Thursday, May 16, 2019


Getting the balcony railing installed for the New Orleans felt like a major accomplishment!  I kept at it, installing the last interior wall then starting in on all the trim work. Here’s where you find out just how out of square your build is and how good you really are with your measurements. I'll have some pics for you next week. I have a fair amount of filling and touch up painting to do, and that just got real boring, real fast. I got out the roof piece to begin making decisions on the ceiling molding and suddenly felt lost for direction. Oh how I long for step by step instructions where I don’t have to make many decisions and can kind of just mindlessly enjoy something crafty!

Ask and ye shall receive!

For Mother’s Day this year, my grown up daughter flew to California to visit her paternal grandma. She asked me before booking the ticket if it would hurt my feelings if she was not with me on Mother's Day. How sweet is that? Of course I told her GO! Have fun! We don't need it to be Mother's Day to spend fun time together, and we do it quite regularly anyway! But she went even further to sweeten the deal and will be spending most of this weekend here. Last time she showed me how to make her eggs Benedict recipe with homemade biscuits, but this time we'll be working on new mini projects together!

I have always been curious about the all in one 3D puzzle kits that you see everywhere, and have always wanted to see if I would really enjoy working in half scale. So using the generous Mother's Day Amazon gift card from the same thoughtful daughter, I bought two of them. Mine is the Chocolatier store kit by Spilay. Natasha has less room in her apartment, and because she has very little mini experience I picked the smaller Cake Diary kit by Cutebee for her.

In preparation for this weekend, I thought it was a great idea to crack my kit open to get familiar with the instructions. While there are very few words in English, the photos are pretty self explanatory. Once you get the key to how the instructions are laid out, it's pretty straight forward. The Spilay kit has the parts segregated into bags marked with a letter. Once you find the bag with that letter, you see a photo diagram of the parts you need for that piece of the kit. The instructions then provide step by step photos of how to assemble. The window film, signs and patterns are referenced in the same way as the parts for easy identification. Many of them have already been painted, and my kit included sandpaper, scissors, tweezers, ruler, razor knife, screwdriver and parts to make a dust cover.

I'll report on the other kit brand instructions after we've had a chance to work on it, though they look really similar.

I have only worked on the main large furniture pieces so far, a couple hours over the past couple evenings and am making steady progress. It is such a nice change to just be able to follow directions, and yet I have found some great opportunities to personalize and embellish the pieces as I go. I have added scrapbook paper, lace, different door knobs and even raised the tiny signs by adding wood back pieces outlined in gold leafing pen. We'll pretend that "always" is not misspelled on this one. :O) This person's English is still definitely better than my Chinese!

Aren't they adorable?!? I am truly enjoying this kit and expect to do more in the future. I hope Natasha finds it just as fun and that it turns into a regular activity for us to enjoy together.

As is generally the case, the universe synchronizes the timing on things. Imagine my surprise and delight this morning when I learned via email marketing that Hobby Builders Supply/ is now offering these kits on their site!

The most delightful thing about this little halftime experiment is that I am discovering that I LOVE 1/24th scale! I can see myself doing many more projects in this scale, and because it's so much tinier, I'll have room for twice as many projects! Watch out Shannon! Soon I'll be coming for some of those amazing Red Cottage Miniatures structure and furniture kits I've coveted for so many years!!!

Have a wonderful, fun and creative weekend everyone!

xo xo,

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Wink, A Nod and A Stair

Oh My! Stairs are HARD!!! And the ones for the New Orleans have been a real challenge for me from the start. I reasoned that before I installed the last wall panel upstairs, and prior to focusing on the bedroom, I had better get the hallway balcony railing and all trims for that skinny room completed. Big hands and frequent lapses in grace were among my worries. To do this part of the project,  finishing the stairs was essential, but the stairs for this project have been a bit of an odyssey from the beginning...

During the first dry fit I decided the set that came with the kit were too narrow, steep and plain. So I began making my own. This was in May of 2017!

After I had finished the first set, I realized that the last stair ended way too close to the "fourth wall" and instead needed a return. And since I was rebuilding anyway, why not add built in shelves for more display opportunities?

The photo below was as far as I'd gotten in August of 2017. And there they sat during my looooong hiatus.

Another bright idea came when I thought that opening up the stairwell would allow the chandelier light from the landing to shine down the stairs. I couldn't resist the idea of having something so pretty, so the opening became much larger. Now there would be a balcony all the way around the opening.

See how narrow the original stairs and opening were to be
per the original kit specs?
No way Jose!
When you cut a gaping hole into the structure, it can cause some sag which is what I expected and did occur with the stairwell opening. I always thought I would probably have to have some sort of column to support the second floor, though my original solution proved to be too big for the room.

Slight floor sag at enlarged stairwell opening.

Original column plan took up too much space in the living room.
And crowded the walkway from the front door to the stairs.

To help support the opening, I have added a 1/4" x 1/4" trim strip all along the second floor. It matches the first floor trim strip that I added to give the extra 1/8" of length I needed for the kitchen cabinets. I drilled pilot holes then nailed it into the floor for extra support. I will likely still add a column, but will need to load the furniture into the room to decide on size and placement. So I have put a pin in that task for now.

The trim strip has helped the sag.

The banister was not attached, just sort of in dry fit on top of the spindles. I had inadvertently knocked it around a little and some of the spindles had come loose. Many repairs had to be made, the banister had to be permanently attached, and decisions made on how to address the return stairs. As in: spindle and newel post or no? I also had the tricky angle cuts to make to join the banister sections at the top where the landing stair is longer, and at the bottom where the return meets the main rail. Nothing lined up perfectly or angled well, so I had to fake it. Wink, wink. I have used layers of wood glue as spackle, done some "creative sanding",  and hoped the final painting would disguise this fact enough to pass.

Wood glue as spackle.

The bottom newel post needed a bit of a lift.

Creative sanding.

In addition, I had to make decisions about what to use to make the balcony railing and then actually make it. I had considered several options such as creating a fancy wrought iron design out of plastic fencing pieces, but ultimately decided the house was asking me to keep things traditional. Too bad for me because spindles, baluster and bottom rail were the most fiddly option! Extremely tiny gluing surface, spacing nightmare, measuring minefield, ripe for knocking over after installation and just short of materials were some of the challenges. Below is the jerry~rigged~jig I made in an attempt to get the spindle spacing at least close to even. I made the rails in four sections and then joined them together. You can imagine my joy at having the entire thing explode to pieces while attempting to secure the baluster and bottom rail with rubber bands. It  happened more than once. My neighbors now believe I speak in Tongues.

The only way forward was to exercise extreme patience and let each step thoroughly set and dry before moving on to the next step. Here is one of many dry fit checks I made at every step along the way...

I made use of the waiting time by making up a bunch of frames with artwork for the stairway wall and upstairs hall. I used my old faithful method of marking out the wall space on my cutting mat with tape and then playing with the arrangement. I don't always follow the arrangement I've laid out, so this wall is going to need more art in frames.

You can see in these photos that I took the opportunity to add some decor to the stairway shelves, and to install the entry table and lamp. By install, I mean attach a piece of wood to the back of the furniture and attach that to the wall semi-permanently. By that I mean that I attach with Quick Grip so that the piece stays in place but can be removed without damage at any point in the future. This is ideal when a "decorate as I go" method is employed. I find it easier to decorate tiny spaces this way and less damaging than reaching big hands into tiny recesses at the end. There is still more to add, but I need to make a bunch of plants and flowers and want to do them for the entire house all at once. Flower and plant making have a way of taking up your entire work table!

My next steps are to install baseboard and other moldings into the stairwell hall,  make a fabric shade for the dormer window, make some artwork for the walls and contemplate adding another mirrored faux window to the stair wall. Everything I have on hand is either too big or too small, so I am waiting for a good idea to convince me to give it more effort. :O) At that point I can finally install the last wall in the house and begin again on the bedroom.

A lady from a blog I follow recently shared that she received some critical comments from a person via FaceBook. It struck a chord with to me to want to say a few words about it. The vast majority of us who love and have a passion for dollhouse miniatures, and who have blogs/Instagram/Facebook that we use to share our projects and connect to each other with, are not professionals in the litany of skills and trades involved in the hobby. We share because we receive and give support to like minded folks who "get" us. A lot of us share things that we are trying for the first time, more complicated things that we are trying to learn from, or things we are simply just having fun with. We don't share because we think we are perfect. Long lecture short... For those of you who support and encourage all of us through your wonderful comments...


You are truly angels of light whose positivity impacts us in ways that you'll never know the measure of. For those of you who feel moved to write something nice, DO! And for all others, Be Kind with your Words. Check to make sure your intentions are good and words sincere before you type them. Making someone feel bad about their work only feeds rather than starves monsters. The world needs more angels and fewer monsters and you get to chose which you want to be! :O)

And to everyone, whatever gender, if you put others first and show love to them...

xo xo,

Monday, April 22, 2019

Black, White and Gold

Just to refresh you, this was the furniture from my last post. After many coats of paint... I achieved the unifying black color I was hoping for.

I decided to do the faux marble treatment on the sink's countertop, painting the base with white chalk paint in several layers, sanding smooth in-between, then drawing on the marbling with artists chalk. I sealed and gave it it's shiny marble effect with several layers of sprayed on Krylon Triple Thick. Since gold was the metal finish of choice, I used the Krylon Gold Leafing pen to change the Falcon faucets from silver to gold, along with other elements of the accessories to tie everything together. I didn't have Iris, the French national flower, so instead I made white lilacs in a vase with water for the vanity. The candles can be found in my Tutorials tab.

Funny story with the bottom drawer being a basket now... I had finished the painting, let the dresser sit to cure for DAYS, then finally got to put the handles back on and reassemble. I had marked the drawers so I'd know exactly which slot they belonged in. Drawer #2 just didn't want to slide in, no matter how I coaxed it. I was a little wary of sanding, in case I ruined the finish. It almost fit, so I thought just forcing it in would work. It Didn't! After several moments of shock, because neither could I pull it out or push it in, I made the decision I would have to pull it out. No way to not damage it getting it out. So, drawer #3 became drawer #2, #4 became #3, and poor #2 got sanded raw and flush, painted black, and a "basket" cover was glued on. All is well that ends well, and I think I even like it better!

The side cabinets got filled with shampoo/conditioner/lotion bottles, glass jars with "bath beads", rolled towels, tissue, pottery, and various other decorative items. I adhered them to the glass shelves with Quick Grip (Elizabeth!) before inserting them through the back of the cabinets and re-gluing the mirrored backs. I did not have the patience to light the cabinets, as Elizabeth so smartly suggested. I also added legs to the bottoms to elevate them and help them coordinate with the sink cabinet. All were painted gold.

"Bath Beads" are tiny metallic micro beads and pearls.

Since there is no windows on the walls of the bathroom, I thought making the mirror out of a chipboard window frame would give it a more open feeling.

For the tub wall, I thought a collage of black and white bathroom photos and art would be fun. I bought about six vintage graphics through FrenchPaperMoon on Etsy. LOVE her graphics and am happy to pay for them periodically. Since I made them black and white for this bathroom, you are likely to see the full color versions in future builds! :O) The other ones I found with a Google search.

I like to use my cutting mat to tape off the wall space I am working with so I can play with the arrangement. Once I am happy, I take a photo so that while I am removing them to hang on the wall I have a reference of what goes where. I used all pot metal frames and sprayed them with the same black satin as the cabinets.

Getting them hung straight is another story altogether! The peek through the bedroom door into the bathroom is lovely, though!

I modified an Avalon toilet that I purchased on closeout by shortening the tall pipe from the tank to the toilet bowl and making the flusher gold. It looks a little more modern, now.

I love how the tub came out with it's black and gold, and the separate taps and spray wand. If only the tub was just slightly larger to match the scale of the other fixtures.

There's a little more accessorizing to do, but I'll finish that for the final dressing of the house once it's done. I am also still playing with the idea of a French style roof window to let the light in. It will have to play nice with the ceiling trims and chandelier, so we'll see if I can work out a plan. For now, though, my attention will turn to finishing the bedroom and stairwell hall.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing this fun and fulfilling (and sometimes frustrating) project with me!

xo xo,

Thursday, April 11, 2019

New Orleans Walls + Floors + Fixtures

The next chapter for this ol' New Orleans kit was preparing the interior divider walls for installation. I needed to come up with some wainscoting for the bedroom walls. I wanted something a little more detailed than the simple bead board I used in the stairway hall. What material do I have? How thick and wide should the trim be? Is this going to impact the next steps and if so what adjustments to the design or materials do I need to make? How will this meet the next wall and will the trims work nicely together? Luckily, I was able to find suitable materials, and even more luckily, I didn’t make a mistake and leave myself short like the stairwell boards, which hopefully, have been camouflaged enough that it won't be noticeable.

Once I had the basic design and confirmed I had enough materials, the rest was pretty straightforward and methodical. I made panels for each section of the bedroom walls from 1/16" basswood, then made a frame overlay using 1/16" x 1/4" wood strips. The bottoms got 1/16" x 1/2" so they'll make perfect sized bases for the baseboards, which will be installed last. To the centers I added fancy Greenleaf door popout panels (leftover from the flower shop projects) and more Unique Miniatures embellishments.

I constructed the basic boxes for the built ins on either side of the balcony door, then gave the right one "doors" using Houseworks wainscot panels and the left one faux drawers with more UM embellishment frames.

Here's the test fit with tops made on the built ins. I am still debating about shelves for the left side, and have since painted what will be inside the built in recess the teal wall color (in a later photo). I also installed the hardware, gold to match the chandelier to be installed later, and the door handles. I won't install the wainscot top cap or the doors until after the walls have been installed.

Once the bedroom walls had been finished as far as I could go I switched my attention to the bathroom walls. I cut the faux brick subway tile wall panels and wainscot trim, then set up the back wall and side wall on my cutting mat to test the fit. Once I was happy, I hand painted the tile panels with white chalk paint three times, sanding really smooth in between. Then, on three consecutive days, I layered on the triple thick spray glaze to get a nice tile shine. I won't install the panels to the walls until they've had several more days to cure.

I've been saving an idea for the cabinets and sink for a long time, and am excited to finally be getting to work on it. I have a Town Square dining room hutch set and I'll be using the two side pieces from that for the cupboards, one on each side. The Bespaq dresser will be turned into the vanity sink.

They all need to be painted and customized, so against all common sense, I took them apart. What we won't do for an idea!!! On the cupboards, I removed the mirrored backs, glass door inserts and the glass shelves, loosening the glue with my hair dryer. For such nice pieces, the glue job was truly sloppy. It took a long, patient while to carefully remove the glue from everything and sand smooth again.

For the vanity sink, I removed all the drawers and doors, then loosened the top with more heat and a gentle force. Because the piece's countertop is already at 3", I decided on an undermount sink. I cut and sanded the hole, checking all along the way for fit and center. I am going to attempt a faux marble top like I did on some of the vanities I experimented with last year. The sink, a bisque bowl, will be painted white and then get the triple thick glaze sprayed on in several layers. I'll add the drain as I did with last year's vanities, too.

For the bathtub, I am using yet another Chrysnbon bathroom kit, though I have a different toilet to use this time. I have not found a suitable alternative bathtub in style, authenticity or price since I began collecting for this project in 2016. I played with the idea of a shower, but every mock up made the bathroom close in on itself, and to place a tub/shower in the back meant losing the closet and the vanity impact - viewing it from the side just would't look as lovely. So I will place the Chrysnbon tub in for now, and keep replacement options open in the future. Kristine - please design and offer a fabulous tub in your Shapeways shop, will you? My little TinkerCad program is way too limited for something that curvy!

All of the bathroom pieces are getting sprayed with black satin. I have the first couple coats finished and drying, but this time of year have to take things slowly. It's been a cold and wet week!

The last big project for the second story is the flooring. I made the template for the areas getting Houseworks walnut wood flooring, same as what I used on the first floor, and then got that installed with the stinky Quick Grip. I like using that better than E6000 for the flooring because you only need to apply it to one side, which makes it easier to adjust if your first lay down attempt isn't perfectly aligned.

I'm adding tiles to the bathroom floor as I get a few minutes to work on it, but I can tell you my tile job is not going to be perfect. I guess since it's my first time with this stuff I'll give myself a break and hope the really noticeable mistakes will be under the fixtures!

Some experienced mini builders may have noticed or wondered why there will be wood floors under the walls. I'll have the answer, and hopefully, an ingenious  alternative to those annoying and unrealistically out of scale thresholds on dollhouse doors in my next post.

Hope you have a wonderfully fulfilling week!

xo xo,