Monday, June 15, 2020

A Teeny, Tiny Dining Room and More

Hello!  Hope you have all been doing well and staying healthy. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the projects that many of you have been working on.  I am not quite as productive, but the art deco house is moving along steadily, if slowly.

My first little project was filling the refrigerator/icebox in the kitchen.  I couldn’t have a refrigerator that opened and not put something inside.  😊  So now it holds milk, butter, something wrapped in brown paper from the butcher, and some eggs and carrots that Effie brought from the Fairfield’s kitchen garden and hen house.  I couldn’t find milk bottles in half scale, so this is one of my 3-D printed wine bottles, with the neck mostly cut off and a bead glued on top.  Painted, it doesn’t look too bad.  Now my little resident will have fresh food on hand.
Next, I started work on the dining room.  This is another small room, but it holds what I need, even if it is a smidge crowded.  

The drinks cart has been updated with lots of lovely new glassware.  

I still need an ice bucket for the bottom shelf, but haven’t found one yet (or rather, I haven’t found the perfect little bottle cap to repurpose as an ice bucket).  My original plan was to make the room black, white and gold, with light gray silk on the chair cushions, but the thought of another gray and black room was a little depressing.  I looked through my stash and found a swatch of some gorgeous blue silk charmeuse from Mood.  Then, looking on the Internet for some wall ideas, I saw peacocks.  The idea for a peacock-inspired dining room was born.  I know that peacocks are more art nouveau than art deco, but my little home-owner is fine with mixing styles. 
I started with the walls.  After spending way too much time trying different wallpaper designs, I ended up using the same white scrapbook paper I used on some of the walls in the living room.  It’s such a tiny room that anything too colorful or busy would just be a distraction. Plus, I plan on making a rug with a peacock feather design and a base color that matches the chair cushions.  That will be colorful enough.  The scrapbook paper does have a nice art deco design embossed in it, but it is subtle.  There is no room for a hinged door between the kitchen and dining room, and I am not as talented as Brae at making pocket doors.  I may hang a curtain of beads in the doorway, or I may add a little hardware to make it look like there’s a pocket door there.  It’s all smoke and mirrors anyway.  😉

The table and chairs are from Red Cottage Miniatures, and, as usual, went together with ease.  The chairs are black with that lovely blue satin used for the cushions.  I couldn’t stand the thought of covering up that beautiful table with a table cloth, so I came up with the idea of a diamond-shaped runner.  It is made from some bits of left-over white silk (two layers, because it is thin), and some fairy lace.  I plan on having short-stands of “crystals” hanging from each point, but the beads I have ordered have not yet arrived.  I designed the plates to look as though they are part of the same set used on the breakfast tray in the bedroom, but have added a peacock silhouette to the center of each plate.  The napkin rings are crimp beads.  The candles are made from thread and polymer clay, painted with some blue metallic paint I had; their holders are just beads.  All glassware by Linden Swiss from the Virtual Dollhouse; the lovely flatware is from My Favorite Dollhouse.

The centerpiece is calla lilies and spikes of real peacock feathers (inspiration photo).  

The calla lilies were super easy to make—just dip the tip of some green floral wire in yellow paint, let dry, and wrap an upside-down heart around it.  I used tissue paper painted warm white on both sides and a punch that I had picked up from Daiso to make the hearts. 

I did use a tiny bit of yellow and green pastels around the base of each flower, and shaped them a little on my craft foam with my ball tools.  I would dearly love to have used actual tiny peacock feathers in the centerpiece, but I was unable to find any in half-scale, and didn’t want to try making my own; the peacock spikes will have to do, and I do like the way they look.  I added a peacock painting to the wall, and the room is essentially done.  

As I was working on the dining room, I thought of how beautifully the Fiesta Ware had popped in my glass-fronted cabinet in the kitchen.  Then I realized (duh) that it was up against a creamy white background.  I took my lovely art deco cabinet from the living room, gently and carefully pried off the front piece (whew! no damage at all!), and painted the inside back the same white I had used on the kitchen cabinets.  While the front was off, I took the time to fill it.  I already had my black “ceramic” panther, but I really wanted to make some books for it.  No dollhouse is complete without a few books for the occupant to enjoy!  With the help of UC Berkeley’s “Books of the Century” to pick some period-appropriate reading material and Facsimile Dust Jackets, which provides dust jacket art by both title and year, I was able to make up a nice selection of 1920’s books.  

The only things I changed were the spines, to ensure that the titles would be readable, even when the books were on the shelves.  Then I use two N-scale swimming figures, some matboard, cardstock, and bronze paint to make my little art deco bookends.  

I am extremely happy with how they turned out.  I have included an original swimmer in my picture.  (I have no idea what he is supposed to be doing.  Maybe lolling in an inner tube?)  From cheap plastic to upscale bookends, with just a bit of paint.  😊  They make up a nice row on the center shelf of the cabinet.  I added a couple of bead “vases” and a bronze and gold elephant (a Peruvian ceramic bead I painted), and glued the cabinet front back on.  This time I put the door pulls at the top, where they belong—another benefit of having redone the cabinet.  🙄  See how much easier it is to see inside now?

Here is a top-down shot of the first floor.  

I’m still pondering the living room rug; one reader suggested including a bronzy green.  I love that idea, but don’t have anything like it in my stash (*sigh*).  I still have plants to make and doors and windows to do, and I am planning a ceiling fixture for the dining room.  Then it will be time to put the roof/ceiling on and start on the second floor!

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Teeny, Tiny Kitchen

It’s been a long time since I posted.  Sheltering in place has really upended my schedule.  It seems to take more time and effort now to make sure that I maintain “face-to-face” contact with friends and co-workers.   Every Saturday, we host a Zoom party, where we play games and take virtual “trips” with our friends.  For anyone who enjoys escape rooms, I strongly recommend the Palace of Destiny from Palace Games.  It’s free, but, if you are able, a donation would be nice.  We’ve been playing it together as a team, and there are times we need every brain we can get!  I also spent several Sundays, early on, making face masks.  All of this was further complicated by the fact that I have a hereditary problem with my thumb joints, which was exacerbated by a less-than-optimal set-up for working from home.   A set-up that works for the occasional day of working remotely does not necessarily work as well over weeks or months.  I have done some tinkering with my set-up, and it is now much more ergonomic, and my thumbs are feeling much better.  We’ve also been told we will likely be working from home for the rest of the year, so it’s time I got back in the groove!

So, on to something more interesting—miniatures!  Over the past month or so, I have been slowly working on the kitchen in the art deco house.  It is a teeny, tiny kitchen.   I added some space onto the Popular Mechanics’ plans to make the kitchen 4” x 4¼” (which, in real life, would be 8’ x 8½).  I can’t imagine how I could have fit anything in if I had stuck with the original dimensions of 3” by 3”!  As it is, everything is a pretty tight fit.

The walls have been papered with a vintage wallpaper from Bradbury & Bradbury.  I wanted beadboard on the bottom half of the walls, but the miniature beadboard I had was so thick, I was afraid it would take up too much space, which was already at a premium.  To solve the problem, I printed out a beadboard pattern on paper (to ensure that I could keep things straight and to try to maintain even spacing), then glued HO-scale 1x6 lumber strips directly onto it.  

I’m not sure how well you can see the difference between the standard mini beadboard on the left and my home-made beadboard on the right, but mine is much, much thinner!  The top and bottom were trimmed with more HO lumber.  (The color, by the way, is Wedgewood Green, lightened with a bit of white.  I honestly don’t know why greens always show up so minty in all my pictures.)

The refrigerator was a find on eBay.  It was a metal kit in not very good condition.  The metal was extremely uneven.  It took a lot of filing, as well as some Green Stuff to smooth it out.  Here you can see it partway through the filing process.  In addition, the body was made in two parts—one designed to fit inside the other.  More lumpiness inside the exterior portion had to be filed down so that the interior piece could be glued in straight and even.  You can see the angle it was at originally.  The door, which I didn’t photograph, was unaccountably painted brown.

After filing, gluing, filling in the gaps with more Green Stuff, and giving it a couple of coats of gloss white spray paint, it doesn’t look too bad.

The door still opens, and I intend to put some food items inside—maybe some milk, eggs and butter.

The stove is an Acme magnet.  This is not the exact magnet I got; mine was missing the cat, but it had the platform underneath and the yellowing around the joints. 

I was able to pry the front two feet off cleanly, but the back two suffered a bit of damage when I removed the platform.  I filled in the missing bits with yet more Green Stuff, then covered the stove area and gave the entire thing a coat of gloss white spray paint.  I then had to repaint the black and silver parts.  I don’t have the steadiest hand, but it doesn’t look too bad in person.

The sink is from a kit by Red Cottage Miniatures.  The original sink I had purchased was too large for the space, but the Red Cottage sink fits perfectly.   The base is painted the same green as the beadboard.  The faucet is simply wire with some small beads for the handles.  I was able to bend the wires at crisp right angles by using a pliers set I got from Micro Mark.  The drain pipe is a large paperclip, and the little dish drainer (as well as the clock and the breadbox) are also from a Red Cottage Miniatures kit.

The small worktable I covered in a previous post.  It’s unfortunate that it has to face in, so that you can’t see the drawers and door, but at least you can see the enamel top.

There isn’t much room for cupboards, but I put in what I could.  They are made from strip wood and some thin styrene for the glass.  The kitchen needed a bit more color, so I used the glass-front cupboard to showcase some “Fiesta Ware” plates I had.  (Unfortunately, I broke the green dinner plate.)  I added a metal vase and a 3-D printed butter dish, painted to match.  (The yellow bowl and red-and-white "enamel" saucepan were also 3-D printed.)

Because the cabinets are a bit high, there is a working stepladder tucked behind the refrigerator.

And that’s the tiny kitchen!

Effie came over from the Fairfield to try it out for me.  She said it was the most efficient kitchen she’d ever worked in—no more than two steps in any direction to get where she needed to go.  And she was pretty much guaranteed to be the only cook in the kitchen!

I'll try not to take so long before my next post.  I'm already excited to start work on the dining room.

Hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and (relatively) sane.  I'm looking forward to catching up on all the posts I've missed!

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Staircase

I’ve been trying to get back into working on my art deco house.   I’m still having difficulty finding the energy and inclination to work on it, and I’m not sure why.  Work has been very busy, which I know is a good thing, but I actually seem to have less time for minis, not more, despite the fact that I have eliminated my commute.

Anyway, you may remember from the mock-up that to fit a proper rise and run on the staircase, I decided to have it turn at the bottom.

I took this pattern and cut the stringers from matboard, and the risers and treads from 1/32” thick strip wood.  After consideration, the original turned steps looked too insubstantial to support the remaining stairs, so I broadened them to fit completely beneath the bottom step of the main flight.  It didn’t look right to have a solid white chunk next to the steps, though, so I broadened the treads, and allowed the top of the landing to extend a bit beyond the stringer.  I also added some wood along the side of the bottom step and sanded it into a curve, then curved the edges of the treads, too. 

I contemplated adding some detail to the stringer.  This seems a bit much, and I would want to tone down the color if I add it.

While I debated additional decoration on the stairs, I worked on a stair rail.  The original plans call for dowels with wire strung between them.

This would have been OK, but I felt the living room was heading in a slightly more elegant direction.  I ended up falling in love with an art deco staircase rail from Finelli Ironworks:

I can’t make miniature wrought iron, but I used railroad lumber successfully to make the railings I wanted in the Merrimack, so I tried the same technique for this railing.  The larger circles are made from thicker florists’ wire; the smaller circles are jump rings.  It’s not a perfect match to the original, but I like it in this room.

I’m trying a simple cherry bannister, as in the original, but I’d love to figure out a way to make the bannister curve around like this: 

By the way, the railing is not glued in place—it just balances nicely and stays upright for my photos.  😊  It’s too delicate for me to glue in place at this time.

Because it’s easier for me to work on furniture right now, I also made up the art deco cabinet from Red Cottage Miniatures and the art deco sofa and coffee table from SDK Miniatures.

I really like the cabinet, but I am bummed that, with the doors closed, you can’t really see inside.  I have great ideas for using more of my N scale swimmers for art deco bookends.

For some reason, I thought the SDK coffee table was an oval, but it is round.  Oval works better for me, so I cut down the top piece to an oval shape and gave it a faux marble finish.  The book on top is a coffee table version of A Note of Explanation, complete with most of the text and about half the illustrations.

The rug is not quite right.  It is only a print-out at this point, while I try to decide on the colors.  It doesn’t help that I am trying to recreate embroidery floss colors with my printer, but they are fairly close.  I think the purple, in addition to being a bit off, is too much of a muchness.  I think I need another color to warm the room up.  Below you can see the rug printout against the wallcovering with the actual embroidery floss I am contemplating.

I love the purple walls with the upholstery, but the room, while having the elegance I like, is feeling a bit cold.  I know accessories will help, but I think it needs more than that.

By the way, the photo on the left wall is “Chez Mondrian” by André Kertész.  It is from 1926, so perfect for the era of this house, and is one of my favorite pieces by him.  We have a print of it hanging in our bedroom.

Other than that, we are staying safe and relatively sane here.  We have had a birthday party on Zoom (that included an online museum scavenger hunt game).  The unexpected upside was that a friend who moved to another state a few years ago was able to attend, because on Zoom it doesn't matter where you live.  Unsolicited plug for Wicked Good Cupcakes, which got awesomely delicious cupcakes in a jar to all the party attendees in time for us to have birthday cake together while apart.  We are also planning a game night using JackBox games.  We will get through this.

Hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and that you are able to connect with loved ones near and far.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Mini Games to Play Online

Not much new to report.  I am still contemplating the stripe color on the exterior of the house.  I have made a new top for the enamel-top table and am working on the stairs now but haven’t made much progress.  My home office shares space with my craft room, and at the end of a long day of working from home, I don’t want to spend any more time inside those four walls! *sigh*  We've been binge-watching a lot.  We zoomed through all the episodes of "The Repair Shop" on Netflix (I can't recommend this show highly enough), and yesterday watched all eight episodes of "The Stranger."

I know many of us are sheltering in place these days, as we try to stop the spread of the Corona virus.  For those of you going a little crazy shut inside and who want to take a break from making minis (wait—who would want to take a break from making minis??), here are a couple of fun online suggestions.

The first is an old one, but may be new to some of you:  The Game of Thornes on the Chicago Art Institute Web site,, which uses several rooms from the Thorne Rooms display.  It plays like one of those old quest games (“You are standing in a room, with a door on the right hand side”), only instead of typing in “go left” or “go right,” you click on areas in the pictures to move around or examine things.  You have to make it through the maze of rooms and collect letters for the password in order to escape.  Although it’s part of the archive, it still works, and I was able to escape.  😉

For those who like scavenger hunts, there is  Each hunt has a series of clues, the answer for which is always a geographic location.  Type your solution into the Google Maps box and, as needed, zoom in to find it on the map.  If your answer is correct, you’ll be taken to the next clue.  There are around 290 hunts available, and it does help greatly to do the tutorial first.  You don’t have to be signed in to do a hunt.  You can also make your own hunts, so I made one for my mini friends:  I think most of you will find it pretty easy, but maybe you’ll also find it a little amusing.  When you make a hunt, you can choose to add information and links on your answers, and I tried to go for sites that had interesting content and good eye candy.  If something doesn’t work correctly, please let me know.

Hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and enjoying plenty of time to work on your minis!

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Long Overdue Post

It's been a long time since I posted, for a couple of reasons.  One is that I was working on another swap.  This one is an anonymous swap.  We all filled out questionnaires, and then we were assigned one person to make for/send to.  We of course got the questionnaire of our swap-ee, and I was so inspired by what my person liked and wanted that I had to start working on it.  Unfortunately, everything remains a secret until the recipient receives the swap, so stay tuned.  😊

The other reason is that I was having some difficulty with the deco house.  I got the texture I wanted with my spackle and put on a nice coat of Wicker White.  I carefully marked off the stripes with painters tape, including some special 1/8" painters tape I had to buy from Amazon, as I could not find it locally.  The blue I choose required a lot of coats to cover, and I ended up letting it dry longer between coats than I should have, I guess.  When I removed the tape, large chunks of the blue came with it.

I was pretty horrified.  So horrified, in fact, that I went back to working on my swap (which was going much, much better) for another week.  It is now finished.  Last weekend, I peeled off the loose edges, sanded, reapplied the tape and repainted, removing the tape as soon as my last brush stroke was on.  Because I had already aligned all the stripes, I could do one section at a time, which also prevented things from getting too dry before it was time to pull off the tape.  It still needed some touch up, and I'm not super happy with the result, but it's certainly better than it was.  (The roof and second story are still the foam core versions.)

And now I'm wondering if it will be OK to have those blue stripes with the mauve interior.  I don't usually worry about the exterior vs. the interior, but on most builds, you don't really see the exterior right next to the interior.  What do you think?

At the same time I was having problems with my stripes, I was inspired by a photograph I found online to build a little utility table/cabinet for the kitchen.  I needed a work table anyway, and I liked the additional storage, as space is tight in my tiny kitchen.

My first try was an unmitigated disaster.   My plans called for me to cut a lot of the wood to shape, and I don't do well cutting wood by hand.  So that got put on the back burner, too, until this weekend, when I redrew my plans to rely mostly on standard widths and thicknesses of strip wood.  I don't know why I didn't do that from the start.  This is how it turned out.

Not absolutely identical, but pretty close.  The top is currently not glued down but stuck on with double-sided tape.  (You may notice that the side edges are lifting a little.)  I'm trying to decide if I like it or want to try again.  I put a deco design on the "enamel" top, which is made from matboard and cardstock.  Because I did that, I couldn't paint the top; for now, I used clear nail polish to give it a bit of gloss.  (I have to get some of that Krylon Triple-Thick that Jodi uses!) However, because it hadn't been given a base coat of paint, the black paint around the edges seemed to bleed a lot, and I'm not crazy about that. 

I am happy that the door and drawers work!

I used a vintage linoleum pattern I found online as my drawer liner and to line the bottom shelf.  I turned the left-hand drawer into a silverware drawer and the right-hand drawer into a catch-all drawer.  

Almost all the items are from an etched metal set.  The silverware is a little plain (and the spoons don't really have bowls), but I figure they're going inside a drawer, so they're fine.  The catch-all drawer needs a bit more in it.  So far it has a couple of spatulas, a wooden spoon, scissors, can opener, and meat fork.  What else should I include?

Here is the table against the wallpaper I am testing in the kitchen.  This is not the wall it will be on, but was the easiest wall to photograph.

To leave you all on a happy note, I had a new arrival from the Netherlands.  (Yes, I know you can't take a train across the pond, but let's pretend.)

The tiny little bear on the left is my newest addition from AlexandrasBears, whose bears are positively addicting.

He is absolutely adorable and every bit as detailed as his larger brother.  😊  For the time being, he is sitting on the bed for the deco house.

I started working from home last Friday, and, as of tonight, my city is on lockdown.  Don't know how long this will last.  Hoping we are able to nip this outbreak in the bud, and that our lives can go back to normal soon.  Please stay safe and healthy!