Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bedroom Furniture

This was supposed to be a post showing my completed bedroom furniture. It hasn't quite turned out that way.

I bought a whitewood bed and display cabinet from Vilia Miniature some time ago, intending to turn the cabinet into an armoire. (I highly recommend Vilia Miniature, by the way. Beautiful details, well-made, somewhat less pricey than Bespaq, and ideal for collectors who prefer to customize dollhouse furniture. I will be making quite a few more purchases when my budget permits me to do another house.)

Staining the furniture was easy. Delicately plucking the brass knob out of the cabinet and replacing it with a Swarovski crystal "knob" was easy. Dressing the bed involved a lot of sewing (I prefer not to use glue), but was not difficult. I even managed to scratch-build a decent bed crown (so far, all of my other attempts at scratch-building furniture have been disasters). armoire needs a mirror.

The mirror sheets I bought from Dolls House Emporium look exactly like real mirrors, but cutting them did not go well. Even with a jeweler's saw, the sheet cracked and splintered all along the cut line.

I test-fitted the sheet behind the cabinet glass anyway - no luck. It's simply too thick. If I glued it in place, I wouldn't be able to close the door. (I attempted to remove the glass, to no avail. It is to Vilia's credit that their furniture is VERY sturdily made, in spite of its dainty, delicate appearance. Oh well, at least I know the glass will never fall out.)

So...back to square one. I am determined to have a freestanding armoire in my tiny bedroom, so hopefully I'll be able to find some sort of mirrored paper that can be cut with scissors or a sharp knife. (I also tested some silver paint on the backside of the glass, just to see. It did not look good.)

Anyway...the bed is done, the crown is fixed in place (with curtains), and I will figure out the mirror somehow. (Any ideas, readers?)

The bed and armoire, finished in pecan satin.

My scratch-built bed crown.

The furniture in situ. I'm still undecided on the artwork, and haven't found any bedside tables I like yet. (Also, I think this room needs a chair somewhere.) The wallpaper is a scaled-down Cole & Sons "Woods", and I painted the ceiling.

A better angle on the bed (please forgive the blurring, I am a lousy photographer). The pillowcases are embroidered to resemble a pair of Louise Bourgeois pillowcases I bought at the Tate Modern three years ago (but only on the front, as the back would be mind-bogglingly hard to do in 1:12 scale and won't show anyway).

Happy New Year, and THANK YOU for reading.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kitchen update

The dining area with a few more accessories added. It's starting to look like tiny little people actually live here.

One of these days I'll get around to making a backdrop (for a better view through the windows), but for now, enjoy the little peek at my tiny Vespa parked outside.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Living room update

This room still doesn't feel "done" to me, but this is the current setup. I'm not sure the house really needs a pool table, but the room looks out of balance whenever I take it out. I've experimented with moving the piano to this room, but it's an upright, so there's nowhere to put it without blocking a window.

From this angle, you can see the fireplace better, along with the artwork I chose to cover up the "viewing hole" that allows my iPod to be used as a television in this house. The speakers, discussed previously, are made from an old pair of earbuds and are permanently installed. Even with the painting up, I can still play music in the house.

The painting is Emily Winfield Martin's "Joy Division Girl", shrunk and cropped to fit the frame. Since I have the print (which, btw, has beautiful color saturation - this version came out grayish and faded due to being printed on canvas at home), and since this "painting" is for my use only, I hope she doesn't mind.

Someday I'll make a nicer trunk - this one is made from a cheap craft store box and I've never really been satisfied with it. I haven't found the right one yet.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Considering The Possibilities

Although it's clearly still a work in progress (and there hasn't been much work on the house lately due to a pesky thing called real life), I can't resist posting this picture of the living room. Something about the afternoon sun streaming in through the little plastic windowpanes reminds me of a real house being fixed up for a new tenant.

On the left, you can see the hole in the wall where my iPod "television" can be seen - I still need to make a painting to fill the frame (I do have an image chosen, it's just a matter of printing it onto canvas). My purple sofa will be in this room, but I'm still undecided on the rest of the furniture.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Un-Fitted Kitchen

I have a confession to make: I am not a fan of fitted kitchens.

I've never lived anywhere that didn't have a fitted kitchen (the oldest building I've ever called home was built in 1950, by which time they were a standard feature), but I still don't care for them.

Overhead cabinets make me claustrophobic...I haven't had a dishwasher in years and would rather have more space, thank you...lower cabinets can be too deep (which means back pain when trying to locate and retrieve less-used pieces)...I can't imagine ever needing so much cabinet space anyway so it's a waste of room...somehow, the prep area is never big enough...and what do you do about a hopelessly inefficient work triangle?

Having traveled a bit (and having seen lots of Apartment Therapy house tours), I have serious kitchen envy. If you have an older kitchen without anything built in (beyond the sink, stove, and refrigerator)...can we trade houses? Please? Small size is not a deterrent.

This kitchen suits not just my visual style, but my cooking style as well.

When I get home with a week's worth of food, I tend to do all the prep work in advance, then store it in the fridge and have it ready to go when it's time to actually cook. Hence the sink on one end, prep table between the sink and stove, and the fridge on the other side (and the pantry across the room).

It's still a work in progress, but I like how it's coming along.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Not-So-Big Apple

Once again, a much better miniaturist than I will ever be has made me feel like a slacker.

Take some time to peruse this Flickr set. It's the work of film/television model maker Randy Hage, who makes models of real New York storefronts to document the city's character (before it's all remodeled away). Even the garbage piled up outside a miniature donut shop is handmade and looks exactly like full-size garbage.

And do check out his other Flickr sets - how I wish I had seen the Martin Katz Jewelers model before I built the roof on my French townhouse.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Front door

I am not good at scratch-building anything too detailed. But, I think the porch overhang turned out fine. There's not much to it - just scraps of very thin wood glued together, trimmed with more scraps, accented with a cherub plaque, painted the same way I painted the roof, and supported by a pair of Sue Cook brackets (which I admit look a bit big - I'd planned to use three pairs of these brackets under the balcony, but wound up only using two pairs, so the extra brackets were moved to street level).

The door is Palladian-style, with a half-circular window at the top, but somehow it just didn't look quite right on the outside. Realistically, houses in cities that have actual rainfall tend to have some sort of overhead coverage just outside the door. So, the window is there, you just can't see it from the front.

I couldn't find a sidewalk effect I really liked, so I made my sidewalk by applying a mixture of plaster and wood glue to the base, scoring it with a big wooden sandwich skewer, sanding it down (after drying) to make it somewhat uniform in height (but not TOO uniform, since I do want it to look as old as the house), and then applying a mix of gray paints.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tiny Gargoyle

How could I build a tiny French house and not put a tiny gargoyle on it?

(By actual count, there are four - squint and you might see the second one on the far roof corner.)

These little gargoyles are among my best, and cheapest, mini finds of all time - I paid maybe $1 each for them in a bead shop at least 10 years ago and have been waiting to use them all this time. (I was in the same shop earlier this year - no more gargoyles.)

Friday, October 19, 2012


I still have some artwork, furniture, and other accessories to sort out. However, the house itself is complete, inside and out.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How I Wired My Dollhouse for Sound (and TV!)

As a child, I was enchanted by Caroline Hamilton's clever use of a sound chip in her miniature pub, intended to create the illusion that the pub's melodion (early juke box) actually played.

Two years ago, I was equally enchanted by Eloise Moorehead's "miniature flat screen color TV", aka an iPhone in a specially made frame mounted over her dollhouse mantel. The frame can also hold an iPod Touch, but Eloise notes that it won't have any sound.

Well...a smartphone would cost me more than building, decorating, and furnishing this house. And I'm not about to fork out $100 and up for a working dollhouse TV (they do exist, but are basically mp4 players in a TV-shaped casing). However, I already have, and use, an iPod Classic.

I have far less talent than either of those women, but I am good at problem solving.

To wire my dollhouse for sound, I used:
  • One false wall (must be easily accessible from a wall that is open, or that can be opened)
  • One scratch-built fireplace box (I didn't make the mantel or coal grate, I am nowhere near that good)
  • One pair of earbuds in working condition
  • One sheet of card stock
  • Tape and glue
  • Some tiny scraps of netting
  • One large picture for the wall
  • Molding or trim
  • One piece of Tyvek, i.e. from an old mailing envelope
There are no pictures of the speaker-building process because I made them before I'd decided to build the house (I was experimenting with a similar situation in a room box). However, the process is easy enough to understand:

Take one pair of earbuds you don't mind not being able to wear (I had an extra pair that I'd retired from use because they were too uncomfortable - I never throw away anything useful). If there are foam or rubber pieces on the earbuds, remove them.

Templates for cardboard or paper speakers are readily available on the internet - Google it and find one you like. Shrink it down until the speaker box is just big enough to enclose the earbud. Print two onto card stock. Cut them out. Paint them the color of your choice.

Also: If the template indicates where to punch holes in the paper, ignore that and trim out the entire punched area. Glue scraps of netting on the back sides so it covers the resulting hole in each speaker. (It's hard to see, but I hope someone notices I used purple netting to coordinate with my tiny purple sofa.)

Use scraps of the card stock to create a tiny funnel around the end of each earbud - you want the sound to amplify a bit, just like a full-size speaker. The card stock should also be painted to match the rest of the speaker box, unless you prefer a two-toned retro look.

Fold the speaker boxes around the earbuds, and mark and cut out small holes at the back or bottom so the cord can pass through. Make sure the funnel fits neatly inside the box - if it doesn't, trim it down or roll it a little tighter. When it's the right size, glue in place, and glue the finished speaker together.

As you can see from this in-progress shot, I cut V-shaped holes in the false wall to thread the speaker cord through, then fitted the wall into place. There is also a strategically-placed hole cut in the wall so the iPod screen can double as a TV - it will be covered by a tiny painting when not in use. I still need to make the painting, but this is the frame I'm using - I tried various ways of making it swing out from the wall on a hinge, but it's just too bulky for that. Instead, the top of the frame (which is hollow) simply rests on a wooden ledge I glued to the wall.

Inside the wall, you can see where I've taped the cord in place, and added a little shelf inside the firebox (not visible from inside the living room). This is where my iPod will rest when in use as a dollhouse sound system.

You can also see that I've created a tiny side wall to cover this, and used a strip of Tyvek as the hinge (thank you, Otterine and Fran for introducing the world of miniatures to this wonder material - it's thin, flexible, tear-proof, and very easy to use). I can simply open and close the side wall as needed.

Next step: Pop in iPod, plug in earbud speakers, and test the sound system. This may require cranking the volume, so do take care to make sure you turn it back down when you remove it and turn it off. I have yet to give myself an unpleasant surprise by forgetting to turn the volume down, thankfully.

If it all looks and sounds good, glue the molding to the top of the wall, linking it to the ceiling and covering up the V-shaped holes. Adjust the speakers' positioning, and (optional) glue them into place.

Please humor me by ignoring the glare in this shot, which shows my tiny TV/stereo setup through one of the side windows (another reason I added two side windows on the middle floor - easier to look in).

Sometime this week I'm going to have a mini screening party in the dollhouse. I'm either going to show the Portlandia episode "No Olympics" (Portlandia fans will get this one) or the Doctor Who episode "Night Terrors" (Doctor Who fans will get that one).

I must admit this method is hardly elaborate or impressive, but the good news is that it's so simple any miniaturist can do it, and if you already have an iPod and an old pair of earbuds, it's very inexpensive. This house is small enough to justify only having one sound system (in real life, it would be 837 square feet), but if it were larger, I could simply repeat the process in a couple other rooms, thread the cords through the walls and behind the fireplace, then plug them into an earbud splitter (which connect up to three pairs of earbuds per mp3 player).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Music in a Tiny House

Vinyl enthusiast that I am, I could not resist this Phoenix Miniatures portable gramophone. The kit called for brown and black paint, but come on...brown and black? Boring! I used some leftover glossy white paint instead.

When I was still a young girl, gazing with envy at the perfect miniature worlds pictured in Caroline Hamilton's book "Decorative Dollhouses", I marveled at the electrification of Ms. Hamilton's houses - and at the fact that, through the clever use of a microchip, she'd managed to add music to her miniature Duke of York pub as well. I wished I could do something like that.

Well...I did.

Between modern technology and a little re-purposing, I found a way to wire my house for sound. It's fully installed, it works, and anyone can do it. I'll detail the method used and materials necessary in a future post.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Master Bedroom

This bedroom still needs a few touch-ups, but I like how it turned out.

My attempts at making opening windows failed miserably - the two open windows are half-scale French doors. I was originally going to do an 18th-century style French painted ceiling, but it just didn't work in this room - too much pastel. The cherub is based on one that appears on several Jimmie Martin pieces, and I like the contrast with the surrounding stormy sky.

I will post an update once I've added wall art and dressed the bed.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Feed Me, Pet Me, Meow

I don't have the skills to copy my 1:1 things in miniature, but I've come reasonably close with this vignette.

My 1:1 sofa is a different color - but only because I couldn't find a sofa in a good shade of purple when I bought it. However, the style and size (when accounting for scale) are nearly identical.

The cats were given a few dabs of paint to resemble my real-life pets. (Cats and sofa are all from Dolls House Emporium.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hall table

I'm glad Dolls House Emporium has added a collection of French-inspired furniture for collectors who like fancier furniture...but, as always, I can't leave well enough alone.

Like the kitchen prep table in the last post, this little console table has gray marbled paper decoupaged on top. I've photographed it lying flat to get the best view of the silver leaf paint I applied to some of the details. Now I just need to mount it on the wall in the hallway, with a very tiny handbag on it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kitchen prep table

Since the house is supposed to be old, a fitted kitchen wouldn't do.

Some sort of prep surface was a must, of course. I bought a plain whitewood potting bench and proceeded to completely ignore its intended purpose.

First, I marbled some white paper with a mix of four different grays. While it dried, I painted the table glossy black. When the second coat was hard, I decoupaged the marbled paper onto the top of the table to mimic a marble countertop. I also plucked out the original knobs with tweezers, replacing them with tiny Swarovski crystals - they are meant to mimic vintage glass knobs.

I am VERY happy with how the prep table turned out.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Greenleaf Spring Fling 2012

As mentioned long ago, I ordered and built Greenleaf's 2012 Spring Fling kit, with the skylight upgrade. I never actually got around to posting pictures of it anywhere...until today. 

I decided not to enter the contest because I know this piece isn't pretty or impressive (have you seen the Spring Fling entries? They're all brilliant) - and it's not meant to be.

This piece represents someplace I lived a long time ago, when I was very young, very broke, and spent as much time somewhere else as possible.

Try, if you can, to imagine a former storage room converted into a tiny apartment. There was no kitchen, just a sink and a fridge (but it's not like I knew how to cook at age 19 anyway...). There was a bathroom, but it was one floor down and shared. You'll have to imagine the hooks on the back wall that held my clothes. And as long as you're imagining things, please humor me by imagining the New York skyline in the background (and I don't mean glamorous New York, I mean gritty New York).

All I needed was music and a place to sleep. (And a skylight. How could I live in a grimy urban loft and not have a skylight?)

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Ace Bathroom

My taste in interiors is pretty eclectic. Case in point: my miniature bathroom was inspired by the Ace Hotel's Portland and New York locations.

There are a few little things I need to touch up, and I still need to make and install towel bars, but between the black-and-white palette, curtained transom door, and classic fixtures, I think the influence is pretty clear.

Some Ace Hotel rooms have claw-foot bathtubs (I've always wanted a claw-foot tub), and I originally planned to include one. However, the only ones I could find that looked right were 1) way out of my budget, and 2) too wide to fit the space. Yes, I know the bathtub I chose overlaps with the door frame a bit. It didn't during the dry fit, and the front sits flush against the wall, so I've decided not to let it bother me.

There isn't a medicine chest because if this were a real house, the logical place for it would be on the non-existent back wall. I did make one before I realized this (classic white with a red cross on the door), so it's going to be in the kitchen instead. In real life, I am most likely to injure myself in the kitchen (cuts, burns, slipping in spilled liquid, that one time I dropped a heavy Le Creuset pan on my foot...), so that's where I keep my first aid kit anyway. There will be a toothbrush holder, I just haven't glued it in yet (the mini toothbrush holder and toothbrushes I bought came in rather unattractive pastels, so I'm repainting them in bolder colors).

I realize the chandelier is a bit flashy for the Ace aesthetic, but the Art Deco ceiling fixture I ordered was sold out, and I love chandeliers anyway, so in it went. Someday I want to have one in every room of my house, whether they go with my vintage/antique/industrial furniture or not.

From the Inside Out

For the obvious reason that the upstairs landing is blocked in by the bathroom and living room walls, I found it easier to install the interior of the smaller bedroom and the landing interior at the same time, glue the staircase in place, then add the bathroom and living room walls.

Here is the smaller bedroom. It's not 100 percent complete - I still need to install stair railings and fix the gap under the cove molding on the left side - but I love how it's turning out.

Here is a glimpse of the landing from the front of the house. (I couldn't get a good angle on the bathroom wall, stairs, etc.) I initially painted the window frame white, but it looked much too plain. Glossy black paint to the rescue!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why Don't You...

"Why don't you...realize, realize the return of black, and black and white, in decoration? It is of tremendous importance. Use it whenever you can." - Diana Vreeland

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I've been reading Le Grand Livre de la Maison Miniature by typing sections into Google Translate, since my French is limited. The construction section, to my surprise, called for making the rooftop from Bristol board (I do wonder if I mistyped it...).

I've handled Bristol board countless times. It has many uses applicable to miniatures, but I wanted the rooftop to be made of something sturdy enough to take a certain amount of handling, several more moves in my lifetime (probably), and being in the same house as a large cat who is almost as clumsy as I am and doesn't let it stop him from climbing tall pieces of furniture. So, my rooftop is made of 1/4" plywood, left over from cutting the interior walls. The raised ribs are made from craft-store 1/8" x 1/8" sticks.

I couldn't find zinc paper anywhere, but I always have paint on hand. Using pictures of real buildings in Paris as a guide, I gave the bare wood a base coat of silver metallic paint, then added layer after layer of dirty washes in varying shades of gray. I have no experience with faux finishes, and was a little intimidated because I have never been a good painter (despite my best efforts to the contrary), but I'm very happy with how the roof turned out.

Obviously, 1/4" plywood is much thicker than Bristol board. The "seam" between the rooftop and the mansard roof will be covered by rain gutters painted and aged to match the roof.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Exterior progress

Plastering and painting is done, I've added the top-floor windows, and the rain gutters have been fitted. As you can see through the ground-floor windows, I've also been hard at work laying dozens of tiny, but real, glass tiles (I attempted some Bristol-board tiles, but they just didn't look quite right).

More to come...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

My new wheels

I've wanted a Vespa since I was 15.

I live in a place where it isn't really safe to ride a scooter, and having a car is pretty much necessary.

But someday...someday I'll be able to move away and get that Vespa.

For now, parking a 1:12 replica of my dream scooter on the sidewalk outside my 1:12 dream house will have to do.

P.S. Someone's actually following me! Welcome, Norma.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ups and Downs

Work on the house is progressing...slowly.

Mostly, it's the lights. This will be my first electrified house, so not only am I learning the basics, but dollhouse lights can be fiddly little things with finicky plugs (I considered battery-operated lights, but they would have eaten half the budget). 

Order lights...wait for them to arrive...wait for back-ordered transformer to arrive...find out it doesn't work...wait for return authorization form to arrive...replacement doesn't work...finally get one that 2 of the lights don't work...more waiting for replacements...and I'm still waiting on ceiling roses I ordered ages ago, since I will need to thread the wires through them before I can do the ceilings.

No wonder it can take several years to build a dollhouse.

However, I have had no problems with the first staircase, and really like how it turned out:

Monday, July 16, 2012

That Extra Bit of Detail

I am an excellent multi-tasker.  Today I managed to read The Art of Ratatouille for inspiration while waiting for an important phone call and stewing over how difficult it is to make handmade windows look right - and, more importantly, how to make them fit into imperfect holes. (Have I mentioned that I am not good with power tools? Picture Wile E. Coyote struggling to hold onto a runaway Acme jackhammer. That, in a nutshell, is me with a Dremel.)

Luckily, the talented people at Pixar had some answers.

On page 78, I hit a great quote from set designer Robert Kondo. In part: "We tweaked the tile pattern so the tiles were slightly irregular, and then shading made sure it was worn unevenly, like a real floor...with rats, we were really going to spend a lot of time close to it. If we hadn't taken the time to make the floor look right, those perfectly straight lines and surfaces would've popped you out of the world..."

Well. That makes me feel a bit better about ordering tiny-but-real ceramic tiles for some of the floors, since I've handled them before and they tend to be slightly irregular, too. I experimented with stone mosaic tiles, but they were so uneven it just didn't work.

Then on page 100, supervising technical director Michael Fong explains "From a technical point of view, it's complicated to build a world that works equally well for characters of two very different scales. We build things at a human scale, but when a rat gets close to an object, that object has to have that extra bit of detail that will hold up at the much smaller scale."

I had to laugh; any good miniaturist understands this all too well. Case in point: Mulvany and Rogers put real dust in corners, re-create cracks in floors, and stain chimneys with real soot. Those tiny details are what makes their work so realistic.

Fourteen pages later, a passage on the Paris set design divulges that "...the horizontal and vertical lines of the streets and individual buildings, which tended to form continuous lines over long stretches, were broken up to give each component the feeling of being handmade...the better to include the details that give a city the proper feeling of solidity, of age and wear."

Which sounded sensible enough to me. Paris is a very old city. Old buildings tend to "settle" over time and have little irregularities that you might not notice without measuring tools or a level (as I discovered when I moved into an old apartment building and noticed that the ceiling wasn't parallel to the windows when trying to determine curtain rod placement). Speaking of old buildings...

"There are so many details to an aged look - the effects of acid rain, and the building blocks whose corners round off from years and years of wear, and grasses and mosses and lichens and rust stains."

That came from Belinda Van Valkenburgh, the film's shading art director. I see a LOT of sanding, staining, distressing, painting, and repainting in my tiny house's future, but I do want it to look authentically old. Where I live, some people build fantasy homes - storybook cottages, Mediterranean villas, even the odd castle - and I have to say that most of the time, they look fake because the details are either wrong or missing.

And some final insight from Michael Fong: "Our directors and art directors have been pushing to get away from straight lines and give things a handmade feel; the miniaturized and overscaled look of this film pushed us to examine everything that we make sure nothing had an actual, real straight line in it." Emphasis mine.

If Pixar, known for mind-blowing attention to detail, deliberately avoids straight lines in the name of realism, I suppose it's all right to have slightly crooked windows. It's a French townhouse; I can always blame irregularities on a combination of age, urban pollution, repairs, war damage, and archaic building techniques.

That's enough of my babbling. Here's my progress on the roof:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dry Fit!

Can you see the changes I've made to Lea Frisoni's house plans?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Roof Tiles

I figured I'd work on the roof tiles while I'm waiting for the lights to arrive (since it makes more sense to install them while building the shell of the house). I cut and sanded a few hundred of them from skinny strips of wood before I realized it would be faster and easier - not to mention MUCH neater-looking - to simply score the wood strips to look like roof tiles.

I finished the front of the roof and most of one of the sides before I ran out of wood - and I did it in half the time it took to cut the individual tiles. I wish I'd thought of it sooner.

The difference is pretty obvious. Oh well, maybe distressing will make the individual tiles less messy-looking.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tiny Theater!

Well, I feel like a slacker.

English octogenarian Cyril Barbier has spent 30 years (!) building a beautiful scale model of a 1930s movie theater, including an LCD screen to play movies.

For some time I've considered building a 1/12 model of a particular theater lobby (it's one of those tiny, old theaters that are in perpetual danger of closing). Having seen pictures of Barbier's work, I know it'll be a challenge for someone like me, with limited practical skills, to do that.

But, I might still try. (After the dollhouse is built, that is.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bit by Bit

Yesterday I painted the fireplace mantels, taking a stab at faux marble. I had some metallic silver primer, so I used that as a base, then brushed on a thin coat of white paint, which gave me a nice shimmery light-gray base. I went with a bolder look with thick veins in three different shades of gray, followed it all up with some clear sealer, and really like how they turned out. Pictures will follow when I can finally buy the fireboxes I want; the fireplaces don't look quite right empty.

Today I made the biggest piece for the Greenleaf Spring Fling contest - I've been putting it off for a while and it took a few hours, but it was worth it. Sorry - no peeks!

I also got something special today - a tiny Paris street sign from Petite Brocante Minis! It got a little bent in the mail, but a couple of days under a stack of hardcover books will fix that. Although this is going to be a French-style house, I haven't decided where the house is meant to be geographically, so it'll either be on the front of the house or displayed as wall art inside; I probably won't decide until the house is complete. Susanne kindly honored my unusual instructions for addressing the package (long story), and even threw in a tiny Eiffel Tower figurine! I'm going to build in a wall niche somewhere to display it. Thank you, Susanne!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I have a tendency to get ahead of myself on projects.

I don't even have the exterior walls assembled (still cutting out doors and windows) and I'm working on the staircases.

Instead of making stairs from scratch, I bought two narrow staircase kits. I replaced the kit's flat railings with round ones I cut from wooden skewers, and I'm happy with the way it looks. staircase has to be dog-legged (cut and angled with a landing) in order to fit.

Learn from me on this: do NOT try to dog-leg a kit staircase unless you have the patience of a saint. If you have space constraints, buy a curved or angled staircase and spare yourself the trouble.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Progress and Inspiration

I now have most of the shell cut out (I still need to cut a few more openings for doors, windows, stairs, and wiring, plus the rooftop). Dear me...plywood splinters like hell when it's cut with a power saw. I have a lot of sanding ahead of me, and I'm very grateful that a) the exterior will be stuccoed, b) the interiors will be built and added separately, and c) I'm going to have to make the windows myself anyway, so I can cut them to fit. In any case, this is supposed to be an older house, and older homes do tend to have more evidence of aging, repairs, etc. than newer ones.

What does frustrate me a little is the lighting situation. Before completely assembling the shell, I have to determine lighting placement. This isn't difficult to do, but I won't be able to install the lights until I have them...and I can't order them yet! I finally found the perfect lit fire - out of stock. The seller also had the perfect chandeliers - which went out of stock a few days later. They don't know when the next shipment is coming, and the "wish list" feature doesn't work. This isn't the store's fault; I've dealt with wholesalers before, and I know they are often unwilling to communicate re: when the next shipment is coming (or if it's coming at all). Oh well, I can make windows while I wait.

I hit up Offbeat Home today (which I frequently do), and an older post I'd completely forgotten about was featured - all about a funky closet makeover inspired by a discarded plastic dollhouse. The closet belongs to makeup maven Doe Deere, and I think it's adorable. It really shows the inspirational power of dollhouses. (Zooey Magazine's April/May issue has a feature on Ms. Deere's home, which also looks a bit like a dollhouse.)

Thursday, May 31, 2012


I've bought the building materials for the shell (I'm still mentally re-designing the interiors) and am nearly done cutting out the pieces.

I'm building the house in the garage, which is visible from the street. The other day, one of the neighbors was walking his dog, saw me bringing in plywood sheets and a saw blade, and asked "Are you building a house in there?"

"Yes," I replied. "A very, very small house."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sneezing and Wheezing

Thankfully, I don't have a cold.

Today I received parcels from two respected dollhouse stores - and nearly fainted from the strong odor of tobacco smoke.

I have a history of lung issues and hypersensitivity to certain substances. I am fortunate - blessed, really - to live in a place where smoking is rare and frowned upon. If I lived somewhere more permissive, it probably wouldn't be safe for me to go out in public without a protective mask.

This isn't the first time I've ordered miniatures that came with an unadvertised dose of smoky odor. I wasn't so lucky that time - I had a violent wheezing fit, and I had to seal my purchase in a bag with a full box of baking soda for two weeks to get rid of the smell (the items I'd ordered weren't available anywhere else, otherwise I would have sent them back).

I don't care what other people do to themselves; it's no business of mine. But being a wheezy asthmatic/allergy sufferer is no picnic. I'd love to be able to order whatever I want without having to worry about the packaging making me ill.

Still, there was good news. Everything in both boxes was carefully wrapped up and in factory-sealed packaging, so it was simply a matter of holding my breath, unwrapping everything, putting my new minis in a clean box, and disposing of the packaging outside (where it won't remain for long, since the trash and recycling are being picked up tomorrow). Thanks to the factory packaging, the minis themselves don't smell at all.

My body reacts to strong chemical odors, smoke, synthetic perfumes, nickel, and a variety of foods. It could easily be much worse (paint and glue don't bother me as long as I use them outside). But how many people have to worry about a physical reaction to their hobby? I'm just trying to make something beautiful, and there's this pesky matter of having to breathe while I do it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect theory, anyway.

After I decided it was time to build my dream dollhouse, I scoured the internet for every dollhouse kit I could find. When I hit the Greenleaf website, I still didn't see my perfect little Parisian townhouse (although the Gloucester kit made me seriously consider doing a big English house instead). I did, however, immediately know what to do with the current Spring Fling kit, and decided to try it out as a "practice" house. The kit is laser-cut, which makes fitting the pieces together very easy, but it does make the pieces smell a bit burnt, so you might want to take the kit out of its plastic bag and let the odor dissipate a little before working on it (I put mine in the garage overnight to accommodate a housemate with a sensitive nose).

Here it is being dry fitted (as you can see, I opted for the skylight roof upgrade). I can already see the finished project in my mind's eye, but everyone else will have to wait until late summer...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"I saw the croquet set in the back. You up for a match?"



Yes, my real-life croquet set is painted black.

Unexpected Inspiration

Dollhouse inspiration doesn't have to come from other dollhouses.

Ever heard of Mariko Kusumoto? She's a Japanese metal artist, and her work is stunning. Do watch the short film at the end of the page for some tiny surprises!

Alan Wolfson creates tiny, incredibly detailed sculptures of urban scenes. Subway stations, Times Square flophouses, phone booths on litter-strewn corners - they're all here and look exactly like gritty, grimy New York. 

Erik Goddard constructs beautiful miniature houses and room boxes in several styles - and seems to be one of the few artists who also builds tiny tree houses! I think I know what one of my future projects is going to be...

I was lucky enough to be in London when "Telling Tales" was being shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and have the exhibit book. While the unsettling "Heaven and Hell" section is far from my cup of tea, I wouldn't say no to an over-the-top tulip vase in dollhouse scale, I adore Wieki Somers' Bathboat, and am seriously considering replicating either Kiki van Eijk's "Kiki" carpet or one of Tord Boontje's chairs in the dollhouse. 

Have you ever watched a TV show and fallen in love with the set? I am not a big TV watcher, but I really like the apartments in Bedlam. Yes, the mostly-young tenants could probably never afford spaces like that in real life, but who's counting?

My dream dollhouse is going to be a French-style house, so I'm reading books on French interiors, watching French films (and Pixar's Ratatouille), and flipping through every Toulouse-Lautrec drawing and vintage French poster I can find online. I'm going to use the plans in Lea Frisoni's Le Grand Livre de la Maison Miniature, which is entirely in French, so I may end up learning the language too! 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My House History

I got my first dollhouse for Christmas when I was four. It was huge, handmade, and fully furnished.

It was absolutely perfect for about two months. Then my baby brother started to move around a lot, decided that breaking things is fun, and you can guess the rest.

A few years later we moved, and there was nowhere to put the dollhouse. (Or so my parents said. The bedrooms in that house were generously sized, so I've long suspected they left it in the garage because my brother had done so much damage that it no longer looked presentable. To be fair, though, it was over four feet long, at least two feet high, and since it was made of real wood, it was also very heavy.)

I was eventually given a pink plastic Maple Town dollhouse, which I liked, but it wasn't the same (plus, it was too small and out-of-scale to hold the surviving furniture). Like a lot of little girls, I occasionally made my own little houses and furnishings out of discarded boxes and whatever odds and ends I could find. just wasn't the same.

When my tenth birthday approached, I begged my parents for a new dollhouse. They said yes.

My dad finally finished it three and a half years later.

I was so happy to finally have that house, but there were always things about it that annoyed me. I hated the bulky gingerbread trim (I'd asked Dad to leave it off, but he forgot). There were gaps, there were a couple of unevenly glued walls jutting out at odd angles, the wallpaper wouldn't stay down, and I never liked the sage green carpet (it was the only color the craft store had). After college, I discovered that the house had sustained some damage from being stored, uncovered, in a garage. I tried making it over, but couldn't get it quite right. When I had to drastically downsize my possessions and move into a tiny apartment, I gave the house and most of the furniture to a struggling family with a young daughter whose birthday was coming up. I have no regrets about that (and I'm told she was thrilled).

Since then, I've done several room boxes, but haven't gotten around to a proper house. That's finally going to change.

Friday, May 11, 2012

This Is It

I've thought about it for years.

I'm finally going to do it.

I'm going to build my dream dollhouse.

I've already begun buying and making things for the house. I know what I want to buy, where to buy it, what I can probably make myself, and I've created a budget.

I'm going to start with a smaller project first - practice makes perfect.

Stay tuned...