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, April 30, 2012

La Malcontenta, YouTube, and poor Fred

Well, a week of small accomplishments, of non-accomplishments, and of frustration.

La Malcontenta:
This has been a strange week for some reason. I have been trying to accomplish finishing the interior of La Malcontenta, but the more I poke at the dollhouse, the more I find to do and sometimes change--which is deadly. I have decided to buy the Clare-Bell black “wrought iron” chandelier for the den.
Clare-Bell chandelier for den.
The one there now is just a placeholder but its time has come to go!!! I did get the crown moulding up and I think I am going to add some table lamps or floor lamps… maybe … somewhere in the room. The crown moulding is a combo of Home Depot small detail moulding and the Victorian baseboard from HBS.
Den composite crown moulding

Den crown moulding in place.

--The Living and Dining Rooms and Poor Fred:
The living room finally got its table lamps by the loveseat. Of course, I had neglected to drill a hole at the back of the room for the wires to go out the back when I was building. So I had to take everything out of the room to drill and pull wires—YUK!! The lamps are just what I wanted – a torchiere style table lamp from HBS.

I do have another problem to solve with regard to the living room chandelier. The "sticky pad" supplied with it to hold it to the ceiling gave way (which I thought it would), and since it fits flush against the ceiling, I have to devise another way to hold it up firmly, but still allow me to lower the chandelier if I have to replace a bulb. My husband and I are still percolating on this. Right now, the light is pulled out of the house since it was just being held up by its wires!
See the lamps in situ. Then disregard the crooked picture and see the crooked chandelier hanging by its wires!

I did the interior decoration on the dollhouse door for the living room and den, and that took more time with more problems than I wanted.
External door for living room and den.
I have also finished the dining room side dollhouse door (except for the moulding over the arch of the kitchen door) which also took more time with more problems than I wanted.
External door for dining room, kitchen, master bedroom, bathroom.
I have to redo the floor in the dining room—I didn’t like it after I did it—and still don’t like it—so it has to go. Of course this means removing all the furniture, etc, etc, and etc.

And then there are about a thousand other little things here and there—this all makes my head hurt.

I am planning to re-do the dining room floor, and then go back Sunnybrook Farm—Fred is very upset that his workshop is still not finished! But at least he has a nice table saw! The sewing room is almost finished. Of course, if the chandelier comes from Clare-bell, then I will put that in, and then go back to Fred.
Fred is hanging a light in the workshop while Giuseppe watches.

Molly likes her sewing room which is almost finished (as opposed to "poor Fred's workshop"!
YouTube Videos
We have been making “videos” for YouTube, another nerve-wracking experience. Is anything ever easy? Of course NOT.

We just added two new videos:

-- Sunnybrook Farm Exterior Views (a walk around)

-- Sunnybrook Brook Farm’s Ground Floor


A week or so ago, we added the first two:

--Dollhouse Overview (Exterior views of our dollhouses)

--Sunnybrook Farm’s 1st Floor

I hope you enjoy them. They are about three minutes each.

You can also get to the videos from the We are on YouTube image at the top of our blog in the sidebar, or you can go to YouTube and put “irismarchcreations” in the search box.
Sorry this blog has no "glitz" and is really a "blah" blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Art Deco Living Room Glitz at La Malcontenta!

Living Room -- 1030's Hollywood glitz!
Many of you asked about the interior of La Malcontenta. I did some posts at the beginning of this year and since many of you may not have been here yet, I am redoing the Living Room post with some extra "glitzy" details. The next post will revisit the Dining Room.

The three most “glitzy” 1930’s Art-Deco-Hollywood-glitz (with some Chinese Chippendale) rooms are of course, the living room, the foyer, and the dining room.

Just to remind us "who is La Malcontenta" (besides the Villa Foscari by Palladio-the most beautiful house in the world and my favorite real house! The Wikipedia discussion is in italiano, naturalmente). La Malcontenta means "the disgruntled woman", and there are almost as many opinions for this name as there are Italians! Ah, Italia!)

Mine is an Art Deco Spanish Eclectic, a bashed 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 ....
La Malcontenta is now contenta!
We made all the windows except the two HBS Palladian triparate windows, and all the windows work. We made the working double French doors with Palladian arches and "stained glass". We added working bashed, HBS dormers, "wrought iron" commercial plastic railings, and designed and made the main entrance. The house is stucco-ed with Behr Sand-Texture paint from Home Depot, and the roof is about a million sheets of HBS Red Barrel Tile vinyl sheets.

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 Importance 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 Hollywood glitz. Door in back goes to the kitchen.
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 added a half-round piece of wood onto the right of the bottom step of the HBS staircase to give it an elegant look, and some interesting posts and spindles, and stained the wood MinWax walnut except for the risers.
Staircase posts and spindles
The chairs (on the right) are from the Dolls' House Emporium of many years ago.  They didn't make them very long which is too bad since it is not easy to find Art Deco furnishings.

The crown moulding is a traditional classical simple trim. The walls and ceiling are painted white.

The chandelier is from HBS. I still can't find exactly what I want, but in the meantime, this is quite nice.

I love the arches (my jig saw does it all) and my Ionic columns are cake decorations from Michael's. The flooring is real house stone-like wallpaper, cut into 1-inch squares and glued onto a poster board template.  I like the tiles on the back wall but I wish they didn't have such a gloss finish. It's a tile sheet from a local dollhouse shop.I don't have the manufacturer's name but the company still makes many wonderful tile sheets.

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 pittance because it doesn't light, but I think I know how to fix it--just need some time. The brass items on the other table are by Clare-Bell.

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, an 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 it in the above picture.)
Living room looking toward French doors.
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 lit by grain of rice bulbs.

The following view shows the fireplace "surround" (I'm not sure what the correct word is) made from a small metal Art Deco picture frame from Michael's -- with the bottom side removed! The beginnings of the trinket box "curio cabinets" flank the fireplace. I am still waiting for a use for their drawers.
A small metal Art Deco picture frame becomes a fireplace surround (correct word?)!
The crown moulding is custom made from small real house detail moulding (Lowes) and whatever HBS trim struck my fancy. It is painted a mix of Delta Creamcoat copper and gold paint to match the copper textured foil paper on the fireplace wall. It matches very well in real life--not so much in this picture! The walls are painted Delta Creamcoat Light Ivory.

The stained glass in the Palladian doors is actually cut out of the fancy plastic covering of a fruit basket!
Palladian doors and faux stained glass
I added a wonderful eclectic mix of furniture and  objet d'art (including Egyptian, 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!

I hope you enjoyed this updated post of a re-post whether you read it before or not, e spero che non sarà mai la malcontenta! (Good heavens, I hope that is "good" Italian!)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Spanish Veranda for La Malcontenta!

La Malcontenta, an Art Deco Spanish Eclectic house, with its porch and veranda.
I decided to work on La Malcontenta. I was excited to finally see how the exterior features I had planned a couple of years ago would work out. (Sunnybrook Farm will go on for the rest of my life, but some others have to finish! And I decided that I needed a little break from Sunnybrook. Of course, Fred is clamoring for his workshop since his table saw arrived.)

The Porch:
I finally finished the front steps—the porch landing was started about two years ago and then work stopped! Ye gad! I bought these great porch tiles from Michael's and it was a good thing that I bought many of them since they are no longer available.
Porch tiles on landing.
Completed porch at last!
The Veranda:
I had always planned to have a veranda on the living room side of the house and I decided that it was time to do this, too. After all, these great Palladian doors needed to open onto something.
Living room needs a veranda.
The veranda goes here.
The veranda is designed with arches (as is the front porch) but with a Spanish barrel tiled hip roof to match the house.

 A Note about the Spanish Barrel Tiles:
These are vinyl sheets that I buy from HBS. There is a lot of waste with a hip roof, so many were needed for the house--and for the mistakes in measuring and cutting. The veranda roof took three sheets. The house took at least 15—my sister and I stopped counting after a while.

The sheets sometimes crack as you cut them but are easily repaired. The sheets come from different dye lots. The barrels may be slightly different sizes from sheet to sheet which makes vertical and horizontal alignment a challenge. There sometimes is a problem making a neat seam and I have found that overlapping a row often makes the best seam.

The sheets are white underneath so that you have to paint the edges and the seams.
Painting the edges and seams.
Also, I trim the edge that will be the first row to give the illusion that the barrels have thickness.
Cut the first horizontal rows to give the illusion of thickness.
I also had to paint the edges of the MDF roof pieces. Buy a quart of terra cotta paint (or as I did—find it in the OOPS cart at Home Depot).

They need a lot of glue under them and “support” to keep them in place as they dry (they slide). I have used E6000, OmniStick, and Aileene’s 7800 with equal success. After they are dry, I touch up the seams and other “imperfections” with red oak or mahogany Elmer’s wood filler. Then I paint them.

On a hipped roof (my only experience), the edges where the angles meet must be covered with something—the best alignments are never perfect , and also real houses have a protective layer at those points. I use a row of barrels from a sheet made from a company that no longer makes them. The great thing about their sheet is that the barrels are wider and so cover angled edges better. I do not know what I will use if I do another barrel tiled roof. I accept these quirks and will continue to use these sheets--or at least until I find something better.

The Veranda Construction:
The veranda is a stand-alone piece with its own landscape. The house is big enough without having it attached.

The veranda footing is pine, the porch and roof are ¼ inch MDF, and the arched walls are cut with my jig saw from 3/8 inch Baltic birch plywood. The back wall of the veranda is the house. The veranda is glued together with Elmer’s Wood Glue.
Glued, clamped, leveled, and prayed over.
Walls and base glued and stable.
The veranda is stuccoed with the same product as the house—Behr’s Sand Textured paint from Home Depot. I put in on with a palette knife or other spatula. It needs at least a day (or more) to dry thoroughly. Before it is dry, if you don’t like the look, you can scrape it off and start again.
Stucco from real house textured paint.
Next we had to decide on the pitch of the roof which ended up being slightly above the bottom of the den windows.
Pitch marked with masking tape.
A flat bottom roof goes on first.
The hipped roof starts with a flat base.
The veranda roof needed little cut-outs where the den windows are because the pitch I wanted came above the bottom of the windows. I designed cutouts with a “shelf” at the window level on which to put a window box and made curved “wrought iron” railings for the windows to add extra interest to the area (detailed picture later).
View of window cutouts and painted edges of the roof.
The main section was stabilized against the flat bottom with wedges underneath and straight pieces across the back, and then the side pieces were glued on and stabilized. Remember that this veranda is a stand-alone and gets no support from the house. When the roof was secure, it was time to glue on the tile sheets.

The tiles are held in place until they are dry. Believe or not, the bricks and some support in front kept the top tile sheet from moving. (On the main house, the pitch was so great that I had to use temporary nails as well as a lot of masking tape every which way. Also, I had to glue in small sections. )
Looks weird, but it works!
The sides just needed some push pins for support.
Push pin supports
And the roof is done, touched up, and painted!
We did it!
Close-up of the cutouts with the window boxes with curved black window railings on the den windows for added interest.
Very interesting solution.
The veranda tiles are from real house wallpaper from Home Depot (when HD used to sell wallpaper).
Real house wallpaper = mini tiles.

The porch floor tiles are glued to the floor with YES glue.

Time to catch one’s breathe!
There will be “wrought iron fencing” in the front and back arches, and following along the grass. This fencing is a commercial black plastic fencing from a local dollhouse store. The veranda will face a green lawn made on a styrofoam base with a Heiki or Noch grass mat. The veranda itself is 10 ½ x 23 inches.

I decided to, once again, unpack the furniture and place it on the veranda, and scotch tape the fencing in place to photograph an "almost" finished look.

Guests have already arrived!
But where are the home owners?
Well, a good party doesn't require a host and hostess -- just good food and cool drinks! Cheers!
This area and the area around the house have yet to be landscaped, but I am making progress.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Interior Design- Housekeeper Suite: Sunnybrook Farm

The housekeeper's bedroom--to rest after a day's work.
This is the housekeeper’s bedroom, one of the rooms in the “quiet spot” for staff members. The rooms include a sitting room, a bathroom, and two general purpose rooms, a laundry room and a storage room. Some of these rooms are still “not entirely” finished.

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

The ground level has 9 inch ceilings.

The earlier post Kitchen, Larder, and Wine Cellar  started the ground floor chronicles. This post describes the rooms away from the main hustle and bustle.

The Sitting Room: 
The sitting room.

The sitting room is 14 x 10 inches.

Any of the staff can find respite here: Maggie, Molly, and John MacGregor as well as Dinah and Fred. The Titchmarsh brothers: Giuseppe and Luigi, who are in charge of the landscaping, are always welcome and do come, but worry about their outdoor clothes messing up the room. Actually, the Titchmarsh brothers and Fred often relax in his workshop since they all work out-of-doors at lot.

As usual, this is a casually-appointed room: sofa and comfortable chairs made for collapsing into, TV and music to soothe, books to read, and a soft but tough carpet to withstand abuse. We found the sofa and matching chair in a dollhouse shop and then looked for items that fit in here and there. I am considering changing the carpeting. It never stays flat and I didn’t want to glue it down lest the glue show through.

The wall paper is scrapbook paper.

Also, I think a ceiling light would be nice and then I could put the second table lamp on a table! (It was never to stay on top the china cabinet, but as with real homes, a “temporary” spot often becomes permanent!)

Small crown moulding will be put in place.

--The Staff:
 Dinah Mullins, Giuseppe and Luigi Titchmarsh, Molly, Maggie, and John MacGregor, and Fred Mullins.
As you can see from their names, the staff is a family affair.

The Laundry Room:
Laundry room.
The laundry room is 6 x 10 inches.

For anyone in desperate need of clean clothes, the laundry is available with washer and dryer, a big sink for serious cleanup, and a drying rack for “drip-dry”. The drying rack is from DHE ; the other items from HBS.

This room also serves general household cleaning needs.

The laundry room linoleum floor is scrapbook paper sealed with two light coats of acrylic semi-gloss gel medium.

The Storage Room:
What to store in this 9 x 8 inch room?

The rear door goes to the housekeeper’s bedroom and bath, so perhaps the storage area should be walled off with a door to it. My sister thought this area could be for dry-goods, but we haven’t made up our minds. We have some nice steamer trunks that could be stored here. To be decided… 
Storage room for ????
 The bathroom:
Cheerful bathroom
The bathroom is 6 x 8 inches.

We put this room together after the bedroom was wired and wallpapered. No way was I going to cut into all of that to make a real doorway! Thus the door you see “goes” to the bedroom but is a faux door. The bedroom doesn’t even have a faux door. I debated about that but I decided that since you can’t see the bedroom and the bathroom at the same time, I wouldn’t glue one on the bedroom wall. My sister thought my reasoning was weird!

The bathroom is small and cheerful—a nice place to take a soothing bath. The walls are white and the door is yellow because when we decided on a faux door, I remembered that we had a leftover one in our stash. It was already painted bright yellow so it added a nice touch of color.

The furnishings also came from our stash.

The tile floor is scrapbook paper sealed with two light coats of acrylic semi-gloss gel medium.

The bathroom needs a few more finishing touches such as a ceiling light, a robe hanging on the door, and a shower head—of course then we will need a shower rod and curtain too!

The Housekeeper’s Bedroom:
Housekeeper's bedroom.
The bedroom is 15 x 14 inches.

Close the door here and Fred and Dinah close the world away. Sometimes one just has to be left alone!
Fred and Dinah "want to be alone"!
The lower walls are wallpapered from a book of authentic Victorian designs, Victorian Decorative Papers by Muncie Hendler. They are nice but small sheets. The upper walls are plain white. The door is stained MinWax Colonial Maple with two coats of MinWax gloss polyurethane.

Once again, the furnishings are things we picked up here and there but do make a cozy room. The chenille spread is made from a (new and clean) wash cloth and looked good to us. The brown rug was actually picked for this room and I think perhaps a colorful small rug should go in the sofa area.


There are two more work rooms on this floor: Fred’s workshop and the sewing room. Both are far from complete so I don’t know when they will be ready for viewing! But I did just buy Fred a table saw and he is very excited about this purchase.