Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shady Island Cottage

I built this 1/4" scale model a year ago in a pathetic attempt to stay sane during the dreary, never-ending winter season, which seems to go on forever here in Minnesota. It is a replica of my childhood home on Shady Island, on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. Actually, it's not an exact replica --of course I made a few "improvements," such as placing the kitchen next to the dining room instead of on the opposite end of the house, an arrangement that I never quite understood, even at such a tender age. But what do I know from architecture?

The house was built around 1910 in the Arts and Crafts style. It was constructed of redwood 6X6 timbers and sheathed with tongue-and-groove redwood planks. That was it! (It was originally a summer cottage). The overall ambiance was of a cozy, rustic lodge. The fireplace, flanked by French doors to the porch, was made of stones pulled from the lake. When my parents purchased the house, it came with all the accumulated hodge-podge of furniture, including a suite of hickory "twig" furnishings (possibly Stickley) and a screen porch full of Art-Deco wicker. An ancient, upright piano stood sentry under one side of the the double stair. Boston McPhail read the plaque below its swagged garland of carved oak leaves and above its yellowed, ivory keys. There were taxidermy trophies scattered throughout: a deer's head here, a pheasant (with broken wing) there, antlers galore and most disturbing, a headless fish (chewed off by a foraging raccoon)! The vaulted living room was lit by electrified brass lanterns salvaged from the original cars of the dismantled trolley line that once crisscrossed the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The children's bedrooms were located up in twin open lofts that looked down to the main floor --girls on one side, boys on the other. Privacy was pretty much non-existent. But who cares about that when you're ten or twelve? It was a magic place. Nooks and musty crannies for days. I can still hear the rain tap, tap , tapping on the exposed rafters above my little twin bed.

I remember the perennial "rock garden," filled with the old-fashioned flowers which are still my favorites: iris, columbine, peonies, bleeding hearts, lily-of-the-valley. The lake-side, porch facade was lined with Annabelle hydrangeas. There was a ruined, ramshackle gazebo (that I swear to god was haunted). The best part was the view from the back porch: the sloping lawn with its zig-zag walk of flagstones heading down to the the lake. The shimmering, silver lake itself with Spray Island off to the right, Goose Island off to the left, the whole panorama framed by tall, flanking pines...

The house underwent an unfortunate 1970's redecoration and then we moved on to a more conventional, modern split-level. But I got my own bedroom! (Which suddenly seemed much more important to me at fifteen)! Eventually, the humble cottage fell into unsalvagable disrepair and was torn down when the lot it sat upon became increasingly more valuable. A horrendous, nondescript McMansion now sits on the site today. I hear they saved the fireplace.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quoins Came!

I made a mad dash home from work today because I knew that my long-awaited quoins would greet me on the front porch. The thermometer plummeted the previous night, flash-freezing the mushy slop on the sidewalks into glare ice. So I guess the "mad dash" from the train station was more of an erzatz skating routine, without the triple loops but with much flailing of arms. I ain't no Evan Lysacek. Hell, I ain't even no Johnny Weir, that poor hot mess, though I do admit we share a similar certain baroque fashion-flair fierceness!

And though the package was not waiting for me when I got home, they were delivered an hour or two ago and I've already affixed them in place onto the classical facade of Merriman Park!

I love, love, LOVE them! They really make the piece look less like a big plywood box and more like an actual building. I also added some crown molding to the arched windows on the ground floor. I never was too pleased with these windows (I think they are just a tad clunky). But the molding helps. I think I am going to add keystones to them as well --because like I always say: it's not done until it's overdone!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Status Report

This weekend I attained my goal of finishing ALL of the window mullions! What a Labor of Hercules that turned out to be. Guess I just hate repetitive chores.

My utter relief at reaching this minor milestone was rather short-lived. Because I soon realized that now I have to PRIME & PAINT ALL SEVENTEEN WINDOWS (plus one door). To the uninitiated, this might not seem to be such a horrific task. But these windows happen to be working, double-hung (wink) components that slide up and down in rabbited tracks. Thankfully, they un-assemble to make the job slightly more easy.

I am debating whether to spray or brush on the primer and subsequent top coat. Problem is the weather here in the frozen hell that is Minnesota is only 20 - 30 degrees. And my primitive basement/"workshop" (and I do use the term loosely) is not ventilated well enough to spray-paint indoors.

Guess I'll be using a brush.

In other news, the aforementioned balustrade arrived in the mail today all the way from England. Also, an Empire-style mirror I picked up for a ridiculous price from Swan House Miniatures. And tomorrow the elusive quoins are scheduled to come.

Speaking of which, it was pointed out to me that the reason my order took so long to be processed might be because the company was re-casting the parts. Which I suppose could be true and it got me to thinking, "oh my god, I'm turning into one of those detestable, whiny, unreasonable customers with an inflated sense of entitlement." Of course, if they had sent a simple email letting me know my order's status, (which I don't think is asking for too much), I wouldn't be writing this at all...I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I finished four windows today! Woo-Hoo! As Ella the waitress would say, " Hon, things are lookin' UP!" (Don't ask)! I also FINALLY received notice that my quoins are en route and should arrive on Tuesday. Not sure exactly why it took THREE WEEKS for them to stick them in an envelope and throw them in a mailbox, but whatever.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Not much progress to report. My faux-copper roofing arrived on Monday and I cut it to fit the pediment. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to stick to the wood sheathing with carpenter's glue. So that project is on hold. Oh! I found my missing balustrades on a website in merrie olde England. Also classical urns (from Scotland)! to sit on the rooftop pedestals. But they are on back order. Oh well.

My Georgian rosettes for the cornice frieze arrived on Tuesday, so naturally I set them in place the second after I ripped them out of their packaging. They are from Sue Cook Miniatures in England and they are exquisite, as are the Regency cast-pewter railings for the balcony. STILL WAITING for the aforementioned quoins. I waited six or eight weeks for my last order from this particular company so hopefully it won't be that long this time around! Funny thing is, on Sunday night I found on-line the perfect Bespaq table at a crazy-low price so naturally I ordered it AND IT ALREADY ARRIVED TODAY! So I HIGHLY recommend Handworks Miniatures & Collectables for fair pricing and FAST SERVICE! Check them out.

Still have EIGHT windows to make mullions for! GOAL: Finish all eight this weekend. You read it here, first!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

First Things First

So I decided to move ahead with finishing the exterior of Merriman Park before I try tackling the wiring. I know, I know --chicken! But at least this way I will have the gratification of seeing some progress. So I ordered my quoins from Lawbre and the rosettes for the cornice from Sue Cook. Nothing but the best! God, this is getting expensive.

Of course the balustrade for the roof I found at my local dollhouse shop that was actually reasonably priced is NO LONGER AVAILABLE! Which means, I suppose, that I will have to fork over yet more big bucks for a replacement that looks exactly the same but is FIVE TIMES THE PRICE!

More frustration: I need just a few more inches of 1/4" quarter-round and I shlepped over to Home Depot and of course they didn't have any. So I stopped at the lumber yard by my house and they closed at noon for the weekend! Foiled, again!

I guess I could work on the window mullions --only eight more to go! WHEEE! THIS IS FUN!