Monday, 29 February 2016

Chippendale three-drawer chest

As I was writing the previous post I realised that I had only shared my three-drawer chest project in a closed FB group, a group specifically dedicated to Chippendale furniture kits from the House of Miniatures. Browsing through other people's pictures, I noticed that some imaginative people used the kits for making something other than conventional mahogany pieces, stained and polished. I guess I had never even contemplated the option because I was in awe of these kits and couldn't conceive of them being used for anything other than their original purpose. Maybe because they are rather expensive (for instance, as compared to Poundland furniture that I have happily upcycled). But maybe just because I lacked imagination.

However, in my two recent bundles I have a number of duplicates, and I am not particularly interested in making the same thing twice. I thought I could make a piece and give it away or even give away a kit, but the idea of making something less conventional was liberating. So I started with a nightstand.


It is a very straightforward piece that I had made before, but this time I assembled it first and then painted antique white and aged by painting brown and immediately wiping off the paint. I used to have a different night stand in this room that I won't even show because it was completely wrong style. It has now found a good home.

A couple of weeks ago, my Chippendale group decided to run a weekend challenge: we would all do the same piece.  Well, not all, but some of us. We decided on a piece that many people were likely to have, a three-drawer chest. I had made it before, and I had a duplicate which I wanted to do something different with.

In the group, I showed everything step by step, but here I will just share the interesting features I made when painting and decorating. For instance, because I didn't stain the parts before assembling, I had to consider whether the chest itself should be painted on the inside, so I had to go and check my 1:1 antique chests, and they are all unpainted. Which makes sense, because paint was expensive so why waste it on surfaces that won't be visible. Likewise, the outside of the drawers is unpainted. But the inside of drawers is painted - in a colour different from the outside of the chest! Imagine, I open these chests several times a day, and I had never noticed that they were painted inside!

So I painted the inside of my drawers. (Yes, I use a chopping board as work surface. It is good because I can just lift it and move elsewhere when I need my desk for my regular work).

The chest itself, I painted antique white.  I had to do three coats before I was satisfied. This wood just soaks up paint, as opposed to stain.

However, I wasn't happy with this plain look, so I wanted to distress it, and more radically than I did with the night stand. I rubbed the surface with a candle, then painted with brown acrylic and immediately wiped it off with a cloth. You can see the difference on a drawer front where I tested it first: 

This sequence explains it better. First paint over, on a completely dry previous coat, rubbed with a candle. Then wipe. The result is a much more natural-looking surface. 

For knobs, I used bead caps. 

Here it is in its room, the servants' room. It looks old and worn out, just as I wanted. I am very pleased with it and I glad I experimented.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Chippendale dressing table

Some time ago, I had an epiphany as I was looking through pictures from one of my Facebook groups. Clever people have been imaginative and painted Chippendale kit furniture in various colours, added different knobs and generally made something different than prescribed. It was a liberation to realise that all Chippendale miniatures don't necessarily have to be mahogany and that I could use my imagination to make something truly unique.

In this group, we had a weekend challenge and everybody who had the kit made the same piece, a three-drawer chest, all using different ideas. I will show mine some other time.

Now I will show what I made this weekend. I got another lowboy kit in one of my bundles, and since I had already made a mahogany lowboy, I thought I could make a different one. The instruction says that lowboys were used for various purposes, including as ladies' dressing tables, and this was an interesting idea. Of course I already have a dressing table in the master bedroom, upcycled from a Poundland piece, replacing an earlier piece replacing a still earlier piece. But this is a huge problem with Chippendale furniture: once you have started with them, everything else feels unsatisfactory.

Thus, full of guilt as always, when I replace an earlier piece, I made the lowboy. Now, my aspiration was to find the right colour. My all-purpose antique white felt wrong, and I also wanted the shade to match a Carin Backlund chair I have in this room. So my first attempt was to mix antique white with pure white. Which just tells you how little I know about mixing colours.


This  was yesterday evening, and I realised that I probably needed daylight for such a delicate task. Just before I fell asleep it struck me that the Backlund chair colour was bluish (18th-century bluish white, which is just right for this project). So in the morning I added a drop of light blue to pure white and also diluted the paint quite a bit.

It is still not exactly the same shade,  and I will never get it exactly the same. I won't re-paint the chair because it is an artist piece, but it it close enough, and I am happy. It really looks much, much more authentic than the antique white. I added golden beads for knobs and painted the leg balls gold - not quite sure about the latter, but it can be changed.

The inside of drawers is painted light blue because that's how it was done.


There will be all kinds of lady stuff in the drawers.

Here is the dressing table in its room. I found a suitable mirror to hang in front of it.

I feel terribly guilty toward the old dressing table. I had put so much love into it. But it cannot be helped. See for yourself: which do you prefer?


But maybe I can use the old one in some other project.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Front stairs

As promised in the previous post, I have now moved on to front stairs. I tested them about six months ago, stated that it didn't work and switched my attention to something else. When I tried last weekend, it didn't work either, but this time I was determined to manage it, so I did what I always do when I am desperate: asked my Facebook group. I posted this picture and asked: why doesn't it fit?


Guess what? I am glad I asked. The answer was: you have put it upside down! Grrr.... That was easy.

The reason it could happen was that I had tried to be clever. Six months ago I painted the stairs the same colour as the basement, but of course it was tremendously boring.


This would never do for a front staircase in a fine mansion, would it? So I had to improve it in the same manner I had improved the interior stairs, by adding separate steps cut from craft sticks.


However, I wanted stone effect on the steps, so I went back to the idea of shelf lining. Here you see the process step by step - literally.

And you can see the difference. 

This is how far I got six months ago. And I put the steps on the wrong side - that's why the stairs didn't fit the arch. Luckily, the steps weren't glued yet.

I had to repaint the stairs in a lighter shade of gray, to match the steps. 

Then came the boring part. More railing to sand. You may ask, if I want profiled spindles why don't I build my own railing, with individual spindles? The answer is, I am not ready yet. I remember my struggle with the stairs in the rear corridor - I can never get it straight. Maybe some time later. 

But I still want my spindles smooth and rounded, and it takes a lot of time. Sand, paint, sand a bit more, paint, paint. As you see, I am using baking paper for painting.  

 Rails and newel posts - although I won't need them yet for a while.

Finally, one part of  the railing finished to my satisfaction - almost - and can be glued onto the stairs.


I use wood glue which is very good, but you need patience before it dries.

I am showing all this because when you eventually see the whole assembly it will look easy. But this far, it has taken me two days. Held together by tack and masking tape, it gives you a general idea.

To be continued (next weekend).

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Balcony rail and more

This weekend I returned to the exterior of the house. Last time I worked on the exterior was half a year ago, in July. This speaks volumes about the meanderings of dollhouse building.

The roof balcony rail had been lying on my window sill, and every time I saw it I just took a deep breath and said to myself: Not now. All the railings I had sanded and painted and sanded again made me reluctant to start on a piece with 48 spindles. Yet one day it had to be done, and the day had arrived. After all my training I now have some shortcuts. I have also finally figured out how to use a tool that I had never used for its initial purpose: a lady shaver with a nail polishing tool.

I know some people use electric toothbrushes, but I have never managed to attach sandpaper to a brush. But here it was simply to use tape. It made the job easier and faster, but I had to wear a mask for the dust. 

Then there was painting and more sanding and trimming, and it turned out that what I thought was a deliberate cut-off for adjustment was actually a broken piece. Well, too late.

While I was at it, I also glued on the large pediment. I am not sure why I had not done before.


Lessons learned: unlike many other steps where I immediately saw the improvement I am not sure. Does it look more finished? I can see from the picture that the upper front edge, right below the railing, must be repainted white. I can state again that the fronts do not close properly so I need to work on that.

The next step on the exterior is the front staircase, and I have already spent hours of frustration over it. The instructions I received, upon repeated requests, from the manufacturer were not helpful, and there are things that don't match. The only thing I could get the manufacturer to admit was that the stairs cannot be attached to the house because the main fronts won't open then. I think this is a big miscalculation in this new model.

The easiest way would of course be to ignore the stairs altogether, but they do add an interesting feature. So this will keep me busy in the coming weeks. Come back soon.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Adam ceiling: reception room

I really thought I was done with ceilings, but of course once you have started any other ceiling just doesn't look right.

If you haven't seen my Adam ceilings, have a look at dining room, the gentlemen's smoking room, the drawing room, the grand hall, the upper hall, corridor and guest bedroom, nursery and servants' room.

The reception room has a magnificent ceiling that I am very proud of.  And yet, with all other Adam ceilings, the white border around the centerpiece doesn't look magnificent anymore.

Of course there is no way I can tear down the centerpiece. Moreover, because I was hundred percent sure I would not add any detail I had attached wooden coving. So now I had to build the ceiling around it. With all my previous ceiling training, I knew how to do it. 


It is just a matter of precision. And patience. And more patience. Once again, I wish I had this paper a year ago when I was decorating the ceilings on flat surfaces. But - it wasn't available then, and it is solely my decision to make these ceilings. Whatever you say, my house is absolutely unique.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Adam ceiling: nursery and servants' room

I haven't been completely idle, miniature-wise, all this time, but I have been making more Chippendale furniture, and I will show it later. Meanwhile, I have made two more Adam ceilings. If you haven't seen my Adam ceilings, have a look at dining room, the gentlemen's smoking room, the drawing room, the grand hall, the upper hall, corridor and guest bedroom.

I will not show all steps because I have shown them before, but as a reminder: I had to tear down the existing mouldings - luckily, they are paper - measure the ceiling paper, glue it on and then add new mouldings. There was not much challenge in the two attic rooms because they have plain, rectangular ceilings. Here is the nursery:

And here is the servants' room:

It's unlikely that the master would have Adam ceilings in such insignificant rooms, but let's pretend he really likes to show off, in case a guest might wish to visit.

Now all ceilings are done. It has been a lot of work, but surely worth it.