Well, David and I were up until two o'clock the night before Laura's birthday, but her dollhouse was finished on the day, only a year or so after I first mentioned it, which I think in dollhouse years is not bad atal. We started building it about two months before the day, to the plan I'd intended, the Victorian Town House in Venus and Martin Dodge's New Doll's House Do-It-Yourself Book. The idea was to build a pleasant but not elaborate house with a basic setting in each room, so that if Laura enjoys it she can add to it over time, and that if it does go over well with the girls, we will make another one in a year or so for Julia, reversing the plan so that the two houses can sit side-by-side, windowless sides together with the doors opening on the respective left and right like a cupboard.
This particular house plan is meant to be for the beginning builder (more about that in a moment), and to be played with, instead of being a collector's showpiece. The rooms are large, and there is no staircase so that there is more space for furniture and for playing, and there are windows on one side only to allow for more wallspace. (The fact that this makes for easier building is a bonus!) I liked what Dodge said about most dollhouses being "a mixture of the homemade, the affordable, and a few 'special' things," and this is what it has turned out to be.
One of the things I enjoyed most about building this is that the things I rather dreaded turned out to be interesting and challenging, but not particularly difficult. I built the door myself, after David cut a piece of 1/8" plywood to size and ripped some 3/32" basswood into strips, which I cut and glued, then painted and fitted with a charming brass door knob and plate. I would say, though, that a complete woodworking novice should have an expert nearby for the duration of the project, as there were a number of things, such as cutting out the windows, that required a far surer hand than mine in the workshop. Luckily for me, David's years in scene shops and his natural inclination towards building things (and taking them apart) have made him very handy. There were still things that puzzled him for a while, though, and he also wondered about better ways to do things, and "bashing the kit" as it were, so he made the window frames a bit more elaborate, and the whole thing a bit more sturdy. The front is still not attached, as I thought that the eaves looked stingy in the book, so David extended them, and then when it came time to put the front on he realized that the eaves had been so shallow because otherwise the front won't open!
We postponed the windows due to the lack of time -- although frankly, Laura hasn't missed them, and looked rather surprised when I mentioned it. The house is also not fitted with electric lights, as I didn't want to over-complicate things for David and myself, nor for Laura, really.
(The weather these past few weeks has been for the most part uniformly glorious -- clear and cold, with a few hours of rain here and there, almost always at night -- but the winter sun is so low towards the southern horizon that the light for photography is very chancy, and I see that I missed the few moments of brightness in the living room, hence the somewhat blurry photos.)
The "tile" floor (actually PVC) was easy to lay down with Tacky Glue, and looks quite professional. I see now that I have quite forgotten the kitchen skirting/baseboards, which I suppose are still on David's workbench in the garage awaiting a few coats of paint. (Tch.) The table and chairs are by Carriage House Miniatures, and the baskets from Magic Cabin (the clothespins and apples are by Handley House, as are most of the other accessories, except the white mixing bowls which are shaft locks from the hardware store, with the metal insides pried out). I crocheted the rug myself from Kitchen Cotton in "Denim Swirl" and was pleased to see that it does look very much like a braided rug from a distance (my first attempt at crochet in quite a few years, so bear with me)! The kitchen dresser is an unfinished piece from Michael's -- not in scale, I realized once it was in place, but will do for the nonce, as it cost a mere dollar, minus 40% with the Sunday coupon!
The photograph is of course Our Dear Queen, in a frame that I made of basswood scraps with David's new miterbox and saw (yes, he got new tools out of this project!). I meant to paint it with the same chocolatey brown paint that I used for the floors in the parlour and bedroom, but a first coat on the white primer had the unexpectedly delightful effect of perfect woodgrain, so I left it at that. I also made the mop, with fine dowelling and crochet cotton -- this is I think Julia's favorite piece, as she's mopped the entire house numerous times since Laura's birthday.
The stove is made from directions in Jean Nisbett's A Beginner's Guide to the Dollhouse Hobby, a sort of ur-Aga from a block of basswood with nonworking doors made of heavy cardstock rectangles glued on and painted of a piece with the rest -- the hinges and latches are sewing hooks and eyes.
The wallpaper in the parlour is "Jan" from Broadnax, who have a wonderful selection of minature prints for wallpapers and fabrics. I was hoping to find what Dodge recommended, two similar colors of the same print, but despite the wide selection available at my local store, this was not possible, and so I chose two of a similar color and tone that once in place actually work pretty well together, despite their differences. The Biedermeier table is a Mini Mundus kit, which I finished quite amateurishly, but due to the quality of the kit still looks very pretty -- I wanted something "heirloom" but still sturdy enough to be played with, and Biedermeier is heftier than, say, Queen Anne or Chippendale! -- and the tea set regretfully has no maker's name on the box, for it is quite wee and charming. I did super-glue the tiny lids to the teapot and sugar bowl, and Laura asked me to glue the cups to their saucers as they tended to fall over frustratingly easily. The three doilies were a Christmas present from a crocheting friend, and put my kitchen rug quite to shame.
All of the gilded picture frames are by Unique Miniatures -- the painting is a detail from a Gainsborough landscape postcard from the Huntington, and the little photographs are Victorian ones scaled down in PhotoPlus and set into charm bracelet frames. I made the tchotchke on the mantel with a large pearl bead and a brass fitting from the hardware store, and the chair is loosely based on instructions in Nisbett.
The piano is a music box that was given to Laura some years ago -- personally, I'm not sure about the little kitties, but Laura loves it, and that's what counts!
The 3-inch Diana Barry doll is by Avonlea Traditions (available through Northern Gifts), which I bought at our local children's bookstore some time ago.
The wallpaper in the bedroom is "Nellie" from Broadnax -- I followed Dodge's lead and cut off the top border and laid it on a diagonal to follow the line of the peaked ceiling on the back wall. The wallpaper was the other thing I dreaded, but was actually fairly simple -- thank goodness I had another pair of hands, though, as that made things much easier. We used the mucilage paste the shop recommended, which allowed quite a bit of adjustments as it stayed sticky for a long time.
The painting is another postcard, a detail from the portrait of Penelope Acton by Romney, also at the Huntington. The wardrobe is also an unfinished piece from Michael's; the brass bed is by Handley House, and was along with the Biedermeier table my two "nice" splurges. The small rug is a Victorian floral gros point reproduced on felt by What's Next. I made the fine-gauge wool bedspread from the pattern for a baby washcloth in Knitting Loves Crochet by Candi Jensen, which I'd conveniently borrowed from the library a week or so before.
It's all very addicting, I must say!