Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Decorated Doll's House

published by Macdonald Illustrated
This comprehensive book, The Decorated Doll's House by Jessica Ridley, is another that I have referred to often. I particularly like the way she has designed miniature interiors that are out of the ordinary. I also like the way all the instructions to achieve these results are given step by step and illustrated with very clear photographs.
Clear illustrations enhance the instructions

The first part of the book introduces you to the tools and materials to be used and how you can make things out of everyday objects such as toothpicks, bottle tops, corks, and jewellery findings. These are transformed into kitchen utensils, plate racks, bedside tables and flower vases, to name a few.

Miniature treasures made from trash
The projects in the book cover some more traditional dolls house and miniature rooms such as a yellow drawing room, a country kitchen, an English country bedroom, an Edwardian hat shop and a flower shop.
  For those of you who like modern interiors there are a Manhattan living room, a music room and a modern kitchen.
  And for those who want to make out of the ordinary and quirky miniature settings or room boxes, you could try your hand at a Scottish baronial hall, a rustic breakfast room with twig furniture, an Etruscan bathroom or a shell grotto. Now that would be different!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Dolls Houses and Murder Mysteries!

Dolls houses feature in a murder mystery story
Just for fun, I thought I would tell you about a book I have been reading that features dolls houses. It's a novel called The Case of the Imaginary Detective by Karen Fowler. In the book, a murder mystery writer, for each of her stories, makes a miniature scene that shows how and where the victim was murdered, 'right down to its tiny clues and tiny gore'
  The book opens with a description of a woman sitting at a kitchen table, her purse fallen on the floor with its contents spilled out. Turn the page and it is then the reader finds that 'The purse was the size of an aspirin, the lipstick slightly larger than a grain of rice, the kitchen floor about as big as a sheet of typing paper. Poor murdered Miss Time was only three inches tall.'
  All the time I was reading this book, a thought kept nagging at the back of my mind. Hadn't I read somewhere that in real life a woman made dioramas of murders that helped the police find the killers?
  I did some research and yes, there was an American woman called Frances Lee who, in the 1920s and 30s, became fascinated with crime scene and forensic analysis. She began making miniature dioramas of death scenes for police training in observation and analysis, and called them the 'Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death'.
  The actual structures and furniture were made by a craftsman and his son, but Frances Lee made all the 'murdered' dolls and dressed them, as well as the tiny accessories in the rooms. 
  If you'd like to read more about these macabre minis you can check out this website. It's a fascinating story!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Flooring for Dolls Houses

Examples of commercially produced flooring papers for dolls houses 

There are so many different ways to make flooring for your dolls house. What you choose may depend on the style and era of the house, the materials you have on hand and your level of skill in making minis. Here are some ideas for this important part of miniature interior decorating.

  • floor papers: as you can see from the photograph these come in several patterns and shades. You might choose light or dark floorboards, parquet flooring in various patterns, or flagstone or brick effects.
  • tiles: miniature supplies shops sell a variety of black and white tiled flooring paper in different patterns and a slightly thicker, plasticised tile sheet. Or you can make your own by cutting out squares of black and white paper and sticking them to a cardboard floor template.
Black and white tiled flooring in a dolls house bathroom 
  • flagstones: use Formica samples in a limestone or slate look from a kitchen design shop. Cut them into squares of about 2 inches. Glue to a cardboard template of the room's floor. When dry, rub over with Polyfilla so it gets into the cracks as grout. Wipe the excess off with a damp cloth. Fit the floor into the dolls house room.
Flagstone floors suit a Tudor dolls house
  • another way to make a stone floor is using cardboard, cut into tiles and glued down. Then you can paint them grey and mottle lighter and darker greys randomly over the floor to simulate stone.
  • terracotta tiles: this is where terracotta-coloured Das, an air drying modelling clay, is perfect. Roll out to a size slightly larger than the dimensions of the floor. This will allow for the clay shrinking as it dries. When partially dry, incise with lines in a tile pattern. Cut to fit the room when completely dry.
  • wooden floorboards: there are several ways of making these:
  1. You need a steady hand for this, an ability to rule straight lines (a talent I am sadly lacking!) a steel ruler and a very sharp craft knife. It is also easier to do this before the dolls house is constructed. Rule lines to correspond with floorboards directly onto the dolls house floors. Use the ruler and knife to groove them. Stain or paint. When dry, you can make 'nail holes' with a sharp pencil at the junctions of the floorboards.
  2. Glue wooden ice block sticks or tongue depressors side by side onto a cardboard template of the floor. Sand really well. Stain or paint. Cover with baking paper and weigh down with tins e.g. baked beans! to make sure the floor dries flat and doesn't buckle. Varnish or rub with beeswax for a shiny look.
  3. Cut thin wood into planks and lay on a template of the floor. Finish as for #2. For my Tudor house I used balsa wood strips stained with shoe polish. (Note: floorboards in the 16th century were wider than today).
Wooden floorboards in a Tudor dolls house
The final touches will be when you lay down rugs or carpet squares to give the rooms a 'lived in' look. I hope this post has given you some ideas for your own dolls house or room box.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Paints and Wallpaper for Decorating a Dolls House

'Real' size wallpaper in a small print

So you're building a dolls house or you have a kit set one to make up. In your mind you've chosen the colour scheme and decided where the furniture will go in each room. Now you need to make those thoughts a reality. What supplies will you get for the painting and wallpapering?

  That's the part I love about this hobby. I don't like the construction side of it, but I love the interior decorating!
Paints:  Test pots of ordinary acrylic house paints from painting and decorating stores are just fine. You can get a great colour range -  look at the paint charts for ideas and shades that complement each other. It pays to choose lighter tones rather than darker ones. The small spaces of dolls house rooms mean the paint does not reflect light as much as a full size room and the colour can appear deeper than expected.
  If you want to experiment a little, cut a piece of cardboard the size of the back wall of the dolls house room, paint it and, when dry, place it in the dolls house. That will give you an exact idea of how the colour will look.

Fabric on the Walls

Wallpapers: I have used all sorts of paper to wallpaper my dolls houses' rooms. Embossed paper for ceilings to give an ornate, 'plastered' look; scrapbooking papers; 'real size' wallpaper in tiny prints and pale patterns; gift wrapping paper and specialty wallpapers made for dolls houses. I've even used fabric on the walls of some rooms.
Scrapbooking paper on walls
Just remember to prepare the wooden walls first, either with a coat of white or cream paint or use wallpaper size. And to glue the papers to the walls I use regular wallpaper glue, the kind that is a powder you mix with water and leave to swell and thicken.
   An old credit card is a handy tool for smoothing the paper down and getting rid of air bubbles.
  If you have a kit set dolls house, it's so much easier to wallpaper the walls before you fix them into place.
  Have fun with your interior decorating on a mini scale!