One-Day Project #2–Antiques (Junk) Store

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Back to the storefront box I bought at the dollhouse and minis auction in November. I cleaned it up, went through my many boxes of stuff, and made a junk store . . . pardon me, an antiques shop. Great way to display items rolling around in boxes, and if I need one for a new setting, I know where to find it. Scroll for photos.

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The store offers a selection of mirrors and old photographs as well as walking sticks and umbrellas, and a clock I made from scratch (one of the first pieces I made myself).

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Shelves are filled with items I’ve stashed over the years: from an artisan made candlestick phone to the Dolls’ Cobbler shoes to a stereoscope from an old Chrysnbon kit. I seem to have a plethora of non-working oil and kerosene lamps too.

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Here you can see some of the Christmas items I pulled out of the original store: Gingerbread houses, Santa-in-a-box toy; and Santa pull toy.

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Needed a close-up of the demon cat. I bought this at a show because it reminded me of the terrorizing kitty I had at the time. She sadly passed away, but I have this green-eyed demon cat to remind me of her.

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One-Day Project #1–Half-Scale Trailer landscape

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Sometimes I like to do a mini project that takes only an afternoon, not weeks (or months)! I finally found a display box the right size for the half-scale trailer and fixed up a little scene. (Husband actually spied box in The Container Store–he has a good eye; I totally missed it.)

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This trailer obviously has been here a while (as indicated by the dead grass beneath and the weeds growing around the rocks behind the wheels and hitch, not to mention the blocks holding up the other end). Maybe it’s a retired couple who have decided not to go anywhere too quickly. Why, when you can read a book and sip iced tea in the sunshine?

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Colonial House–Furnishings

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At last, I was able to move the furniture back into the Colonial house. The full house:

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Almost all furniture is from House of Miniatures kits, except the ladderback chairs downstairs and ladderback rocker upstairs, which I bought as a set in Hong Kong.

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Wall shelf and many accessories came from the boxes I purchased with the Blue House B&B.

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When I wanted to add a couple of pieces or accessories, I discovered that the mania for Colonial style miniatures is long gone. Interesting how tastes change over the years. When I first started, it was Colonial and Victorian, not much else. Then came French then Arts & Crafts (w/ Art Deco and Art Nouveau), and now there’s a lot of country, French country, and modern.

However, I did manage to find a beautiful Bible box table on Etsy from Calico Jewels, and a chamberstick w/ candle and snuffer from aMusing Miniatures. I’m loving Etsy for finding gorgeous, unique handcrafted furniture and accessories (scroll down for closeups).

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In this closeup, on a House of Miniatures candle stand is a chamberstick plus candle and a snuffer by aMusing Miniatures.
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Closeup of Bible box table by Calico Jewels. I even had a big Bible to put inside!

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Flooring How-To–Make a Beautiful and Durable Floor

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I don’t think it shows up well in the photos, but the hand-laid floors on the Colonial house were very nice, even after 25 or so years. I had planned to demolish this house and use the furnishings elsewhere but the floors changed my mind. I knew I’d never take them out without damaging them, so the Colonial tavern / house got a new life.

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Almost everything in this house was made by hand (i.e., my hands), with very few commercial products purchased for it. At the time, I couldn’t afford anything but basic materials, which in retrospect is a good thing. Having to do everything myself taught me a lot.

Instructions for floor building below:

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Materials:

1/2″ x 1/6″ basswood strips (or wood type of your choice)
Waxed paper
Stain (Minwax is best)
Varnish (Minwax makes good varnishes for their stains)
Glue (white glue or wood glue)

To decide how many wood strips you need, measure your dollhouse floor. 1/2″ bassword strips, which are sold at most hobby stores, come in lengths of 24″ (2 feet).

If your floor was 10 x 10, you’d need twenty cut 1/2″ strips to cover the floor back to front. Because the strips come in 24″ lengths, one strip will be good for two boards. Therefore you need ten strips, but always get a couple extra.

1. Cut a sheet or sheets of waxed paper to be about 1-2 inches larger on all sides than your floor.

2. Place the waxed paper into the room to be floored. You can secure with tape if you want, but you’ll be pulling this out again.

3. Start cutting boards and laying them the room, on the waxed paper, starting at the rear and working your way forward.

Note: Whether you lay the boards to run parallel with the room’s  opening or  back to front is up to you. In a real house, you lay them to be horizontal to the longest wall. In a dollhouse, it depends on the look you want. I have long narrow halls where the boards are laid side to side the short length, and it looks nice. In the colonial house, I laid the boards to parallel the opening in both rooms.

4. For “random” flooring cut the boards at random lengths, butting them together at the ends. (You can cut all boards the same size instead, if you like, which looks nice, but if you’re going for the rustic look, random is better).

5. When you have all boards cut to fill the room solidly, carefully slide out the waxed paper with the boards intact and lay the whole thing on a work table.

6. You’ll need to tack the boards to the waxed paper with dots of glue or double-stick tape for the next step (you can tack it as you measure and cut the boards inside the house, but if you’re like me, they’ll come unstuck when you pull out the waxed paper and you’ll have to do it again anyway.

7. Make sure the boards are laid out on the waxed paper exactly as you want them in your room. You can squeeze the boards close together or leave small gaps; it’s up to you.

8. Sand the floor. I recommend a fine sandpaper (150) followed by a very fine paper (300 or more). Use a tack cloth or a damp cloth to wipe the boards clean of sanding dust. Make sure they are perfectly dry.

9. Stain. I love that Minwax has come up with stain pens which make the staining process a lot less messy. However, using stain pens means you have to stain each board one small mark at a time. Brushing on stain from a can will be faster!

10. Brush on the stain (or use the pens), then wipe the stain from the boards for even coloring. Let the stained floor dry for at least 24 hours.

11. Sand the floor again, using 300 sandpaper. Wipe clean.

12. If your floor needs a second staining, do that now and let dry at least another 24 hours.

13. Apply a thin coat of Minwax varnish. (If you love spray varnish, that will probably work–I’ve never tried it, and I’m relating how I did the original floors, when I could afford Minwax and a paper towel.)

14. Let varnish dry 24 hours.

15. Sand lightly with 300 or finer sandpaper.

16. This is an optional step, but one I did. Apply a glaze stain over the varnished floor. I used the old House of Miniatures finishing glaze stain, which is a very dark oil-based glaze that adds a depth of color. I have no idea if anyone makes the HoM glaze anymore, but a hardware store with a good paint / stain section will probably have glazes.

17. If using the glaze, brush on, wipe off, and let dry 24 hours, and then do another light sanding w/ very fine paper.

18. If you’re satisfied with the way the floor looks, pull it off board by board and glue it into the dollhouse room  exactly as it was on the waxed paper. (You’ll give it another coat of varnish once it’s laid in the room and dry.)

19. Cover with a sheet of waxed paper and press a large book or other good, wide weight over the whole floor. Let dry for–you guessed it–24 hours.

20. Remove weights and waxed paper.

21. Another very light sanding. Wipe clean, finish with another coat of varnish.

22. Let dry 24 hours.

23. Polish with 0000 steel wool or very, very fine sandpaper (I’ve seen people recommend a brown paper bag, though I’ve never tried this). Wipe clean.

Enjoy your floor! It’s not difficult, and the most time consuming part is letting it dry. It’s a week to a lovely floor.  But worth it. This floor will last a lifetime.

Yes, you can buy commercial flooring that you cut to fit your room in one piece. But looking over my older dollhouses, the hand-laid floors are still absolutely beautiful, while the commercial flooring looks ok, but just ok, and nowhere near as real. A hand-laid floor will make your dollhouse an heirloom.

Colonial — Interior

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The interior was a big mess! As stated in the previous post, the floors were great. I had hand laid and hand finished them, and they stood the test of time (twenty-something years?). I’ll do a post on how I made them–pretty straightforward.

As for the rest–I stripped out all the woodwork, sanded walls and ceiling, repainted, replaced most of the woodwork (a few pieces I restained and reused).

Downstairs: Purchased a new fireplace and added a brick chimney. For fun, I added a little door that goes down to a root cellar (honest, it does).

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The fireplace is one of the few commercial products in the house (except for door and downstairs front window, which are Houseworks). When I bought it, though, it was brown. I took it out of the box, and it said, “I am Brown!”

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Unfortunately, the rest of the brickwork in the house was aged red brick. Fortunately, this fireplace easily takes paint and aging. I dabbed it all over with brick red and burnt umber (which was actually a lighter brown than the fireplace!), then aged with antique white and a Ceramcoat paint called latte that I had in my paint box.

The painted and aged fireplace:

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The original downstairs fireplace, I moved upstairs (replacing one I’d purchased a long time ago that screamed modern suburban instead of colonial American).

This fireplace I made those many years ago from scratch, using 1/4″ wood strips for the bricks and 1/16 square strips for the mortar (cut into tiny pieces!). Paint and aging make it look like brick.

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The house is now ready for move in! More on the floors and pics of the finished house to come.

Colonial house restoration–continued

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Moving on with redoing the colonial house. The facade is done (below). I put acrylic panes in the windows (originals had none), and bought a new door.

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I also added shutters and shutter hooks for a more finished look. The upper windows I’d made from scratch, using instructions in the book Building Miniature Houses and Furniture by Dorie Krusz (I encourage anyone to look up that book or the website with the photos–lovely house!)

The windows are put together from wood strips, the main frame notched in the corners. The mullions are made from 1/16 strips cut the length of the window, and then each are notched to fit into the perpendicular strips to form a grid (instead of cutting each tiny mullion separately). The resulting window is strong.

You can make these single-paned as I have, or double hung. The windows were in perfectly good condition, one of the best things in the house. I added acrylic and a simple frame in the back.

Close-up of one of the windows is below.

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This is the back side of the facade.

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The back looks much better than it used to! Smoothed, repainted, trimmed.

The sides I’d painted then drawn on bricks, gray blocks for the main walls and red / brown regular brick on the foundation. One side still looked great, the other needed a repaint. Also had to take off old hinges and replace them (went with four this time instead of only three).

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I also repainted and aged the “Magic Stone” sidewalk, added and aged the brick stairs, and replaced the front foundation. Repainted the roof and all the trim too.

Next, refinishing the inside. Everything had to be redone except the floors.

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