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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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!!


  1. Good morning Iris,
    Yay! A new post! I love it all. I think it's wonderful that you pay so much attention to the little details and include a whole suite of rooms for the help. It really makes your project come to life and once again i'm happy you made the house the size it really is beautiful.
    I think the furnishing on the ground floor works. I've come to realize that a miniature room looks odd if the furniture pieces are of different quality...for instance put a Bespaq piece in that room and all the other furniture looks fake. but since all the room pieces work together I think it creates a very charming illusion...but that's just me.
    I think your work is great and I'm always excited to see more.
    Have a wonderful week,

  2. Hi Iris! I came and read this the other day.... and I guess I forgot to comment! As usual... this house is Frankly AWESOME! I can understand your space issues... most dollhouse kits have NOWHERE Near enough space! And the Cupboard House I am building for my Victorian Family is actually quite cramped! I am hoping to make up in details and Glamor what I lack in Room!!! I think you have come up with some clever solutions... like the Elevator!
    I Like that your kitchen is not all matchy-matchy and that you left out the upper cabinet cupboards. It seems more real to me!
    Keep up the Great work!

  3. i like the brog alot pauline hazell

  4. Hello Iris, how much work!!!! I understand you, also my house is very big and I have so much work..... but it's a satisfaction! Thank you for your compliments, I reciprocate (is ok this word in english?), your house is very lovely!!!!!! I see you love animals.... I like people that loves them!!!!!!

  5. The attention to detail is amazing, that's one well stocked larder!