Archive for December, 2008

If you are intending to build a dollhouse,four simple things will make your life alot easier:

  1. Use prefab windows and doors – then all you have to do is cut out a hole in the right size and put them in.

    The amount of time, frustration and effort you spend faffing around making your own windows is…significant. This is compounded with the amount of time, frustration and effort anyone restoring a “custom” dollhouse will experience.

    Unless you are an architect, engineer or mad miniaturist, let the experts (ie the architects, engineers and mad minaturists) do all the hard work.

  2. If you are buying your doors and windows (you sensible person, you) put them into the internal walls before you put the internal walls into the house. This also applies to wallpapering and painting – do it before you put everything together.

    That is, unless you have access to a 1:12 tradesperson who can get into the finicky little corners you can’t because they are the right size.

  3. Buy all your doors and windows at the same time and do not cut a single hole for them until you have them.

    Don’t ask silly questions, just do it. I read it somewhere and I am sure it will save trouble…

  4. When out buying MDF for your internal walls consider this: the depth of the wall will depend on the depth suited to any internal doors and windows…

    Having just bought the MDF without that vital statistic, I am currently too scared to go back to the ebay sellers site and find out if I was right…or wrong…about the depth I needed.


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Phase two – pass the putty please…

It’s the festive season and I am having a putty party at my place!

I don’t know why I bought two putty knives – I used the same one to putty the windows and holes that I used to strip the wallpaper.

Mind you – I bought one because my Dad has one just like it so it was probably a good one to have (it’s kind of curved and straight) and one that I thought would be useful for straight lines as it’s totally straight. So far I have used the latter for everything.

Concealer has been applied to the complexion

As you can see, concealer has been applied to the lady's complexion

There are some balsa wood surrounds and window inserts missing and I haven’t sourced a supply yet, but will probably do that at the later stages.

There are only two/so insert parts missing, so it should be cool and as long as I do it before the paint goes on it should be fine. It will also be a bit neater, this phase was just to fill holes in the surrounds and where I pulled nails out (the ones for the floors and the roof).

I also aquadhered (once an addict, always an addict) some of the inserts back in place – the ones that were loose. Next stop…sanding…

Current mood: all puttied out.

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Explaining some boundaries for the restoration work…

You may be wondering why I am not doing too much to the outside of the house. Let’s face it – if I am restoring it, now is the time to strip it back completely.

While I will endeavour to replace and repaint the balsa windows on the front and back and I am certainly messing with the roof, I don’t think I will touch the outside paper for a couple of reasons:

Firstly I would like something to remain intact and unaltered, only restored, from the house my grandfather made for me. It continues the connection to him and what he made for me. It may not be be perfect but it’s mine and he made it for me.

Secondly, even if I wanted to, there is a brick paper I can’t find the pattern for. I can find the red brick pattern on the sides, but not the crazy brick on the front. This may change as I go along (the front and back are a bit ratty) but we’ll see.

Thirdly, I haven’t taken a picture of it yet, but there is a handpainted flower on the side that either my grandfather, grandmother or uncle (I must ask him if he recalls who) painted over it. Once I repaper, that’s gone…forever.

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…or at least my dollhouse does.

Phase one of the restoration has commence and been ?successfully? completed…

Still backtracking, trying to get you up to date on the “renos”, I pulled out the second and third floors (or as you would call them the first and the second floors) and stripped as much of the wallpaper of as I could.

I had to save some bits of the paper as some bright young thing decided to aquadhere “artwork” to the walls (cards, posters and etc); and I wanted to save a couple of them for posterity.

Nekkid lady

Nekkid lady

The wallpaper put up by my grandpa (which was real wallpaper and certain was a reflection of the wallpapers abounding in the early 80’s) came off pretty easily.

My added decorations (applied with aquadhere – from memory i loved it so much I stole my Dad’s 5L container of it) were a bit more firmly attached.

Luckily I had bought not one but two putty knives (wasn’t sure what type I would need), so I used one as a scraper to get off the worst of it.

Why, oh why couldn’t my pre-teen self have fallen in love with Clag instead of aquadhere? I suspect that some of this wallpaper (particularly the graph paper bathroom) wouldn’t come off in a nuclear blast…

Close up of the grande dame

Close up of the grande dame

I also took off alot of the outside window surrounds – these were not pre-fab windows, granpa made everything from scratch. They are made of  balsa wood and many have come off over time anyway (obviously they don’t have aquadhere in the UK…).

I also removed the roof – very flimsy plywood, I won’t be able to re-use this for my “attic extension” but at least it gives me a possible template.

Modesty intact

Modesty intact

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I’m multi-tasking why I do my stripping (in a purely 1:12 sense), sanding and puttying. I can put a tv series on and tune in and out – provided it’s not to engrossing or cerebral.

Currently watching: Amercian Gothic.

I never saw it when it was broadcast in Oz and saw it for $25.00 (includes 4 episodes never before broadcast), so it has provided a good counter-point to the sanding and filling. It is…time-candy.

Verdict: As a series, meh, as a time-filler, s’ok.

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Pondering the purpose of the dollhouse…or the way of the dollhouse…

One thing that I am pondering on journey into the centre of the 1:12 world is the why of the dollhouse. Or should that be the why of the way of the dollshouse?

Apart from their purpose as toys, one thing that interests me is the rationale for dollhouses – why people spend alot of time and alot of money creating works of art which will never be used by a child?

Obviously it is a hobby, a passion and a past-time for many people (those who I have affectionately termed “mad miniaturists”; but I guess I am asking why period dollhouses?

As a segue, let’s consider two famous examples (or dolls houses or doll’s houses) – Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and the Thorne Minature Rooms.

Although their purpose today is display – providing a sense of wonder and spectacle to all who see them – and in that function they are not dissimilar to the more fantastic famous dollhouses Tara’s Palace and Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle; the initial intention behind them was less about entertainment and more about creating a miniature / living archive of life at the time they were created.

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is amazing – if you are in the UK and have the chance to go to Windsor castle it is worth the visit alone. With running hot and cold water, electric lights, a comprenhesive wine cellar filled with real bottles of wine, miniature books and artwork, with many especially written/created for the house by famous artists and authors of the day (Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House: On a scale of one to twelve – official guide, 1992, pp. 14-17); the house was intended as a:

…model of a house of the 20th century which should be fitted up with the perfect fidelity, down to the smallest details, so as to represent as closely and minutely as possible a genuine and complete example of a domestic interior with all the household arrangements characteristic of the daily life of the time.
(ibid, p. 4).

The dollshouse was  a national gift from “the people” (presumably of the United Kingdom) to Queen Mary. It was first considered in 1921 and first exhibited in 1924 (ibid, p. 2).

So, rather than being a toy, it primarily functioned as an archive of domestic life for that period…and as a vehicle for fundraising for charitable causes (ibid).

Similarly, the Thorne Miniature Rooms are 68 room  boxes which were commissioned by a private citizen with the intention that they would:

…enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s.
(www.artic.edu/aic/collections/thorne, viewed online 31 Dec 2008)

Segue – There are, inarguably, additional meanings we can gain from considering these two projects –  one is a physical expression of the role of the nobility in the 1920s and/or how relative commoners considered the private lives of the royal family at that time; while we can consider the other in terms of prevalent interpretations of history/architecture and interior design that were present at the time. They both – by virtue of what is shown and what is not (that which is seen and that which is unseen or assumed) – can provide deeper readings…if we were of a sociological bent or interested in cultural studies.

Luckily for both you and me, it’s currently 39 degrees and the last thing I want to do is think too much…or google the answer which could be better addressed by someone more “qualified”.

Back on track (sort of)

Given that two prominent examples of doll houses and miniatures were intended as faithful reflections of domestic life for that  period; why is it that there are only a miniscule amount of truly modern dollhouses available?

If you look on most dollhouse sellers sites you will see a preponderance of Classic US, Georgian, Edwardian, Tudor and other Period architecture, but a minimal amount of modern architecture with some notable exceptions. If I wanted to – how does a modern girl create a faithful reflection of her domestic life for posterity?

Yes, modern dollhouses are available. Yes, it is entirely possible that someone wanting to make something “modern” may choose to make it from scratch rather than following a plan. No, I haven’t looked at dollhouse plans books to see what else is on the market – I am currently primarily only interested in what I can easily and quickly see. And yes, I could make one from scratch…but that’s not exactly what I am interested in.

But what does interest me is that of those modern dollhouses – see examples one and two – is that they are harder to find, often for the serious collector and often only modern in that they are of a post-Edwardian design. An art deco design can be considered “modern”.

And even though they are “modern”, most are neither toys nor are they faithful reflections of domestic life at the time. How many of us live in modularean eco houses? A truly modern and minimal house a la the Sirch house? Kaliedoscope houses?

Apart from that, no matter what type of house (modern or…?standard?), these dollshouses are predominantly biased towards northern hemisphere architecture of Western heritage. As a resident of the South hemisphere, this is interesting to observe. Yes, we do have a lesser population base but still…it’s interesting none-the-less.

Yes there are “modern” houses that we “could” live in, provided we lived on 1/4 suburban tracts, laurasweet has done alot of work to pull a list together but again why can she find only one apartment building? Aren’t there an awful lot of people living in apartments today?

So, if not as a toy and if not as an archive of today…what are they for? Escapism or a flight of fantasy?If that’s the case, it’s something to consider about our lives that some of us need to escape in this way.

You could argue that it’s no more escapist than reading a book or watching a movie, although it is a lot more active and creative; but I feel there is an inherent irony to this escapism…

That’s enough opinion for now, you’ll have to see my next post for more on this.

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In which we confirm that choice is not my strong point…

I am probably the last person to put her hand up and tell you how to purchase something sensibly and strategically.

You are, after all, reading the words of someone who purchased a $60.00 red necklace for a wedding only to purchase another red necklace (albeit much nicer and twice the price) about three shops and 20 minutes later. Someone who never intended to return the first necklace because she wanted to keep her options open.

How does this apply to my dollhouse restoration? I hear you ask..

Well I didn’t exactly as set out to start this project, so much as fall into in by virtue of the purchases I made along the way. And while I would like to say the most significant have been the furniture for the actual rooms…it has been the emphera and inconsequential discoveries which have bought me the most joy.

I can sleep comfortably knowing that unlike many dollhouses (or indeed real houses), in my to-be-eventually-restored dollhouse as soon as I finish arranging my furniture I can put out the six vases of flowers I have already purchased in preparation.

Actually – stating that I purchased them in preparation implies there was some planning involved…not really the case.

It was more a case of not being able to choose between the pale pink tulips in the vase and the less pale pink and cream tulips in the vase:

Oh the choices - Tulips in vases

Oh the choices - Tulips in vases

And then – oh the dilemmas – what happens if one of the rooms I eventually create doesn’t look like a tulip sort of room?

If in doubt

If in doubt

That dilemma quickly snowballed because it’s all very well to get nice flowers in vases, but what about kitchens – surely some nice potted plants would be the go?

To be sure, to be sure

To be sure, to be sure

And if I get the potted, should I get them in the white or in the purple…or both?

Of course I got both colours and the two sets of tulips and the irises. Let’s face the fact that it is a very rare case where less is more; the fact remains that more is most definitely more.

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