Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Little Bathroom Takes Shape

This week I commenced work on the bathroom of the eBay house (which I think now I will start calling the "American House" - because it is looking more and more American for some reason). I have been looking at countless pictures of Victorian bathrooms, and found one I particularly liked:

The temptation of using panelling on the walls instead of difficult tiling was too much. So I convinced myself it was more authentic..

I sanded the edges of each balsa wood plank (which I had cut individually from a few large sheets), so that the individual panelling planks would be more obvious.  

The back wall is not detachable, so I had to cut a cardboard template of it. That way I could work on that rather then straight on the back wall. 

For the floor I made a template out of cardboard. 

For the floor I bought a sheet of paper which had tessellated tiles on it. It isn't quite as realistic as the wooden floors, but it suffices when one is short on time. This method means I can slip it out while I am working, and back in now and then during the process (to see how the room will look). 

I had to cut the sheet down to size. This was a challenge. 

I painted the panelling mustard yellow. 

I am not entirely happy with this colour. Although it matches the floor nicely, it makes the yellow in the hallway look a little bit washed out and faded. So it is back to the drawing board to think of a better colour scheme - be that flat colours or wall paper. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Finishing off the Little Blue Attic Room

I finished the blue room in the attic of the eBay house this weekend. It needed a door and a floor. 

For the floor I used pre-bought floor boards, which I decided to french-polish, for a more realistic finish.

French polish is fairly straight forward, you need one part methylated spirit, and about one part shellac. Both these ingredients can be bought at a local hardware store. 

Add the ingredients in a glass jar and allow to dissolve. Leaving the jar in a warm bath of water can help this process.

Then it is a matter of applying. You must apply many thin coats (about 5 for a low sheen). You must let the wood dry in between coats. When applying, never cover the same spot twice. 

In the above and below pics, you can see the before and after.

I added the floor to the blue room and hallway next door. 

Then I added the skirting boards. You must always add skirting boards last after the floor has gone down. This allows for a much larger error margin when cutting the floor to size. 

I prepared the door by drilling a hole for the door nobs. Drilling one hole through the middle means that the nobs will align perfectly on both sides. 

Fitting the door was quite fiddly. I left the pins in place when I pulled the door out of the pre-made door frames. I made a small whole in the threshold and pushed the door in. Because the door is not exactly the same size as the door way the door can be pushed up a little to enable the bottom pin to be fitted. 

It is quite fiddly, but the result is good!

Finally I touched up a few spots with the skirting board paint. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A Little Chandelier Commission Arrives

Today a beautifully presented package arrived from Minst, in Sweden. 

I commissioned a Swedish style chandelier from Cilla at Minst and it had finally arrived! Cilla made it by hand with real crystal. It is also electrified. 

I don't think the photos do it justice. 

I am slowly collecting light fittings and other parts for my Scandinavian house, which is coming along very slowly. I will be satisfied though, that it will have an authentic look. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

One Tiny Attic Room Taking Shape

I continued on the attic rooms today. I decided on a blue bedroom to the right, a yellow corridor and a small bathroom on the left (the colour of which is yet to be decided). 

I chose the blue pattern for the bedroom.

Wallpapering such an oddly shaped room was a challenge. So I began with the window, fanning the paper out so the joins would be less obvious if the joins were imperfect. 

I worked on the the right and left walls before I glued them in, which made things much easier. 

Getting the left wall at right angles to the floor was a challenge to say the least - since I did not have the ability to hold it from the left side, but could only tap it into place from the right. This right angle ruler helped me a lot.

I decided not to glue in the skirting board until after the floor was down - leaving more room for error in that department. 

The old window sill fell out, to I made up a new one (old on the right). 

Before the right wall was glued in I also decorated the other side. 

I think the blue compliments the other colours in the house (please excuse my camera, it doesn't show the colours here very well).

I won't use a cornice in the blue room (since it is only a bedroom and probably quite plain). I think it looks ok without one. 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Attic progress

Only the attic remains to be renovated in the eBay house. The house is now taking on a distinct American Victorian feel, even a little gothic with its rich dark wall papers.

I cut two small walls to divide the attic into two rooms and a corridor. The decision to make three spaces in the attic took most of the day. The drop saw made short work of cutting the walls from a large sheet of MDF. I'm so glad I have my parent's power tools on hand for this type of work.

It took a while to get the angles right and make them fit. I couldn't help but ad some furniture to help imagine how the finished product will look. 

Then I started on the doors. I have had enough of pre made door frames. They are too chunky and come with a large threshold, which isn't very realistic. I have resolved from now on to make my own door frames (keeping the doors though). Wish me luck!

I have cut and laid out all the architraves for painting and finishing tomorrow. 

Tomorrow will come the hard task of deciding which wall papers to use. I have been thinking about it all day but still can't make up my mind. Very difficult decisions..

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Little Literary Review

I have amassed quite a collection of dollhouse reference books. All of these were bought online, so without browsing beforehand I took a chance when I bought them. Some are great, others have been a bit disappointing. So I thought I would do a quick review of some of my better books. I have based my review from the point of view of the non-professional but proficient and discerning miniaturist, with an interest in the history of dollhouses, techniques of the craft and the work of well known miniature artists. 

The Collector's History of Dolls' Houses - Constance Eileen King
Published 1983 by St. Matrin's Press New York. ISBN: 0-312-15028-8

Five stars

This book offers the most comprehensive and fully researched account of the history of dollhouses (up to the 1980s) I have come across . The author begins with the very first historical records of dolls and dollhouses in the ancient world and discusses their specific cultural meaning in different societies. She then traces the emergence of dollhouses in post Renaissance Europe and their meaning in modern day. This book is written in the style of a proper academic history. It is an excellent (if not the best) reference for the antique dollhouse collector, but also give a good background to the 1:12 hobby of today as well. It is easy to read, and can be picked up at any one topic area without the need to read the entire book. I think this tome is a must have in any dollhouse reference library. The only down side to the book is that the majority of images are in black and white.

Constance Eileen King wrote many other historical reference books concerning dolls and toys.

Dolls and Doll's Houses - Constance Eileen King
Published in 1977 by Hamlyn Publishing Group London. ISBN: 0-600-32929-1

Four Stars

This is another excellent academic level book concerning the history of dolls and dollhouses. This book is a less comprehensive version of The Collector's History of Dollhouses by the same author, and devotes more time to dolls. The book is quite comprehensive and is very easy to read. There are a few more colour photographs in this book due to its smaller size. While it is not as comprehensive as the Author's 1983 work, I would recommend it none the less as an excellent reference book.

The Secrets of the Dolls' House Makers - Jean Nisbett
Published in 1994 by the Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd. ISBN: 0-946-81954-8

Five stars

This book is an excellent reference book which provides profiles of miniaturists of note. Each profile discusses how each artist was introduced to the field, the types of work they have done and their individual philosophies on their hobby. The profiles also give some nice anecdotes about individual projects that have been important in the artists' careers. The book is full of excellent photographs of many pieces of beautifully handmade furniture, houses and accessories. Each picture is accompanied by an explanation of its history, maker and occassionally a back story. I found this a great reference for the "big names" of the miniature world, and helped me to understand the different approaches that different miniaturists take to the building and promotion of their work. This book is very comprehensive, professionally written and a great source of inspiration and fascination.

Dollhouse Style - Kath Dalmeny
Published in 2002 by Quarto. ISBN 0-7134-8744-5

Two stars

This book is combination of a reference book for miniature interiors representing different historical periods, and a "replicate that historical style " do-it-your-self instructional book. The book contains pictures of individual rooms from 15 different historical periods. Accompanying each period is a fact sheet on how to construct one or two pieces of furniture or accessories from the room.

I didn't find this book to be terribly valuable for a reference book because while the pictures were big and beautiful, it did not give much information about how and who created the individual rooms, and when they were created. Instead the bulk of the information attaching to each was a basic and vague description of the historical period and how the particular rooms were used. This meant it was not comprehensive enough to be useful as a either a social history or a history of the dollhouse maker. Further, the book does not differentiate between modern dollhouses made to emulate a certain period, and historical dollhouses which were actually made during that period.

The projects described are quite basic and a little crude. Each project purports to recreate a miniature from a room, however, with the instructions and materials detailed, only a very coarse version of what is pictured can be made (without any significant creative license used by the maker). In this respect I found this book quite disappointing.

I would only recommend this book for beginners and not or the more advanced miniaturist or anyone looking for a reference book.

The Doll's House Source Book - Caroline Clifton-Mogg
Published in 1993 by Cassell. ISBN 0-304-34260-2

Two stars

This book begins with a brief history of dollhouses in Europe, beginning with the standard description of Dutch "baby houses" and finishing with a mention of the modern dollhouse hobby. The book is then divided into chapters according to room, i.e. dining room, bed room, and hall. Each chapter contains many lovely pictures of miniature interiors.

I found this book disappointing because after the history of dollhouses at the beginning, nothing more is mentioned about dollhouses. The text which accompanies each chapter gives only a brief social history of the use of that particular room over the past few hundred years of (full size human) history. It almost feels as though the dollhouse component of the book was created as an after thought to fit around a preprepared essay written about social history of the developments in the use of different rooms over the past few hundred years. Further to this, only a few of the makers of the miniature interiors (some of which are quite fabulous) are referenced. The reader is left to wonder at most pictures, if its contents were hand made by a miniaturist or where store bought and assembled, and if so by who and in what country.

I would recommend this book as a good reference for someone who is planning a dollhouse and isn't quite sure how it should be laid out or the furniture placed with regard to any particular period. The pictures are lovely, however the lack of attribution is very annoying.

The Complete Dolls' House Book - Jean Nisbett
Published in 1994 by the Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd. ISBN: 0-946-81944-0

Five Stars

This book is an excellent and well rounded account of the modern dollhouse and miniature hobby. It describes everything from how to choose the perfect dollhouse style for you, how to create authentic interiors from different periods, to practical information about construction and choice of lighting, interior decoration and furnishings. It gives a large variety of photographs of dollhouses from all periods and construction types as well as step by step pictures of houses in the process of being built. The book also gives some great information about kit houses available as well as information about miniature artists. It is well written and easy to read and also comprehensive. If you are researching the hobby, looking for inspiration on what type of project to take on next or want tips and tricks this is a great all-round book. It really is the complete dollhouse book, and I would recommend it as a must have.

The author Jean Nisbett has written many books about the dollhouse hobby, and is clearly very passionate about it. Going on what I have read by her (only the two books in this review), I would recommend anything she has written!

Magnificent Miniature - Kevin Mulvany & Susie Rogers
Published in 2008 by Batsford. ISBN-13: 980713490596

Five stars

This book is a complete account of the career and works of Kevin Mulvany and Susie Rogers, of the "Mulvany & Rodgers". This is an excellent source book of ideas for miniature interiors of the very highest quality. Mulvany & Rodgers create historically accurate copies of famous houses and buildings to commission and their work is displayed in museums all over the world. The book is a pleasure to read, and contains many amusing and interesting anecdotes from their careers, including projects that failed and why. It also contains several "how to" pages with projects explanations of different techniques. This are well described and easy to follow and understand - allowing you to produce some very pleasing results at home.

This is a must have book for any aspiring miniaturist.

Miniature Interiors - Nick Forder
Published in 1994 by Cassell. ISBN: 0-304-34436-2

Two stars

This book is a brief description of several 12 different miniature rooms in a range of styles. The book gives several excellent photographs of each room from several angles accompanied by a very brief description of the style that the room is emulating. The description covers the full size history of that style. The book contains some interesting styles not seen in other books, such as the "Sante Fe Store", the "Egyptian bedroom" and the "New York Apartment". Beyond this though, the book is not terribly comprehensive and does not give much information on construction techniques or the artists behind the creations.

The Decorated Doll's Houses - Jessica Ridley
Published in 1990 by Bramley Books. ISBN 1-84100-013-2

Two stars

This is a beginners guide to creating several different styles of miniatures room. The author gives detailed instructions on how to create many different pieces of furniture, accessories and soft furnishings according to different period styles. The book is aimed at the decorator of a kit built or pre-fabricated bought dollhouse. The projects are quite simple, and aimed at the less discerning miniaturist, the beginner or child. Some tips and tricks are useful and creative, but the over all attention to detail is not high and scale is not terribly precise.

Please let me know if you have read any of these books and agree or disagree with my reviews. I would be interested to know what you think!