniGraphics. Just a happy wallpaper.
And we have a new problem that we can't find one dining chair. My sister just loved the dinng table and chairs but it is an older Bespaq set. She did have four chairs but the box marked "4 chairs" now only has three! Well, we are still searching all our furniture supplies and are hoping it was just "mis-filed"! It probably will be impossible to match the chair any more. Yuk!!!

Ok , I am now going off to have a drink and some dinner. -- Enough for today! Thanks for listening to me babble!