Sunday, 11 March 2018


Our beloved cat died a few weeks ago. We have now been adopted by two kittens. We have never had young cats before, and we have never had two, and it's like having two toddlers: thinking of what is lying about that they can break or injure themselves on. I have moved my Tudor dollhouse from the corridor into my study, that is already overflowing with dollhouses and supplies. There is no way I can move all my room boxes that so far have been neatly displayed in a corridor shelf. Our old cat never climbed on shelves and always walked very carefully over and around my miniature chaos. She never tried to get into a dollhouse, as many cats do, judging from hundreds of pictures on Facebook.

Anyway, I need to protect room boxes from cats and cats from room boxes (I will still have to decide whether my study will be forever out of bounds for them). This necessity has inspired me to do something I had been planning to do for a long time and for a different reason: glaze. Anyone who has open dollhouses or room boxes knows how much work it is to dust them, particularly if you have hundreds of tiny objects. So, for my cats and for my own convenience, I ordered Plexiglass sheets cut to measure (I had to measure carefully because the boxes are of different sizes). They were inexpensive, and I decided against pre-drilled holes since each hole cost more than the sheet itself. This speaks volumes about my self-confidence. I was sure I would be able to drill holes in 2mm thick acrylic. And I was. It was a lot of effort, but I did it, hole by tiny hole. In fact, they turned out to be so tiny that I didn't have small enough screws. Temporarily  - or perhaps permanently if I see it works - the sheets are attached with thumbtacks.

There are many disadvantages with glazed room boxes. For me, no project is ever finished, and I keep adding objects and borrowing them for other projects, or simply moving them around. Once you have sealed a box, you would have to take off the glazing if you wanted to change something. Therefore I opted for removable glazing. I know some people use Velcro, and perhaps double-sided tape would work as well.

Before I added glazing, there was some preparatory work to be done. I never fix anything with tack or craft dots, still less with glue, except maybe the tiniest things likely to fall off and get lost at the slightest movement. But if I seal the boxes, I must attach almost everything so it doesn't fall off if I - or the cats - bump into a shelf, or even simply when I move the box from my workbench to the shelf. I don't like attaching objects because even the best kind of tack or sticky dot leaves stains, and if you have a valuable piece of furniture you don't want to spoil the surface. (All those moments when I cursed the previous owner when trying to get the cups and plates off an antique table).

Yet I had no choice, so I spent most of the weekend going through all room boxes fixing every little object.  

Another disadvantage is of course that glass produces reflections. I remember this well from when I tried to take pictures of dollhouses in the Museum of Childhood in London. They were in glass cases, and taking a good picture was virtually impossible. And it took me a dozen attempts to take a somewhat decent picture of my van Hoogstraten box. You can see my hands and the back of my real room reflected in the glass.


This was the first box I glazed, so with the others, I took pictures after I had fixed all objects and before glazing.

The Borrowers box was easiest, and I didn't change anything in it so it was just a matter of attaching objects to each other and to the floor. The yarn shop has been moved around, and quite a lot of it was in disarray, so I first tried out some versions before deciding how I wanted it.

I didn't spend a lot of time on it, but it looks nice and neat now. I made this box for my daughter who is a passionate knitter, but she hasn't collected it so far and may never do.

The clockmaker's shop took longest. This is the box that I change constantly, borrowing clocks for other projects, adding clocks that come in job lots and moving in commercial clocks that I replace with my Chippendale miniatures.

There are some rare vintage pieces here (tall Barton clock and the plastic Marx clock, next to the corner cabinet), some upcycled, and quite a few I have made from buttons and other rubbish. I like this box, it is probably my favourite. But it took ages because I had to make sure that all items were displayed in the best possible way. There was an incredible amount of dust in this box, so now it is well protected.

The most radical changes happened in the Swedish kitchen. It was originally built around a traditional Swedish kitchen sofa, which I have given away to someone building a traditional Swedish 19th-century dollhouse. I have been adding and borrowing from this box and have even considered dismantling it, but I like some of the features, not least the stove that won't go with any other of my current projects, and the doll is Swedish, and so on. So I kept it, but before I glazed it, I removed the sink that was slightly too large anyway, and put in a vintage Swedish sofa, a famous and rare brand, and a vintage Swedish dresser that I had, completely inadequately, in the Victorian house, just because I like it so much. But it fits much better here. I also moved the iconic Swedish kitchenware, Kockums, from the Victorian kitchen where it was totally anachronistic. 

I haven't glazed the Jane Austen box because I am not sure I want to keep it. It was made for a specific purpose, and several pieces and both dolls are borrowed from the large Victorian house. But I like this box so maybe I will add some details and then glaze. It is large, twice as large as the other boxes, so I am not even sure where to put it. So far it has been on my window sill, but it cannot stay there forever.

I also have my antique shop that is the most dynamic box. Most things I had there initially have been used elsewhere, and right now it looks more like a junk bin than a room box. I have tons of spare furniture and stuff so maybe I can make something interesting of it again.

I have dismantled the tea shop. It was one of my very first boxes, and I hadn't added much to it, perhaps because there isn't much to add. Instead I borrowed more and more from it, and now I will use the shell for a new project that I will show in due time.

Meanwhile, there is no risk that the cats will tear down a box or choke on something, and all my displays are protected from dust. It was a great investment and definitely worth the trouble.


  1. Rather than screws or thumbtacks have you thought about magnets on one side and a hinge on the other?