Welcome to my life . . . .

This is a blog about my passion: dollhouses and miniatures. This particular blog was started to follow my miniature dream: to create a Victorian Mansion. But work on my Mansion is slow. Very slow. Sloth slow. Ice Age glacier movement slow. Why? Because I am easily distracted by other personal miniature projects (I have 50+ roomboxes and 15 dollhouses in various stages of incompletion) and because I work for a miniature shop and am often up to my elbows in miniature projects that aren't mine! So, I thought, some artists work in a particular medium (woods, watercolors, clay, oils, etc.), I work in progress . . . .

Thursday, December 25, 2014

July in Christmas!

Every year I like to make something special for my two best friends (one in Texas and one in Michigan).  We met years ago on Facebook and the 3 of us share a love of miniatures and an interest in each others lives.  I was inspired to make them something that represented my wish that we lived closer together so we could go out for a drink (of either wine or coffee) or hang out together at a mall, window shopping and discussing our kids/dogs and most recent recipe that was delicious (you know, the stuff we usually discuss on Facebook).  I wish that we were independently wealthy so we could travel to visit each other or run away for a girl's weekend at the beach and people watch while we sipped our fancy drinks with umbrellas in them.  And although I wish for those things in our friendship, I am very grateful that we have what we do: a great friendship.
So, this year for their gifts I decided to make a (miniature) spot where we could all meet up and hang out:  A beach stand.
Using the Rocky Mountain Stall Kits I created 3 identical beach stands for us to each decorate how we wish.
Dry Fit Stalls Together

I wanted bright beach colors for the interior walls!
Made posts a more sedate color to help tone down the teal!
 Now for the exterior I didn't know what to do: the teal was too bright to cover the outside.  I asked various people for opinions and someone (Thanks Carole!) suggested staining the exterior walls and then distressing or aging it!  I knew another friend of mine had aged a dollhouse structure using some denatured alcohol and India ink combo so I asked her for the formula and got to work!
Picking the right stain color - I wanted bright!
But, once I stained the walls a beautiful orange stain, the aging solution just turned it brown.  I didn't want a dull brown wall - I wanted bright, bright orange!  So I opted to not age the stalls.  After assembling the pieces I then shingled the roof . . .
Then I had to install flooring for the stalls (can't have the proprietors standing in a stand pit inside their stall)!  I thought of wood strips at first, but thought that was too similar to the walls and wood strips wouldn't add any more color; and I wanted bright colors!
Trees and Tiles are in place!
I found a bright yellow tile that seems beachy.  So I glued them down and drilled holes for the palm trees to be glued in.  I glued trims around the bases to hold the sand in place once it was all together.  Which brings me to the sand!  I learned to glue sand in place during a workshop I took about 15 years ago: a mix of water, sand, and white Elmer's glue.  When the sand dries it is solid and immoveable like concrete:
Mixing the water and glue with sand.
The three stands, representing my two friends and myself!
The Stall Kits come with shelves for the back wall.  I want/need mine glued in place a certain distance apart from each other to accommodate my particular theme for my Beach Stand.  And I did not know what my friends will make theirs into so I did not want to glue any shelves in place yet.  At first I painted the shelves yellow to match the floor:
Sunny bright shelves!
But I didn't like how they were looking, too sunny and glaringly bright, so I painted over them with a Burnt Orange color to keep them colorful yet subdued.  Next came time to make my own sign (did not make one for my friends because I don't know what their stands will be selling).  My Beach Stand sells drinks (coffee, ice tea, iced coffee, etc.) so I used decoupage to create a sign on a miniature surf board:
I painted the stripes to match the stand and used decoupage to glue my "Barefoot Barista" sign in place.
Shipped my friends' gifts to them and am eagerly awaiting their reaction!  I can't wait to see what they make theirs into (I imagine colorful drinks or pineapple filled drinks will be involved; Audra will sell Suntan Lotion in hers :) )
All finished, my stall, front and back:
Barefoot Barista is open for business!

Someone has propped their surf board behind the stand!

It's certainly bright.
I know it's strange to be thinking of the beach in December -- I suppose it's a bit like Christmas in July, or rather, I put a little July into Christmas!  I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday season!  Stay merry and bright -- like my Beach Stands!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dutch House Done (again)!

Back in 2009 this dollhouse was brought to us for an update.  Old wallpapers were removed and some rooms were painted.  Daughter so enjoyed playing with the house that the dollhouse has now been returned to us in 2014 for clean-up, proper electrical installed, and wallpapers.  I say "proper electrical installed" because somewhere in the last 5 years someone (not us) wired the dollhouse for them, but in order to not put tapewire on the painted walls, they ran wires everywhere (EVERYWHERE) so that lights would be in each room:
Various wires under the house all running to a power strip.

The mess of wires and painters tape made it nearly impossible to tell what went to where.
 So the first step was to remove the tangle of wires and extensions.  Even within the rooms, wires were running all about . . . After wires were all removed, tapewire was installed in the outer rooms (center hallways were to remain untouched as customer wanted to keep those original wallpapers from her childhood).  Then floors were cleaned up:
Cleaning floors: that's when you realize things like the floors in the hallway run left to right instead of front to back like the side rooms!  Interesting effect.
 Wallpaper was installed, which was a trip as none of the crown molding or baseboards were removable!  The baseboard of the room above was the same piece of wood that was the crown molding for the room below.  This one piece of wood trim was baseboard, crown molding, and held the floor in place so removing either one was impossible without taking the entire house apart!
Likewise, the window trims were all glued firmly in place.  So wallpaper had to be cut exactly as there was no window trims, crown, or baseboards to cover up mistakes!  Some of the more difficult rooms I created templates for (using small scraps of paper taped together to get an exact template of the wall).
BEFORE: Whole house view.  Wires were everywhere and some lights were not lighting up.

AFTER: Whole house view.
BEFORE: Blue Bedroom.
AFTER: Blue Bedroom.  Extra crown had to be installed on side walls as paper was not as tall as walls.
BEFORE: Pink Bedroom.
AFTER: Pink bedroom and center hallway.
BEFORE: Parents Bedroom.  A lovely mess of wires.

AFTER: Crisp and clean.
BEFORE: Kitchen.  I assume furniture in the corners covered those wires and plugs there.
AFTER: I loved the green wallpaper they picked for this room!  Wires and plugs/outlets removed.
BEFORE: Living Room.
AFTER: Living Room, a tall room that almost no wallpaper would have worked with the height so we added more crown as customer did not want a paper border.
BEFORE: Hallway.
AFTER: Hallways, sconces are wired to rooms on the right.
AFTER: Front lights are working, waiting for the family to come pick it up!
There was one other room (the bathroom) that we were going to wallpaper, but the paper arrived in a different dye lot than shown in catalog.  So we simply wired that room in such a way that it could remain painted with no wires showing.

I hope the young lady who is getting this house continues to love it as she used to and I hope that the house appears cleaner and easier to play with now that the network of wires are removed/hidden behind wallpapers.

(I'm still working on the Harborside Mansion - that house is not complete quite yet due to an arch ordering delay and a lighting issue; check back soon for an update on that house!)








Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wallpaper Liner, Polyurethane Floors, and Arch Resolution!

The biggest complaint of the tape wire electrical system (besides the junction splices and long-term connection issues) is that even painting over the tape wire doesn't hide it on a bare wall.  You're practically forced to wallpaper over it.  But what if you want a solid color wall and not a busy wallpaper pattern in that room?  Not many solid colors are available for dollhouse walls.  Which is why we use wallpaper liners!

Found in your local wallpaper store (if you're lucky enough to still have one of those!  Ours was put out of business by constantly increasing rent and a big box store which then quit carrying wallpapers as soon as our local source was also gone!) and I have also found it the next town over at Lowes, wallpaper liner is a roll of white paintable wallpaper!  It is available in patterns as well, but we use the plain flat liner.  It covers the wires and can be painted any color!

Kitchen when dollhouse was brought to us.

Kitchen with walls in place and covered with white wallpaper liner.
Kitchen room: you can see the tape wire on the floor where it goes to the walls, but cannot see the tape wire under the wallpaper liner!
Kitchen covered with wallpaper liner that was then painted (room will get crown molding so we did not paint right up to the ceiling).  This wall, to the right of the arch, had the imperfections mentioned in the paragraph below:

So customer gets her painted walls and her tape wire is all around where she needs/wants it!  I did have a momentary scare when I first painted the liner and three small bubbles appeared under the paper on the left wall, right up at the open end of the house where EVERYONE would notice it!  There was no disguising it.  I did not notice the bumps before I painted: had painting caused the bubbles?  did I use too much paint and wrinkle the liner?  were the bubbles there but not noticeable until the paint was on to highlight the imperfection?  I fretted for about ten minutes, trying to think of a solution.  Luckily a customer walked into the store right then and I had to walk away from the project.  When I returned a hour later, the bubbles had disappeared/laid back flat!

Also I have wallpapered the Living Room and applied polyurethane to the wood floors that will be some rooms.  Ever wonder what the Housework's Random Plank Flooring looks like once they have been sealed with polyurethane?  All the Housework wood floorings look much prettier than how they look in their packaging once they are sealed!  The grain really comes out and the color deepens.  So pretty!
Floors on left have been polyurethaned.  Yeah, I know polyurethane is not a verb, but I'm a rebel like that!
Floors up close.
Floors will go into this room.
And, for anyone that was laying away at night thinking about my arch issue from the last blog entry (looking at you, Cheryl! Love ya!), the solution was simple:  Lawbre makes an arch that fits over a 1/2" thick wall!  Just need to exchange the 3/8" arch for the 1/2" arch.  Yes, some days I need more coffee than others!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stuck in the Arch

Between helping customers in the store, taking inventories, placing orders for restock, straightening up the shelves, checking and packing up online orders, updating the website, and replying to emails, I try to fit in an hour or two of work each day on customer's houses in the store.  Since I only get to work for an hour or two, work is slow.  But I felt I made huge steps yesterday in cutting out the arch on the Harborside!  My I-drill (I love my I-drill!) worked great and I had the arch cut out within an hour - I was ahead of schedule!  Maybe I would also mix up the ceiling paint and start painting ceilings!  But first I should test fit the archway trim . . . .

Customer has a Lawbre arch for the doorway from the kitchen to the addition conservatory room.  I love this arch (not that my opinion matters for much, but there it is)!  I have it as well for my Victorian Fantasy dollhouse but have not yet installed it because my Victorian Fantasy dollhouse has a double wide opening so side walls must be cut out and the top opening of the doorway must be filled in before the arch will fit (i.e. lots of other work must be completed first so it hasn't gotten done yet).

On the Harborside Mansion though, it fit beautifully once I cut out a little bit off of each side:
Arch cut into main housebody.

Arch cut into addition wall.

Arch trim looks fantastic in the space!  Oh, wait, I have to put the addition onto the side of the house too and then put on the archway trim!  Oops.

The disappointment came after I had cut the arches and discovered that the Lawbre arch fits over a 3/8" thick wall.  But in this dollhouse it has to fit over the exterior wall of the main house body (3/8" thick) PLUS the addition liner wall of the conservatory (1/8" thick).

When adding an addition to a Real Good Toys dollhouse they provide a liner for the side that butts up against the main house.  If the dollhouse has milled siding, such as the Harborside Mansion, it covers the milling so that your interior addition walls are smooth for decor.  But it creates a thicker wall.  Now the arch does not fit.
Channel inside the arch trim will not fit over the two walls together.

Even when I press them together, the two walls are just 1/8" too thick for the arch trim.
Solutions?
Well, there's the first possibility: a labor intensive and risky solution of routing out the wall(s) or cutting out the liner in the exact shape of the trim so that the arch trim fits into a snug groove.

Lots of detailing to route out around precisely.

But there is so much detailed trim on the arch trim that cutting out for it will take time, a steady hand, more time, and lots of potential for mistakes that will have to be filled in with Spackle or wood fill.  It will also look poorly when the trim is not snugly in place (as cutting out will be done by hand so some parts will be jagged and uneven).  But it's possible.

Second possibility is to remove the addition liner wall (or cut most of it away so that only thin strips support the ceiling piece) and fill in the siding with Spackle so the milled nature of it is covered and painted smooth.  The wall is only 3/8" thick so the trim fits again:
With paper and a spare piece of crown molding I created the look I am trying to describe.  You have to imagine the rest of the conservatory is there (ceiling, floor, front wall, and other side wall).

Without the addition on it, the house will always look like this.
So the decor for the one wall of the conservatory will always be attached to the main house body.  Looks odd without the conservatory up against it, but how often will the conservatory not be up against the house?  During transportation and/or moving?  That would be okay.

However, what is not okay is that by removing the addition's liner wall, the corner of the ceiling has no support where it meets the back open end of the dollhouse.  What would the ceiling rest upon to keep it from sagging over time?  (Now, some other miniaturists have assured me that the ceiling would not sag - it is structurally sound due to cantilevering or something like that, but I am a worrier and cannot help feel that it would sag over the decades and my customer has too much invested in this to have a saggy dollhouse!).  My only solution to that potential future issue is to either 1. permanently attach the addition to the main house, nailing thru the walls into the conservatory ceiling/roof or 2. attach crown molding to the main house body so that the roof of the conservatory has a solid piece to rest upon (since we removed the liner it previously rested upon):

Ceiling/Roof piece would receive extra support from the crown molding if it needed it.

So today's hour or two will be spent debating pro's/con's of these two solutions while still drinking lots of coffee in hopes that a third option materializes in my mind!

Any suggestions, Mini Friends?  I would appreciate any thoughts!


Friday, November 7, 2014

Finishing up Halloween and Preparing for Christmas

So, it is less than three weeks until Thanksgiving . . . and my dining room table (as usual) is covered in miniature projects.  In my defense, not all the miniature projects are for me!  I have a customer's house sitting there, waiting for me to rewire it and wallpaper it.  There are 2 in-progress miniature projects which will be Christmas gifts for my 2 best friends.  And my daughter has some of her sewing project stuff on the table (but, yes, hers are easy to pick up and put away as opposed to the dollhouses which are harder to find space to put them).

The largest thing on the table is mine (Leaky Cauldron/Diagon Alley structure) and I have bits and pieces for another small project (a beach stall) I am working on when Leaky Cauldron frustrates me.  I know my husband will begin to make comments about how we need our dining room table back for Thanksgiving dinner, so within the next week or two I have to remove the larger structures at least.  The smaller things I can tuck away in various nooks and crannies in the living room and kitchen.

I do not want to put Leaky Cauldron away -- I procrastinated for almost 10 years in removing the old stone floor.  Now that it is finally all out, I don't want to delay another 10 years in finishing it.  And I worry that if it goes back to the dimly lit, scary, spider hotel (aka basement) it will be years before I work on it again.  So I want to get at least the floor done to try and maintain my motivation for working on it.  I had to restain the baseboard area as the plaster stone floor had discolored the previously stained wood:
New stain is a bit darker, but in the long run I think it'll be fine.
I planned on making a template at first to work on the flooring outside of the structure.  But the opening is so small the template wouldn't have fit thru the opening!  So I have to glue down the individual pieces of strip wood one at a time inside the structure.  Then I had the stumbling block of trying to fit flooring in places I couldn't see very well:
Gluing down the first few strips.
The narrow wall to the left in the picture above and the doorway wall on the right create a smaller opening for viewing the room.  My head and hands don't fit in the opening very well so I can't really see right behind these areas while I'm working on them.  So I am gluing down the strips and then returning to fill in the bare spots afterwards:
The threshold of the door needed a piece of wood.

Not the best fit (lots of gaps) but who's gonna see?
The only way to see back here is to stick in a camera and click a picture so I don't think anyone will ever really see the gaps, but yes, they do bug me.  I'm hoping that once I sand and rough up the floor (it's Leaky Cauldron pub - it's been around a while so the floors will not be all nice) that the gaps will look more appropriate -- if anyone ever really sees them!

Behind the narrow wall . . .

Needs a small sliver of strip wood . . .

This side finished off better than behind the door!
I still have a way to go, but the floor is slowly coming along (I warned you I work slow, sloth slow!).
Making progress but still have about half the floor to do.
I had wanted Leaky Cauldron to be finished by Halloween and (no surprise to me) that didn't happen.  I work best with deadlines though, otherwise I'd never get anything done, so I am giving myself this week to finish gluing down the wood strips, rough them up, age them, and then seal them.  Then it will return to it's resting place (the dimly lit, scary, spider hotel) until maybe next summer when I will try to get husband to help carry it back up the stairs so I can officially finish it by Halloween - of 2015.

At work I have been distracted by this little fun project in preparation of Christmas:
A red lantern that I thought needed an elf's desk!
This elf office was so much fun to put together!  The desk is the "Lilanna Youth Desk" by Bespaq.  I added some gold accent to the trim and began decorating it with some things an elf would have/need.  Being a youth's desk it is the perfect size for an elf!  It is still a work in progress (as are all my things, hence the name of this blog!) so the elf desk is still a bit bare and the chair is still on my work table (aka dining room table) waiting for its gold accent trim, but I wanted to share it with you partially finished . . .
My elf has an Elf on the Shelf!  And a gingerbread house kit he'll get to make someday (like me and my dollhouses!).

I love my little Santa snow globe!  It's the little things that make me stupid happy.

I have always admired these wreaths that I have for sale in the store; Finally have an excuse to own one!

Take down the Halloween decorations, prepare for Thanksgiving (and family birthdays in my house), and brace yourselves for the holiday season: 2014 is wrapping up quickly!