Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The best Christmas present?  A new, narrow gouge that makes PERFECT grout lines!  Guess I can get going again on the exterior.  A HUGE container of gesso will help, too!  (Thanks, Glen, you're the BEST)!  Hope everyone has a very happy holiday!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Brick Experiment #2

Actually, 2, #3,#4 and #5 (I think).  Didn't have much luck this weekend with the bricks.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong...I was not even able to reproduce the stone sample I did earlier!  Having a rough time, I guess.  I am going to buy some commercial gesso and see if that makes a difference.  Still haven't discovered the ultimate scribing tool, but a mini, standard screwdriver proved to be the strongest contender, with the meat thermometer a close second.  

Winter blues settling in...trying to stay optimistic but all I want to do lately is devour carbs and sleep.... 

Here's my house from summer.  How many months til June?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Entrance Hall

This photo, taken from the book Thomas Jefferson, Architect, shows the Entrance Hall of my "inspiration house."  I am using it as a guide for the hall of my own Merriman Park.  (I hope the people that really live in this house don't read this and think I'm stalking them or something).Oh, well!  Anyway, I'm not planning on re-creating the room exactly as shown--but I do love the proportions of the space and the beautiful details of the mill work and moldings.

This room is a bit controversial  in historic preservation circles because when the house was "rediscovered" in the 1930's --all falling down and in near ruin--  the home underwent a restoration.  It was at this time that the  Palladian screen was added to the room based on marks left on the floor where columns may (or may not) have been originally placed.  I guess they also beefed up the crown moldings at that time.  Other changes were made to the home as well:  two matching out-buildings, or dependencies, were built flanking the main house and connected by underground passageways.  (Jefferson utilized this feature in many of his buildings).  So there has been a lot of cat-fighting and wringing of hands as to how "pure" the house stands today as a work of Thomas Jefferson. 

Personally, I think the changes are not only in the spirit of Jefferson, but they make the home more livable.  The building is not very large to begin with and the dependencies provide a garage and guest house.  And this home, after all, is not a museum --people are living in it. Bathrooms and kitchens are rather nice to have on hand when you don't have slaves to empty your chamberpot!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Balcony Banister

Here are the aforementioned cast metal banister splats I received from Sue Cook Miniatures in England.  I'm pretty sure they are made of lead so kids, do NOT put them in your mouth!  I plan on spraying them black to mimic wrought iron.  

OMG, I just had a flashback to ages ago when I was a floral designer in this chi-chi little shop here in Minneapolis.  The two owners of the shop HATED each other --it really was a horrible work environment-- but that is ANOTHER story.  Anyway, after some crazy, MAJOR DRAMA, the owners decided to close down the shop before they murdered one other.  Well, my co-worker, Meg, decides she wants to buy the shop.

Now, Meg is a wonderful, fabulous person --so don't think for a moment that I'm dishing on her because I LOVE the girl to filth. She is a very artistic, talented, creative individual BUT let's just say she wasn't that hot at the business side of owning a floral shop.   
We did a huge wedding business and we used to have to fill out these Wedding Consultation Forms every time we met with a prospective client.  This was in the years B.C. --before computers-- so we actually had to fill the forms out by hand I know!  How Jane flipping Austen.  Naturally,  I always made sure to use my very best, flowing, flawless penmanship when I filled out my Consultation Forms.  Meg's forms, on the other hand, were a chicken-scratched, coffee-stained, cigarette-burned MESS. which I used to take perverted delight in reading on my lunch break for laughs.

Well, one time I was tittering over a copy of one of Meg's forms when I came across this little gem: " The altar (I had finally succeeded in convincing her it was not "alter")  arrangements will attach to rot iron candelabras. Rot iron.  Yes, rot iron.  And she used it like seventy-five times throughout the form.  She can spell bloody candelabra, yet wrought iron eludes her. 

But I digress.

Anyway, I plan to paint the splats black to mimic wrought iron and maybe pick out a few areas in gold-leaf. You know, because (everyone):  it's not done til it's overdone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brick and stone: Experiment #1

I'm trying out stone and brick finishes for the exterior of Merriman Park.  On the far left is a stucco finish.  The middle is the accent color and on the right is my first attempt at stone.  I have to say, the "real" samples look a lot better than this photo!  Oh, well...

I also tried to do bricks, but something went terribly wrong and I am re-doing!  Not sure what happened --I think I ruined my batch of gesso-- either too much glue or not enough.  Or maybe the coats didn't dry long enough?  Not sure.

The stone and bricks are done the same way: a layer of gesso, then layers of paint on top to mimic the stone or brick color. Once that dries you scribe the mortar lines with a straight edge: larger squares for stone, smaller for brick.  Then you go back with paint and touch up the individual stones.

I've tried using different tools to scribe the mortar joints, but haven't discovered the definitive one, yet. The tong of a dinner fork seemed to work best, but there must be something better than that!  Looks like there will be more experimenting with tools and colors until I figure out what works and looks best.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sneak Peak

It has been a while since I posted anything about the interior of Merriman Park. For good reason, too, since I haven't done much on the inside. But that hasn't stopped me from picking up a few sticks of furniture here and there!

This is the Entrance Hall, showing the fireplace and Palladian screen in the background with its supporting columns and pilasters from Labre. Here, I tacked up the crystal chandelier, which will eventually light up. Matching, working wall sconces hung over the pair of demi-lune tables will flank the door on the back wall. I've purchased one sconce and am waiting til they go on sale again before I get the other set. (They are not cheap)! I am debating whether the doors on the back walls will be "set" or "working." If they worked, I would have to add on an inch or two off the back of the house so there would be a glimpse of hall beyond the door. Details, details...

You can also see the Regency-style recamier (top pic) and pair of chairs flanking the fireplace. I plan on having working candles on the mantle, which is  from Sue Cook in England. A mirror will be set into the molding over the mantle.

For finishes, the floor will be black and white marble tiles laid in a checkered pattern on the diagonal. There will be a paneled wainscot around the entire room with a scenic wallpaper of ruined, classical architecture (which I have also already purchased from Chinoiserie in Spain. A dentil molding will circle the room end-to-end at ceiling height and also between the columns and pilasters on the Palladian screen. A plaster ceiling rose in the center of the room will mark where the chandelier will hang.

Condifential to cousin Tim:  Yes, I know right now the interior looks "minimal"!! 

Oh, balustrade is finished, too...

I forgot to mention that I finished the balustrade on the roof, including the urns and pedestals. The urns came from Scotland, and took FOREVER to arrive (on back order).

I finished priming everything yesterday --well, except the windows, which I'm still working on. They are such a bore to disassemble and paint but thankfully, I only have SEVEN left.

Speaking of thanks, hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. I, unfortunately, had to WORK, being a common, Retail Drone. The department store where I toil for a living is the last store on Earth that does not put up their Holiday Decorations before Halloween. The owners insist that nothing goes up til after Thanksgiving, so there I was, hanging from a cherry-picker, festive decor in hand, tacking it all up while the rest of yous all was gorging on turkey and pumpkin pie.

Whatevs, I came home afterward to a roast duck and all the trimmings so I should not complain!

Guess I should also be thankful I still have a job.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


So I guess it's been a while since I posted a photo of Merriman Park! There are not a whole lot of changes, as you can see, but I did manage to get the front primed. I changed out the pediments over the upstairs windows and I added keystones to all the lower-story and basement windows.

I really like the triangular pediments as opposed to the "curved" ones. They are more historically accurate, too.

Oh, I also finished the sections on the roof between the balustrades and the large, center pediment. I know there's a technical name for those sections but I can't remember what it is!

I think the house looks great all one color. (Even if it is just primer).

Now that the weather has changed and I've got a start I hope to be posting more often. Stay tuned...

It's Dollhouse Weather!

Surprisingly and rather strangely, Summer in Minnesota stretched languidly from the Dog-Days of August into September...and then into --October??? When the thermometer hit seventy degrees in November, tongues started to wag: "It's the End Times," I heard a lady on the train explain to no one in particular. She nodded as she spoke, her thin lips curled into a tight smile framed by precise, auburn curls. "Yah, I hope my husband gets the gutters cleaned before we're Raptured."

One overhears the oddest things on the train. (That reminds me, the gutters do need cleaning).

But in true, Minnesota fashion, the seventy-degree readings on one day turn to twenty the next. The gardens that til now had sprouted late, guady zinnias and ruffled, purple kale shriveled, gasped their last breath and withered. A cold, autumn rain turned to snow and buried everything under a thick, gloppy blanket.

This morning I rubbed my sleeve over the oval, beveled-glass window of my front door and peered outside.

I remember my Father doing the exact, same thing --only it was thirty years ago, on May first, May Day, his birthday. A late Winter storm had dropped an inch of snow on grass already turned green, the tulips in their neat bed peeking stoically through white frost.

"God damned, Minnesota Winters..." he muttered.

Ah, Winter! Winter in Minnesota. God only knows why any of us stay here. (BTW, my Father moved to Arizona shortly after the above incident). It's not that we don't adore the lovely changing of the seasons, or anything. I live for that! But, seriously! Winter here in Minnesota can go on FOREVER! Snow on the first of May? Really?

But when I rubbed the frost off my window this morning, I did NOT fly into a weather-induced tizzy. Au contraire! I tore open the door, took great breaths of frozen air into my lungs, realized it's NOT the End of the World! It's NOT May first, it's the end of November, for crying out loud! I pounded my chest and exclaiming to no one in particular (take that, religious train lady) I screamed "it's DOLLHOUSE weather!

And with that, I slammed the door and padded down the steps to my basement workshop and beheld the forlorn, cob-web draped image of my neglected Merriman Park.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


It's been a busy, hectic summer and I'm afraid that I haven't worked much on Merriman Park. But I have been toiling on a rather major project for The Lilacs, my "real" house, which is a small bungalow built in 1908. We have always wanted to put in some sort of stone or brick patio out back, but have never been able to swing it, financially. But we finally decided to bite the bullet this Summer, so with great determination and spades in hand we broke ground around Memorial day.

The weather hasn't been very cooperative this season, either being pouring monsoon rains, or blistering heat with tropical humidity (or sometimes both)! So progress was slow, slow, slow! I thought we would NEV-AH complete the task. The job was made all the worse what with the dogs tracking in all the mud and sand. It quickly became impossible to walk across the hundred-year-old hardwood floors in ones bare feet. There was sand EVERYWHERE! Even in the bed. Gross.

Deciding on the type of pavers was not an easy decision either. We love the look of local Kasota limestone, but there was already a poured concrete sidewalk running through the property to deal with. Do we break it up and replace it as well? We opted to keep it ( I have always admired its gentle, meandering curve) and frankly, after the sheer horror of digging the hole and hauling away the seeming never-ending pile of soil for the main patio, tearing out all that concrete was simply NOT going to happen!

We then fell for vintage, granite cobblestones from the original horse-and-buggy-era streets of Minneapolis. A local salvage yard had mountains of them for sale and we liked the idea of reusing period-perfect materials from yesteryear. But these little beauties were sold strictly by the pre-packaged pallet and we were informed by the surly sales staff that 10% of the blocks were unusable because they had grooves carved into them to accommodate the street's antique trolley tracks. And no, they would not be interested in buying back the grooved cobbles, thank-you-very-much. Now what to do?

The answer came when we then found a modern facsimile at a local landscaping yard. These contemporary look-alikes not only mimicked their ye-olde counterparts, but also had the added advantage of being a standard size ( for easier installation) AND they were made from concrete --so they nicely complimented the existing path.

But Will We Ever Finish the Job?

So all that's left to do now is to pull out a few of the bricks and raise them up just a tad to level things out. (I don't think this is so necessary because personally, I like the charming, wavy effect but darling dearest INSISTS upon it being absolutely, PERFECTLY FLAT so I guess he put the kibosh on that idea). But believe you me, with a century old house, it will be the ONLY 100% flat surface. But what do I know ? Sheesh. Then, we have yet to sweep in the sand between the cracks hopefully BEFORE they fill themselves up with all the nasty refuse from the nearby heinous black walnut tree which I have been sworn to NEVER, EVER even mention removing, even though it's an evil, monstrous thing that could have been an actual prop from the original Poltergeist movie, and actually nearly murdered one of my poor, hapless, tow-headed nephews when the little nipper unwittingly toddled near its unholy clutches! KER-SPLAT!!! Landed a ghoulish-green, egg-sized walnut mere inches from little nephew's noggin. I tell you that tree is PURE EVIL, but it will IN NO WAY EVER COME DOWN, no not EVER so I might as well just drop it, right now --FORGET IT!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Miniature" Ballgown --LOL!

OK, I know I'm pushing it --it's not really a miniature as in doll size. But this is the dress that I have been working on for about six weeks and yes! it is finally, at long last, complete!

I guess it probably doesn't look all that complicated but all those diamond shapes of my "updated harlequin" design are appliqued by hand. Each separate shape has grosgrain ribbon "stripes" sewn in rows, then I top-stitched a wider ribbon over everything to create the harlequin effect. Real, freshwater pearls are sewn where the ribbons intersect. (As always, you can click on the photo to get a closer look).

The party --or I should say parties-- are this weekend. I am also doing the decorations for all three events: a dinner after the Friday service, a luncheon after the Saturday service and then the Masquerade Ball on Saturday evening. I have already made up thirty-six planted arrangements in terracotta bowls for the luncheon and made table arrangements for the masquerade consisting of wig-forms with elaborate, feathered coiffures. They are pretty outrageous! I am making all-white, cut-flower arrangements for the dinner. I'll post pictures of everything next week. Then maybe I can get back to poor, neglected Merriman Park!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Merriman Park has sort of been put on the back burner, these days. I'm not gonna lie, the weather here in Minnesota has been way too glorious to stay cooped up in the basement with a giant, unfinished dollhouse! No, you don't understand! Spring usually sucks here in the Upper Midwest! We usually still have brown, crusty, leftover snow on the ground in April and we haven't had so much as a flurry since March first. It's INSANE! Not only have our ten-thousand lakes been unfrozen for ages but there are gaw-jess flowers blooming, people! The grass is green! I got sun burned, already! It's too surreal!!!

Also, my dollhouse project has been usurped by Project Runway. No, not the popular TV show, my own special, private project runway --I am making a party gown for my best friend's daughter who is turning thirteen and the theme for her Bat Mitzvah party is: Masquerade! The dress is a glittery confection of pink silk designed with an abstract harlequin pattern (thanks, Oscar de la Renta) embroidered from the fitted bodice to the bottom of its floor-length hem with iridescent fresh-water pearls. It's still just in pieces but I'll snap a pic if I can ever find the freakin' camera, which never seems to be in the same spot, ever!

Monday, March 22, 2010


So here you can see some of the primed windows. I added keystones to the arched windows on the ground floor, along with crown moldings to give them a little more dimension. If you click on the photo you might get a better glimpse of them. Also new are the decorative stair ends from Sue Cook in England. Wait until you see the cast pewter balustrade (also from Sue Cook) which will go between the Ionic pillars! So cool! But it's going to be a while before they get installed...

I also decided to switch the window pediments from the bonnet style you see here to a triangular style. Originally I wanted to alternate triangular and semi-round pediments, but for some unknown reason the semi-round ones available through Houseworks are 1/4" smaller than the triangular and bonnet models. Stuff like that makes me insane! Why, why, why would they not make them all the same size except to plague and torment me! So anyway, I chose the bonnet pediments as a compromise but now I see that the triangular ones would have been the better choice.

I think that all I have left is to place paneled pilasters on the basement under the quoins. (They will match the pedestals on the roof). Then I can prime and paint the exterior!

Oh, I just realized the front steps are out of whack --don't worry-- they're not glued down, yet!


Worked on the chimneys and the roof balustrade. There are four chimneys and they will each get a crown molding around their tops. But that will have to wait for another trip to the local dollhouse shop. I also am waiting on a replacement balustrade because I accidentally destroyed one in a foolhardy attempt to hurry the project along. Pardon my blooper! It should be coming any day now from England along with miniature urns that will rest on top of the little paneled pedestals. The urns were manufactured in Scotland. I think the paneled pedestals are way nicer than the old plain ones, don't you think?

The chimney pots are new, too. They are wooden and came painted as you see them --I'll probably end up repainting them. I started priming all seventeen windows and if I thought making the mullions was a pain in the ass, let me tell you how boring this task is! All the windows have to be taken apart and all the separate pieces painted, then sanded, reassembled (there are so many little pieces I am afraid of loosing some). Then I get to do it all again when it comes time to paint the topcoat. WEEEEEEE!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Review: The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

Newly available in stores, The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone will delight children of all ages who have a particular soft-spot for the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago. The Thorne Rooms are a collection of miniature room settings in historic period styles and are of exquisite "almost eerily realistic" design. In this story, young Ruthie and Jack discover that they can shrink themselves down to the rooms' scale, sneak inside the closed museum and explore the rooms' secrets.

Anyone who has been lucky enough to see the actual rooms will be able to relate to the young protagonists on their adventure. Those less fortunate, however, might have a hard time. Author Malone describes the rooms in lovely detail, but her descriptions pale to viewing the rooms themselves. You really have to see them to believe them!

That is why this work would have been more successful as a picture book. Oh, there are a few well-executed, dream-like illustrations by artist Greg Call. But when Malone writes things such as "Finally she arrived at room E12, an English Drawing Room from the year 1800." (these sort of lines run copiously throughout the book), I have a hard time believing a child is going to know what Malone is talking about... Drawing Room? 1800? E12? --Huh?

As I happen to have a copy of the Thorne Rooms museum catalog, I was able to reference each of the numbered rooms the characters visited. (The catalog is an almost must-have companion piece to this book).

The Sixty-Eight Rooms was an amusing afternoon diversion for this ardent fan of Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Devotes of the Thorne Rooms will undoubtedly agree.

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!

Monday, February 8, 2010

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!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Room With A View

Here's a few shots of some of the rooms. That's my Sue Cook fireplace I got all the way from England. I also got a door surround from the incomparable Miss Cook which I am placing in the Entrance Hall (top photo). Still trying to figure out the electric stuff. Wish me luck! I thought that I would run all the wiring under the basement and/or up in the attic. There are also hollow chimney breasts in each room that would naturally house wiring. But since I have a "front-opening" house, maybe it would be better to run the wires out the back?

My electrical dilemma is made all the more complicated by the fact that my house is going to be lit up like a CHEAP VEGAS BROTHEL! I've been looking at 12-volt transformers (which I guess is what you're supposed to use in a dollhouse) and they recommend you add up how many light bulbs you are going to be using throughout your house. A 20-volt transformer is supposed to be adequate for a "large house" of eight to ten rooms." But it only will service a fraction of the seventy count "em bulbs I am planning for six-room Merriman Park!

On to the electrical system...

I'm not gonna lie to you, I am sort of terrified of electricity. Maybe it stems from the fact that when I was a kid I witnessed my brother Greg sticking a fork into an outlet. The result was not pretty: black soot trail from outlet to ceiling... brother shot across room, laying motionless on the floor, eyes like X's, mother running around in circles screaming, "Oh, Lord Jesus! God damn it! What were you boys thinking?"...Thing is, I knew, even at the tender age of five, that he shouldn't have done it --I knew, almost instinctively that something terrible would surely ensue, and as the older sibling, I probably should have said something like: "dude, don't stick that fork in the outlet," and yet I sat there silent as the grave and just watched the drama unfold.

So flash forward and here I am about to electrify Merriman Park, my first dollhouse. Hopefully I will be able to accomplish this daunting task without burning it, and my own house, down to the ground!

I have read a few books on the subject and --OK, I might not be the brightest star in the constellation, but I'm not a complete moron, either. ( Even if I do say so myself). But every time I try to get through these books I am like , "Oh, god, I'm bored!" Amps, watts , volts --might as well be talking about --well, sports, or something. Just don't get it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

We have walls!

Starting to take shape! It sure is tedious working on the window mullions... But it is SO satisfying to finish one and then pop it into place. I am SO EXCITED! I would get so much more work done if I didn't spend so much time sitting and staring at the unfinished shell, dreaming about how fabulous it will be when it's finished. (But that is sort of a Family Curse. LOL)!

Everything is precariously perched /leaning together. I have already had a few mishaps involving walls careening and windows crashing to the floor. But no more! I have learned my lesson.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Breaking Ground!

I started working on the house proper this weekend! OMG! It's a LOT bigger than I had imagined...So far, things are going pretty well --except I realize now that I REALLY NEED to invest in some better tools. It seems a shame to spend big bucks on top-of-the-line, cabinet-grade plywood and then have to cut it all up with A BUTTER KNIFE. I mean really.

The plan was to build the carcass at my workplace shop. But then I changed my mind and decided to do it all in the basement. Well, it's actually more of a cellar than a basement. A very, very small cellar. And now there is THIS HUGE DOLLHOUSE sitting in the middle of it so it seems even smaller! So I guess I need to work on a better work space as well as buy some new tools.

Also, received ALL SEVENTEEN WINDOWS in the mail the other day. Can't imagine how long it's gonna take to hand-make all of those mullions! Can you say repetitive?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have been battling a nasty cold for the past week. It's hard doing anything when your head is BLOWN UP TWICE ITS NORMAL SIZE and your nose is running like a leaky spigot!

Think I finally turned the corner since my head is not throbbing nearly as bad today...But here is a foam core mock-up of Merriman Park in 1/2" scale. It looks a little stark without mouldings, cornices, windows, etc. So you will have to use your imagination! I am STILL having a hard time finding pillars that I like in the correct size. (12" pillars with an Ionic base and capital, if anyone reading this knows where I might find them, give me a holler). Actually, I want two engaged (half-round) columns to go on the ends, with two full-round columns in the center. I did find appropriate capitals and bases, but the columns themselves remain elusive. Yes I know I could just use a wooden dowel, but I want the pillars to taper slightly. Guess I'll be firing up the old lathe I've got rusting away in the garage!

As you can see in the second photograph, the two ends are hinged to open out. I have designed the center component to simply "lift out," the hinged portions will keep it in place when closed.

As far as room assignments go, on the ground floor I have the Entrance Hall located in the bottom center --you can see the Palladian screen against the back wall. To the left of this room is the Library, and the Dining Room is on the right. Directly above the Hall is the octagonal Drawing Room (which may turn into the hexagonal Drawing Room, to save space). I keep going back and forth about that one! To the left of this is the Chinoiserie Bedroom, and to the right is the Print Room.

Another change I might be making from my mock-up is that I may have all the fireplaces located on the inside walls and eliminate the chimneys on the outside, end walls. My friend Eric, aka Thing insists on it, and since he is a total expert on Regency Architecture (and absolutely EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE) how can I not listen to his advice?

I ordered all my doors and windows and they will be arriving any day now! I also ordered the fireplace mantle and door surround for the Hall from Sue Cook in England. Can't wait to see them!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Entrance Hall

Here is the sketch for Merriman Park's entrance hall (Back wall, with Palladian screen). I plan to use a miniature French Zuber wallpaper, but I am kinda leery of ordering it, as I have been wicked burned in the past with wallpapers --apparently what passes as 1/12th scale wallpaper and 1/24th scale is a little bit fuzzy (to the retailers, at least, especially with scenic papers). I'm afraid my preferred choice will turn out to be too small, but I suppose I could photo-enlarge it, if need be. Still, one would THINK if one was going to SPEND FORTY-FIVE BUCKS on DOLLHOUSE WALLPAPER that it would be good to go. But that 's just me...

Miniaturist who is MORE FIERCE than you!

This is one of the aforementioned books I received for Christmas. If you have never been to the Art Institute of Chicago, I do highly suggest that you spend a few hours in the Windy City lighting a candle and bowing before the miniature altars created by the Goddess of Miniatures herself, namely, Mrs. James Ward Thorne!

And if an eminent trip to Chi-Town is not in your New Year's cards, I suggest you buy this book! (Good luck finding it, since it was published in 1983). God knows how my long-suffering partner found it, must have been on eBay, or something. But seriously, the photographs in this book of the Divine Ms. Thorne's rooms will MAKE YOU WEEP like a little school-girl, they are THAT GORGEOUS!

I double-dog DARE you to page through this brilliant, paperback edition and NOT feel at least the teensiest bit LIKE A COMMON HACK ! We should all aspire to these heights --lofty as they may be.

And thank you, Mrs. Thorne, for leaving such an inspiring legacy!

New Plans!

I worked on the plans for Merriman Park the last couple of days. I made YET MORE CHANGES to the plan, most significantly, I decided to do "blind arches" over the ground floor windows --mainly because I couldn't find stock, arch-topped windows that I liked. Oh, well... using the same window throughout will give a sense of continuity to the plan. (That's what I'm telling myself, anyway)! But the window tops are trimmed differently enough --blind arch, triangular pediment and half-round pediment-- which gives the house a certain flair, don't you think so?

I have also been picking out all my mouldings, ceilings, wall treatments and most exciting --FIREPLACES! I have no less than six fireplaces to choose, and I am having a difficult time picking favorites. The best ones I've found (thus far) are from Braxton Payne and Sue Cook.

Also... I experimented with my sample window, which came without mullions, (though they provided the material to make your own). I want my windows to be "nine-over-nine," so it took quite a while to whittle those tiny sticks of wood (more like toothpicks, really) into the little grids that eventually will pop into the window frames. Don't worry, I haven't glued them in yet... I'll wait til I've painted everything. Did I mention there are SEVENTEEN windows? What am I getting myself into?

The first sketch is for the hexagonal drawing room located on the piano nobile. This was another departure from my original plan --I wanted to have an octagonal room, but I'm afraid the floor space is simply too limited. I decided to do the walls in framed, wallpapered or silk-upholstered panels (most likely, a stripe). There will be two matching pier tables flanking the door on the back wall. I plan on hanging portraits (with picture lights) over the pier tables. Still not sure about colors! I want the whole house to have a coordinated palette so it looks pleasing when viewed as a whole. (And we've ALL SEEN dollhouses where every single room is a contrasting, clashing color)! I find myself torn between lighter Georgian and Regency colors and the more bright Empire palette.