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, June 18, 2013

Montclair--Living Room, Foyer, and Dining Room

It's really weird, but:
It's odd and a little difficult doing this house because for all the previous dollhouses we had the occupants, their names, their family trees, and a whole background for their lives. This house is still unoccupied and we can't find the "right" people to live in it. I know this sounds like a weird problem, but it's like working in the dark! I know ... we are just strange.

Montclair - Dining room and Foyer

Love-Hate Unique Miniatures Architectural Items (UM):
I use a lot of UM items and I will continue to use them. I just hope that someday they get better quality control, or have someone explain to me why this can't be done.

*They have a wide range of resin crown moulding, medallions, and many other architectural  elements.
*They have about 30 different styles of crown moulding. Their crown moulding is almost 18" long! For those of us who build large dollhouses, this means less joining.
*Their items are relatively inexpensive, made in the USA, and are easy to find--especially when you need some pieces in a hurry.
*They can be painted well, curved when heated, sawn (get hot with a power saw), and glue well ( I use DAP Clear household caulking). If a piece breaks, it is easy to glue back together and plaster can be used to fill in spaces.

-What happened to having manufacturing specs?
-What happened to  consistency of size of crown moulding in the dimensions away from the wall and down the wall? The dimensions of a piece can vary greatly as it goes form one end to the other. This makes joining pieces difficult and sometimes impossible without a lot of work.
-Sometimes the pieces have lumpy backs so that they have to be sanded to lie flat against the wall or ceiling, or are curved so that have to be forced to lie straight.

Enough said ...

Now the Montclair progress:

--The Foyer:
I feel like a great magician getting a curved staircase to look like it belongs and no problems in a room only 8" wide! Actually, there were problems and it took considerable time to get it to go against the curved wall up to the second floor and look as if it "connected" as it should into a 2nd floor hall that was all of 8 1/2 " wide!

Foyer with a curved staircase in only an 8" wide room!
The curved wall is 1/32" model airplane plywood with builder's foam behind it to hold it in a curve. The staircase is a Classics curved staircase from which I removed the handrail assembly and then only used what I needed when I had it in place.

I had to lengthen the bottom three steps to get them to meet the wall—added a little wood and perfected it with plaster. (For little things and to get into little spaces, I use DAP “pink” spackle in the tube.) The curved section for the bottom step is a piece of ¾” dowel cut in half and glued on. The “bullnose” for the steps was made from Elmer’s wood filler, rolled into spaghetti, let dry a while, and then cut, shaped, and glued onto the steps with Elmer’s wood glue. The stair treads were painted to hide all the patches.

The spindles are waiting to be glued into holes drilled into the treads (holes made by the manufacturer); the posts are pinned and glued in place.

The curved wall only goes to the second floor and then makes a ledge. I am hoping to find some interesting, and perhaps lighthearted curios to go on the ledge.

The wallpaper is a very pleasant stripe to bridge the living and dining rooms. It had no manufacturer’s name. The frieze at the ceiling is an embossed stripe from real-house wallpaper and gives a good impression of plaster-work. The adjoining stripe was used along the ceiling. It was very easy to glue to the curved wall!

The flooring is a high-gloss alabaster marble tile sheet. I toned down the gloss with a coat of semi-gloss acrylic gel medium.

All the trim in the room was painted Delta Creamcoat Magnolia White.

The foyer needs baseboards, and perhaps a chair rail, a medallion and chandelier, maybe some sconces, and a bench or settee, and a wall-hung console table. We already have Bespaq’s Portia curio console for the back wall.

--The Living Room:
The living room is 13 ½” x 18” with 10” ceilings.
Living room with gorgeous wallpaper and everything!
Flooring wood to be used, chandelier, medallion, fireplace, wallpaper, mouldings, the Bespaq table between the wing chairs, and the étagères came with the house.

From the items designated for this room, it appeared somewhat toward the Victorian. We tried to keep it this way but added furniture pieces and a UM trim for the door casing that would give it a light Victorian-eclectic look. The room still needs a rug.

Base trim for door casing

UM and quarter-round wood moulding for door casing fits in nicely with Lawbre wainscot.

Victorian fireplace
All the trim in the room was painted Delta Creamcoat Magnolia White.

Living room furniture "somewhat" where it may be finally placed.
The wainscot was purchased from Lawbre. I added the standard wood baseboard from HBS (#7042) and found a great chair rail in the supplies that came with the house. I love the wallpaper but I thought that it over–powered the room, thus the wainscot.
The crown moulding is UM #UMM9, which needed very little correction since I found three pieces that matched in size! I decided not to do miter joins, but cut the back piece straight and then coped the adjoining side pieces. It did need a bit of plaster fill-in at the joins.

The door casings for all the rooms on this floor were made from UM #UMM3 with basswood 1/4” quarter-round trim from HBS, and all done the same way.  I wanted the door casings to be deeper than the living room wainscot, so I used the following method. I cased the openings with 1/16” x ½” basswood on three sides as a base, and then glued the UM trim on the room side and the foyer side. The quarter round was used to hide the edge along the wall and to add some more interest.

The door casings needed a lot of UM trim, and needless to say that even with the large supply at hand, it took quite a while to find similarly sized pieces. After the trim was dry, I looked for places that needed some plaster fill-in, and then a quick, careful touch-up with the Magnolia White. The wallpaper is very striking but had no manufacturer’s name.

I gave the flooring wood a light coat of MinWax Provincial before using it. I put the floor together on illustration board: I inch band of Houseworks Black Walnut and Pine strips cut from the flooring sheets, 1” squares of black walnut parquet from Handley House, one strip of pine, and then a central area of black walnut.

I glued the wood down with a glue stick but it has started to unstick itself—fortunately in just a few places. I have had good success using UHU glue stick but didn’t have any on hand so I used a Staples glue stick. I don’t think it is as good! I guess I will go back to standard Aileene’s or Elmer’s glue. When the glue was dry, I sanded and put on another coat of Provincial and then sanded again, and then 2 coats of MinWax satin varnish.

The Victorian style fireplace is made by Concord. It is a deep fireplace and I decided that it was too deep for the room. Thus I cut out the shape of the fireplace out of the plywood exterior wall and pushed the fireplace through to the depth I wanted. The exterior chimney will cover the "excess". I made the fire (came with fireplace) more realistic by sprinkling red Mylar "sprinkles" over glue I painted on the coals.

--Dining Room:
The dining room is 13 x 18”.
Dining room, almost finished.

Fireplace (The blues do match, but do not photograph very well.)

Dining room with its furniture, so far

Dining room with its furniture, so far. This photo has the truest blue colors found in the room.
Flooring wood to be used, chandelier, medallion, fireplace, wallpaper, mouldings, and the dining room furniture came with the house.

This room has the same door casings as the foyer and the living room, but painted Delta Creamcoat Icy White (looks more like an “Icy Blue” than “Icy White”, oh well...).

The crown moulding, UM #UMM7, was not too hard to line up, but needed some sanding on the back. It was painted Delta Creamcoat Magnolia White, as will the chair rail if I use one. The baseboards will be painted Icy White.

I was going to put the same wainscot in here as the living room, but I so loved the look of the long flowery stripe pattern that I decided to let it all show. The paper is Mini Graphics Blue Symphony. I have to admit that I was so panicky that I wouldn’t get the stripes vertical that I glued the paper to Bristol board first so I could stare long at it before gluing the board in place, or do another if I messed it up!

The resin fireplace is lovely (Aztec). I painted it in colors to match the room. The firebox is made from piece of cardboard painted with red stone textured paint (no longer being made) and when almost dry, I scribed in the bricks. When dry, I cut it to fit and glued it in place. The fireplace has its depth because I cut a hole in the plywood wall. The hearth is Model Builder’s Supply (MBS) (styrene) marble squares.

The dining room connects to the kitchen in the addition.



  1. Hi Iris! You have been making a lot of progress on this house for someone who has no idea of the taste of the people who will live there! I guess it is like a "Spec" house.... except that the decor seems much more elegant than that! I will have to copy your use of model airplane plywood for the curved wall in the stairwell.... I have been building the same sort of wall for my cupboard house.... and I am painting murals in the hallway which is what slowed me down... I couldn't find a surface I liked painting on for the curved wall! Where do you find the plywood? What is it's precise case I have to order it and they want the dimensions...?! So far your house is looking Very elegant and refined...."elder statesman" sort of decor! Not a place where I imagine small children .... unless they are visiting Grandchildren...! LOL!!! (Just from one Story-teller to another!)

    1. It is spooky how we daydream similar--I know we are not related--but maybe in a past life or a future one? I too, just yesterday decided on an "older refined couple" and quickly ordered 2 dolls from Ellen Scofield. I love her little people. And yes, no little children!

      Plywood:Mid West product
      I bought 1/16 & 1/32” thick, 12” x 24” Birch plywood sheets. I used one sheet to make the curved staircase wall in the foyer at Sunnybrook and the other in the Montclair. I don’t remember which one I used where, but had no problems- it was not cheap (what is in this hobby?) but it is great plywood.
      It is sometimes called something like “model airplane plywood”.

      I bought mine in an art store called “Freidman’s” in Port Chester, New York many years ago, but the plywood is still produced by Mid West ( and may be made by other companies, also. I would think that it could be found locally in an art, hobby, or craft shop.
      Have a nice day Story-teller from this Story-teller!

  2. Hi Iris,

    Great progress! I feel your pain regarding UM molding. It is SO frustrating when the thicknesses don't match up. I'm still enthralled with that curved wall in the foyer. I remember wanting a curved stair in my house, but was too afraid to try --maybe next time? The wainscot really helps to 'tone down' the wallpaper --good call. I'm also loving your furniture choices. You're a fast worker! (Your weather must be keeping you indoors, too, huh)?


    1. Rain, rain, rain!!! The garden is one muddy mess!

      Your next house should have a curved staircase--just allow more than 8"--boy I struggled with that! I am glad I did it, I do like it and so do others--makes it worth the while.

      I love the living room wallpaper but I do think I would not like it as well without the wainscot which even makes it look more effective.

      Rain, rain, go away--little Iris wants to play! We also have some very cold evenings.

  3. Hi Iris, I guess this is what might be termed a show-home, like they have on new housing estates to lure people into buying the houses, it's a bit of a blank canvas at the moment, but that in itself is fun, it will evolve and fill up over time.

    I didn't think I would ever have actual dolls in my houses, but the pub seemed to empty without them, it took my a great deal of time to find the landlord a wife that was 'right' though, so I think I can identify with what you say when you haven't found suitable occupants for the house yet!!

    I don't think we have those mouldings in the UK, they look good in your photos though.


    1. Definitely a pub needs a publican and wife who makes all that wonderful food! I am glad you added them.

      This house is interesting to do--sort of making things up, and changing things, as I go along. Speaking of pubs, I just bought a wonderful Bespaq bar with bar stools for a game room I will have in the large room in the attic.

  4. Hello Iris,
    I was sure I commented on this post! Sorry...senility is setting in! The Montclair is looking wonderful. the staircase is a real triumph and looks perfect...well worth all the trouble. The rooms are very grand indeed. I love all the detail you add. I understand what you mean about knowing who lives in the house. When you have characters in mind it really helps guide you to create rooms that look lived in, not just a collection of mini artwork. I do purchase UM sometimes, but I try to stay away from them as much as possible...I resent having to do so much prep work on purchased pieces before I can install them.
    I cannot wait to see more of your amazing work. it is always a pleasure to visit your blog.
    big hug,

  5. I am glad you like the staircase. There were times when I was trying to shoe-horn it into an 8-in. wide room, that it looked weird, if not ugly!

    I really can't understand UM--they have beautiful designs--I am sure there must be a way to better manufacture them.

    Thanks for stopping by and all the nice comments.