Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bannister Splats Arrived!

 I need to get a new life.  All day long all I could think about was 'will my stair bannister splats from Sue Cook Miniatures arrive from England today?'  Pathetic, right? --but true! 

I literally sprinted home from the train station this afternoon, even in the unseasonable heat. As I neared  the steps to our shaded front porch, the tension was palpable...

Would there be a package waiting?

I suppose, gentle Reader, you're thinking that the title of this post is a dead giveaway.  But the sad truth is   there was no package waiting for me upon my arrival .  The disappointment cut me to the quick.  I felt just like the boyhood Christmas when I had asked for a 'Big Jim' doll --er, Action Figure, and received 'Major Matt Mason,'  instead. Lame.
 When would the package arrive?  What if it got lost in the mail?  Will the Entrance Hall staircase of Merriman Park ever be finished?  These were the questions that haunted me and swirled through my mind as I retired to the backyard patio for the one thing that could assuage my growing anxiety:


No, I wasn't day-drinking alone!  Don't judge me!...our friend Eric was there to console me (and shake up the first round).

The afternoon was far too gorgeous to be spent indoors hunched over my work table, anyway.  Won't be many more --if any-  days like this here in Minnesota, this season.  But the barking of dogs at the picket-gate soon snapped us out of our reverie and a quick look-see at the front door brought --that's right!  My dearly-awaited cast balustrade!

 And work!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Oil Paintings

I don't know what I was thinking the day I had to go to the dreaded Scrapbooking Store last week to purchase ceiling paper for the Entrance Hall ceiling of Merriman Park!  In my defense, I think my blood-sugar level was dangerously low that fateful morning, and I was clearly not in my right mind, else why on Earth would I agree to sign up for their e-mail specials?

But sign up I did, because now my in-box is absolutely inundated  with sale advertisements from the aforementioned establishment!  But since today they were running a 50%-off special on color photocopying, (and since I work at the self-same Mall as the Scrapbooking Store), I reluctantly returned there this afternoon to make duplicates of all the Entrance Hall 'works of art.' 

'Why make another harrowing trip to the Scrapbooking Store for copies of my artwork?' you might well ask.  And the answer is, gentle Reader, because I decided to take Ray's sage advice and paint over the images with Mod-Podge, in order to make everything look a little more like objet d'art and a little less like postcards from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Gift Shop. 

I also meant to try Irene's method:  she prefers to print her images onto a linen-finished stock.  But the overly-pleasant, salesladies at the Scrapbooking Store  informed me that while they did have for sale a virtual array of linen-finished papers, their color photocopier could not possibly print on anything so exotic as that.  Apparently, color photocopiers in Scotland have it all over our  primitive, Yankee models! 

When I informed the chirpy salesladies that I guess I would just have to try a professional printers, they looked positively crestfallen! There was so much hand-fluttering at pearl chokers and nervous clearing of throats that I just didn't have the heart to walk out empty-handed...

So I purchased two copies of my Titian's (and assorted other artworks) and spent the early part of this evening dab, dab, dabbing them with the teensiest, tiniest of brushes.  In a moment of personal inspiration, I added a copious spritz of spray-shellac on top of everything.  The Final Effect:  Well, as the girls on RuPaul's Drag Race say, I am positively gagging on their eleganza!  Wish you could savor the difference but I'm afraid the subtleties are completely lost in the  photos!

Sorry, Irene!  I'll have to try your method again another day!

Confidential to Barb in Minnesota:  Never put off tomorrow what you can put off today, right?

Monday, September 26, 2011

New LED Lanterns Arrived!

My heart skipped a beat as I arrived home today (from my first day back-on-the-job after my week-long 'stay-cation.'  Not one but two packages sitting on my porch!  I automatically assumed that one of them was my stair splats from Sue Cook Miniatures and the other?  My carriage lamps for the front facade of Merriman Park!

Naturally I had to immediately  try them on for size...

I would like to drill shallow 3/4" holes to recess the 'plate' of the lamp into the wall a little bit.  But god! it makes me nervous to start drilling holes in my house! 

The 3/4" drill bit I have on hand won't work --it has a 'starter point' on it that would penetrate the wall completely.  I think there are bits that would work better, so looks like I'll be making a trip back to Minnehaha Falls Hardware Store.

Here they are 'on,' and the color is a little off from 'real life' but still much more preferable than the previous pair! 

I think I can live with them (though they need a touch-up of black paint).

Hopefully, I'll find the right bit to drill the holes --and garner up the guts to 'gitter done!'

The other package turned out not to be my parcel from Sue Cook, put my partner's cell phone, which he had left behind in California.  Oh, well!

I also worked a little on chair rail and skirting molding.  In order to finish, I'll have to take everything apart to 
get to the back walls.  Think I'll take a little break and wait until my stair splats arrive before I do that! 

BTW nothing in the bottom photo has been glued down, so rest assured that those gaps will get tightened up.

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Spent the morning correcting a little 'oopsy!'  When I made my marble floor I forgot that there was a little step on the inside of the center component of Merriman Park's facade.

With the marble flooring in place, I cannot slip the center component in its spot!  It's just too tight a fit.  Panic attack!  

I thought I was going to have to notch out my marble floor to accommodate the step, but that would have looked horrible.

So instead I decided to shave off a fraction of an inch off the bottom of the step.  Easy-peasy, right?  Well, maybe for you!  How to do the job without damaging (cutting into) the center component?  What sort of saw would work best?

Decisions, decisions!  I opted for a regular-sized back-saw after trying a coping saw and even a miniature miter saw.  But first I masked the walls with good old duct tape, for protection.

I was also afraid of scratching the exterior painted finish, or worse yet, wrecking my 'cast iron' balcony!  So I used one of my upholstered dining room chairs as a work bench.
Then I carefully started sawing away.  God was it nerve-racking!  It took quite a long time, with a coffee break about half-way through, but I managed to get the step trimmed and leave the center component unscathed! 

 Mission: Accomplished!  Now I can put Merriman Park back together, again. 

This has been such a great week, having the time to work on my house and making so much progress!  I've got a list of stuff I need to buy in order to complete the Entrance Hall, but I've been going a little crazy in that department this week and I've been put on a strict budget until next week.  (Who needs things like food when there are gorgeous, little things to buy)? Tomorrow, it's back to the old grind ...Oh, well --it was fun while it lasted.  I am already starting to decorate my other five rooms --in my head anyway.  I 'm so looking forward to turning my ideas into reality.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Fireplace Surround & Firebox

Didn't get too much accomplished today, except the firebox and the black marble surround, which I love!  --Thanks for the tip, Giac!  Giac has a great tutorial on his blog about fireboxes, and I totally used his method for mine .  Simple. Easy. Effective! 

You can see the marble medallion under the 'controversial' (lol)! center table.  I haven't glued it down, yet...hoping to get some feedback, first? 

Still have not fixed the fireplace sconces, as you can see.  They're 'bi-pin' fixtures and I bought bulbs that have really long wires attached to them.  I assume you can just cut the wires and remove the insulation, but you know what happens when you make assumptions!  I also have to lengthen the wires on one of the sconces so that will be another fun, new adventure for me.

I experimented with gold paint and the metallic gold  pigment powder.  They really helped make a cheap, resin frame look much more expensive.  I tried using the same on some of the moldings on the wainscot of the Hall but you know, what?  I didn't like it.  I think I like the room as is --understated eleganza! 

I received in the mail today the invoice from Sue Cook Miniatures in England, and that means my stair splats will arrive soon!  Can't wait!

 Hope that everyone is having a great weekend!

Furniture Addendum

Obsess, much?  OK, I'm already getting comments (and please keep them coming)!  But I think I have the definitive arrangement worked out for the Entrance Hall of Merriman Park. 
I am leaning toward the chairs on the left.  I'm told all the chairs should match.
Note that I would be adding a medallion to the center of  the marble floor. (It would probably have, I'm thinking, a six-pointed star inlaid within it.  There has been discussion about whether or not the table in the center of the room would be historically accurate for 1795-1820.  So I'm not sure if it will stay.  But picture a gorgeous floral arrangement on the center table, and perhaps marble or alabaster sculptures on the two demi-lune tables?  Are you with me?. I also want to get a pair of vases and a clock for the mantel. 
I need to finish off the hearth area and make a fender, etc.
The medallion on the floor is just a suggestion.
Anyway, what do you think? I'd love to hear your comments!  Sorry about the crappy photos!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Field Trip! The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

My partner did not arrive home from his trip to California until 2:00 AM this morning, poor thing, due to flight delays.  Remember when air travel was a glam adventure?  I tried really tried to stay up for him but the longer he was delayed the more Martinis I slammed back and so by the time he arrived I was a messy, well, --mess!

So it wasn't until the crack of noon that I got my sorry tush going this morning.  I needed to step on it if I was going to make it to the Art Institute before closing time!

First things first: I made a pit-stop at the Minnesota College of Art & Design (MCAD) conveniently located right next door to the Museum.  The trip brought me back to my old neighborhood stomping grounds --oh, how nice again to see the angsty, tortured, young art students sulking down the very Street Where I Lived!  All thinking they're going to take the Art World by storm!  Oh, tender Youth!  Bless your hearts!

Bitter? Party of one...

I picked up some metallic gold pigment powder at their claustrophobic art supply store  to sprinkle over the wet gilt paint that I plan on using on some of the moldings.  Next, it was off to the the venerable, marbled halls of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts!

Whenever I visit the Art Institute, I always make a bee-line toward the Period Rooms.  I never tire of examining their exquisite, antique furnishings,  and the mastery of the workmanship of their paneled walls So inspiring!

After a lovely afternoon admiring gorgeous things that I can't afford, I ducked into their Gift Shop to snatch up a few more postcards to be turned into artwork for the walls of Merriman Park. 
These chairs match the table best.  I think a pair of candle lamps are needed on the table.  (Great, more electrical)!
Oh, yeah!  I also have been playing with some furniture that I've been picking up here and there.  What do you think?
I love this mirror! (left)  It might not end up here, but I love it!

I am planning on furnishing the Entrance Hall rather sparsely --just four chairs in the corners, the few tables you see in the top photo and maybe a table in the center of the room.
This table positively screams for a floral arrangement!
I'm not sure this is the right table for the center of the hall, or not.  My huz thinks it's 'too simple.'  I know there are some interior designers out there following this blog, as well as some strong-opined miniaturists, so what do you think?

Here is another question:  do you think all four chairs in this room should match, or not?  Personally, I'm not a 'matchy-matchy' kind of guy, but I want the room to have a semblance to Period accuracy.  Imagine, if you will, it's 1795-1820 in a house about eighty years older.  Here are the chairs I have 'on hand.'  Which one(s) do you like for this space?  (Keep in mind I can and will be changing the upholstery).

Option A.  Walnut

Option B. Black lacquer
Option C.  Ruetzer
Option D.  Louis XVI oval
Option E  Louis XVI square

Or maybe they all suck?  Let me know what you think.  Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

All Work & No Play...

Kind of took it easy today.  My partner is returning home tonight after being in California for a week. And while he was away I sort of let the 'real life' house go to pot!  I've been so focused on Merriman Park that I guess I forgot about dirty dishes and soiled laundry and muddy paws on slipcovers and stuff..  So the morning was spent attending to these everyday hum-drum drudgeries and then I toddled off to the art supply store to fetch some gold paint and matching pigment powder (thanks, Ray, for the tip)!

Unfortunately, the art store only sold the gold pigment powder by the pound --to the tune of forty bucks a pound!  Why couldn't I have picked a slightly less-expensive hobby? 

I tried, oh believe me I was working it, to get them to sell me a half pound but no dice.  The sales lady was nice enough to whisper in my ear as I was leaving that the Minnesota College of Art & Design sold the pigment powder in small vials in their supply shop. 

Well, I was planning a field-trip tomorrow anyway to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts,  mainly for inspiration, but also to troll their gift shop for more postcards to be framed and hung in the Entrance Hall of Merriman Park.  And the art school just happens to be adjacent to it.

Isn't it funny that the room isn't even finished but I'm already hanging art?
Here's two more Titian pieces I put together today.  I got the frames from the local dollhouse shop, On the left is The Rape of Europa and on the right is Diana and Callista.  I'm not sure if they will 'make the final cut' --I can't decide if the pieces are too well known to be hanging in the likes of Merriman Park.  
This piece, on the other hand,  Erninia and the Shepards, by Guercino, a work in the permanent collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is, I think, sufficiently obscure.  Plus, I am drawn to the work and it would be the perfect anchor on this wall, don't you agree?

While at the dollhouse shop, I also picked up some mirror material to be placed at the top of the stairs to (hopefully) aid in the illusion that they go off forever (and not end abruptly at the wall)!  I also got some bull-nose molding to finish the lip of the stair and oh-- I tried to get replacement bulbs for my sconces but I think I might have picked up the wrong ones.  These have really long wires attached and I thought I could just trim the wires but I dunno --just not sure if they're the right bulbs!

Waiting for my Sue Cook balustrades to arrive and then, I'm pretty good!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lighting Up the Hall

Um, I'm kind of embarrassed because I made such a stink about not being able to get my wall sconces to work earlier this evening.  But Irene from Hambleton Hall held my hand and gave me some terrific advice.  By the way, have you checked out Irene's dollhouse blogs lately?  If you haven't, do yourself a favor and get yourself over there right now.  Well, finish my post first and then go.  OMG, Merriman Park looks like a tar-paper shack next to the Devine Miss Irene's sublime creations.
The bulbs on the sconce on the left side of the fireplace have already burned out!

Oh, yeah!  Got the sconces working, thank-you-very-much.  Aren't they lovely?  Know what advice Irene gave me?  It's really high-tech stuff but I guess you're up for it:  she advised me to 'strip the wire insulation with my fingernail.'

Yup.  That's all it took.  Worked like a charm.

You know, I think I even read that in a dollhouse 'How-To' book  In my defense --I've never done this before!

Boy, do I feel dumb.  Oh, well, I'm pretty--so who cares if I'm an air-head?

Tough Work!

Most people hate certain things like going to the dentist, or the tax man, or even to the grocery own personal Hell is having to go to the Scrapbooking Store.  Ugh!  I am not hating on you if scrapbooking is your hobby, so please! no nasty emails!   I just hate the Scrapbooking Store because it's merchandised by vendor, which is so lame --do scrapbookers really care what "label" their puffy glitter paint is?  Who cares?  It's not like they have Chanel puffy glitter paint, or teddy bear stickers by Lanvin....Wouldn't it make more sense to put all the bridal crap together and all the Halloween crap together?  No, let's merchandise by vendor so we'll have Halloween crap in seventeen different areas! 

It just gives me a nervous break-down walking in there!  Plus, it's located in the same Mall that the Department Store where I work in Display is at.  And I'm off this week, so the last thing I wanted to do this morning was hop the train and head to the Mall. 

But the Entrance Hall of Merriman Park needed a nice ceiling paper so off to the mall I went.

After wandering around aimlessly for what seemed an eternity, I settled on white card with a subtle, embossed pattern.  

Ceiling rose by Sue Cook Miniatures
You might also notice that the lights are hung.  But don't get too excited, most of them aren't working.  I tried. I really did!  I even figured out how to remove the plugs (there were no directions on the packaging).  When I pulled the plugs apart, I could not believe how miniscule the wires are!  Some of them seemed to have lost the 'bare' part of the wire and I couldn't figure out how to strip the casing from the wire --they are so fragile!.  I tried putting them back together anyway but of course, they didn't work. 
Sorry about the glare! 
None of the four wall sconces work.  But I did manage to get the chandelier fired up, believe it or not!  (Thanks Ray)!  Ray suggested I put a little 'junction box' in the floor above to keep some extra wire in case I need to take the fixture down to service.  A 'trap' in the flooring will hide the box.  Worked great!

Not content with the walnut stain on the door!  I'll have to try again on that...
In spite of the disappointment of not being able to get the sconces working, I'm pretty happy.  I think I'm at the point where I can start gluing stuff down permanently.  But I'm debating whether or not I should pick out some of the moldings with gold...and if so, do I use real gold leaf or is gold paint OK?  I'm also a little worried about making the mitered cuts for the cornice --I've done it in 'RL' but never in small scale!  But I'm sure I'll figure it out. 

Martinis coming up!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Today I managed to prime and paint (first coat, anyway)  all the components that will be white.  Well, it's not exactly a true  white-white --more of a 'clotted-cream,' if you will.  (I read somewhere that they didn't have pure white  "back in the day," as my friend, Thomasina says).  I suppose that would be expected, when our beleaguered ancestors had to mix their paints from cow's milk and lead, and bird droppings  --and God knows what else...

(Speaking of the All-Mighty, thank you, Lord, for spray paint!) 

A chill, North wind was positively howling through the environs of  Minnesota today, which made spray-painting an amusing prospect.  I think I got more paint on my new-ish True Religion jeans than I got on the Entrance Hall components.

So, it's getting down to the actual putting of the room together.  Only thing left, really, is the wiring.  Merriman Park is my first dollhouse and some of the technical aspects of the project are a little shall we say daunting!  I am planning on running the wires through the fireplace chases and through the "attic' & 'basement' spaces and out the back to socket strips.  Ray W. gave me some great advice today in regard to wiring --and sorry, Ray, I didn't realize until now that you were such an eminent figure in the miniature world!  So your interest in my little project is doubly appreciated --and  also humbling.

OK, everyone: I ordered the 'wrought iron' splats from Sue Cook!  Thomas Jefferson would absolutely  plotz, but I can't wait to install them on the staircase of Merriman Park!

I almost forgot --I also made today a fireplace surround from some of the left-over 'marble' paper and some scrap illustration board.  I had to use the white marble as there was no black left.  (But I ordered some more black so I could easily change it out, if needed).  Opinions?

Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone who has taken the time to comment on this blog and even send me personal emails with your well-appreciated advice and criticism  This project sometimes seems like I bit off more than I can chew but your kind words have compelled me to slog on!

Wallpaper, Part II

Couldn't resist laying the marble floor down, now that it is dry.  Hope the floor is not too shiney --maybe I'll put a coat or two with a matte finish.  The Sue Cook stair brackets are just temporarily attached with wax (I love that stuff)! 
I finished the wainscot panels on either side of the mantle.  Of course there will be a skirting board as well as a chair rail all around.

I can't decide how to finish the stair landing.  Should it be marble? The front of the landing is problematic, too.  Should I add a bull-nose molding to the upper edge, or continue the skirting across it?  Decisions, decisions... I thought I'd finish the door in a dark walnut stain.

Thomas Jefferson, whose architecture inspired Merriman Park, would surely not approve of my staircase!  While he was stationed in France as American Ambassador, the French were building mansion houses in Paris with 'suppressed' staircases --they were tucked discreetly into small alcoves.  Even the grandest townhouses featured stairs crammed into the tiniest possible space.  'Grand' staircases briefly fell out of fashion and were considered a waste of space and expense.  Jefferson took that concept home and utilized it in most of his subsequent work.  So I originally planned on not showing the stair at all...

I'm glad I changed my mind!  (With apologies to Thomas Jefferson)!  I'm afraid the old boy would spin in his grave if I used the wrought iron balustrade from Sue Cook --but whatevs, T.J.!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Papering the Entrance Hall

What a day!  I started papering this morning.  Don't laugh, but after all the fuss I made about my wallpaper pattern being too large, and trying to shrink it down on a photocopier, I decided to use it as is!  Mainly because fellow artist, Simon Williams of Miniature Enthusiast fame , used the same paper in one of his gorgeous settings and it made me realize that the pattern wasn't too large after all!
I won't bore you with the details of wallpapering, but I will highly recommend using 3-M Spray Adhesive as a fixative for your paper.  This product works perfectly for wallpapering dollhouses with absolutely no bubbles or wrinkles.  The only downside is the spray flying everywhere, but fortunately, the weather turned and I was able to do most of the spraying out-of-doors.
I realized that I only had three sheets of wallpaper so no mistakes!  There are so many moldings and pillars and things, so I did not have to worry too much about matching the pattern up.  So that made it easier.
I use the 3-M spray a lot at work.  After spraying your surfaces, just place the paper on the wall.  If it doesn't go up right the first time, just peel it off and try again.  I used a credit card to burnish the paper to the wall.  (More about that, later)...
I bought this post card, now part of the over-mantle, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where I saw an exhibition of  Venetian art of the Renaissance. 
This particular piece is Titian.  I wonder if there is anything I can do to the print to make it look more like an oil painting?  Is there some sort of miniature crackle varnish?

After applying the wallpaper I remembered I needed to pick up some lacquer to seal the new marble floor.  My dogs, Jack & Edie, also needed a walk, so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and take the pups on a stroll to Minnehaha Falls Hardware Store.  But when I got to the counter to pay for the lacquer, I realized I had left my credit card on the Entrance Hall floor of Merriman Park, because I was using it to burnish the paper to the walls!  Duh!  Pardon my blooper!

After that minor drama, I started on the wainscot.  Here's how I did it:  I had already purchased panels in three sizes from Labre.  I cut illustration board to the height of the wainscot --in my case 2 3/4 inches.  (I prefer the wainscot lower than three feet unless the room is palatially-sized). Next, I worked out where the panels would go and drew them on the illustration board.
Then I cut out the rectangles with a sharp knife.  It's best to go a little inside the penciled line --you want the panel to fit tightly.  Now it's just a matter of popping in the panels...
Any cracks can, of course, be filled later.  I sliced 'joints' to mimic stiles on the wainscot panels, but you probably can't make them out in the photo.

Well, that's about it for today...The floor is still tacky from the lacquer so I can't put it all together yet!  I am now enjoying a martini, having a long look at my progress, and thinking about tomorrow's agenda.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stairway Sneak Peek!

Spurred on by the success of the Entrance Hall floor, I was inspired to begin working on the double, Palladian staircase!
Miniaturist extraordinaire Giac, over at English Manor Dollhouse, has an awesome tutorial posted on his blog on how to build a staircase from scratch, so I won't go into details here.  His method of using wood glue with a drop or two of superglue makes clamping unnecessary.  Just hold for a second, and...
              Presto!  One side done.... and now on to the other side!
                                   Just glue it...set it....
                                    And forget it!
The stair is set behind this Palladian screen.  But it's too early to install this component.  The pillars are from Labre.
These stair brackets from Sue Cook Miniatures will finish off the stairway...I started to glue them on but decided to wait until I can get the wallpaper printed up.
Here's the stair set against the back wall.  Now it won't topple over anymore when I bump the house!  Now I can't decide what sort of balustrade the stair should have,  wood or...
                  Wrought iron?  What do you think? 

It feels great to have gotten some things done...I have the entire week off work so hopefully there will be more progress to report in the very near future!