Thursday, August 15, 2019

Throwback Thursday: The Merrimack (Part 1)

This is my mid-century modern house--the half-scale Merrimack by Earth & Tree.  After the Fairfield, it was a delight to build.  The pieces were cut so well I almost didn't even need tape when doing the dry fit.  I made almost no changes to the layout, except for one tiny change on the third floor which you'll see later.  It doesn't use traditional siding; instead, it uses diagonal and vertical cedar strips and magic stone stencils. Plus, the two halves of the roof are so straight and uncomplicated that shingling was a breeze.  😊  I loved this house for many reasons—I really like mid-century modern, I used my grandparents' home as inspiration for several of the rooms, and I got a chance to spread my wings on scratch building furniture.

If half scale furniture is hard to find (and it is), modern half scale furniture is even harder.  Most of the furniture made by higher-end manufacturers like Bespaq and JBM Miniatures has a distinctly Victorian look to it.  This meant I was thrown on my own resources even more with this build.  I used a variety of sources to furnish it—magnets, that wonderful molded plastic furniture from the Marx tin dollhouses, the few kits I could find, a lot of scratch building, and some 3-D printed pieces.

One option for modern miniature furniture is 3-D printing.  Shapeways has hundreds of 1:24 furniture items for sale at reasonable prices.  Printing and materials are getting more sophisticated, too.  It used to be that items were only available in "versatile" plastic—a white plastic with a grainy texture.  The graininess keeps the pieces from looking like real wood or metal (I have never been able to sand things quite smooth enough to suit me), although it can look quite good as fabric once painted.  Now items can be printed in a variety of colors and a much smoother texture.  I used several 3-D printed pieces in the Merrimack.

What was immensely fun for me in this build, though, was the scratch pieces.  I learned I could find a piece of furniture I liked and shrink it down to fit my house.  The cost of the 1:1 item didn't matter (and as one user on Greenleaf commented, I can have very expensive taste 😊).  My little 1:24 copies cost only a few dollars, if that. 

Let's start with the kitchen on the split-level first floor.  The stove and dishwasher are Acme magnets.  The kitchen cabinets, sink and refrigerator are all kits from MiniEtchers.  Shellie made the cabinet to the left of the doors to my specifications.  I love the half-round shelves (not to mention how it prevents the homeowners from falling off the edge of the kitchen floor).

I made my own counter top for the base cabinets.  It fits over the top of the dishwasher (which was cut down just slightly) for an uninterrupted work surface.  I printed out some Skylark (Boomerang) Formica on soft gloss photo paper.  The boomerangs are a little large for half scale, but I wanted them to be visible.  The percolator, dish washing liquid and cookie jar were just made from beads.

The little dish drainer is made from card stock, with cross-stitch perforated paper for the mat.

I had so much fun filling the kitchen—boxes and jars in the cupboard, magnets and notes on the refrigerator, a retro radio I made from mat board, and a clock made from a bead.

Plus, I received a wonderful real leather purse from Samantha.  It now sits on the side counter, next to the homeowner's keys.

The Eero Saarinen tulip table and chairs are from Shapeways.  The table is set for lunch—macaroni and cheese, my favorite!  The mac and cheese casserole was made by Jan Patrie of Autumn Leaf Studios. The dishes on the table and in the corner cupboard are metal miniatures that I painted.

But, of course, we need some veggies, so there is a can of green beans heating on the stove.  The teeny, tiny can opener (as well as the flatware on the table and the spatula in the dish drainer) come from a set of etched metal miniatures.

Just off the kitchen are the stairs to the second floor.  The plans for the Merrimack show a spiral staircase, but it doesn't come with the kit.  I ended up buying one from Shapeways, painting it, and covering the stairs with velvet paper.  This one turned out to be a perfect fit.

The dining room table and chairs were scratch built, based on a Heywood-Wakefield set.  I got a bit over-enthusiastic when sanding the edges on the first dog-bone chair, but otherwise I think they're a fairly good match.  The legs on the table were suggested by Carrie.  The original table had these rather bizarre legs that made my miniature version look like a cockroach. The new legs are a big improvement!

Behind the staircase is the foyer, with a light fixture made from a bead cage, stone-look "linoleum," and a scratch-built credenza.

The martinis are also from Autumn Leaf Studios and were picked up by my brother at a miniature show near where he lives.

I received a wonderful aquarium in a half-scale swap, and I have added it to the foyer.

The art over the aquarium is also from a half-scale swap.  The plants (rubber tree and heart-leaf philodendron) are from kits by SDK miniatures.  If you look very closely in the picture above, you can see a little green frog on the edge of the planter.  It is the bullfrog from Mini-Gems.  He's meant to be a decorative ceramic frog, not a real one!

The sandstone fireplace (made from egg carton) with floating shelves and end planter was one aspect based directly on my grandparents' home.  Here you can see a picture from their living room.  Sorry it's not the best.  I believe it was taken around Christmas, shortly after they moved in in the mid-50's, and the chairs are squished to the left, probably to accommodate the Christmas tree.

The end planter was not part of the original Merrimack kit, but I wanted one just like my grandparents'.  😊  On the floating shelves, I have a "ceramic" panther (painted charm) and tiny bonsai mud men that I also painted.  My grandparents had a Hakata figurine on their shelves, and, after a full year of looking, I was thrilled to find the little bonsai duo to mimic them.

The rug in the living room is, once again, based on a real-life rug, cross-stitched on 28-count Evenweave.

Everything else is the living room (except for the hi-fi, which is a magnet) was scratch built, and includes an Adrian Pearsall boomerang sofa (with casters that really work!)

The lamp in the far corner works; the three-light lamp does not.  Its lights are made from pen tips, which made an incredible, inky mess when I sawed them off.  But they look great now!

Upstairs, we start on the right with the utility room.  This was such a tiny room, I really couldn't find any other purpose for it, and in some builds I've seen, it's just joined with the room to its left.  The dryer is an Acme magnet, the washer is from a Marx tin dollhouse (sadly, not mine), and I made the utility table and ironing board from scratch.  Oh, look! Margot is getting ready to vacuum!

Just kidding.  I sometimes amused myself by Photo-Shopping a mid-century woman into my pictures.  For some reason, I have named the mini occupants of this house Margot and Jim.  No idea where those names came from; they just popped into my head.  Here is the utility room without Margot.

The laundry basket and "metal" chair came from Shapeways, and the sewing machine is a painted charm.  Here I've turned the table sideways so that you can get a better view.  It's an old metal topped table, a bit chipped and rusted in places.  

I made the little retro canister vacuum cleaner from mat board, beads and ponytail holders.

Next to it is Jim's study.  So many of the rooms in the house have a feminine feel to them that Jim really needed a more masculine place to escape to.

His desk is another favorite piece in this build; it's the Kai Christensen kidney desk with built-in bar.  It was the first piece of furniture I made for the Merrimack.  The drawers don't open, and the proportions on the bar area aren't perfect, but I love it.  The office chair is from Shapeways.

The study has a cork floor (remember those?) and another cross-stitched rug.  

The wonderful little settee is from a kit by SDK Miniatures (unfortunately, she no longer sells it).  The fabulous modern fabric is Prints Charming 17846, which comes in several colorways; the print is so small that it works quite well in miniature, even half-scale miniature. The file cabinet is also from a kit, with industrial staples for the drawer pulls.  Here you can see it with a painted metal mini of a model ship; in the picture above, you can see that ship replaced with a beautiful model ship that was a gift from Samantha.

Other scratch pieces in the study include the very simple coffee table and corner end table, as well as the tansu chest.

Like my grandparents, the occupants of the Merrimack are world travelers, and there are National Geographics on the end table, travel brochures on the desk, and a map of the United States on the wall, with pins (microbeads) for all the places they have visited.  My grandparents had a similar map in their basement.

And since this is now getting rather long, I'm going to stop with the first half of the tour. Hope you enjoyed it.  Until next time!  

Monday, August 12, 2019

A Chicken Coop for the Fairfield

As I was finishing the kitchen garden for my Fairfield, I started thinking about those chickens.  Where did they sleep?  Where did they go when it rained?  Where did they lay their eggs?  Effie would surely like to be able to collect them for her baking.  So, of course, I had to build the chickens a hen house.  😊

I little aside here.  Below is a picture of one of my better half's favorite real-life houses to pass on our walks.  We call it "the chicken house."  Fantastic mural, and there are always usually one or two chickens outside to say "hello."  (Of course, there weren't any in evidence the day I went to take the picture.  In fact, to our sorrow, it appears that they may now be gone altogether.)

The spousal unit really liked the idea of a hen house and was permitted to offer input (like specifying that the siding go horizontal rather than vertical and requesting that I get a rooster to sit on the roof).

After looking at dozens of pictures and plans, I decided to use this one as my starting point:

I liked its size and footprint, and I especially liked the small pen underneath the house, where the chickens could safely get some fresh air if it was raining or there were predators about.  When playing around with the specifications and paper mock-ups, I ended up moving the chicken door from the end to the side, because I felt it worked better with the Fairfield and garden layout.
The vertical pieces were cut from some left-over board and batten.  The roof, floor, ramps and doors were cut from plain basswood.  All exterior wood, except for the ramps, was 1/16" thick.  The wood for the ramps and interior pieces was 1/32" thick.  I used model railroad lumber (mostly HO 6x2's) for the trim.

Once the pieces were cut, I gave them an initial coat of paint and weighted them down so they could dry flat.  I wanted a red hen house with white trim, but I also wanted it to go with the house, so I used the same paint I had used on the Fairfield's windows and doors.  The red does not cover well and ended up taking about four coats total.

The nesting boxes were made from 1/32 x 5/8 basswood strips, with another strip of model railroad lumber as a lip to hold in the straw.  Chickens don’t sleep in their nests (or aren't supposed to), so they can share nesting boxes. Who knew? 

Recently, I got to meet a couple of other half-scale miniaturists at Peg's Dollhouse's annual parking lot sale.  Debora (dalesq over on Greenleaf) brought me the sweetest little miniature nest she had made. 

I contacted her about whether she had anything sized for a chicken, and she very kindly explained that chickens don't really build nests like other birds.  Their "nests" are really just a heap of straw with an indentation.  For the straw, I took inspiration from a picture Debora had posted on Greenleaf forums.  She used sisal twine to make a very realistic-looking half scale straw broom.  Regular straw is much too big for half scale, but I liked the look of the sisal "straw."  I untwisted a length of twine and snipped off the ends in 1/4 - 3/8" pieces. 

I then mixed it with a little matte ModPodge, shaped it a bit with my fingers, stuck it into the boxes, then pressed down in the center with the rounded end of a paint brush to try to create a little indentation.

I scattered some straw on the floor as well and stuck it down with a small amount of matte ModPodge for Paper.  Even though I'm obviously not dealing with paper, I find that this sticks small items together quite well without creating a sheen.  I also added some drops of white paint on the floor for, well, you know.

I added a few eggs made from polymer clay.  All the eggs were initially white.  I used a brown wash to color the brown eggs.

Normally, the top of the nesting boxes would cover the entire box structure; I made mine a little narrower so that you can see the eggs when looking down from the top.

I had to finish the front separately from the rest of the house, in part because I needed to be able to get in do things (like attach the interior ramp) and in part because I knew I would need to do some drilling for the hinges, and that's so much easier to do when the piece is lying flat.  I used some left-over hinges from my Merrimack trap door for the hen house door, and a small metallic bead and sequin pin for the knob.  Would love to have done a hook and eye, but I couldn't quite make a set small enough. 

The remaining doors (the chicken door and the door to the screened in area) don't actually work.  However, mid-way through the build, Sherrill posted her miniature club's fabulous chicken coop project, and I experienced some serious envy when I saw her pulley system for the chicken door.  It was too late for me to modify mine, but I rigged up a faux pulley system with a little bitty watch part, a brad, and some size 80 ecru crochet thread.

The "chicken wire" is tulle netting.  As mentioned earlier, there's  a little (non-working) gate at the back of the pen.

There are also (non-working) windows for cross-ventilation.

I added some places to roost, as well as adding more straw to the floor.  The roosting to nesting ratio should probably have gone the other way, but I'm still learning about chickens!

 I filled a little half-scale pie tin with honey granules mixed with a little matte ModPodge for "feed."  The water dispenser was also inspired by Sherrill's build—it's two larger clear beads and a smaller clear bead, glued together with superglue to form a "bottle," then inverted into a watch part.  I used tar gel to create the "water."

The roof is removable; it's design was based on the bathroom roof for the Merrimack.  Two cross-wise strips of lumber hold it in place.  (That extra diagonal stripe is just a blemish in the wood.)

I shingled it with some left-over shingles from the Fairfield.  I never used them, because I used the scalloped shingling strips instead.  I was going to paint them gray, but I'm kind of liking the natural color.  What do you think?

Finally, because the plans say that the house can accommodate 3-5 laying hens, I brought in two more chickens—a black and a white.  So cute!  Now there are a lot of good egg layers (and, no, they are not going in the stew pot!).  

I'll probably need to add some landscaping underneath, but this is where it's going.  You can see why I wanted to move the chicken door.

And here is Effie, gathering some eggs.  Wonder what she's going to bake?

Oh, and that rooster?  He's on his way.  😊

Have a great week, everyone!  Thanks for stopping by.