Friday, March 25, 2011

The Flickering Fireplace

Tonight I worked again on the electrical, found the short that had eluded us, fixed that, and then hooked up the fireplace. It has a circuit board off to the left, which controls three flickering lights that fit into a small acrylic fireplace insert. I can also hook up a set of 25 flickering Christmas lights to it!
I ordered a custom firebox from an Etsy vendor (Marquis Miniatures) that will hold the circuit box, and also cover the junction splice in the wall. Jill at Marquis Miniatures makes the most exquisite and detailed miniatures, and I enjoyed chatting with her today on the phone. Thank you, Jill!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A quick wallpaper peek!

The wallpaper for the living room and dining room arrived, and I've been anxious to see how it looks up. So I cut a paper mockup of the stairwell, cut it out and pasted it on. Tricky shape, and I didn't line it up perfectly, but its okay... the flaw is much less noticeable in actual life size!
The paper is by Wm. Morris, from the Art and Craft section of Brodnax Prints. Wait until you see the border! Thanks to Carrie Rouillard, asking her brother, I know for sure now that the typical 1920s living room would not have had a wallpaper border at chair height... they tended to put borders along the ceiling. They did do chair rails, of wood, sometimes with the paper above and painted below, or paneled below, but not a wallpaper border there. So, I had to order more paper... grrrr... control freak versus impatience in my head.

I LOVE it! Now to paint the ceilings and walls and be prepped for when the rest comes.

Finally, to catch up, here was today's project... the second story room that is formed by the stairway. It's sort of an odd little room, but I have big plans for it when decorating! We had always intended to have some sort of attic access from there, like a let down trap door, but I've given that up, not being able to figure out how to do it. So I cut a little piece of plywood to cover the gaping ceiling, and then painted it all. At lunchtime, I cut the paper mockups, and after starting the kiln load for today, I pasted. Fun! Wow, wouldn't it be nice if you could paper a real room in fifteen minutes? This wallpaper is also from the Wm. Morris Arts and Crafts line, called Willow.
Before... note the wire tape
After, with the baseboard and molding in place but not stained yet
The baseboard and crown molding will need to be stained first, to match as close as possible with the oak floor. I may wait until all of the rooms are papered, and all of the molding cut, before doing the staining. It really does take longer to set up and clean up, than to paint about twenty inches of 3/4" wood!

Now we are up to date.

Dollhouse Bathroom a Rhapsody in Pink and Black

Since the bathroom didn't need wiring, I could go ahead and paper and tile it. Cousin Lauren printed the wallpaper from a free printable site ("Jennifers Printables") since I don't have a high quality color printer hooked up. This 1920's wallpaper is just PERFECT for the tile I have ready, there was nothing on the market that looked as delish as this did. So, after painting the ceiling of the bathroom (and the bedroom, since it will be the same color and it takes longer to wash out the paint sponge than it does to actually paint it) and letting it dry for a day, I was ready to put up the wallpaper. I spent about half an hour making plain paper mockups that fit just perfectly, with all of the overlaps. At lunchtime, I sprayed the wallpaper with Krylon Matte, as per instructions (to keep it from fading too fast), cut out and pasted it up. Using "Grandmother Stovers" wallpaper paste, made by Handley House (a dollhouse wallpaper supplier I think) it was pretty easy. Using a cheap paint sponge, you spread the paste on, making sure it is not too gloppy, and then wipe your hands. Then put up the paper, peel and adjust as needed, and flatten it out with your fingers. Not bad, not bad. Had a couple of little touch ups, that's all.
Two walls up!

It went very fast, since I had done the paper mockups so I knew that my wallpaper would fit perfectly. Then, the tile went up, with two sided tape. I had cut these weeks ago, while still looking for wallpaper. The black tiles are colored in with a Sharpie!

I love this wall, it is pleasing to the eye. the toilet will go in the back corner, and a shelf will go on this side of the door. Still waiting for the flooring to come, but since there will be baseboard, it's okay to have the large gap along the bottom. Now I'm pondering about how to make a frosted window.. what can be put over the window glass to make it frosted?

Stolen Moments plus a weekend...

Through a combination of fascination, stubbornness, and focus, the dollhouse made a lot of progress since the last post. Up early in the morning, for an hour of prep, then at lunchtime while munching yogurt, and after dinner... then I managed to spend the whole weekend either thinking about it, painting something, measuring something, or actually installing something. Sweet! These stolen moments add up.... half an hour here, twenty minutes there... it comes together bit by bit.
Some of these pictures are dark or off color, because of the hours I am working, late at night or early in the morning, so sorry for that!
Speaking of Flying Spaghetti Monsters! Yikes
The biggest job yet facing the house was the wiring. My Grandfather wired it by running the wires through the hollow walls, which of course means no access now. I wanted to be able to add lights, including wall sconces and floor lamps, and looked into the different systems. The most versatile seemed to be Cir-Kit, with a flat tape wiring system that can be put right on to the walls and then painted or papered over. I used to work for an electrician when just out of high school, and my hubby is an electrician for the power company, but my experiences with wiring are pretty limited. Added to this, dollhouse wiring is direct current, and uses a transformer. I was hung up on the idea that I had to run a parallel system, using the transformer that came with the kit, and somehow get the tape wiring into the house by drilling or cutting a wall. It came to me, after a couple of weeks of thought (she's slow, but she does eventually get there) that **wires are wires, whether flat or round** and flat wires can be junctioned to the existing wiring and use the same transformer! (we bought a nice big one when we first started the project) So, after due deliberation, I began to tape and wire....
Flat wire tape being applied to the walls
The light colored strip is the positive, the dark is the return (ground? neutral?) You peel the back off of the tape, press it to the walls, and then put these TEENY TINY incredibly small brads into the intersections to make the connection between the two tapes. And I do mean tiny!

The wire from the wall, stripped, with the stripped ends used to twist the wire
There was a convenient wire coming out low in the living room, near the fireplace. So I used that one to connect to the flat wiring. I stripped the ends, and by not pulling the rubber off all the way, I could use it to twist the wires easily, then remove it.
Wall wire attached to large brads, connecting to the flat wiring. Note the tiny brads in the wall wiring!
This was the connection that would test the whole idea. (I cleaned it up later and connected more solidly) Using large brass brads, I twisted the wires to them, and then....

Test probe lighting up 
Success! Actually, I tested before running all of this wall wire but I didn't take a picture of it. The little test probe, included in the kit, simply sticks into the wire and lights up if it has current. This is around the doorway. It will allow me to plug wall sconces, floor lamps, Christmas lights, and anything else I want, directly into the wires, right through the wallpaper! Pretty nifty!!

Here's the attic, the place where I jumped off from to wire the top floor and second floor. So everything has wall wiring except the bathroom and kitchen. This took me all day on Saturday, sun up to sun down and a bit more. Those brads were so small, and it took four for each corner and direction change. But it is done, finally!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The kitchen is done! Well, except...

Being the first project, it feels good to have the kitchen done. Is anything ever truly done? I was hurrying at lunchtime to take these photos, and forgot to put the baseboard up, but it is cut and painted and ready to put up. Oops! Well, we can look at it later, no doubt some other fun accessories will be added to the kitchen. There's a little shelf that I want to try and make at some point. Also, I just painted the cupboard white, quickly, today. With regular acrylics, using the airbrush. (smacks forehead) It took fifteen minutes, instead of an hour. Skills, meet brain. Brain, meet skills. Get to know each other. Be friends. Keep in touch.

So, with those caveats in mind, here is the kitchen, finished at last. Note all of the fun accessories that I have been hoarding like a kid with Halloween candy. I keep them in a gorgeous wooden box with a horse tile on top, that the awesome Lynn Fraley made, which was given to me by the most gracious and sweet Liz Holm. Liz, this box is perfect for keeping those tiny treasures in, and when the dollhouse is done, the box will be filled with the beautiful jewelry that other model horse people make. It gives me joy every time I look at it. 

Back to business. Remember, you can click on the photo for a larger version. You'll want to, so that you can see all the tiny fun. The curtains were the original ones that I made for it, about thirty five years ago. Guess I always pictured the kitchen in red and least I am consistent! The cupboard, as noted above, is now white, but will be getting glossed (when the paint fully cures) and some black detailing. Rather than the heavy detailing I tried before, I want to use very small wooden frames to accent the doors and, on the right lower side, create the illusion of drawers. That's the potato bin but it is not something I will display potatos in, it might as well have 'drawers'. Where else do you keep your silverware?! Panning around the room, here are closer views:
The spice rack is from a Chrysnbon kit, they are inexpensive plastic kits (like model cars) that have nice detailing. The kit also included a round side table, two 'glass bells', and a pair of 'milk glass' chickens. We will see those on the right hand side view. The kit was about $12, and I painted the spice rack white, then painted the little **TINY** knobs black. That's it... easy as pie. On top of the spice rack is a teensy crocheted black and white rooster pot holder. Some poor almost blind person made him. On the sink, there is a set of red handled potato masher, whisk, and a two pronged fork, also hand made. The rusty blue enamel bowl on the sink is from Etsy. The stool underneath is required... all 1920s sinks had stools! Seriously! The refrig is empty, but if you have your glasses on, and ate your Wheaties this morning, you might be able to see the little metal ice cube tray in the freezer. On the table, are two crocheted pot holders, a rolling pin from Etsy, two loaves of bread (also from Etsy) and a German chocolate cake. The cake is original to the doll house. Note the kitchen towels, and a Chrysnbon towel rack to hold them.

On the right is the new cupboard, with some ceramic canisters, a ceramic bowl, a tiny muffin pan, and a spice bottle. Also, a meat grinder that was original to the doll house. The stove has a Magnalite pot, a frying pan in the broiler, and the two Chrysnbon milk glass (actually plastic) chickens. Remember these, the hen on the nest and the rooster? Mom had milk glass pieces. Lastly, the hand braided rug on the floor, and the broom... from Etsy.
Finally, there is the capybara. She is so adorable! Sculpted from Fimo, with fur applied. I did paint her eyes, gave her eye whites and a dollop of gloss, and glossed her nose. From Etsy as well, as posted previously.

She doesn't have a name yet, maybe that is something to do tonight. She is sitting on some newspapers, she might make a mess.

Next project... the bathroom! Nice and easy. Waiting for the wallpaper and floor tile right now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baby Steps

Yesterday and today, there wasn't enough time to do anything useful on the dollhouse... real work comes first. So at lunchtime, I grabbed a minute to 'antique' these gold frames that I picked up at the dollhouse store. Just rubbing black paint over them, then rubbing it off, makes them look so much better! They will be used in the living room.

I also was able to patch the empty space above the kitchen stove, painted it to match the ceiling, so that is all done. Took a lot of fiddly carving with an exacto, to fit the little piece of thin plywood into the hole nicely. 
Also, the new pet came. She's adorable, but her eyes weren't painted and she would look better with actual painted eyes. So when I get a minute, I will paint and gloss her eyes and dab a little gloss on her nose. Looking for a name... 
If you haven't seen a baby capybara as a pet, check out here:

What an adorable beastie!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Dollhouse Project... Kitchen Dilemma

An unusual element of this dollhouse is the staircase that swoops down in front of the dining room, and takes up much of the space on the first floor. It houses the controls for the lights, but most dollhouses don't have a staircase like this. Because of it, I have less room in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the kitchen has more fun accessories than most of the other rooms... food, spices, utensils, plates, etc. I bought the little cupboard to fill this need... a place to put all of the fun elements. The cupboard (which is not finished, still needs some paint touch ups) has doors that open to reveal shelves and spice racks, and the bottom right is a potato bin. Fun! However, right now the only place to put it is in front of a window! So I am contemplating putting a wall up between the kitchen and the dining room. The wall would be at a slant, behind the cupboard in this position:
(you can always click on the photo for a larger version)

This position really opens up the kitchen, making it more roomy and allowing that window to show. The tile shows better, too! Otherwise, the kitchen will look like this:

You can see how much more crowded it is, this way. Though it does show the refrigerator off better. How cool is this refrigerator?

So I picked up a piece of craft plywood and will probably go ahead and paint and tile it. Which means another trip to the dollhouse store (boo hoo!) but I need the kitchen tile anyway. I could make the wall temporary, until I decide for sure.

What do you think?

Edit: you know, looking at these photos, I think I will repaint the cupboard white with black trim. I worked so hard on this color for it but now it is too dark. It's already white on the inside, so a couple of coats of white on the outside should brighten it right up...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dollhouse Kitchen, Painting and Tiling

Today, waking up extra early to get started on the kitchen, I first masked the windows and the oak floor in the other room, in case paint got on it. Only the top half of the kitchen needs to be painted, because of the tile going in, but a coat or two on the lower half will protect the wood so it's not a bad idea.
Here, the walls are just starting to be painted.

Now they have their first coat, and it is still nice and early in the morning.

The tile sheets cost about $5 and are large enough to easily tile an entire room. But the white tile is very plain, it needs grout. Grout... grout.... hmmmm... I tried a light tan grout color first but could hardly see it. In dollhouses, a tiny bit of exaggeration is not a bad thing, carefully done. So I added a touch of black, to make a warm grey grout. Just out of the bottle acrylic craft paint. Painted it on with a flat brush....
Let it sit for a few minutes, then wiped with a folded flat paper towel... leaving the 'grout' in the deep areas...
Much better! It took another careful wipe, or two, and a little touching up to make it right. You don't want it perfect... nothing would look perfect in a working kitchen...
After they were all done, I added the border that I had carefully cut out of the leftover floor tiles. Crazy glue keeps it on very nicely!
Here are all of the pieces, with their borders. The cutouts are, of course, for the windows. The seam in the big one will be under the sink, so that's all right.
9 am, time to start working on horses! Can't wait until lunchtime!!

Lunchtime: 12 - 1 pm  Meal: Granola bar and fresh blackberries, so I can eat and work. Of course! both of which the birds like, too.
First, I put down the floor, using two sided carpet tape. It had already been cut to size and well fitted. Then, using the same two sided tape, put up the tile walls. The seam under the sink isn't perfect, so I added a row of tiles over the top to disguise the splice. Between eating, reading FB, and taping up the walls, lunch was fun and interesting!

The first wall is up! It looks so much more authentic and detailed, with the grout.
All done for today! It lacks only the baseboard and the fabrication of a piece below the stairwell, covering that gap. (we never bothered with it in the old days) All finished! I want to play with it, but time to go back to work... a kiln firing is in the schedule for tonight and I'd best get a move on!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Dollhouse Project.. Part 3

Here is the bedroom... the wallpaper is picked out, the paint is purchased, so it won't be long before the bedroom is all done up! First the wiring has to be done, new wiring along the walls for wall sconces and floor or table lamps. I'm going to wallpaper the bottom, paint the top, and put a chair rail in between. Looking in my cedar chest, I found an old doilie and salvaged the lacy/tatted corners to make this bedspread. Underneath the bedspread is a pink silk spread that I made, and the two matching pillows. With enough material left over for curtains, its going to be sweet!
You can again see a wire coming down from the ceiling, it never had a fixture since it was made. The bird cage close to the camera is exquisite. Note the desk on the left hand side... a fold down desk with pigeonholes for letters. Of course, there is an armoire in the back... you can see me taking the picture, in the mirror!

Finally, the bathroom. Since the kitchen and the bathroom were the first rooms that I needed to work on, they are the farthest along. The bathroom has pink 'tile'-- its actually a vacuum formed plastic sheet that you cut with scissors.. and I colored in the black tile to recreate the look of a vintage bathroom. (might be more 30-ish than 20-ish but I love it) Cousin Lauren is printing some downloadable dollhouse wallpaper for the bathroom, since I couldn't find anything just right for sale. The problem is that most dollhouses are Victorian, which is too old for this house. Not much wallpaper is made for early twentieth century dollhouses... but I did find.... (drumroll).... Arts and Crafts wallpaper and borders! It is winging its way to me as we speak!

The Dollhouse Project... Part 2

There are six rooms in the dollhouse... Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Hallway Nook, Bathroom, Bedroom, and Attic. The previous post showed the Kitchen. Now we will peek at the rest of the rooms as they stand today.

The Living Room and Dining Room form the rest of the bottom floor. Both floors are oak parquet, and the walls have always been just white. My Grandfather made the windows, some of which actually work, and originally they were crisscrossed with a thin black tape to create leaded glass effects. I'll be redoing those, but not right away. Here is the Living Room:

There is a wire coming out of the ceiling, and a wire coming out of the wall next to the fireplace on the far side. When he built it, we didn't know about dollhouse wiring, he just stripped wires from what he had around (a lamp cord?)and spliced the little lights right into the wiring. Tomorrow I'll show you the insides of the kitchen and bathroom fixtures!

It's hard to see the Dining Room, set as it is behind the stairwell. You can see a peek of it through the kitchen:

The furniture is Arts and Crafts style, and the table is set with blue and white china.

Here is the Hallway Nook:

It is the room at the top of the stairs. You can see the awesome Victorian birdcage against the window, and the other piece of furniture is a display case. Right now it just has a statue in it, but I am considering making a Victorian Taxidermy for it. Wouldn't that be something? Like they inherited their Grandparent's taxidermy... this room is messy, see the newspaper? Must be getting ready to paint...

The Dollhouse Project

My Grandfather was a clever, resourceful, talented man. When I was a pre-teen, he built me a dollhouse. We started out by choosing a style from a book on architecture written in the early 1920's. Then he built it... from scratch... no kit, no plans, just his own creativity. He built it like a house, the walls are hollow and he ran the wiring inside before we finished the interior. He salvaged the wood from garage sales, scraps, and what he had lying around. His tiny workshop was his garage, in my grandparent's house built in the 1930's. A garage more suited to a Model A than a workshop. I remember coming home on summer afternoons, and walking the five or so blocks from our house to my Grandparents house, so that I could help him work on it. In the evening, in the summer, there were frogs croaking from the Los Angeles River that we could hear from inside the garage.

My Grandparent's home, in Los Angeles, as it looks currently via Google Maps

We never really finished it before he passed away. I played with it, and we bought play quality furniture (except for the stove, that was a nice one) Then my interests changed, I grew up and got married, had kids... all the time, the doll house sat at my Grandmother's house. Waiting.

I've always wanted to fix it up and really do it right. Now is the time. I can buy it good furniture, and I can paint and wallpaper it. I can translate my skills, learned over decades since it was built, to finish what my Grandfather started. Do it justice... and do it honor. We don't have a lot left from Lee Edward Wilcox, but we do have the dollhouse, and a few other things he built.

Here it is, as it sits today:

Next, the rooms. I didn't take pictures of the rooms before I started cleaning and refurbishing it, but the process hasn't gone too far so these pictures will have to do. Almost all of the furniture shown in the photos is new... I bought it on a binge, a month or so ago, at my first Miniatures Show. (!!!!) So don't think that these things were our 'play quality'! Only the stove, fireplace, sink and tub, and the nice sofa and chair are original. Everything else is new.

The walls were all white, they only ever had one coat of paint and are dirty. The few rooms that were wallpapered are aged and yellowed. The flooring, when it wasn't beautiful oak parquet (that he and I cut and laid, over months) was dull, cheap linoleum squares.

So I've been immersing myself in 1920's era kitchens. We bought the correct sink (no cabinet underneath) and a stool (because even the most modern kitchens had a stool under the sink, to sit on) and a work table. I also bought a kitchen cupboard.. similar to a hoosier... and am painting it to match the kitchen decor.

Here is the kitchen today. The walls need painting, since the blue paint was just and experiment to see how it looks. The tile on the walls, and the tile border, are just sort of sitting there. That won't get attached until the new wiring is done, and the walls are painted. The color that I chose for the cupboard and the table is too bright, too turquoise, so I went back today and bought a blue paint instead. Will be painting the cupboard and table again tonight. The flooring is awesome.. little white and red hexagons...and I can't wait until it all comes together and I can start buying some of that incredible miniature food!