Cool Auction Find #2–Quarter-inch scale English Cottage

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In my last post, I said that I’d bought this English Cottage at auction “accidentally.” True. When this lot came up, no one was bidding on it. I thought “I’ll click one bid and kind of get things going.” Click. Congratulations! You have won the bidding! Next lot . . .. Oops.

I wasn’t that bothered–the picture showed a cute 1/4 scale house, and I could put it on the long table behind my sofa with my other 1/4-scale houses. What I didn’t realize was it’s on a base that’s about 2 feet x 2 feet!

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As you can see. But as I started “walking” around the property, gluing back bits that had come loose in shipping, I began to appreciate the amazing creativity that went into building and landscaping this house. Scroll for pics and click for closeups!

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The tree on the right side of the house has a swing for fun on summer days.

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The front door is approached through a cottage garden and stone walkway.

English cottage front door

An arch with purple flowers outlines the front door.

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A rose climbs around the front door, blue hyacinths (or maybe hydrangea or irises) grow under the window, and a pot of geraniums perches on the windowsill.

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View of the right side of the house from the vine-covered stone wall that separates house from road.

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Following the wall around to the right side of the house.

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Pull-back view of right side of house.

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Going around the tree with swing, we see that this family not only has a lovely flower garden, they have an extensive vegetable garden as well.

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Looking at the veg garden from the back. Hard to get a closeup, but they have carrots and lettuce growing here. I puzzled a bit over the stick trellis as I glued it back together, then I realized–they’re bean poles! Growing up in cities in arid climates, I’d never seen one before. Now I know why we refer to thin people as “bean poles”. (See? I learned something via miniatures.)

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The inhabitants of the house have a garden shed, complete with tools (which you can see leaning on the door in the previous pictures). They also have a well.

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The covered well, complete with rope and bucket.

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Pull-back view of the left back side of the house.

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Photo is a little blurred, but behind the clump of trees on the left side is a little pond with a swan and a bench beside it. Another nice refuge on a hot summer day.

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Continuing around the left side back to the front.

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Left front garden. An extensive flower garden!

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A closeup of the brilliant flowers. I don’t usually like figures in my scenes, but these two–the woman and kneeling gardner–go well with the house.

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The front door. Let’s go inside.

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The interior was a bit difficult to photograph, which is why I don’t have many pics, but click them to see what you can. The walls are finished with “whitewash”, with little pictures on them. The furniture is cozy and overstuffed. Most of the furniture is plastic–this house was done in the late 70s, early 80s, I think, and the plethora of quarter-inch things we have now wasn’t available. But the furniture is very well finished and goes with the house.

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Floor is nice stone. If you can see the skirted table on the right, it has breakfast waiting with a tea cozy over the teapot. Plants decorate the deep windowsill.

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Upstairs is a big bedroom with a bathroom in the corner.

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I love the detail of the water heater over the bathtub. Before houses had one big heater for the whole house, each appliance had its own heater to heat up just enough water for what you needed (bathing or doing dishes in the kitchen). The house I lived in in Germany had separate water heaters in bath and kitchen, which had to be filled with water and the heat turned on in advance.

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The bathroom corner is screened from the bedroom (I removed the screen in other pictures so you could see where the stairs came up).

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Bedroom side with cozy four-poster waiting to be snoozed in.

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Here’s a closeup of the thatch and chimney. I like how the chimney is crumbling and crooked.

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The thatch is made of some kind of straw-like material, I’m not sure what. It’s well done, with good texture.

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The stone wall that goes all the way around the house is incredibly detailed. Hours/days/weeks/months of work went into this house and garden. Remember, this is all quarter-inch scale (1/4″ = 1 foot), so it’s tiny!!

This house sits in my workshop on a shelf, and since I’m in my workshop room every day, I get to gaze at it. I’ve fallen in love with this little house. A happy accident!

Cool Auction Find #1 Japanese House

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This little Japanese house (about 1/4″ scale) is made of black bamboo wood, and was purchased in Kyoto, Japan in the 1950s. It was up for auction with a vast collection of miniatures this past October. I lived in Japan for a while, and I loved this house the minute I set eyes on it (on the photo on the auction site). Fortunately, not many of the bidders were interested, and I snagged it quickly for a fairly low price. Make sure to click the photos throughout this post for larger versions. The detail is amazing!

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We start at the front gate.

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Left side of the house from the gate.

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Outside side wall.

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Outside back wall. Traditional Japanese houses present blank walls to the street (modern ones do too for that matter) with the elegant part of the house reserved for those let inside the gate to the garden and beyond.

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Garden and the front entrance to the house.

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Side of the house.

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This is the outside (street side) of the house with a glimpse of the step between the private part of the house to the bathroom (wall on the right).

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The house is a bit like a puzzle. The front gate, as you see comes out of its slot.

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Front gate removed to show the garden side of the house.

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The roof comes off as well. Under the peaked roof is the beamed ceiling, which also comes out.

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Inside, showing tatami mats pulled out of place.

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Bare floor minus tatami.

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The entire floor also comes out.

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Niche for a scroll and ikebana (flower arranged in vase–I’ll have to find or make one of those).

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Tatami mats are simulated with polished wood.

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The floor taken out of the house. The wooden blocks on the far side represent the cabinets where the bedding, seating cushions, and other accessories for life are stored. Traditional Japanese houses are very clean and uncluttered, which, looking around the mess of my own house, sounds like a good idea!

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The tatami mats fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

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Mats and floor back in place.

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The details are wonderful. The shoji screens are made of bamboo wood and paper . . .

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. . . and slide open and closed.

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Shoji on the side of the house.

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Now, here’s another detail I didn’t understand at first. I puzzled over what this door was for . . .

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Open, it reveals a stack of wooden panels, which come out.

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And then I said, “Aha!” The panels slide in across the porch to shield the shoji.

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There. Now if there is bad or cold weather (or maybe an attacking samurai), the inside of the house is shielded.

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The cabinet for the solid wood screens that go across the front of the house.

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Geta waiting to be worn so the inhabitants can step into the garden across the stepping stones.

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The house with the pieces taken apart.

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Looking along the side of the house and the all-important facilities.

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The shed that houses the necessary also pops out of its slot.

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The washing-up area on the right side.

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The very necessary (the rather impolite word for it is benjo).

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Putting the pieces back together. First the under roof (beamed ceiling) that fits into smooth slots.

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Then the roof, which fits snuggly into slots around the ceiling. No glue necessary.

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View from the top with everything restored.

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The front garden is kept private by bamboo (or similar plant) growing inside the fence.

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I’m very pleased with this little house. I ahhed and ohhed when I unwrapped it. It was lovelier than I thought. I have seen one or two like it around the auction sites and ebay, but this is the best-kept house I’ve seen with no damage at all. I will try to keep it as nicely.

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Next, I’ll share pictures of the quarter-inch scale English cottage I accidentally bought at the same auction.


This is a project I worked on over the holidays. I usually like my dollhouses to be pretty and neat (unlike my own house), but sometimes I like good old grunge.

I call this “OUT OF TP”
(Click for larger images; scroll down for “how-I-did-it”)

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The paper on the back sides of the box is scrapbooking paper I found I think at Hobby Lobby (or maybe Michaels). It’s called “Vintage Memories” and put out by I thought it went well with the theme.

How I Built it:

This project started out with two things–the Chrysnbon bathroom kit (obviously) and a floor and wall I’d put together in a class at the 2013 NAME convention. I had only one wall–I built the other out of matte board, with quarter-inch studs sandwiched between two pieces of matte board.

The NAME class was on aging and faking things with paint (taught by Ed Mabe). I used what I learned in that class plus the aging techniques for the Arch de Provence house ( to finish this project.

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Floor was painted gray and spatter-dashed with white, gray, and black paint (old, stiff-bristled brush to scatter the droplets of paint). I used the same technique to put spots on the mirror. This is a messy process. 🙂

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The “broken” mirror: Though the Chrysnbon kit comes with a mirror for the medicine cabinet, I couldn’t bring myself to crack a real mirror (don’t need that bad luck). I used a piece of mirror-like paper (used the same paper for The Big House second floor hall), and broke it by scoring it halfway through with an X-acto knife. I used a very thin-tipped marking pen (dark brown) to go over the score so the break could be better seen.

The towel hanging from the bar over the sink is a piece of cross-stitch fabric, with a few rows pulled off to make the fringe. I soaked it in the dirty paint water, let it dry, and bent it over the bar.

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Palette for grunge: I stuck with warm colors on this one (browns and greens), rather than cools (grays, blues, black), wanting it to look inviting and cozy, even if it’s a dirty bathroom!

Colors I used for aging color washes: Black green; burnt umber; burnt sienna; light ivory; antique white; and a color called latte (a few shades darker than antique white). I started with the light colors (light ivory), and watered down the darker paints to wash over the base coat. I used black green to streak the “wooden” parts of the toilet and medicine cabinet, and also the floor. (Black green is a wonderful paint color–good for aging but also looks good used on cabinets and furniture (see kitchen of The Big House.)

Painting Chrysnbon: Chrysnbon is plastic, and most people use a good spray paint on the kit pieces at least for a base coat, but I don’t have any spray paint or really any place to spray. I find that sanding the plastic pieces first will let acrylic paint stick to them. I painted the white pieces light ivory and the “wood” parts burnt umber. I figured if the paint didn’t stick entirely, it didn’t matter for this project.

Empty toilet paper rolls: A strip of card stock about 3/8″ wide by an inch or so long. I wet the card stock, bent it around a toothpick until it formed a roll, trimming end so roll wouldn’t be too thick, and gluing it to itself. Afterward, it got painted with a mixture of burnt umber and latte paints. (I could probably have painted the card stock first, but I was making this up as I went along.)

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My rule for this project was–I could use only what was in my storage cabinets and buy nothing new for it. Everything was from scrap or those things I’d stuffed in my cabinets to use “someday.” I’d been thinking about doing a grungy bathroom for a while, and when I saw the unfinished floor/wall, plus the leftover bathroom kit in my cabinet (I’d used the bathtub elsewhere) I said, “Someday is today.” (The door, btw, is the original front door to The Big House.)

I’m displaying this, of course, in the bathroom.