Sunday, 20 October 2013

Helen Hall, part 2

I have now dismantled Helen Hall once again to embark on interior decoration. I have never before decorated a house that can be dismantled, and if I ever get the house of my dreams I will be well prepared. It really makes sense to decorate a dollhouse before you assemble it, but it is frustrating because it takes ages before you have results worth boasting of. Moreover, since I had never done it before I kept making mistakes and had to go back to paint a skirting board I had forgotten. This house is not meant to be painted and decorated; it is not meant to be assembled and stay so. It has basic colours - beige and brown. It has awkward angles. I didn't know where to start.

I had to start somewhere, so I started in the bottom left corner, which is the entrance hall. I had found flooring that I wanted to use in this room, but when I began to look at wallpaper, none went well with the floor. You cannot have both floors and wallpaper in bright colours and conspicuous details in a dollhouse because it will feel too much (you can't have it in a 1:1 room either). Finally I found what I wanted and wallpapered the most difficult wall, the one with a door and two windows.


Fortunately, there were still original templates on some walls. I didn't like the patterns, and there was only wallpaper on walls with windows. All the wallpaper I use comes from a great printie site which I happily acknowledge. I used the template, and it was easy to cut the paper. I had to resize it because the 1:12 pattern felt too clumsy. 

By the way, the door handle - temporarily green, will be painted - is a bead. All door handles were missing. You can get them from ebay for £3 a pair, but I was sure I'd find something suitable in my collection of rubbish, and I did.

Next, I wallpapered the left wall thar has no doors or windows, but I had to figure out how to deal with corners. Eventually, I will glue the overlapping bits together, but who knows how many times I will need to dismantle the structure because of some minor error. I kept testing the walls about twenty times. The right wall has a door, and there is no template, but I managed it.

The floor in the first picture is only a sheet of paper, and this is where I had to go back. There are natural skirting boards on the walls that I painted white, but I wasn't sure how to put in flooring to make it neat. So I began from the beginning. 


I left a 3mm border of the sheet and folded around the edges. Then I put back the walls so that they held the sheet in place. It wasn't easy, but I am pleased with the result.

I tested how it would look with a ceiling and a staircase. 

I had painted just one ceiling panel white, and since there were already beams on it, I painted them dark, to look like... well, beams. The staicase looks very plastic, but the colour is fine, so perhaps I'll just give it a coat of similar paint. 

Then I had to take the right wall down again to put wallpaper on the other side. I had been looking for a suitable wallpaper for a while as well, and I really like this one. Wallpapering the wall with windows was again easy with a template, and with each wall I got better and better. The living room opens into the conservatory, so there was just one interior wall with a door. 

I believe I need to stop here for a while. From now on, I won't be able to go back, at least not if I put in the floors in the living room and conservatory the way I want. Like this - just temporarily:

This will do for this weekend which has been highly productive. I have also painted the conservatory frames, because the plastic had grown old and yellow. I still have to paint all window frames. 

I have bought the spares I need from ebay; hope they arrive in the next few days, although it will be some time before I will come to that part of the house. I very much enjoy this project because it has a completely new set of challenges. Although I believe I learned a lot from remaking the small plastic house.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Helen Hall

This weekend has been a typical dollhouse weather, and I started my renovation work on the Playmobil house which I have called Helen Hall, after the friend who gave me the ruins.

I wasn't at all sure what exactly I wanted to do, but I knew that painting the ceiling was imperative so that's where I started, dismantling the house and testing one floor/ceiling panel. While it was drying I painted the basement with sand paint to make it less plastic-y and more stony.

And suddenly the plastic wall became totally unbearable. I had thought that I might leave it as it was, since it is sort of right Victorian dirty yellow, but now I knew it wouldn't work. I had considered covering it with brick paper, but it has this nice surface, and I have another house with brick walls. So I put the ceilings aside and started mixing paint. I have in the past five years used the same can of all-purpose white paint, originally bought for some minor 1:1 decoration. I have occasionally mixed it with other paint, including gouache and acrylic. I tried to make an interesting blue colour, but it was too pale and dull. Then I tried bright red hobby paint, and it turned quite interesting.

I peeled off all exterior details and painted each panel separately. (Although here they are re-assembled again).

Then I painted all the cornices, door posts (three) and external windows (ten) white. It is quite clear that the old plastic has grown yellow so I will have to paint all windows and doors as well.

 I painted dormer windows.

All the time I discovered that I had missed a detail; that something I had painted red should be white or the other way round. There were two external windows missing from the kit. I had bought spares from ebay, but failed to notice that the frames were missing as well. There are lots of spares on ebay.

On the whole, I am really pleased with the result. I put the house together for the moment since I won't have time to work on it during the week, and it looks so fine. I will then have to dismantle it again to put in floors and wallpaper, paint the ceilings, skirting and cornices, and I am sure there will be interesting problems to solve.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


I fished up two plastic suitcases from a junk basket in a charity shop, together with a set of plastic garden furniture.

The furniture went straight into the Playmobil house where it fits nicely on the upper terrace. The suitcases can go into any house or room box, but they aren't particularly pretty,

This is what I did with them. First of all I gave them a more leathery and worn-out look. I painted them with dark brown acrylic paint, and when it was almost dry I covered it with a coat of matt white which I immediately wiped with a cloth. You can see the difference. The inside of an expensive suitcase would be lined with red silk, so I painted the inside red. 

For the belts, I took a small ribbon (of the kind you cut off from newly purchased clothes) and made loops from a bit of champagne wire.

I also added a piece of metal foil for a lock and hotel labels from all the travels. And some clothes inside. I am very pleased with the result.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Rescued from the garbage bin

A person came by with two Tesco bags full of plastic. "I was going to throw this away, she said, but I thought you may find some bits for your dollhouse projects". I am always glad when people remember my hobby and give me things they don't want, whether these prove useful or not. Two bags of rubbish is a precious gift:

Now, some of you reading this may be exclaiming: "But this is...!" However, I didn't know it. I am quite ignorant about commercial dollhouses, so I merely saw that there were many valuable parts. Later, when I had time, I emptied the bags on the floor to see what they contained:

It became clear that they were parts of quite a sophisticaed house. Since there were two staircases, you could infer that there are at least three storeys, and there were dormer windows, railings, doorsteps and other interesting details. But I had no idea how to go about it, or how to see whether anything was missing. You can only see what's missing by assembling the house. And I didn't even know where to start or what the final structure would look like.

I browsed through a number of dollhouse sites, but found nothing even remotedly similar.

As usual in such situations, I consulted my dollhouse group, and somebody pointed out the obvious: is it marked? You would think that after my recent purchases and discoveries I would have learned, but apparently not. Luckily, the very first bit I picked up was marked: Playmobil, 1989.

After that, it was easy to find the images - Playmobil Victorian Mansion - and even the assembly instructions.  I found some videos on Youtube: one video of a man (!) building the house, and another of a fully decorated house. I am sure there are more. I also found out how much it fetches on ebay.

I did all this during my lunch break and then spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the pile on the floor while I was editing an article and replying to emails. I have very strong character so I didn't start until after dinner.

I took pictures step by step, but I won't show them here because it was quite straightforward apart from a few silly mistakes that were easy to correct.

The bits missing are two windows on the first floor, a dormer window roof and a few railings and door handles, all easily replaceable on ebay. A perfect little Victorian house in need of love and care. (And don't I already have more dollhouses that I have room for!)

It's hard to know what scale it is, but I just happen to have a couple of pieces of furniture from my recent flea market visits that are Playmobil. I didn't quite register it then, but they are very clearly from this house. I put them in, together with some other furniture from my antique shop.

It won't be a problem to fill the rooms, either by rummaging flea markets, looking for ebay bargains or simply making things. The walls need wallpaper. The floors need flooring or carpeting. And a Victorian house can have so many wonderful things. It will be a joy.

But here comes a matter of conscience: shall I tell the person who gave me the Tesco bags what a treasure she was throwing away?