Sunday, 7 November 2010

I've been quiet because....

I've been hard at work preparing to launch my own business making miniature fire surrounds!

It's been a long time in development and it's meant I haven't had much time to work on my own dolls house but I've just launched the site and I hope it will be a success.

My first product is a Georgian style fire surround with faux marble insert and can be bought as a kit or ready made.
I'll be using the first one in my own dolls house and I hope that some of you might take a look at my site.

I've really enjoyed making my first product.  I've realised that this is where my passion lies and I would love my business to be a success.  I would therefore appreciate any feedback you may have on what you think of the website and the fire surround.

The intention is to expand to produce fire surrounds for all periods.

The finished article in one of the 4 available colours:

Georgian Style Marble Fire Surround

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Kitchen Dresser Finally Finshed! - July-August 2010

Firstly, welcome to my new followers.  I hope this post makes up for the long wait for an update.  I would have posted this a couple of weeks ago had it not been for making a huge mistake and having to rebuild my dresser - more on that in a minute!

So, after many long hours I've finally finished my Georgian kitchen dresser!

It started well.  I made the carcass relatively quickly and then spent some time making the little drawers.  My fiancĂ© then suggested I try it in my dolls house and unfortunately I then discovered my mistake - I'd made it over scale for a small dolls house kitchen.  I have learnt a valuable lesson -be careful when scaling off full size furniture as it's not always meant for small dolls house rooms!

Luckily, I know a man with the appropriate tools and he chopped half an inch off the width and the height so I still had most of my carcass intact and just had to re-glue the base on.  In the end, I also decided to make it shorter as well so I kept two drawers the same size and just made the little one smaller.  I think it works ok.

Today, I finally finished it. It has a chicken coop in the base (for those that are wondering what on earth it's for!) as the Georgians used to keep chickens in the kitchen as they thought they laid better if kept in the warmth during winter

I just need a few drawer knobs and some chickens :)

If anyone knows where you can get realistic chickens please let me know.  I've only found fairly crude ones so far that are too glossy to look real!

This is the chopped down carcass for the base and I've added a top to hide wood edges and finish it off nicely.

Base with scalloped trim.  I cut those with a knife then sanded them smooth.

Top shelf unit with decorative moulding - getting the mitred corners right was tricky.

Base unit with chicken coop - the middle section lifts up to let the chickens out / collect eggs.  The shelf is for them to roost on.
I used small pieces of paperclip wire to hinge the door.

Completed dresser minus the drawer knobs and a few coats of wax.

The dresser in situ in my kitchen.  Thankfully looking the right size now :)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Kitchen Table Update

I have now waxed my table which will protect the wood and brings out the colour.  I don't think these photos show it brilliantly though.

I also received a little parcel in the post today from a guy who I've become friends with recently through a common interest in dolls houses and wood turning.  Some of you from the dolls house forum will know who I'm talking about but for others, he's been stunning us recently with his miniature turnings of vases and kitchen items and has been getting a few commissions as a result.  Mine being on of them.
For anyone interested this is his shop on Etsy (Marketplace for handmade items):

He has made me a traditional Georgian mortar & pestle.  We found a photo (very limited information available) and he's made a miniature copy of it for me.
I thought I would share the photo of it in situ in my kitchen and also on the waxed table.

Table Unwaxed

Sunday, 11 July 2010

I have 30 followers!!

I just thought I'd make a quick post to thank all my 30 followers! :)
I started this thinking I would get a few and I've been amazed as the number has just kept going up.

I hope everyone who is following has found something of interest and that they enjoy my posts.  I will do my best to update it more often.

I am currently making a kitchen dresser so that may well be the next post on here.

Thanks again,


Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Kitchen Table - June / July 2010 (and a little turning for the Dangerous Mezzo)

I'm going against my usual and I'm posting something that's bang up to date!
The last couple of weekends I've been working on my kitchen table.  I ordered the wood a few months ago but had been busy on other things.

It was actually pretty quick to do as I'd ordered the wood from Wood Supplies again so it was all the right size, I just had to cut to length.

I had seen a magnetic jig idea in two articles, one in the free AIM magazine (If you've never heard of it it's quite a good little mag, published monthly online and with articles from members of Artisans in Miniature : and the other was in one of the other dollshouse magazine.

I thought it was a great idea - the very basic version is you get a piece of steel - baking tray or steel tea tray, stick down a sheet of graph paper and then, to keep your furniture or whatever square while it's gluing, you use the graph paper to line it up and then the magnets hold it in place.
I bought some door catches quite cheap from the local DIY store which have a really good pull to them.  Ideal.

In the end I found a shop on ebay selling a magnetic board with grid already marked out which was for crafts, making cards or holding down cross stitch patterns etc which sounded ideal.

It turns out it is perfect.  I stuck some small, but very powerful, magnets we had onto the bottom of two pieces of wood I'd bought to form a right angle corner and then the rest could be lined up to that.

I made the base frame of the table, with the legs first, as Georgian tables usually had a shelf for storage of pots and pans etc.  

You can see the grid of the steel sheet and the magnets in the photo above.

I then cut the pieces for the shelf and stuck those on:

The top was fairly easy.  Cut a sheet and chamfered the top edges then stuck that to the top.

The finishing touch was to add a frame under the top, between the legs:

And there we have it, a basic Georgian kitchen table.  Just need a few kitchen items to go on top!

Now, as a special treat for the Dangerous Mezzo, because she asked, her is a little vase I turned a few weeks ago, that for once, looks like it was supposed to look!
It's made from a small part of a Yew pen blank and polished.  It's actually darker in colour than the picture suggests - a rich brown.  It's not perfect, you can see the edges round the top are a bit chipped, but I'm still learning :)

Friday, 4 June 2010

Into the Fire Part 2 - Feb - March 2010

Firstly, sorry it's been so long before I've finished off this section.  I've been been busy woodturning but you'll have to wait until I produce something decent to see any miniature vases etc :)

I had always intended to make the grander fireplaces from wood and my disappointment in the finish of the plaster ones reinforced the desire to make something better.

I had been recommended a supplier on the dolls house forum: who has a fantastic selection of jelutong and other miniature sized wood.

Being a designer by profession I drew up in AutoCAD a design for my fireplace based on a project from a book and then ordered my wood.
I did have a couple of issues as I didn't allow for the firegrate depth properly and had to adapt my design while making it, but I'm sure we've all done that!

This is what I came up with:

The plinths are cut from skirting board (extremely fiddly to get the mitre cuts right) so when flush against the wall the skirting board will appear to run seemlessly around the room, I hope!

It has since been finished with the small gaps filled, sanded and painted with two coats of watered down white emulsion and three coats of Plastikote Satin White spray paint.  It looks really good but I haven't got a photo of it right now so I'll have to update this post later.

In the meatime, this is the fireplace in-situ in my dining room with real marble hearth and iron on floorboards with veneer inlay.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Into the fire Part 1 - September 2009

I have found that the best way for me to work on my dollshouse is to mix it up a little bit and work on different things so it doesn't get boring.  I could have chosen to do a room at a time or all the walls but it's making furniture and other items that I love the most.
That's why I decided to have a look at some of the fireplace items.

I looked at the option of plaster fireplaces for a couple of my rooms and spotted some plaster moulds for miniature fireplaces on Ebay.  I thought it would be a good way of making a few and possibly selling any extras but in the end I was disappointed with the end result.

Despite making a support frame for the mould it was very difficult to get the fireplace to come out square.  I've had to do a lot of carving off extra bits and sanding to get a half decent result so I'm not really happy with these.

This is what I produced:

Around the same time I bought a couple of kits from Phoenix Models who produce white metal kits that you glue together.  I decided that for my two main rooms - dining room and living room I would have grander fireplaces. 
I bought two Firegrates, authentic to the Georgian period.

Gluing them together proved to be slightly problamatic as I started off my using some  Araldite substitute from a pound shop and it was a mistake!
It took ages to dry and never really set properly so when I moved my models a couple of days later to paint them they fell apart!  Not good.

So off I went and bought some proper Araldite and boy did it prove to be worth the extra pennies.  Stuck in seconds and set hard so now I have two very solid firegrates.  Sometimes the branded product really is worth it!
This is them before painting.

Painting also proved to be problamatic.  I thought I would be able to just paint directly onto the metal after washing them to degrease and bought matt black Humbrol enamel paint.
Unfortunately, I found to my cost that the metal doesn't take the paint too well without a primer.  They were incredible patchy and the paint didn't stick properly.

I contacted Phoenix Models who were very helpful and sent me instructions.  The guy told me it was best to prime the metal using car spray paint primer.
The only problem was getting the Humbrol apint off so I was back to bard metal.  I soaked them in white spirit but it didn't do a very good job so I had to scrape most of the paint off.
Given how detailed the models are it was very fiddly and time consuming.  Not a job I'd like to repeat!

The primer worked a treat though and I now have two nicely painted firegrates.  You'll have to wait for part 2 to see the finished result ;)

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Making a Kitchen Range - Sept 2009

If someone says to you "kitchen range" you think of an AGA don't you?
If they then said "spit roast" you'd probably have an image of a whole pig being slowly turned over an open fire in a big open hearth in a castle kitchen somewhere.

Well, the Georgians were somewhere in between.  They seem to like to make my life difficult!  The majority of ranges that you can buy are Victorian or later.  I think I only found 1 or 2 examples, so I decided to make my own.

Finding examples of a Georgian kitchen range involved a fair bit of searching on the internet.  It seems they combined a basic oven and a boiler, heated by a coal fire in a fire grate. 

After not having much luck, I was given a tip by someone on the dolls house emporium forum who suggested looking at 'Salvoweb' an online salvage / antiques directory. 

I found a few possibilities on there and also found an example in the book 'The Authentic Georgain Dolls House'.  I finally decided on a combination of the example in the book and one I'd found on the Salvo website.

I made it out of balsa wood, being fairly cheap and easy to get hold of.  This is it in the early stages. 

And this is the range as it is now, awaiting final glueing, painting and a few finishing touches. 

It's not finished yet as I'm not entirely happy with some of the finish.  Balsa wood is so soft it's very easy to sand it too much and end up with curved pieces of wood.  I've since found a couple of useful tips for using a cutting mat and lining up the wood at 90 degrees to the edge of the mat and then using a snading block run along the edge of the mat to keep your edges square so I might try that and redo a few of the pieces.  It's always handy to have a practice run anyway as I tend to find the second try is always a vast improvement on the first, whatever you do!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Starting on the Ceilings – June 2009

I had painted all my ceilings with white emulsion and that was as far as it had gone until I read a topic on the Dolls House Emporium forum about making imitation plasterwork using Blown Vinyl / Anaglypta wallpaper.  I believe this is generally a well known technique.

So I toddled off to my local DIY store near work and got some samples of what I thought would be suitable wallpaper.   Some of it turned out to be better than others in terms of how easy the pattern was to cut out and the scale of the pattern.

I started the design based from the hole for the light as this will form the centre piece but as the rooms are deeper than they are wide it can be slightly tricky working the design in. 
I cut out the pieces of wallpaper to simulate plasterwork or if you have a suitable piece you can stick the paper on like a sheet.

It’s important to not move the pieces of wallpaper once you have decided on your design or you’ll never get them glued in exactly the same place!

I also remembered to leave a gap at the edge for my coving. 

I glued mine directly onto the painted MDF but you can also cut a piece of mountboard to size and glue that to the MDF once you’ve finished your ceiling.

I was really pleased with the results.

This is the dining room ceiling

The lounge ceiling

and the dining room in-situ

and finally, the link to the tutorial:

Monday, 8 March 2010

Starting the flooring – January to May 2009

As is often the case, there are numerous decisions to be made when decorating your own house and the same is true of a dolls house. Choosing the time period was easy, I always knew, once I saw the house that I wanted to keep it Georgian, but doing all the research takes time and making decisions isn't always my strong point.
There are so many options. You start with choosing between paint and wallpaper, but then you have to decide on your colour scheme and think about how furniture will look. All of us become miniature interior designers and I'm sure some are better at it than others.
For me, it's not one of my natural gifts so I have to work at it a little more, hence the extra time taken to decide what materials to use.
One of my first 'finds' was a shop on ebay (though he also has a website: that did all kinds of veneer flooring tiles. Graham was very helpful later on when I designed my own flooring for my dining room using his shape packs and iron on floorboards. More of that later….
I did the floors for the ground floor early on – the kitchen, hallway / entrance lobby and the library / study.
From dollshouse-tiles / toolshed22 on ebay I purchased some of their 'Marlike' tile packs so I had ½" square black and white marble effect tiles for the hallway / entrance and I chose the black and white tiles for the kitchen but in octagonal tiles.
They were easy to lay – spreading some PVA glue and then sticking the tiles down, a few rows at a time, but it was fiddly with the small pieces in the octagonal floor pack.

In progress:

Here are the results:

 I realised later that my kitchen floor is a bit grand…. Kitchens would have just had stone slabs, not shiny marble, but the tiles are well stuck now and there's room for the odd discrepancy J
I also wasn't happy with the wood flooring in the library / study as I tried to cut the iron on floorboards (from Bromley Craft Products: to emulate real floorboards but I've made it far too regular so I think I will have to redo that room.
For other rooms more recently completed I have laid the strips whole and will add joints / nail marks later. Info on those will come in a future update J

Monday, 1 March 2010

Adding some colour - May 2009

Having started the exterior and done my trial piece on the back I then hit a wall where I was so worried about making mistakes that I wasn't doing anything.  It was time for a change of tack...

The interiors of most Georgian houses were painted.  Although wallpaper was available it was imported and it only really become common in the Victorian period.  In the Georgian period it was so expensive that only the richest owners could have afforded it.
As I'm not trying to go for a mansion but more of a grand townhouse I decided to paint my interiors.

Georgian paint colours were rather dull.  Pigments were expensive so colours were limited to the cheaper pigments.  Colours were generally creams, browns, dull greens and burgundy.  By the Regency period colous had got a bit lighter and brighter greens and soft blues were available.

The easiest way to reproduce these colours in my dolls house was to buy 'period colours' that are available from some of the paint manufacturers.
I chose to go with '1829' by Craig & Rose which helpfully name their colours by period such as Regency Cream.  It's also available in my local B&Q.
Because the pallet of colours is fairly limited I went for Regency Cream, Deep Adam Green, Pompadour and Burgundy Leather.
Unfortunately the Burgundy Leather was so dark it wasn't suitable for the small room size of a dolls house so I used artistic licence and went for a later period with a paler shade - Mackintosh Mauve.  It's not very authentic but it does look much better in my small room!

I have repeated the colours for my 9 rooms - the hallways are all Pompadour (a pale blue) and the other colours are in the main rooms.

I started by painting all the interior walls and ceilings with white emulsion.  This seals the MDF and gives your colours more depth.
I got a bargain in B&Q - two mini rollers and a paint tray for £1.  The gloss roller (the sponge one) gave a nice smooth finish and the size was perfect for covering the walls quickly and with little mess.  I needed a couple of coats but I got a nice smooth finish.
I could then paint the walls.  These photos still show the burgundy colour before I used the lighter mauve but you get the idea.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

First Steps - Jan - Feb 2009

After the excitement of opening the boxes on xmas morning and checking everything was there, the first step was to do a dry build.
This means assembling the house without gluing and in my case requiring an extra set of hands and some masking tape!

This photo shows the house without the roof and chimneys.

I then sized the MDF to make it less absorbant.  You can buy MDF primer but I used the cheap option which is 50:50 PVA glue:water.

I had got a few presents for my dolls house for xmas which included a large stencil for the brickwork and brick compound from Bromley Craft Products.
My research had indicated that Flemish Bond brickwork was prevalent in the Georgian period so I had chosen that for my stencil.  After having a practice I did the back of the house early on as I knew it wouldn't matter too much if I messed it up!
It's a great product - you get a bag of brick compound which is like a fine sand and I chose a red brick colour though you can have a few variations.
You then mix it up with a little water to make a paste which you spread over the stencil.

For those interested in trying this out I learnt a few useful tips.....

1) Get the large stencil if you can - covers surfaces much quicker!
2) Get a good spray adhesive to stick the stencil down with - I used a Bostic spray though there are a few available.  If it's not stuck well the compound can bleed under the edges.  Re-spray before each application.
3) Getting the right consistency requires a few attempts - if it's a bit thick you end up with a very thick layer over your stencil which is difficult to spread and you have a lot of sanding to do afterwards.
4) Use a pallet knife with a reasonable sized head - it makes spreading the compound much easier.
5) You have to wash the stencil after each application - it's a bit messy and leaves sand / brick particles round the plughole.  Maybe a bucket would be better..... hmmm...
6) You needs lots of paper towels to dry the stencil!
7) Let the compound dry for a while before doing the next section - it makes it easier to match up the brickwork if it's not still wet.
8) Try and get a thin, even coating over the stencil - it requires much less sanding afterwards - something for me to remember for my next lot of brickwork!
9) (note to self)  Try not to drop the compound on your wood before laying the stencil......
10) You may have to tidy up a few edges - it scrapes away very easily to get the grout revealed.

This is how it turned out - it's still drying at this stage hence the different colour depths. 

A close up of the sanded brickwork a few days later.  Looks pretty good.

I used a light grey paint for the grout colour - you can get sample pots from your local DIY store very cheaply and emulsion works great.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Getting Started - January 2009

The Georgian period spans from 1714 to 1830 charting the reign of King George I, II, III & IV and encompasses the Regency period. 

It was a time of social change and new influences brought about exciting developments in architecture.  There were many people of great influence during this period and you will certainly have heard of the names. 

Most notably there was the architect Robert Adam; Capability Brown the landscape designer; the artists John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough and the furniture makers George Hepplewhite & Thomas Chippendale.  Jane Austin also wrote about this period in her novels. 

I wanted to try and be as accurate as possible with my Georgian dolls house but it is harder than it looks!

For a start, you have several different and unique periods and styles during the Georgian era from early Georgian simplicity to Regency grandeur.

I started by doing some research on the internet and with books.  I also asked on The Dolls House Emporium forum. 

Most people seem to favour the Victorian period as this is more widely known and more miniature furniture is Victorian style. 

I found some good reference books either by searching or as recommendations.  If, like me, you want to do a Georgian dolls house these books are worth a look:

The Georgian Group Book of the Georgian House by Steven Parissien

Georgian House Style Handbook by Ingrid Cranfield

Once I had done some research, which I must admit, took longer than it could have as I was nervous about making mistakes, I got started.....

The Beginning - Dec 2008

It was an afternoon in late October when the new Dolls House Emporium catalogue dropped through my letterbox with special offers of 50% off selected houses.

Wow, I thought, this is my chance to buy a dolls house after so many years of being interested in the hobby but finding the kits a bit too expensive.

I chose a kit called Montgommery Hall which is one of the medium sized houses. It was just the right combination of room sizes and had a proper stairway.

I rang up to order it in November, speaking to a very freindly lady who tried to convince me to buy the 'Quickstyle' version that comes with the exterior decorated. "But decorating it is the fun part" I said.

It was to be my xmas present so although it arrived within two days, it was delivered to my boyfriend's parents house and I didn't see it until xmas morning.

It was very exciting opening up the boxes. I got a bit of a surprise as to how big the house is. Although I'd had a tape measure out and roughed it out it's never quite the same as seeing it for real.

Over xmas I put it together as a dry build with help from my boyfriend and started planning.

It is a Georgian style property so I decided to go with that period and take up the challenge of recreating a Georgian period property.

I've thought a blog would be the best way to record my progress and share it's construction with anyone who would like to read it. I've only just decided to write this so although it's 2010 I've been working on my dolls house since January 2009.

Comments are always welcome.