Saturday, 27 September 2014

Patience... and more patience

An interesting and important thing about documenting my creation of Womble Hall is to show, to myself and to others, how much work there is behind every project. In most cases, people see the finished house and at best can admire it. Even with many online tutorials, it looks far too easy. No tutorial will show you the slow process of painting twenty-plus identical windows because it isn't much to look at. But it is unavoidable when you actually do it.

I was quite close in my estimate that it would take me four hours work on each window frame, even before I start glazing and setting them in. There are twenty-eight windows in the house, most of the them on the front, one on the back and four on each side. All with elaborate glazing bars. Most twelve-light (it's a rich house whose owner can pay window tax), some larger, two smaller and five dormer windows. Each has to be primed, sanded and painted. I tried to cheat and skip priming, but, as I should have anticipated, it was a complete failure. Besides, it is much easier to sand after priming, because the pressed sawdust the windows are made of gets hardened. Less risk that it will break.

I haven't timed every session, but it took me most of the morning to prime twelve windows. It's delicate work, and you don't want any paint blobs. I can only do this outdoors because the primer smells, so I hurried this morning while it was sunny.

In the evenings, Staffan and I listen to music. I like to do something with my hands when we listen to music, such as sewing or knitting. Sanding windows is good. So now I know that during an average CD's playing time I can sand four windows.

I have taken a picture of the four stages of a window: unpainted, primed, sanded and painted. It may be hard to see in a picture, but the difference is huge. Wish me patience.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Playing with colours

In my planning, I have now come to the entrance hall and upper hall. You need a lot of imagination to see what these rooms may look like when finished, because the most prominent feature is the central staircase, and obviously I cannot put it in before everything else is in place. But I still wanted to test possible wall decoration, and I painted the upper hall with yellow tester paint. It turned out to be a very small tester, and it was only enough for one coat. Still, you can see the room emerging.

I started paiting the interior walls, which was very awkward, so I removed the back wall to paint it. While I was at it, I tested walls on other rooms. Upper right and lower middle are walls in rear corridors, and I am not at all sure yet what colours they will be.

I also painted the back partition in the entrance hall, using another tester. Again, not sure it is right, but will look at it for a couple of days. I like the colour, but not sure about the panel. The staircase rails and the double doors will be dark, so I believe light panels will be best. (Try to imagine the staircase in its magnificence). The floor is obviously unfinished. It comes from the Victorian house where it was built around a staircase. Because of the floor pattern I really believe the walls should be light.

The upper hall will have railing, but so far I like the colour, even if it's unfinished. With cornices and skirting it will look good.

Yet another fireplace

My next fireplace is for the drawing room, which is on the first floor, above the grand reception room. The name drawing room comes from "withdrawing room", the place where ladies withdrew after dinner while the gentlemen enjoyed their port and cigars. Then they "joined teh ladies".

In Womble Hall, the drawing room is on the left from the upper hall and opposite to the dining room, so the ladies will have to cross the hall. The furniture and ornaments will be moved from the left part of the original Victorian drawing room. The fireplace there wasn't done properly, even though it did have a chimney breast where the cabinet had a protruding board. Now I need a proper chimney breast, but I am using the same fireplace front, the one I bought long, long ago when I didn't believe I could make one myself. It is a nice and neutral front that will go well with the purpose of the room.

Again, I will not describe how I made the chimney breast, because I used exactly the same technique, although I must admit that with each project I made different mistakes.

I wanted a different kind of panelling in this room, and I used a piece of embossed 1:1 wallpaper with vertical stripes to echo the pattern on the wallpaper above the rail. I used old and quite worn-out wallpaper from the old house, with ugly marks of blue tack where the pictures and other ornaments sat. Note to myself: NEVER EVER use blue tack to fix things on walls. But, just as in the 1;1 world,. the solution is to cover the mark with a picture.

Unfortunately, I don't have more of this particular wallpaper, and it may not be available anymore, but this is just a test. I will find something similar. I think it will be fine because I want this room, unlike the reception room, to be light. I haven't decided yet what kind of floor I will have. Possibly plank that I have already started making for the master bedroom and that I will show in due time. I don't want too many fancy floors because they will probably be distracting, and of course fancy floors were expensive, and not all rooms in a house would have them.

I now have five out of nine rooms on the main three floors somewhat planned in terms of walls and fireplaces. I will probably have a simple fireplace in the master bedroom. But the next few important decisions with be about the main and upper halls. Come back soon. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Ornate mirror

A quick and easy project (while another chimney breast is drying). I bought all these things at a local jumble sale today.

It has been a while since I discovered the potenitals of junk jewellery, but here are some obvious things: beads, chains, earring fittings. Combs can be made into interesting chairs. But I started with the easiest:


Massacre the (incredibly ugly) pocket mirror. Remove the centre bit from the buckle. Paint the frame gold.

Friday, 19 September 2014

A magnificent fireplace and wall panels

I found this fireplace front on ebay when I was looking for ideas, not intending to buy anything. But it was just too good to miss. It is unique. I like unique things. I got it really cheap.

As you see, it comes with a hearth, but it still needs a chimney breast and a back panel. I will not show pictures of how I made it because it was exactly the same way I made the two other fireplaces. Here it is, temporarily placed in what I think might become a music room, with the Chippendale sofa and wing chair.

Such a magnificent fireplace demands a magnificent environment. I wanted to have heavy, dark oak panels in this room. I started by gluing lolly sticks and pieces of a cheese box onto a bit of card - an old, discarded folder I picked up by the trash bin at work. Cheese boxes have excellent wood and are easy to cut with scissors. You just need to sand the edges.

However, I wasn't happy with the result. The panel felt far too big and clumsy. Also, the direction of the grain was wrong. So I cut the central piece in two. Then I kept building on the panel until the edge of the card. (Yes, I painted the first two panels before I went on, because I wanted to see whether it worked).

I painted the panel with dark brown acrylic paint - merely because I had it at hand. When I do it properly I may choose a better colour. Likewise, I stained it with the stain I had, then gave it a coat of varnish.


As with my other tests, it is just one corner of the room, and the house is not properly assembled yet. I am not sure this is the right wallpaper, and the floor is just paper. Still I think you can see what it may look like when I finish. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Testing interior decoration: study

For the study - or gentlemen's smoking room - I want to use the same wallpaper I used in the Georgian house because it goes well with mahogny furniture - and because I like it. However, I wanted to add some more interesting features so I tried to make a wall panel with a rail.

Now, everything is provisional. The house itself isn't even assembled properly yet. The ceiling is just primed. Everything is fixed with white tack. The wallpaper is low-resolution printout. I keep moving skirting boards around, and the door is from another house. The floor is plain paper. The window is not painted. And still you can get a general idea. I like the partition with an arch opening in this room. It creates a sense of space and a bit of mystery: what is hidden there in the corridor?

I have moved furniture around. I had not planned to have the green sofa in this room at all, but suddenly it seems the right place for it. I can have matching curtains. But I am sure it will change again and again. I only know for sure that the tile stove will be in this corner.

After I have done it, I took three steps back and noticed that two rooms on top of each other have similar colour and pattern.This is where planning a dollhouse is different from planning a 1:1 house. In real scale, you cannot see two storeys at the same time. Do you think it matters? I must just make sure that the adjacent rooms are radically different.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Another fireplace

As I mentioned, I have several fireplace fronts that I will use in Womble Hall, but for all of them I need to make chimney breasts. And making a chumney breast for an existing front is slightly different than making everything from scratch as I did last time. This time I will make a chimney breast for my wooden fireplace. I will make it from foam again: I think it worked well.

The only big difference is that I need to make neat sides. For this, I need a balsa strip. It is easy to work with balsa: you just cut it with scissors. The lolly sticks I also use for this project are hard.

It does not matter that there is a gap between the bits because I will cover it with another strip - a lolly stick. 

While the sides were drying, I made the back. I was clever this time as used black card so I didn't have to paint it. Of course I still had to paint the inside. I didn't bother to glue in "stones" this time - I can alsways do it later. I already have a hearth for this fireplace. It is another piece of a plastic lid, and the fireguard is a buckle.

Then I painted the sides. I may need to use some filler to make them look neat. This fireplace will be in the reception room that I tested some days ago. I have not decided what wallpaper I will have in this room, but I wanted to see the fireplace with wallpaper, so I used a bit of a paper tablecloth I had saved from a party. It is not exactly the same colour as the wall, but it is all temporary anyway. The tablecloth is slightly embossed which gives a nice effect.

Now imagine: wallpaper, wall panels, rails, richly decorated ceiling, a chandelier, wall lights, silk curtains, paintings in heavy gilded frames. This will be a splendid room. I may use this old tablecloth for wallpaper.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Fireplace with chimney breast

In Womble Hall, there will be many fireplaces. They will all be different. When I was a beginner, I bought a fireplace front because I thought I would never be able to make one. I was so ignorant I didn't even know that fireplace fronts are - well, fronts. That they need a proper fireplace and a chimney breast. At that point I just added a black background.

After I had renovated the fireplaces in the Tudor house and especially after I had made a proper inglenook I had a leftover front which I decorated and used first in the art gallery and then in the Georgian house. I made a slight imptovement on a plain wooded fireplace, I have also made a half-scale fireplace. In other words, I have had some training as a fireplace-maker. What is the correct word for fireplace-maker? There must be one.

What I haven't yet made is a proper chimney breast, and now is the time. I will have to make chimney breasts for the existing fronts, but I also wanted to test an idea I got when I was at B&Q pinching wallpaper samples. I found this one and saw immediately that it was fireplace material.

Making a basic fireplace is easy. I used two jenga blocks from my endless supply and an unidentified bit of wood. Then I glued on bits of the wallpaper. I took pictures of every step because it was interesting to follow the improvement.

In the last picture in particular you see clearly the difference between left and right. I wanted to use the curved pattern from the wallpaper, but it was too large. I may use it elsewhere.

Now that the front was ready I needed a chimney breast. I made it from hard foam which the dollhouse parts came in. It's terribly crumbly, but it's easy to cut to shape. I glued the whole thing onto a piece of card, which also provided the back of the fireplace. I had to correct my earlier mistake: the horisontal decorations had to go all the way on the sides of the chimney breast.

As I started painting the inside I noticed that the foam created a very interesting stony effect. Therefore I collected the leftover crumbles and glued them onto the back.

I haven't decided which room this fireplace will go into, but I wanted to test it with wallpaper. This is just some bits I had from a previous project.

Now I needed a hearth. First, I had to add a bit of card as a base. I should have cut it when I made the back, but I hadn't, so there wasn't much I could do about it. But this is a moment when you are glad you have saved all those plastic lids. I cut a lid in half, and it was just the right size. 

Then of course I painted the hearth black, and here we go! The fireguard is from the old Victorian house and made from a metal belt. I guarantee that it is one of a kind! The fireplace set is made from paper clips and clock hands, and the coalbin is from an antique shop. 

I also wanted to test the whole thing in a room. As I said, I am not sure which room it will eventually go into, or whether I am going to use this wallpaper at all, but anyway: 

Mind, this is all white-tacked, and obviously only one wall and half of the floor is done, and I am not sure that the floor and the wallpaper go well together. Or maybe they do. Maybe I will have this wallpaper in this room. Now use you imagination. Richly decorated ceiling and an ornate chandelier. Two wall lights. Heavy matching curtains (there is a clever way to print on fabric). It's going to be a most gorgeous room. Come back soon.

Thursday, 4 September 2014


Today I painted external side and back walls, which is not particularly photogenique, so I didn't bother to take pictures. It will be a long time before the back wall is attached, but it's done now, and it looks nice. The side walls will not be permanently attached either for some time, but even loosely attached they make it look a bit more finished.

As I was painting a couple of days ago, the house suddenly revealed its true name. As we know, the naming of cats is a serious matters, and it goes for all objects. Knowing the true name is an act of bonding and sometimes a sign of power. I tell myself that my house wants to be friends with me, therefore it has revealed its name.

It is Womble Hall. 

Wombles are characters from Elisabeth Beresford's children's books that were later made into television series. The Wombles' life philosophy is "Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish". The Wombles' signature song goes:

Making good use of the things that we find
Things that the everyday folks leave behind

(if you want all of it, it's here.)

This is exactly what my miniature-making credo is. Therefore my house will pay tribute to the spirit of Womblism: inventiveness, imagination and recycling.

From now on, no Downton Manor. From now on, Womble Hall.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Testing interior decoration: reception room

I have decided to test all interior details before glueing the shell. I have heard someone say that if you decorate before assembling, there is a risk of damaging the decoration during assembly. I will take the risk and allow for mistakes.

I have been browsing through dozens of pictures, in books and on the web, and in the end I believe I will use my own ideas - certainly acknowledging that they have been inspired by all these other sources. I know that I will never make anything like this, for several reasons. Firstly, I am not a professional. Secondly, I am not a copy-cat. Wrong: of course I am a copy-cat, but a copy-cat with integrity. I may copy a detail, but the big design will be my own, and my house will be like no other house in the world. Thirdly, unlike the creator of the magnificent house, I want to use as many found and recycled objects as possible. I will not buy a 24-bulb chandelier for a hundred pounds. I will not even buy fancy fireplace surrounds, I will make my own. Therefore I won't compete with anyone and make everything my way. Which doesn't mean I will compromise. It would be easy to just paint the rooms in different colours (but I have done this in my retro house). It would be almost as easy to wallpaper (I have done it in several projects). But this is my life project, and I want it to be exceptional. Therefore, no exceptions, no shortcuts.

I have taken out the herringbone floor I made for the Victorian house all those years ago and tested it in the reception room.

It is larger than the room so I can use the remaining bit elsewhere.

I want this room to be soft and warm, but I also want it to look grand. So here are some attempts:

This is just a sheet of craft paper. The top rail is cut from 1:1 size embossed wallpaper. The white panel is thin card (recycled student essay cover), and the dado rail is from ebay.  

Here I have moved the top rail down a bit, for an additional effect. 

And here I have glued on some toothpicks that I painted gold, just to see whether the effect is worth the trouble. I think it is. When I do it properly I will of course measure carefully, mitre the toothpicks and paint them before glueing on. I will also either paint the rails white or paint the panels cream, since they must match. They must also match the window frame.

These are the kind of decisions I am making, and I think it is fun. It may end up as something completely different, and it will be interesting to come back to this post and see where I started. Watch this space.