Monday, January 31, 2011

Downstairs floors

I've been working on the downstairs floors but the kitchen slowed me down. I wasn't sure what kind of flooring to put in there and didn't want to just have the same hardwood flooring. Also I didn't want to buy fake sheets of tiling.
In the end I had an inspiration and I think it's working out. I'm making subway shaped tiles from the same batch of popsicle sticks. It's time consuming, but I think it will be worth it. So they're going to go on in a brick design. Then later I'll prime and paint them white to look like tiles. I'm not sure about the grout but I suspect I can just let the paint fill the gaps.
The "tiles" aren't attached yet but I wanted to see if I'd like the way they'd look. Then I just kept putting them in place as I was cutting. I figure when it comes time to glue they'll be all ready to go. The nice thing about doing them from the same popsicle sticks is that the kitchen floor is the same thickness as the living room floor.

At the same time I've been working on some House of Miniatures kits. These are dollhouse furniture kits from the 70s and 80s. They are really nice quality and I've been enjoying assembling the little pieces of furniture. I have a few of them, so when some of the pieces are done I'll be sure to post them!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Popsicle stick floors

While my house doesn't have a roof I thought I would do the flooring. I'm not sure if this is the right order to do things in, but it's worked out so far. Except I wish I hadn't attached the stair treads yet.

I've been doing some filling and sanding to touch up gaps and cracks here and there and the dust is all over the stairs now. Then I stained the floors and some stain got on the risers. Then I carefully covered the treads with painters tape and touched up the risers and now there's paint on the treads that leaked under the tape! Now I'm just leaving them and will try sanding them later and adding another coat of polyurethane.

It's things like this that make me wonder why I'm doing this when there's so many other things I should/could be working on. But I will say that working on my house is usually very relaxing!
floor after sanding
Anyway, so back to the floor. I decided the most affordable and nicest way would be to use popsicle sticks. Most dollar stores have them, I bought two big bags for just $1.25 each. I trimmed the rounded corners off with a pruning tool, glued them down and then sanded the surface until it was nice and smooth. A regular popsicle stick is like having a wide plank floor, but you can get narrower craft sticks with straight ends at places like Michael's. I saw a bag of them there on the weekend for around $5. 

Here's a little strip of popsicle stick that I cut to go between rooms in the doorway:
Cutting the sticks lengthwise is pretty easy, just go over them a few times with an exacto knife and metal ruler.
 floor after staining
I've read that you should make a template of the floor then attach your flooring to that then attach it to your house. I guess it would be easier to work on a flat piece outside of the house but I didn't have any trouble. Although as I mentioned the stain did make a mess. But I think that was because I used a rag to apply it. For more control I would use a little foam brush or even a cotton swab for corners. (Another reason to attach your flooring to a cardboard template is so that you can take it out later and also so you can run wiring underneath.)

Speaking of the staining... Well, I regret that. It was pretty smelly and I had to open the window for a long time in the middle of a cold Canadian winter. And in the end I thought the colour was too high contrast with the white walls, clashed with the wood stain on the furniture and seemed dark and heavy. I didn't like it at all so I just ignored the house for a while.
painted floors upstairs
Then I decided to paint the floors - I love that country look. So this is how the upstairs floors look now and I'm happy with them. It will look even nicer once I add baseboards, and the wood furniture looks great. The little mirror over the fireplace is from the antique mall in St. Jacobs. I love that place!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A glimpse of furnishings

I haven't been very patient about finishing my house before making or buying furnishings so here's a sneak peek. Over the years I've bought a few little odds and ends just because they were so cute but now that I have a place to put them I'm gathering them all together.

And I've bought a few more little things recently. Hardly anything. Really. And of course, I made some new things myself. The picture above shows a little vintage crocheted dog I've had for a few years now. I was doing a little crocheting last night and started making something that wasn't working out and it turned into a tiny beret. And now that he has it, it seems like it should always have been there.

Making a tiny beret is very simple, I started with a crocheted circle, then once it was the right size stopped increasing stitches and crocheted a couple more circles to make a little rim. Then I used the tail leftover from the start to chain a few stitches and that's the little point on top. I used a single ply of yarn (a single ply of the machine knitting yarn you get from cones is perfect - I occasionally find them at Goodwill but also stocked up at the Montreal custom yarn shop I went to a few years ago) and the tiniest crochet hook I had, size 1.0MM.
For my niece's birthday I made some cushions to go with the living room set my parents bought her for Christmas. The set was contemporary, a white 3-piece couch and chair set with a bookcase, TV and entertainment unit. So I tried to pick some modern fabrics that a 9-year old would like!
Then I made a few extra cushions for myself. I like the blue print, it looks like something from IKEA to me, but it's a vintage bit of quilt fabric. It's a folklore kind of print with flowers, birds, a boy and girl and a little house. The other set is a pretty ikat-style rose floral.

The table is my first bit of furniture. It came as a matching set of two from Etsy. The legs on the other table are a bit chewed but the pair was only $3 so I can't complain. They're charming, I think they were probably made from a 1970s House of Miniatures kit.

And lastly the plant was a housewarming gift that came along with my miniature building permit from The Little Dollhouse Company when I picked up my kit.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Downstairs fireplace

the downstairs fireplace
Speaking of upstairs, downstairs, I love the show Downton Abbey that has just started airing here. It makes me want to make a period dollhouse because the decor is so lovely. I enjoyed the Dowager Countess of Grantham's (played by Dame Maggie Smith) dismay at the addition of electricity to the house. I'm not planning to add electricity to my dollhouse. Partly due to the extra cost but mainly because I just don't think it's necessary.
I painted around the first bit of trim before adding the rest
So on to the downstairs fireplace. This fireplace has curved trim similar to the upstairs fireplace, but also has additional pieces. Two strips go next to the curved trim, then one on top, then the mantel on top of that. I thought it would be good to post as I personally found it difficult to get a good picture online of this feature of the kit. The instructions were also lacking a diagram or picture which would have helped clarify this part.
trim is in place and trying out the mantel
I decided that it would be best to paint all the trim pieces to look like grey stone. But I'm not sure about the design, and in some ways I prefer the simplicity of having just the one curved piece as trim. The extra pieces do give it more presence though.
the shortened mantel - before touch-ups
Also, the mantel is designed to extend over the bookcase as well. I decided to cut it down to go over the fireplace alone. I want a pair of Staffordshire dogs for the mantel. Or if they're too large they can sit on the hearth. A typical example of how my version of a contemporary dollhouse isn't exactly modern! (Are miniaturists strongly divided on this issue? I seem to see mostly modern mid-century or Tudor/Georgian/Victorian houses)
touch-ups on the mantel done and the hole in the wall filled
For our full-sized house (will I have to specify this from now on? I'm obsessed. Lately when I look in decorating magazines the rooms suddenly look miniature to me) I adore these charming contemporary versions of Staffordshire dogs by artist Donna Wilson. They could go on our mantel if we ever get one.

I'm waiting for someone in our neighbourhood who is gutting their bungalow to put one on the curb for me to find. The bungalows around here (including ours) are from around the 40s. Ours was built in 1940 so a mantel from around then would be perfect. I figure we don't need a real fireplace to have a mantel!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Upstairs fireplace

I wish I had a fireplace in real life. They can be such a pretty focal point and then you have a mantle to decorate. And of course, I would want beautiful built-in bookcases. So I'm trying to make my dollhouse fireplaces nice but they have been a bit fiddly to work on.
So this is the upstairs fireplace in the bedroom. The kit is designed so that there is a fireplace, then next to it a built-in box for firewood. How cute is that going to be with logs stacked up inside and just the ends showing? There is a curved trim piece that goes over the front of the fireplace opening. There is a piece that fits on the floor of both openings (and juts out front a bit) for a hearth. And lastly there is a little mantle.

I made a few adjustments. The curved trim part really does not match the curved opening. I could have cut the opening away so that they matched, but I painted both in a stony grey (as seen in the 3rd pic) and figured it didn't matter, it's like an extra grooved detail in the stone. I think this stone paint will need some touchups but basically I used old separated grey paint that was kind of sludgy. I painted everything grey, then painted a paler grey over top (leftover Titanium from our old kitchen) then sanded it all down. The result is a smooth surface but with a mottled grey colour for a subtle stone effect. I like it now.
The second adjustment was because I didn't like the pointy top to the wood box. This was an easy fix. I took the original punched out piece and cut it so that just the top part was left, and glued that in place. Then a bit of filler and sanding and the wood box is now squared.

Behind the fireplace and woodbox there are pieces you glue in place to make the sides. In the case of my adjusted woodbox, I just cut that piece in two and used one for the side and one for the top so that it's square inside.

The mantle is two pieces glued together and I used a bit of filler to make the edges smoother. The mantle is painted in semigloss while the walls are eggshell (Cloud White). It's hard to see in the pictures but I thought it was important!
This is the final result - and a sneak peek at the flooring.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Putting in the stairs

This was my favourite stage so far, the stairs! So exciting, they really add lots of nice detail to the house. This is me painting all the little pieces that will be white, the risers and the spindles. The handrail and treads are stained.

And here are the stairs in place:
The whole left wall of this house has lots of details, there is a built-in bookcase, two fireplaces and of course, the stairs. That's what makes the Glencroft special.

Here are some details of the stairs:
And the top half:
As you can see the joins around the tabs look pretty messy so I'm going to use filler and sand/prime/paint those areas again. The edge of the stairs will be covered by a wall though so I don't have to do the sides, just the interior walls.
I also spent forever fussing with the handrails. The ones in the kit were just square on the edges, obviously, but to fit nicely against the wall and each other I sanded them down to angled edges. But then they were too short.

So I made new ones using the strips between other pieces on the sheets. You can cut them with an exacto knife then sand them to the right length and angle on the edges.  I was pleased with the results, but there's nothing like taking a close-up photo to see all the flaws - I will have to prime over that glue!

Also at this stage I have to decide how the stairwell will be decorated as it won't be very accessible once that side wall goes up. I have a vintage ribbon that may make a nice carpet but I'm not sure if it's the style I want for the house.

Although so far the decorating style I've decided on is just anything I think is pretty. And, it occurs to me now, anything I'm not allowed to do in our real house!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Walls up!

At this stage I decided to fill in the big interior window in the left wall (that's the left wall piece on the green cutting mat in the picture above). The interior window is upstairs in the bedroom next to the stairwell. I saw this done on Susan Grimshaw's website, and agreed that it would be more useful to have a solid wall in that spot for furniture placement or a picture or mirror.

The easiest way to do this is to leave the pieces you're meant to punch out in place. In this hole there were pieces I needed for the bookcase, so I did punch those out then replaced them with leftover small pieces of plywood. I then filled in all the gaps with polyfilla. Then lots of sanding, priming then painting. And voila, no more window!

While it slows things down a bit to do these things as you go along I'm glad I did because it would be a lot harder to work on a vertical wall in the house later on. Also while working on this wall I was priming and painting other pieces I needed. This kind of thing is easy, just a bit time consuming.
But the next part, putting in the second floor, was a nightmare. So frustrating! The instructions tell you to angle the floor and side it in place but there are a lot of pieces that need to fit around it and it can be fiddly getting it in place with all the tabs fitting together.

I had a problem mainly because I had painted it first. So the pieces were sort of gripping each other and I had to try to wiggle/wedge it in place, then wiggle it back out and sand it down (and trim the sides of the tabs), then try again, many many many times.
The red spots are sticky notes labelling the pieces.
Then ironically after that there was a gap between the centre wall and the second floor. At this point I was extra annoyed with the kit. But in the end it was done and it was quite satisfying to be at this stage. You can really start to see the whole house, how big it is, how big the rooms are, and you have a sense of how things are arranged and put together.

I also decided that any discrepancy up to around 3/16" is fine. And the gaps will be covered with flooring or filler later on. After working with lots of pieces I realized that's just sometimes as close as I could get to everything fitting together neatly.

I thought I would take a break at this stage but that's not been the case. In my next post, the stairs!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Starting the kit

Starting a dollhouse kit can be pretty daunting. When I opened the Glencroft box it was just a stack of plywood pieces. It also comes with a large printed sheet of instructions, and another smaller booklet with general assembly tips.

So I gathered up my "tools" ie. exacto knife, pencil, ruler, primer, brushes, cutting board and plastic bags to cover the table. I was going to try not to think too far ahead, just punch out the first set of pieces needed for the first few steps and start with those. This kit has a million pieces!

I had decided to prime and paint each piece to keep them from warping by sealing them. I figured I'd do it before assembly as it would be easier to work on flat pieces. The man in the dollhouse store had recommended sealing the pieces with shellac, and the tips sheet said "shellac cut 50/50 with alcohol". But I didn't really know what that was exactly and didn't have any on hand so I decided to just use primer and paint. I want the walls to be white anyway.
first three pieces in place - there are books underneath to support the base
The main problem I had starting out is that the pieces didn't pop out very easily from the sheets. The first few were really frustrating and I had to cut over and over around the edges with the exacto knife. But the later ones have been better... the main thing is to press them out pretty gently so they don't break, and then they need to be sanded as they're a bit rough.

Also, if you prime and/or paint them it's best to keep the edges bare as the tabs won't fit together if there's anything on them to make them thicker. Sometimes the tabs aren't perfect anyway and you have to shave them down with an exacto knife. I learned to always dry fit before applying glue to make sure all the tabs line up and fit together!

Also, just like IKEA, if something seems wrong don't just forge ahead. The kit isn't wrong, one of the pieces could be backwards. So make sure everything's right before you glue. At this stage I was questioning my decision to do this and finding the kit pretty annoying...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not needing a dollhouse

Treasured miniature dish set from the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh
I've always wanted a dollhouse, but for some reason or other I've never bought one. When I was very little I had a Fisher Price dollhouse with a yellow plastic roof and I really enjoyed that. It had illustrations on the walls, little plastic beds with mattresses made of sponge and of course little people to go inside. But over the years despite a fascination with miniature things, I never bought a dollhouse.

Until now. When my brother bought my niece a dollhouse recently (the Vermont Farmhouse kit) that got me thinking. I don't need a new hobby, I said to myself. It wouldn't be practical to spend money on a dollhouse, I said. There's no where to put it, my husband said.

But just for fun, I said, if I were to get a dollhouse (which I won't of course) would there even be any out there that I would like? So I had a look on The Little Dollhouse Company's website and discovered there were lots of really inexpensive kits you can buy. That way you can build the house yourself and make it just the way you want! Not that I was going to get one.

But if I did, for a mere $38 I could buy the Orchid, a charming little Victorian cottage. Or, as featured on Martha Stewart, the Storybook cottage, which even comes with a set of furniture! So sweet! But for both of those kits I felt there were things I would want to change. The Orchid seemed a little too fussy and both were quite small...

Then I revisited the Glencroft, a Tudor cottage that had initially seemed too fancy but had instantly attracted me with its half-turn staircase (with two landings!). Anyway, on second glance it turned out to be perfect, with two spacious rooms downstairs, two upstairs, the aforementioned wonderful staircase, two fireplaces, two window seats and a built-in bookcase.

What finally put me over the edge was a wonderful version of the Glencroft made by Susan Grimshaw featured on her website. This website has unfortunately also given me an appreciation for Tynietoy furniture, which I can't afford, but absolutely love!

So here on my new blog, tiny handmade, I'm going to show you how I'm putting together my Glencroft dollhouse. And of course when it's done I'll be making lots of little handmade things to go inside.

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