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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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Interior Design- The Foyer Staircase: Sunnybrook Farm

The final result: The foyer with the properly curved "flying" staircase against its curved wall. Nothing was easy, but all's well that ends well. The staircase is stained MinWax's Provincial
The first floor (the ground level is the basement level) has a dining room, foyer, and living room in the main house, and a sunroom and a music room in the wings. This floor has 11 inch ceilings.

The staircase becomes a problem:
We wanted the foyer to make a grand statement. As with the front steps, we had a long, discouraging time trying various arrangements of steps--straight run and various number and types of turns. The 11 inch ceilings seem to add problems: high ceilings are beautiful but making a long gracious “flying” staircase was eluding us. We took a pause.

We solve the staircase style dilemma:
One day, looking at staircases in a dollhouse shop, we realized that a curved staircase was the answer somehow, but I didn’t like the curve of the commercial stairs, plus we had 11 inch ceilings. Hmmm....

Commercial staircase
The only answer was to bash the commercial one, adding length, width and most importantly, cutting it apart and changing the curvature! I wanted it longer, wider, hugging a curved wall, and gently connecting the foyer with the second floor. The shop owner showed us how to remove, without destroying, the handrails and spindles. Cutting it apart was up to us.

We bought flexible 1/16 inch thick “airplane model” plywood and picked the right wall curvature. Then came the real work: cutting the stairs into the proper number of sections and then to reassemble and glue them into the new curve. Then I had to widen the stairs to 3 ¾ inches, etc, and etc.

Need something to add more height:
We built a two-step landing with a 90 degree turn at the bottom to make up the 11 inches.

Widening the steps:
This was easy. I added a new flexible backing to the staircase to the new width and then, every morning before I went to work, I rolled out a 1/8 inch thick strip of Paperclay and added it the wall side of staircase. This is the way I built up the width to 3 ¾ inches over a number of days. Now I had the width, but ugly treads and rises. The risers were easy to fix, I just sanded and painted them. To fix the treads, I cut stained flooring and glued it on.
Dry fitting the pieces. The staircase to the ground-level basement is behind this staircase.
I don’t think you can see the repairs in the ceiling where we cut and re-cut and glued back ceiling pieces with each new attempt at getting the “right” staircase. That was messy.

Curving the railings (or nothing is easy):
This was basically a lot of cutting and pasting of the stained railings, adjusting the height of the spindles, and putting them all back together, and attaching to the treads! This was a lot of trial and error and nerve-wracking moments!

Moving right along, but with the permanent tricky rail-spindle attachment yet to come. The wood on the treads worked out well.
Then I had to somehow connect all this to the second floor landing railing.

Railings and spindles are attached to the stairs and to the second floor railing and the curved wall is permanently in place.
The second floor curved railing was another, but smaller, challenge.
It's finally done!
The next post will discuss the easy part of the foyer – which was everything other than the staircase and was a piece of cake!


  1. It seems very difficult to me to make the stairs fit, but you did!! Amazing good work!
    Kind regards, Ilona

  2. Hello Iris!
    Your staircase is wonderful! It was obviously a lot of work but well worth your efforts. Congratulations on the imaginative method of increasing the width. Seems like there is nothing you can't do given the challenge.
    Look forward to more!
    Kind regards from Ray

  3. Hi Ray and Ilona,

    Glad you like the staircase. Needless to say that there must be another way!

    Thank heavens for Paperclay. I don't know how I could have widened the staircase otherwise.

    Making this staircase was an interesting week or two. Of course, making this entire dollhouse has been "interesting".

    Once again, thanks for the comments.

  4. What a Gorgeous Job on the staircase, Iris! I am using the same stairs in my Cupboard House... but don't have enough room for widening them! I am building the curved wall and will have to add steps for my next flight as the ceilings are higher on the Drawing Room level. I was thinking of adding the same sort of turned landing at the bottom as you have used! I have a long way to go before mine are completed. I am sure I will come back to reference this post when I am working on the next level! I need to find some of that thin plywood!!!

  5. Wow! A ton of work but so worth it! The results are fantastic! :D

  6. Hi Daydreamer,
    Terrific that you are using the curved staircase with a curved wall and a turned landing on the bottom! This (after all the tears) was fun to do and I am excited to see how you do yours.

    The thin plywood was bought in a hobby shop. It was very easy to use and because it is so thin it blends into the straight wall easily. I did build a support behind it by stuffing and gluing craft Styrofoam after I was sure of the curve I wanted. The plywood was a “bit” pricey but at least it made something easy!

  7. Hi Otterine,

    Thanks, I'm glad you like it!

    I still don't know how I would do it if I did it again, but this was OK too.

  8. Me encanta tu casa es fantástica,muchas felicidades por tu estupendo trabajo. recibe muchos saludos

  9. It is looking great. Curves can be pretty tricky. I like how you handled the little details, like the decorative molding around the cut in the ceiling. Keep up the good work.

  10. Christina

    Bienvenida! Muchas gracias por sus amables palabras.

  11. Troy

    Thanks. Boy, did I find out that curves are tricky! Glad you like the trim around the ceiling curve. It took me a while to figure out what to do there.