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 . . . .

Friday, March 22, 2019

Identifying Dollhouses

It all started when a customer brought in a dollhouse that she thought was custom made. I had worked on one before so I doubted the "custom made" label. But I had no information to offer the lady as my google searches did not reveal any pictures, details, or manufacturer name for the house. Eventually, after working on the same style house four different times for four different customers, I discovered it's manufacturer/name (Woodline Victorian Dollhouses)! And I began to wonder how many of the previous homes have I worked on have been custom vs. manufactured?

Here are some past dollhouses that I've worked on that I did not know at the time what they were....But I know now, thanks to this (new-to-me) 1980 catalog book:

This one we worked on twice and although I suspected it was a Walmer, I now have proof:  
First time it was in for exterior repairs and to paint the inside (shown here after we completed work)
Details from catalog book
Next time it was in for wallpapers and wiring repairs
Interior is a match!
We wallpapered this for a customer, and now I know it was called the Plumbrook Cottage (plans sold by Plaid Enterprises):

Cute little house!
Unique front opening access to that room
Open back (attic roof lifted up to reveal 2 rooms up there too)
From catalog book...
This Townhouse was in twice (first to fix electrical, then again to install the hinged exterior panel that son had broken off of house):
Complete with the hinged panel wall that son had broken off (seen here needing to be repaired still)
Such a stunning townhome!

It does appear as though the front door was replaced with a different door and that balcony above the front door is slightly different than the one pictured in the catalog book, but I do still think it's the same house.  Or maybe a later version of this house from the Superlative Doll Houses company.

The next house looked similar to Walmer's Brookshire...
But it had a mansard roof:
As it was when customer brought it to us

After we had done the renovations
Thanks to some google searching, I was able to determine it is a Walmer dollhouse that was called Old Town (also found it spelled Olde Town too).  But I could not find it in my 1980 catalog so I think it must be in one of the earlier or later catalogs (I will have to track down all the catalogs over time :) )

And, as fate would have it, we have two houses in right now for renovation/repairs that were from the same kit. They are the Duracraft Farmhouse 500.  (Not to be confused with the Dura-craft Farmhouse 505 which looks similar but has the front door on the front of the house and 2 single windows instead of double windows).
Grandmother brought us granddaughter's house to be fixed up
Interior will be re-wallpapered and new flooring installed (lighting will be checked too)
This Dura-craft was damaged in a move.  We'll glue it back together.
Dura-Craft in for repair work
Customer added the base this house sits on, but it is a Dura-Craft Farmhouse 500
Interior is mostly fine except the interior walls on the first floor need to be reinserted/glued
I will continue to identify houses I've worked on as I recognize them....

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Little Spaces: Part 1 of 6 (or so)

Late last year I came up with an idea to create multiple holiday scenes. But it was holiday season and I had no extra time to do any miniatures. So I dreamed, schemed, and took notes...and now it's time to create/play!

I want to create 6 (or maybe more...we'll see if it grows beyond the 6 in my head) different settings decorated for the season.  And it works out perfectly because I have 8 plexi-covers I'm currently not using so they can cover the scenes!  (So, yes, it can grow by two more scenes! LOL)

My first inspiration came from a friend's Facebook post of her awesome real life living room:
I love Carol's real life living room!
And, as luck would have it, I had recently come into possession of this NAME project someone had put together that looks very similar to the built-in in my friend's picture.  This was gonna be an easy-peasy, super quick project! (HA! Famous last thought!)
Window seat needs to be higher for a TV
So I think all 6 scenes will have common things: all will be the same size space, with 2 walls (a back and side wall) and a floor, a fireplace of some type, all will have a reindeer somewhere in the scene, obviously greenery and candy of some kind (chocolate or candy canes), a seat or sofa, and a window.  This first scene would be the "city Christmas" scene - with the built-in TV cabinet to replicate my friend's living room.

When I was first brainstorming, I thought the window would go on the back wall.  However, the cabinet is too long for the side wall so the cabinet HAS to go on the back wall.  But if I am putting the TV in the center nook of the cabinet to replicate friend's living room, I'll block the window that was planned for the back wall.  Where would the window go?  So window got moved to the left wall.  And now I needed to find a scene for out the window...This is beginning to sound like a miniature version of "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" (If I use the NAME project cabinet, I have to remove the window seat and raise the counter for a TV. If I put the TV there, I have to move the window.  Once I have the window in place, I need a scene for out the window.  Now that I have a TV cabinet along the back wall and a window on the second wall, where do I put the fireplace?)  I need a cookie now.
Window seat gone and now I can raise it up for the TV
I really wanted each scene to have a fireplace of some sort.  But with the cabinet taking up the entire back wall and the side wall dedicated to a window, there appeared to be no more space for a fireplace.  So, as you may have guessed, if the TV is up on the cabinet, why can't the fireplace go underneath?  This is a city apartment so they wouldn't have wood burning fireplaces; but they could have an electric or maybe even a gas-operated fireplace!  Flip a switch and instant fire.

Creating the electric fireplace and higher counter for the TV

Small 90-degree angle trim inset to hold plexi front in place

Painted interior black and exterior the same color as the cabinet

Can see better without the backing on.  Flames are way to small for this fireplace....
Unfortunately I still wasn't happy with the scene.  The TV still looks too low and there's too much dead space above the TV.  And flames need to be longer.  And I definitely need more cookies.
Still needs adjusting.
Found an old fireplace fender made out of flexible thin metal that I could cut with scissors!  I could put this under the fireplace, helping to raise it up, and it would look like those fan grates that circulate the warm air from the fireplace!

Just have to wrap it around a block of wood under the fireplace
Got longer logs and tested it with the higher height...
Better, but still not quite what I envisioned
Added one more shelf and now I think it looks right...
Wires for fireplace logs will be hidden once it is complete
Now it's all painted and I can start to add the Christmas d├ęcor (which I still have to make).  And I decided on a window scene and using spray adhesive I attached it to posterboard (so if I change my mind I can slide it out and change it).
And I had to replace the solid bulb that came with the fireplace with a flickering LED light so it would look realistic:

So my quick, easy-peasy project took over 2 weeks and I'm not even half done (as I still have to wallpaper, paint window trim and the small side table to match the cabinet, create curtains, install flooring, find/make all the remaining accessories, etc.). But at this rate, I may actually finish this 6-part (or more) project in time for Christmas 2019!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Keep on Cluckin'

Found some time to wallpaper!  So Cluckers was papered one day...
Itsy Bitsy hen-themed wallpaper
Looking to the left wall (mostly window)
The next day I stained flooring (those veneer flooring sheets by Classics and Houseworks) and turned them sideways to be ship lap up behind the shelves that will hold the "flair":
Ship lap in place
Shelving and brackets are up!
Had to trim out the window cuz I hated seeing the glue globs where the glass was attached to the outer wall...
Those glue globs were really bugging me
Stained wood now covers those blobs
Still have not found a good Cluckers's chandelier.  Had hoped to buy some glass chickens and put a light bulb between them to light them up and call it a chandelier, but the chicken arrived and it was quite large.  So it became Mother Cluckers's mascot and will have a place of honor above the door.

In the meantime, I spray painted the back kitchen area silver.

And stained the narrow back counter that will have the register and take-out bags on it.

My staining on the left is bit darker; It'll work fine though.
I used the American Chestnut Stain and Polyurethane All-in-One stain (as it matches the Bespaq New Walnut stain color of the booths and front counter; however I gave the counter two coats and I should have just done one so mine is a tad bit darker).  When I first opened the stain it had separated (the stain was gloopy on the bottom of the jar and the poly was on top).  But before I stirred it up, I dipped my brush into the top of the stain can and put a blop of the slightly stain-colored poly onto a paper plate along with some watered-down yellow and brown paints.
My painter's palette: I always use the best tools
My silver kitchen was way too clean where the grills would be...so I had to add some "grease" and food residue to the back wall.  Using a soft brush I smeared the light brown poly over the silver.  Once that had dried I used a stiffer paint brush (almost resembled a toothbrush) and dipped it into the yellow and brown paint washes.  I'd flick the bristles over the paper plate first to get off the larger paint clumps/drops and then I flicked it over the grill area.
Hope the health inspector isn't coming by any time soon!
I think it turned out pretty great.  It probably needs more down the front of the cabinet to be realistic, but I'm gonna pretend like the cook's apron keeps the front of the kitchen grill cleaner. LOL

I added a strip of LED lights to simulate a plate warmer for above the grill.
Order's up!
Needs more plates and glasses stacked up on top
I still need to glue all the chicken and rooster "flair" to the shelves.  Kitchen still needs more supplies (plates, mugs, glasses, etc).  And I have to make (or find) a soda dispenser machine to fit that space next to the coffee maker and I want to design and print off a logo to create take-out bags.  But those two projects, like the chandelier, can be on-going tasks for later in the year.

But right now I'm in the mood to start my next project(s)....all the cold weather and snow we've had these past two weeks has me thinking of the winter holidays.  I know, I know, I 'm about 3 months late (I'm always late), but I was too busy around the holidays to do any new holiday-related mini projects!  But I'm ready to blast the carols and eat candy canes now! Check back in a few more weeks!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Oh, Mother Cluckers!

This project started out as the Raw Chicken Country Kitchen: a little diner that served mostly breakfast foods, such as eggs (raw chicken = eggs? not really, but, whatever, I'll think about that later). This chicken-themed diner (to accompany my whole "street" of animal themed shops) was a small space so I wanted to give the illusion of a kitchen without having to create an entire restaurant kitchen.  I printed a lunch counter scene off of Google and thought it would work framed out on the back wall...
Maid is from mansion, but gives a good height representation for the kitchen scene
I also took out all my chicken themed stuff and had the realization that a lot of it was rooster related.  Thus the Raw Chicken Country Kitchen became the Raw Rooster Country Kitchen.  (Wait, do roosters lay eggs?  Hmmm, no.  So not sure that Raw Rooster is a good name....oh well, I'll think about that later.)  Framed out the kitchen scene to focus strictly on the pass-thru section...
This looks supremely bad
Yuck, no.  It's really small (1" x 3"), which I liked at first because I wanted the viewer's eye to focus on the diner (booths, foods, chicken themed items on the shelves); I don't want people to stare at the kitchen pass-thru.  But I felt like this small view of the kitchen almost invites people to stare at it and wonder why it's so small.  Even if the frame was painted silver (as I feel like most of those are silver) I think it looks like some weird photo the restaurant owner decided to have framed and hung on the wall, and not like a kitchen pass-thru.

Friend suggested I just put a faux door to give the illusion of a doorway to the kitchen.  But that wasn't thrilling me either. Then came the light bulb! It is a small diner: only 2 booths and a lunch counter for 3.  They would have just a small kitchen.  So why don't I create one on the back wall?  Last night I gathered my supplies...
Wood scraps, rulers, and my handy I-drill
Started cutting.  Made basic shape...
Shelves above for plates and food warmer; space below for fryers and grills
Adding some small trims to clean up the edges and dress it up a bit
Still needs work, but almost there....
It still needs sanding and to be spray painted silver, but it's looking decent!  Also, the name (Raw Rooster Country Kitchen) was really bothering me: eggs are not raw chickens nor do they come from roosters; so instead, no matter what name I use, it sounds like the diner serves uncooked meat or something.  Changed it to "Crazy Chickens Country Kitchen" which is surprisingly difficult to say.  Plus the decor has all sorts of poultry themed items: roosters, chickens, hens.  So neither "Rooster" nor "Chicken" Country Kitchen is going to be 100% accurate.  I know, I know: I'm really OCD'ing and overthinking this.  Who knew naming a place could be so involved?  LOL.

Then Friend saved the day with "Cluckers Country Kitchen", or as we have begun to nickname it: "Mother Cluckers".

So counter is in place and filled with some diner type items...
Blue Pepsi crate is a space holder for a soda dispenser I will have to make or find one to purchase.  And I need to get some mustard and ketchup squirt bottles to go next to the napkin holders.

This roombox is a front-opening shop that had a shelf connected to the front window.  I spent one evening during the week removing that shelf so a booth set would fit in the space instead:
Shelf was too low to be a counter so it had to go; made my line and started to cut
Front window glass was glued to it though so I couldn't cut shelf completely out without scratching or breaking the glass
Covered with trim to hide my messy cut
Roombox now has a booth in the front opening window space
View looking in the side window; sorry for the glare/reflection
View thru the front door
View looking in front window
That back corner will get a very narrow counter
There is some dead space behind the booth and next to the cooking counter.  Will put a narrow counter back there with a register and to-go bags (for the diner's booming take-out business).  Waitress/Cook better be skinny to fit between the booth and the counter - s/he will only have about a foot of space (1") to squeeze thru once counter is in place. LOL

So Mother Cluckers still needs a lot of work before she's ready to open for business.  Back counter needs to be painted metallic silver; narrow counter and soda dispenser needs to be purchased/made; walls need to be papered; and top 2" of the walls will get a shelf for chicken/hen/rooster themed stuff to decorate the diner (I believe it is called "flair").
Wallpaper has been chosen but couldn't be installed until I had back counter/kitchen area issue resolved
And, most importantly, I need to address the electrical components: I have to make the chicken/rooster themed chandelier and wire in the LEDs to the back counter to be the food warmers.  So we will visit this diner again later on in the month!  Until then: Thanks for stopping by! Come back again soon!

(P.S. Please note my extreme restraint: there was not one pun made using the word "egg" or egg-related terms (such as "scrambled")!  Aren't you all so proud of me?)