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.