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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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Interior Design- RecRoom and Hall: Sunnybrook Farm

The rec room -- a place for friends to gather.
The ground floor is always the busiest place in the house. The work rooms are here, all deliveries come through the ground entrance, and the children enter here after school, drop their books and head into the kitchen for home-baked munchies.

Floor plan of ground level:
Discussing the starred rooms.
The rooms we will discuss today have the red stars.

The ground level has 9 inch ceilings. The previous post Kitchen, Larder, and Wine Cellar started the ground floor chronicles. This post describes the hall and the rec room.

The Hallway:
Jeremy and Bertie have after school snacks.
The hall is 9 x 24 inches and runs front to back with exterior doors, and a staircase to the foyer. The staircase is the Classic #7000 from HBS.

The hall is in the process of an update. I guess because of all the use it gets from the little people it is looking its age, and is in need of a repainting. Also it had an electrical problem.

The flooring is slate made from a vinyl self-stick shelving paper. I glued the vinyl onto poster board in 12-inch squares, cut them into 1-inch squares, glued the squares onto a poster board floor template, and then glued the template in place. The slate was then sealed with two coats of MinWax clear gloss polyurethane. The staircase was placed on top of the slates. The Rowbottoms had the back of the staircase left open for storage of oddly-shaped items, for instance bicycles!

The walls are painted white and any stained woodwork was done with MinWax Colonial Maple and then sealed with two coats of MinWax clear gloss polyurethane. We added some comfy furniture, storage units, items coming and going, and a large table always set with food so that one could eat in peace and avoid the heat and bustle in the kitchen. This place is user and dog friendly.

 --Electricity: Oh, Thomas Edison:
The electricity enters the ground floor from outside and through the rec room (right) and into the hall to the back. There are two tape wire branches crossing the hall under the slate to light the rooms on the left. Somehow one of the tape wires got damaged and no longer lit the kitchen. I had to carefully tear up a six-inch portion of the slate. I cut the tape wire to make sure it stayed “broken”. Then I used lamp wire and bradded it into the tape wire on the right wall, laid it along the floor and bradded it into the tape wire on the left wall—et voila-- lights in the kitchen! I then replaced the slate, putting the wire under it, and tacked in down lightly in case I have to fix any more problems.

The ground floor was the first floor we wired and it has always been problematic as to which lights “light”. Also, I am using some “pound-in” lights. Well, they don’t pound in easily, some not all all, and then they fall out! Even if they stay in, they may not light.
Pound-in lights.
The Rec room:

A nicely set up rec room.
The rec room is 20 x 13 inches.

This room is entered though stained glass swinging doors. The stained glass is commercial "stained glass" printed on velum that my sister found somewhere. The doors are stained with MinWax Colonial Maple and then sealed with two coats of MinWax clear gloss polyurethane.
Swinging stained glass doors.
The walls are painted white above, and wallpapered below with MiniGraphics “Jake”, as is the bar. The swag lamps are from HBS and the pool table light from DHE.

The flooring is a wood parquet made from a vinyl self-stick shelf paper. I glued the vinyl onto poster board in 12-inch squares, cut that into wood strips, and then glued these directly onto the plywood floor with Elmer’s glue. The flooring was then sealed with two coats of MinWax clear gloss polyurethane. I used these strips for the baseboard and the chair rail, also.

Parquet flooring
This room has all the proper things: a well-stocked bar, a large cooler for soft drinks, a complete audio-visual system, an upright piano, a pool table, the requisite dart board, two cigar store Indians, and food. Festive posters line the walls.

Dart board -- spectators stand clear!

Cigar store Indian
The bar is a pine armoire, turned on its side, with some pieces removed and some added!
A bashed cheap, pine amoire becomes the perfect bar.

Thus ends today's visit with the Rowbottoms.


 The Housekeeper’s suite will be discussed in the next post ... I hope. Some of this is v-e-r-y slow going.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Interior Design- Kitchen, Larder, Wine Cellar: Sunnybrook Farm

The kitchen--the heart of any home! It all gets done here on the ground floor. Here are the work rooms: the kitchen, larder, wine cellar, laundry, storage, workshop, and sewing rooms; and a few rooms for resting: the rec room, and a bedroom, bathroom, and sitting room for the housekeeper and her husband (Dinah and Fred Mullins).

There is also a main hallway running front to back with exterior doors, and a staircase to the foyer. The elevator is in the wing.

Floor plan of ground level:
Floor plan of ground (basement) level.
The rooms we will discuss today have the red stars.

The Kitchen, Larder, and Wine Cellar:
The ground level has 9 inch ceilings. This post just describes the kitchen, larder, and wine “cellar”--and once again, what was envisioned isn’t exactly what happened. I wanted to see the kitchen, larder, and wine cellar all at the same time and the wing was simply too narrow for that.

A word about Electricity:
This level was the first built and our first introduction to wiring a dollhouse. We bought the supplies for a tape wire system and tried to follow the instructions. I won’t go into all the problems but suffice it to say, it was “interesting” experience and many phone calls to Cir-Kit Concepts (very nice people and much pulling out of tape wire and junction splices, and then rewiring, but we finally did it.

We learned a number of things. I cannot run the tape smoothly up the wall to the ceiling for the ceiling lights. There are a few remnants of this in some of the rooms, and because they work and I can’t rewire at this point, the tape stays and looks weird (blame it on cheap labor). At some point, I will go back and try to smooth the edges.

I quickly learned to wire ceiling lights to the room above and NO sconces unless the wires can be hidden behind moulding and bradded into floor level tape wire in the room above.

I also quickly learned about the power strip system which I now use when I can in newer houses.

The Kitchen:
The kitchen is 15 x 15 inches.

The kitchen is the realm of the housekeeper Dinah Mullins (of course, her name is Dinah! -- remember “someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah”?) and Chef Jaime.

Everyone loves to visit the kitchen, even the animals. Stopping in today to visit Dinah and Chef Jaime are Giuseppe Titchmarsh the groundskeeper, Prudence Plum the owner of Plum Delicious Catering, and Dinah’s husband Fred, the property manager. The cats are Calico and Ali Baba and the Old English sheepdog is Bertie.
Always people dropping by: Giuseppe Titchmarsh, Prudence Plum, Dinah's husband Fred, and Calico and Ali Baba the cats, and Bertie the Old English Sheepdog to visit Dinah and chef Jaime.
This kitchen has all the cabinets and things that I wanted to be there. I love roosters so rooster wallpaper and rooster items are in place.

This is also a kitchen in which a lot of cooking is done, so two stoves are needed.
Two stoves with large copper hood.
There are nice rooster tiles on the wall behind the stoves. I made the stove hood from fancy copper heavy-weight card stock . The top rectangular section has a balsa block inside to give form, the bottom is just folded into the shape I wanted and glued to gussets on the sides to hold the shape. There is a light inside made from a grain of rice bulb on a wire. The bulb comes through a hole in the wall from the back room and plugs in there. Furniture or something will hide the hole and wire. With this, I can easily change the bulb.

I debated about wall cabinets and decided “no” simply because I didn’t want to hide the rooster wallpaper.

When I am finally satisfied with the base cabinets, I will make continuous white counter tops over the two continuous sections by the stove.

Besides the roosters, I love the vintage Shackman chairs I found on eBay.

--Kitchen lights, cozy but not for working under:
The ceiling lights are bradded into the dining room floor tape wire. The lights are nice-looking but do not give out much light. I will probably keep them—they add a homey touch to the room, but not enough light for a working kitchen.

I bought the LED “lights on a strip” from HBS (#95303) and I am making a “fluorescent” type light (probably a section of six LEDs) to put above the rear work area so Dinah and Jaime can see what they are doing. I have to decide how to wire it. If I can’t wire it to the ceiling tape, I will bring it discretely along the ceiling to outside the house and brad it there. One discrete way to run ceiling wire is to put shallow beams across the ceiling, attach the fixture to one, and hide the wires in the beam. (Note: this house has tape wire all over the place: in the house and on the exterior side wall that is covered when the wing is in place.)

Once I complete the lighting, I will add a simple crown moulding around the room.

--The Heart of the home:
Some say that the kitchen is what makes a house a home. It certainly is that way with Sunnybrook with everyone passing through the kitchen! In fact, even the Christmas party extends to the kitchen:
Christmas party extends to the kitchen--always food coming out of the oven!
The Wine Cellar:
Too many rooms, not enough space--original area for the wine.
The rooms in the wing on the ground floor suffered the same fate as the sunroom and butler’s pantry on the first floor--too little room. We wanted a larder, wine cellar, hallway, and workshop all in this area. The workshop is in the rear of the wing and is a decent size room, but trying to fit a full-size larder, wine cellar, and hall side by side in 15 x 12 inches didn’t work out. We decided to have a full larder and just a wine “closet”. (I looked up alternatives to a wine cellar on the web and found a number of options.) The closet turned out fine and is 5 x 5 inches.
We now have an official room: a Wine Closet!
The sliding glass door of the wine closet was made from the same greenhouse remnant acrylic as the sunroom wall (see previous post—The Sunroom). I used aluminum tape to edge the acrylic. I then made a more elegant wine rack with a wood frame and mesh shelves to hold the bottles.

All beverages are the domain of John MacGregor, who prefers to be called “MacGregor”, and who has a picturesque Scottish brogue.
MacGregor is now one happy dude!
There is a complete hall with elevator behind the wine closet. It’s too bad the elevator can’t be seen very well because it’s kind of cute.

The Larder:
The larder is the domain of Maggie MacGregor (John’s daughter). She makes sure the larder is well-stocked and that she has a very sturdy step stool to reach the upper shelves.
Maggie MacGregor stocking the shelves using a very sturdy step stool.
The larder was fun and easy to make and is 10 x 12 inches. A small fortune was spent on food to fill it.

The larder includes a sink for washing produce and cleaning fish, a dishwasher, and lots of storage space. Right now the freezer door is open (not a good way to run a freezer) so that the food can be seen. I want to put a “glass” door on the freezer and a light inside to show off the food. Also, I have to decide on the ceiling fixture.

I found it funny as I was reviewing the ground floor, comparing its furnishings with the main floor, the piano nobile so to speak. Now Rebecca and Derek always wanted a house that was entirely livable, after all, they have three children, three Old English sheepdogs, two cats, a couple of birds and some fish, and this is a working sheep farm! That said, not purposely, but it just worked out that the ground floor is the cozy spot—wet, muddy feet welcome! The following picture was not taken on the ground floor--so everyone had to promise to be on good behavior!
The Rowbottoms: back row--son Jeremy, Rebecca, Derek, and son Antony; middle row--one sheep, the Old English sheepdogs-Algernon, Jeeves, and Bertie, and daughter Victoria; front row--the cats-Calico, Ali Baba, and another sheep.
The ground level has the cheapest furnishings of any floor in this house.  We didn’t do it purposely-- my sister and I were always bargain shoppers and we certainly didn’t realize how much the rest of the house would cost. We found that we could find “good stuff” in inexpensive sets, bargain tables at shows or in shops—if we liked it then we could fix it or modify it. We used scrapbook paper for wallpaper (except for the roosters), and wallpapers on sale. Most of the walls are painted. Lighting and some furniture was bought from HBS but only when he had a 20% off sale. Flooring is material, wood planking made from Con-Tac wood-look shelving paper, slate made from Con-Tac marble-look shelving paper or from scrapbook paper. 
Wood flooring in the rec room made from strips of Con-Tac vinyl shelving on poster board. It really is very impressive and it was cheap!
It was fun. Of course, here and there, we did splurge a bit!

The Windows that aren’t there:
There are windows in the rear rooms and I did plan to have them in the front also (they are in my original drawings). In fact, I cut a few in the exterior walls. The problem became evident as soon as more of this large, tall house took shape—the house was overrun by windows. These looked all right in my drawings and probably in real life, but in miniature, not for this house. Anyway, just imagine the windows!

Adaptive Reuse:
The cost of making Palladian windows and doors for Sunnybrook was pricey. The Palladian doors from HBS cost about $18 a door, the Timberbrook double French doors cost about $19, and the Classics windows cost about $7 and did not come with acrylic. We don’t begrudge the cost because we had a certain idea in mind and we didn’t know how else to do it.

We did find a way to recoup some of the cost: we used the exterior doors from the HBS frames as interior doors. All we had to do was make a frame and all the interior doors on the ground level were in place.

There will be more on the ground level in the next post. By the way, just in case you all think that I am sluffing off with my other houses—not so! Wait until you see the Spanish verandah off the living room at La Malcontenta!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Interior Design- The Sunroom and Butler's Hall: Sunnybrook Farm

Sunroom and Butler's Hall.
 Surprise! … No Chinese Chippendale ... no glitz ... no artwork-- we just wanted an ordinary sunroom and butler’s pantry! This did not turn out as we originally thought it would.

We never completely thought out how much room a sunroom and butler’s pantry would need before we built the wing structure. This led to a lot of rethinking of these two rooms, and to some disappointments.

We wanted a sunroom this in space, and butler’s pantry since the kitchen is on the ground level. 
Kitchen is on the ground (basement) floor.
Floor Plan:
1st Floor Plan
To remind us where we are--* marks the spot.

The problems begin:
No matter how we tried to arrange it, the room (14 x 22 with 11 inch ceilings) was just not big enough for two good-looking rooms. We did not want to modify the room size so we had to adjust our plans. After a lot of soul-searching, it was decided that the rooms had to go front to back, and that a staircase to the ground level was not possible in this area. Then we had an inspiration--we decided on a faux elevator to get the little people from one floor to the next.

The butler’s pantry became a “butler’s hall”, literally—a small place to keep china and silverware, dinner dishes coming and going, and the faux elevator. This area has swinging double doors to the dining room and a doorway to the sunroom. This room is 5 ½ x 22 inches.

Now, the sunroom just did not have enough space, so I had to bump out a 3 ½ inch wide floor-to-ceiling 17 inch long “bay” window. I suppose this odd shape looks interesting—or maybe not. This room has a double door to a balcony (when it’s finished).

One benefit of the build was that I got to use a lot of remnants of wood and acrylic.

The Butler’s Hall:
I tried to give this area the look of a plant room since it was so close to the sunroom: the ceiling paper is a blue sky scrapbook paper, the wallpaper is a woodsy scrapbook paper, and the flooring is a yellow pine flooring sheet. The elevator door has a wood surround. The elevator needs its floor dial yet. That’s Betty waiting for the elevator.

The only furniture that could fit here (only 5 ½ inch wide) is a narrow long table near the dining room door to hold things coming and going, and two glass shelf units at the other end to hold some china, glasses, etc.(still to be worked out). I have two simple ceiling lights but they are not installed yet. They will probably attach into the floor above.

Butler's Hall--that's Betty waiting for the elevator.
The Sunroom:
The tile floor is real-house wallpaper from Home Depot. The ceiling is real-house blue sky wallpaper. There are two interesting architectural features in this room: the wall between the butler’s hall and this room, and the bump-out window.

--The wall:
Since these two rooms are so squashed looking, I wanted to give the feeling of light and space. I had some clear double-walled acrylic left over from replacing a greenhouse window. It had the extra “interest” of having clear channels inside the acrylic. This made a very nice pattern and kept it from being a plain acrylic. I then decided to alternate pieces of this material to make an extra pattern by putting the “channels” in different directions. This is a heavy duty piece of acrylic but cut easily with my band saw. (This stuff is not hand-cut-able.)

I then cased the pieces with narrow channel moulding and made a wall!
Wall from greenhouse window acrylic remnants.
--The window:
Opening cut for window.
First I cut out the window opening.

Then I used 1/8 inch thick clear acrylic I had left over from another project for the window. This too, was cut with my band saw. I cut many narrow windows, cased them in narrow channel moulding, and then glued them all in place. This took a while!
View from front.
View from back.
Since I wanted a sloped roof, I had to cut angled pieces of the clear acrylic for the sides at the top.

I cut a piece of the double-wall acrylic for the roof. This roof had to be removable since it is almost impossible to arrange plants in the ”window” otherwise. The acrylic roof sits on the window, and has a small fancy nail for extra hold. 
Window all ready for plants!
The ceiling lights are not yet in place--in fact, I don’t even know what I want to use.

The Furnishings:
The furniture in this room is just pieces we found here-and-there. The orange wicker set is delightful. We also found black and white “wrought iron” pieces, and other wicker chairs. All-in-all, an eclectic mix—just right for a sunroom!
Love that orange and white wicker set!
Another view, the back door is in place, and poor Betty is still waiting for the elevator!
Then we added lots of plants.
Very nice after all is said and done! What an experience!
The back exterior wall of this room was the last thing put into place.

All things considered, the two rooms came out reasonably well. In retrospect, I think that when we all realized that our plans needed more space, I should have just moved the exterior side wall out 3-4 inches (just for this and the ground floor beneath). Oh well….

Friday, March 2, 2012

Interior Design- The Music and Game Room: Sunnybrook Farm

The Music and  Game Room
The music and game room is another in the Chinese Chippendale style. This was a fairly smooth implementation except that the shop only had three Chinese wallpaper sheets, and all three sheets were from a slightly different dye lot! My sister loved the paper so I found a way to use it and not let it be obvious about the dye lots. Also, we weren’t sure how much Chippendale we could buy.

We started at the end of 2004 and worked on and off, until we added the finishing touches, the paintings, last week!

Floor Plan:
To remind us where we are--* marks the spot! This room is in the "wing".
The Music and Game Room:
The music room is 14 x 22 with 11 inch ceilings. The room is done in a Chinese Chippendale style. This is basically a red and gold room: Bespaq red Chinoiserie furniture and red upholstery against soft gold and ivory mouldings and trims. The wallpaper is a busy Chinese floral design on a soft gold background, the wainscot is a linen texture light card in a muted gold color, and the paints are Folk Art Buttercrunch, and Delta Creamcoat Ivory and Light Ivory. The ceiling and medallions are painted white.

We had the wallpaper and I had seen the game table and chairs and a few other pieces, but they were very expensive so it was not a given that this furniture would happen … but then serendipity did! We were at a dollhouse shop that was having a huge sale, and as we were standing at the counter waiting to check out the owner opened a display case and took out the pieces and marked them down 50%! I immediately threw my body over them and said “Mine!” She added them to our purchases, and as they say, “The rest is history”.

I love the drama of walking from an orange living room into a red and gold Chinoiserie music and game room. I like orange and red together in my real world too.

Before I go any further, I have to tell you that the color of the wainscot paper and the background color in the wallpaper is not what you see in the photos. I don’t know why, but they would not come true—Thus here is a picture my husband took with his iPhone which actually did came out almost true! You can see the real beauty of the colors. I have always had a problem with the “creamy” colors in this room, and I am still trying to figure it out. The only other place I have this problem is in the color of Sunnybrook Farm—it is NOT white, it is a Georgian cream color!
True colors from an iPhone.
Two views of the room taken with my Nikon. This room is so beautiful that it breaks my heart to see the wrong colors.
View looking left with doorway to living room at rear.
View looking right.
This room only opens in the front, which makes it a little difficult to do things at the back of the room.

I like to continue the wall treatments onto the exterior doors of the dollhouse. See next picture.

The wallpaper is a multi color busy floral print and it is drop-dead gorgeous. I have never seen it anywhere else so I guess it is another older, retired MiniGraphics paper. The wainscot paper is a softer, muted complimentary color to the background of the paper.
Picture from iPhone again.
I had to  use the wallpaper carefully due to the three different dye lots. I place the wallpaper in “dye-lot “ order from the darkest in the back of the room to the lightest in the front. Actually, it worked! You don’t notice the differences.

Fortunately, the back wall of the room was still off the house so I could do the wallpaper easily.

The chair rail (HBS #81425), and the standard  HBS baseboards are painted Delta Creamcoat Buttercrunch.
Chair rail HBS #81425 which makes a nice picture frame moulding also.
Fireplace and Mirror:
The fireplace is by Jim Coates and has a nice brown color that goes well in this room.

The firebox was deepened by cutting a hole in the plywood and the hole was covered on the exterior of the house with a piece of thin plywood. The bricks are from a plastic roll of Lemax bricks from Michaels. We found nice andirons and fire fender.  
Fireplace by Jim Coates.
The mirror is a Christmas ornament. I love mirrors above fireplaces.

The flooring is the same as in the living room. The flooring is HSB red oak stained MinWax Provincial and then sealed with two coats of gloss MinWax polyurethane with a light sanding between coats. I cut the sheets into 1 ½ inch squares and glued them at an angle onto a brown poster board template. This was time consuming but fun, and let us have a parquet floor without the pain.
Parquet flooring.
The flooring is not permanently glued down because the ceiling lights on the ground (basement) floor are bradded into the tape wire on the music room floor.

The chandeliers are from HBS and the medallions are pressed wood appliqués from Michaels. We decided to use two chandeliers because we thought that the musicians and the gamesters would need lots of good lighting.
Ceiling with two chandeliers and pressed wood medallions.
The ceiling medallions are painted white.

Crown Moulding:

The crown moulding is from Unique Miniatures. The design is an interesting mix of floral bumps and squiggles (as best as I can describe). I like it. It is painted Ivory with some touches of Light Ivory, and I used HBS window casing at the bottom. I have never used this as a window casing but I find I could not live without it for crown mouldings!
Window casing (HBS # 7056) as crown moulding!
Doorway to Living Room:
The trim is a combination of simple casings I found in my wood supply and made into a slightly “classic” style and painted Buttercrunch. I can no longer get back there to take a good picture, but it can be glimpsed in some of the pictures.

We wanted something eye-catching at the back of the room. To start with, we wanted large windows for the back wall. I couldn’t find any large enough, so I bought more of the Timberbrook large French doors and used the glass doors as windows. (I really miss this wonderful company.)

Then we set them between four Unique Miniatures Corinthian pilasters.

The window trim and the columns are painted light ivory. The wall around the windows has the same card as the wainscot.
Rear Timberbrook "windows" and Unique Miniatures Corinthian pilasters.
The front windows are also Timberbrook. The trim is a combination of simple casings I found in my wood supply and made into a slightly “classic” style and painted Buttercrunch.
Front windows with "classic" trim.
Most of the furniture is Bespaq with companion pieces. The room has a full supply of musical instruments so that anyone can “strike up the band” at anytime!
Musicians wanted!
The card table is always ready for those who prefer a game, and pinochle is usually the game of choice.
Game table.
Boy, there is nothing like red chinoiserie! Even my husband, who likes this hobby but takes it in stride, is always willing to buy it.

These were part of a large group of various and wonderful artwork from an internet site I somehow found, and it all only cost $10! It was a long download, though.

The pictures are all birds in trees and flowers. I really missed having an open back door to take pictures of the artwork in the back of the room.

The front picture of the red bird was cut from an magazine and framed.
 (My printing and framing methods are given in the Dining Room and other previous posts.)

The room is finished!
For the Christmas and New Year’s parties, Rebecca and Derek turn this room into the band and dancing room. This is a picture of the Christmas 2006 party. Anyone who plays an instrument or sings can be in the band and everyone dances. 
Graceful dancers!
Happy musicians!