Sunday, March 17, 2013

Inspiration, Ceilings & Doors

Thanks a bunch for all the encouraging comments!  They are like a tonic for my soul.  You see, I tend to go rather into a tailspin this time of year, what with the weather in these parts being so incessantly and relentlessly drab, dismal and drear --not to mention harrowing-ly cold, cold, cold!  Your intrepid Reporter almost forgot that he started his beloved Merriman Park in the first place to keep himself from committing hari-kari with an enormous Minnesota icicle. (Talk about Seasonal Affect Disorder)!  I could snap one of the frozen daggers off my ice-dammed eaves and end it all right now, darlings, but then my mini bedroom would never get finished...Quelle tragédie!

So instead, I'll spare you the histrionics and get on with the decorating...

I am often asked where I get my inspiration and ideas from and the answer is:  I have no clue!  I think my mind is sort of like an gi-normous sponge that sucks up anything and everything that has to do with architecture and design and so I have a catalog, of sorts, stored in my head that I can readily reference.

The most tangible inspiration for Merriman Park is undoubtedly my now dog-eared copy of The Thorne Rooms, which has somewhat become my 'miniatures Holy Bible!'  Before starting any room, I inevitably revisit this sacred tome.  To me, Mrs. Thorne was, and still is, the Gold Standard of Miniatures.
Seeing the Thorne Rooms at the Chicago Institute of Arts for the first time is what originally made me decide to build Merriman Park; and so revisiting the source inspiration helps keep me grounded and  'on point."  (I am a Gemini, and we Air Signs need these sorts of crutches to stay focused)!

If you're like me, books, magazines, movies, plays, blogs... all provide fodder for future projects. 

Once I get a few ideas in my head, I'm ready to plan the room.  Sometimes, I'll draw up detailed plans...

...But most of the time, I have such a clear picture in my head that I don't bother with a drawing.  In the case of my Master Bedroom, I'm forgoing any renderings for that reason.  All the rooms of Merriman Park are similar in their basic lay-out in that they're all rectangular with a door on the 'back' wall and with a fireplace flanked by two windows on each side.  To liven things up a bit, I varied the mill work in each room, adding arches here and wainscot there, and in the Master Bedroom, I decided to include built-in window seats

My plan (such as it is)! in place, it's time to begin...  I don't know why, but I always seem to begin with the  ceiling --I guess you have to start somewhere!  As you probably already know, I use illustration board panels, cut to fit the walls, floors and ceilings of my rooms.  I apply the trims and moldings, wallpaper, etc to these panels, and then install them into the room.  The advantage to doing it this way is that you can work on a flat surface instead of trying to reach into your little dollhouse room.  And the panels hide all the wiring, too!

After cutting a panel to fit my ceiling I penciled in where the fireplace chase hits. My plan for the ceiling is pretty straight-forward: a beautiful ceiling rose from Sue Cook Miniatures centered, and a simple molding to frame the room.  I penciled in where the moldings were to go by measuring 1 1/2 inches from the wall all the way around.  The moldings are cut with a mini miter box using forty-five degree cuts at the corners.
 Once everything is glued down, I use 'spray gesso' as a primer.  You can get it at an art supply store.  I use spray paints whenever I can because it doesn't leave brush strokes --and it's really fast! Now is the time to sand down any rough spots and fill any small gaps with gesso, applied with a small brush.

Then it's a few light coats of what I have begun calling 'Merriman Park White,' which is simply an off-white spray paint that I used in practically every room.
All ready to install  --just pop it in!  Much easier than trying to fit all those little pieces onto the actual dollhouse ceiling!

That finished, I thought I'd try something a little more fun, so I turned my attention to the door surround. I do not own many fancy tools or gadgets, but by using stock moldings, strip wood and a mini miter box, you can come up some fancy designs of your own.

My design is based on classical motifs, you can find examples everywhere and once you see something you like it's all just a matter of breaking it down into parts.

I started with plain strip wood going around the door frame and then outlined it with stock panel molding.  I found a teeny, half-round molding about the thickness of a toothpick and use it to outline the inside of the door frame.

Sitting on top of this is a block of wood, about 1/4" thick.  I wrapped a dentil cornice around this block and used 'Victorian skirting' as a shelf on the very top. It's all smoke and mirrors: simple forty-five degree cuts but once everything is glued up I think it looks as good as my expensive, 'bought' surrounds.
 Well, that's about it for this week. We're supposed to get even more snow tonight for St. Patrick's Day --last year it was an unseasonable 80 and I was in flip-flops and shorts...Ugh!  California is looking better and better....


Dale Fluty said...[Reply]

Please no violent icicle Hari-Kari! That would just not be good and would leave your beloved project unfinished and us mourning and wanting more. I would suggest busting some if those icicles, cursing the cold and spending 5 minutes in a tanning bed. :-)

I love the ceiling treatment and the work you did on the door surround is truly inspiring. I was from the old thinking of "you have to buy the fancy stuff" but you and some of the other blogs have shown me the error of my ways and I know that now I can create beautiful things myself with some simple moldings and some thinking.

Now go get you a nice hot cup of coffee and relax. You have work to do because we, your followers, demand more progress updates. :-)


Liduina said...[Reply]

The door and ceiling look very good, John. Thanks for the hint about spray-painting, I think I will try it some day to avoid the brushstrokes. Greetings, Liduina

Gee said...[Reply]

wow! that are quite some icicles you've got there; i haven't seen icicles that big in my life!
now the cold you are telling me about has got a whole new dimension.
well, you are always welcome to my house though that's not exactly california either :)
glad you didn't do anything drastic with these ice daggers, or, ice swords really.they look dangerous.

thanks for giving a look in your kitchen! i enjoy that so much.
i work on board as a flat surface, too.
love, love your work!
how do you make the doors into your walls?

Catherine said...[Reply]

What a great post! I loved seeing your drawings. The Thorne Rooms are so beautiful I have always loved them too. I remember seeing them for the first time when I was about ten.

I know how you feel about those winters. I grew up in Chicago. I remember walking down Michigan Ave. in February hanging on for dear life to a rope the city put up for just that purpose. There is nothing like that wind that blows down 350 miles of frozen Lake Michigan only to smack you in the face (when it is 10 below zero). It was the charcoal gray skies all winter that made me want to end it all with one of those 'frozen daggers' I HATED that.

Take heart... Spring is near!

Elga said...[Reply]

Mmh, the only time I see ice in sunny Africa is when there is a hail storm, I don't think my house or I will survive that kind of cold!

I love your ceiling and door and are looking forward to see the rest of your decorating unfold, I am quite sure it will be stunning as usual.

Muriellisa said...[Reply]


Josje said...[Reply]

Perhaps my fellow countrymen should read about your winters...Here they're complaining even if there's a little snow or a few degrees of frost (unless it is skating weather, then they're all happy).

The way you write makes me laugh. I was going through your old posts last week and my son asked me what I was laughing about every time! There was one particular part about your colleague and her 'rot iron'. So funny!

Interesting to read you spray paint everything. A few weeks ago I went out to buy acrylic spray paint (to paint my windows) but I just couldn't buy it anywhere! So annoying!

Your ceiling and door frame look great. I actuallly like it better when you make your own door frames. The store bought ones basically all look the same. By making it yourself it looks so much more interesting!

Fi.P said...[Reply]

Hello my lovely,
it's so wonderful to see you at work again and fantastic to see each stage in progress....thank you for explaining your process.Your drawings are amazing...I would like to say I do the same but as you mentioned most of it is collected and stored in that empty place I have upstairs.....hehehehe!I'm really looking forward to seeing you work on this room, a bedroom is such a special place and you are already off to a great start with those gorgeous window seats.....I have always wanted some my self...I love the idea of being tucked up reading some great novel and allowing the occasional glance out the window to observe beautiful grounds.

It's all stunning my lovely.

Indy_Poppy said...[Reply]

Your door treatments are wonderful. You have inspired me to rethink my doors for my house. Thanks for the ideas.

Ilona said...[Reply]

It is good to see you are back, John! I love the ceiling and the work on the door, thanks for sharing the tip about the spray painting :D!!
I'll follow your progress on this room.
So the weather on your side of the world is too cold, well over here it is too. Coming week the weatherforecast is talking again about snow, we are on the half of the month of March!!! It is quite extreme for this time of the year for The warming or so??
Hugs, Ilona

Patrick Duclou said...[Reply]

Hello John and thanks for this post. I learnt a lot today! Your tutorial is just perfect.About the
illustration board panels, when they are done, you slide them inside the box, right? Which one do you install first, the ceiling, the back wall, the sidewalls? Do you glue them?
Thanks if you tell us moree about it.
Have a great day.
I am lucky, where I live we never get snow, only floodings...which do you prefer? LOL

Daydreamer said...[Reply]

Hi John! Please keep Away from the icicles! It's always darkest before the Dawn as they say... Spring is Almost here! I agree with the others that Merriman Park MUST NOT be left unfinished...!!! It is too Magnificent a Project... and your ideas are so Beautiful.... they are Inspiring so many of us out here in Blogland! I LOVE seeing your work in Progress... the way you build up the trim is excellent! One of the things I have learned from studying older Houses is that before the days of machine manufactured trims (really after the 1860's) the trims were all different and often varied from room to room in the same house! So your rooms are very authentic that way! This room is already looking Wonderful and I can't wait to see the window seats!

Brad said...[Reply]

Hi John,

This was a wonderful post. Hang in there. Spring is around the corner. MN winters can be brutal for sure!

Thank you for sharing your process and the effective techniques. It is so interesting following the step by step process of creating a magnificent room. The bedroom is going to be beautiful and I can't wait to see the window seats!

All best,

miraclechicken said...[Reply]

Well hey there :) We have SOO much in common, I'm a Gemini, love window seats, hate winter (Ohio sucks too)
and love referring to my Thorne Rooms book. Stay away from those dagger-cicles, I want to see more!

Sionchi said...[Reply]

Excelente explicación de tu trabajo. Me ha encantado. Tu habitación quedará preciosa. Besos

Giac said...[Reply]

Hello John,
It is so wodnerful to see your renderings and where your inspiration comes from. I remember going through your blog and being mazed at your talent. The bedroom is going to be wonderful! the ceiling is great and I love the details int he room. Merriman Park really is a work of art. keep up the fantastic work, I cannot wait to see more.
big hug,

Steinworks said...[Reply]

Hi John

I know how you feel we had snow here and now it's turned to slush and then it turned icey but I never thought about giving myself a Darwin Award (there are many that I would love to bestow that honor on but I wont go into that here)

thank you for showing how to add the illistration board to your Dollhouse..I am so brain dead that even though you've said it a million times it just has not sunk it so thank you for sharing it again

I have to go now it's time for apple sauce and someone has to change me

Marisa :)

Troy said...[Reply]

Your bedroom is comming along great! I too enjoy the Thorne rooms. I got to see the ones in Chicago a couple of years ago - they are truly wonderful and inspiring. Your drawings are great too. Keep up the good work. Any hints on what your next project is going to be?

Em said...[Reply]

Thank you so much for generously sharing step by step progress. I have such a lot to learn and I may as well learn it from the best! Merriman Park IS a Thorne house. You need to start your own museum..... somewhere warm?

MiniLover said...[Reply]

Great to see your drawings...but I have no talent with a pencil so I have to keep everything in my head. LOL.

I hope you're planning to come to Chicago for the show this year!



Iris March said...[Reply]

Hi John,

Love those Icicles! Just keep in mind that Spring is coming--even to Minnisota! My husband says he can Sympathize with you-- he went to Carlton College in Northfield. He hated the winter.

Your trim work looks great and I love those "dog-ears" on the door trim. What glue do you use to glue the illustration board to the ceiling? I must buy that spray gresso and a spray paint for the ceiling. Anything to take the drudgery out of the hobby and leave the fun stuff in!

It's good to see you working on Merriman again. You are just fantastically talented.

Many thoughts of Spring coming your way

Andy said...[Reply]

Hello John,

Apologies for my tardy response to your latest post. Things have been so hectic here recently, I've barely had time to look at my computer!

I'm also trying to decide whether to move into display at work, which I would normally jump at the chance of doing, but it isn't as straight forward as it sounds, so that's been on my mind a lot lately.

Anyway, enough about me and my world, I hope you're a little warmer this week! It's snowing here again, can't believe it's nearly Easter, and we have snow over much of the country!

I always love the detail you put into your rooms at Merriman Park, so it's great to get a chance to see how you do it! I may very well be 'borrowing' a few of your tips in the future! Your door surrounds look so professional! and are very attractive too!!

The ceiling also looks good! another great tip to 'borrow'!! ;o)

I like the idea of window seats, I wasn't quite sure how you were going to do them until I saw the photo.

Stay warm, and keep those icicles out of harm's way!!

Andy xxx

John said...[Reply]

Thanks so much for your comments, everyone! I can't reply individually to them --for SOME technical reason unbeknownst to the likes of me, but I thought I should nevertheless respond to some of your questions:

@ Troy & Andy: I have a lot of 'future projects' swimming around in my head so when Merriman Park is 'finished,' there will definitely be more, more, MORE minis in my future! I'm thinking of doing an "on-spec' dollhouse to sell, next. But I haven't gotten around to details, yet.

@ Iris: DOG EARS! THAT was the word I was trying to remember! I just used Aileens tacky glue and a few drops of SuperGlue to hold it all up until the Aileen's dried. So good to hear from you, darling!

@ Sophia: Yes, I will be there! Can't wait to see you, (and any other bloggers out there) again!

@ Patrick: (1) Ceiling, (2) floor, (3) back wall, (4) side walls. They fit fairly tight, so only a few drops of glue seem necessary --they will pop out more easily that way --for re-decorating

Hope I covered me if you have any other questions. Thanks again! --John

CLM Toth said...[Reply]


You are a GEMINII!!! It explains everything - why, you are really TWO persons in one.

No wonder you can get so much done when you do get going (smile)!

Gemini's have minds a quick as whip, JFK was one.

The miniatures, they keep us sane!