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, February 6, 2012

Exterior Design- Sunnybrook Farm, a Georgian, Palladian, Classic Revival home

Sunnybrook Farm - It is stone-textured cream-color house, but photographs white! Front and back opening.

Exterior - rear (unfinished) with terrace. Attic has garret windows and an artist studio
The interior of the main house, Christmas 2011

See the entries for Sunnybrook Farm in the Table of Contents listing. There is quite a bit of information and many pictures there, plus the funny (?) story about how three beginners leaped into this complex build!

I love Georgian and Palladian design so when we wanted a specific style, this was the winner. Since this was the only house we thought we would build, I filled it with everything I wanted. As a result, it is a front and back opening, 2-rooms deep, 25+ room house with separate wing sections.

It is made from 3/8 inch Baltic Birch plywood. It is almost completely electrified and runs off four 40 watt transformers. It sits on a custom-built movable 4 foot by 8 foot table with plenty of storage underneath. ...
Movable table supporting the house, with lots of storage underneath. The large window on the side of the house is part of the interior garden room.
We built it without knowing how to do more than half the things we wanted in the house. The only thing we were sure about was the little people who would live in it! The build had a number of discouraging moments and we stopped a couple of times.

The house is a cream-color stone texture, but always photographs as white! I was not going to have a monochromatic exterior, but as the size and the complexity of the house became apparent, I decided that cream plus touches of white was all the house could take!

The Exterior Design – Front:
We worked from scale drawings of the exterior and interior of the house. The interior went fairly well, except for me changing my mind about the size of the rooms. (Interior design and its trials are in a future post.) I don’t have many photos of the early days. I think that we were so busy building and "unbuilding" that we hadn’t the energy to take pictures!

Once we had the shell of the house built, it was time to jump into the really deep water.

Front Steps and Portico:

The Front Steps:
We wanted gracious steps. Unfortunately, it took us three complete builds of the steps to get it right—gracious low-rising steps with one 90 degree turn to get to the porch. Sigh. Andrew gets the credit for getting the steps right.  He figured out the right height of the risers and the right deep of the tread to have elegant steps. It took us so to come up with this, that everything else was finished!
I can't find the picture of the first try. This is the second try, not too bad but still too steep. (Ignore the dowels as "columns".)

Final version (thanks to Andrew)!
The Pediment:
I looked at many pictures until I understood the pieces that were needed. Then we cut the wood and built the basic pediment. This went fairly smoothly. I added the finishing touches as we went along throughout the build.
The finished pediment.
The Columns (Trouble with a capital “T”):
Now that we had steps, a porch, and a pediment, we ran into the biggest problem--they were ready for the columns that we did not know how to do! The 22 inch columns had to be tapered! We tried a number of fruitless schemes until one day, inspiration struck-- stair spindles! We had already decided on Doric columns, we just needed plain, tapered columns.

Thus off to Home Depot, our do-it yourself center, to buy spindles. We cut out the appropriate mid-section, et voila, we had it! We just had to add some column “trim” and the railings. Oh, so easy! Actually, no … but at least we had a plan!

Doric columns, finally!
The Exterior Design- The Rear Terrace:
The living, dining, and foyer have doors opening to the terrace. The terrace was fairly easy to build and fun! It had to be built in sections since the living and dining room doors open, thus it has to be moved out of the way. The house opening front and back brought no end of problems and I think that I should have only had back opening doors where there is a rear room.

Close-up of terrace (unfinished)
Terrace. looking from other direction. It goes across the entire main house.
The railings (local shop, vendor unknown) are painted that wonderful dark green that the Georgians loved because it was so expensive and showed their wealth! The terrace and steps are painted with a stone-textured paint but the terrace floor is cut-up vinyl floor tiles from Home Depot.

The terrace area is unfinished.

This really was, and still is, fun to do.

Exterior: Other Comments:
The rest of the exterior was just a lot of time-consuming buying, cutting, painting, and gluing all manner of trim. The fancy trim is from Unique Miniatures and Handley House (Classics), and the “plain” trim is just strip wood. The front balcony railings are Dolls’ House Emporium fencing painted cream color.

The roof slates are just cut-up vinyl flooring tiles from Home Depot!

I love to landscape all our houses. I find it fun, easy, and relaxing! Of course, I can't wait to get this house finished!

In the next post, I will discuss the trials and tribulations of building Palladian windows and doors for the main rooms of the house. Or ... “How to spend a lot of money and time and be frustrated”. (Did I say that we hadn’t a clue as to what we jumped into, but getting the message fast?)


  1. Wow, its big! and you have so many people inside. I would love to see a photo in each room. Does the house come apart? That is the challenge I am faced with where I live. I would be interested to know how you handled that?

  2. This Christmas party had 100 guests!

    I have a number of pictures on Webshots (link on blog at left). I am starting to put the new ones on my blog with some discussion of what I did.

    The two wings are separate structures.

    The main house was supposed to be in three sections: basement, floors 1 & 3, floor 3 and attic. I did have that plan but then did not follow through, and now I am sorry.

    Build a large house, but don't do what I did! I don't think it is more work to build in "floor sections" and it should be easier to work on.

    Oh well, ... the best laid plans!

  3. What a house Iris! Goodness me, all that space - I'd never be able to settle on a final floor plan! You have done a wonderful job though, and the steps look great. Especially with the Terrace to entertain on.
    Lucky you x

  4. Iris, what a beautiful house! congratulations it really is quite stunning, looks like you've been busy filling all the rooms too!

    Big houses do come with problems, and it would have certainly been easier to move it if it had been built in sections, but if you're not planning to move it around much I don't think that's a great problem!

    Have fun and enjoy it! :o)

    Andy x

  5. Thanks Simon. The floor plan did change a few times!

    I love the terrace! It is so much fun to do-- now I just have to finish it!

    I hope your weather is warming up.

  6. Wow! Iris, this house is AMAZING! I LOVE it when people follow through on their urge to make a GRAND Little house!!!!

  7. Iris,
    What a great have done a splendid job creating this masterpiece! The "stair spindle" idea for the columns is terrific....who would ever have guessed? Thank you for sharing the pictures.

  8. Thanks for all your nice comments.

    Fortunately, we aren’t planning to move any time soon, so I don’t have to think about getting Sunnybrook “moved” also. It's a scary thought.

    I did have the basement built as a unit and then decided to build it all together. Oh well, at least the wings are separate units.

    I thought that if I didn’t live in a house like this, at least I could have a grand, miniature version.

    The stair spindles worked well. It was really weird staring at a house with pediment, a porch, and a big empty space between!

  9. Hello Iris,
    The house is beautiful and the attention to detail is terrific. I love seeing a dollhouse on such a grand scale, and so well done!
    Fantastic job. Can't wait to see more.
    All the best,

  10. WOW! It's as big as my real house! I almost fainted when I saw the Christmas Party shot! You've done a superb job on the exterior, Iris --quite impressive!!!

  11. This is one amazing house! You and your family must be very proud of your accomplishment.