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...