Friday, November 13, 2015

My Old House: Stairs Project Continues

Years ago before the trendy HGTB fixer upper house and decorating shows, I watched This Old House on the public TV channel 6, always fascinated by the projects. I have also watched my husband's Uncle Don work his magic on our many old house projects. Even in our newest home built in 1994, walls are uneven, floors don't have the perfect surfaces, and I am sure that the window frames aren't exact.

So why would my Blue Farm House probably 20 years old or more be any different? It isn't. Installing the Hobby Lobby stair kit proved to be quite a challenge. I remarked to my husband that nothing fits in this old house built out of heavy, thick ply woods and other odd woods and because the house not a kit house windows and some doors are not standard measurement,  and since I think it passed through more than one set of working hands, it has certain structural problems. The two openings for the stairs are not the same size. One is too large to accommodate the stair kit and the other is too narrow. So I spent hours days trying to get the stair case in place. 

The stairs on the first floor are now installed. They required a lot of work, but I think they turned out really well.

I use a lot of blue painter's tape to hold pieces in place as I test them to see just how they will fit.

Upstairs I had to fill in the opening to narrow it up some. The piece fits, looks added on, but I will camouflage it when I put in the stair rail.

Another problem needed to be accommodated, too, the gap between floors. As I said the walls were uneven, so the wall paper didn't exactly fit.

So I added some added a strip of wall paper and trim to cover the gap.

Assembling the upstairs railing took a lot of planning. The hand rails and slats came with the kit, but the edging that I wanted to add to the floor to give it the finished look came from my stash, the same trim that I used for the window casings. I laid the pieces out on rough sandpaper, hoping to keep them from scooting around too much as I tried to get them glued into place. 

Ready to glue together, I made another trip to the house to make sure that it was going to fit and that I had pieces where I wanted them.

I liked the way this project turned out. There is still one more set of stairs to install, and they will be  a greater challenge because this set will be installed in the opposite direction. 

The bathroom presents a problem, too. I had great visions of adding architectural interest to the large room. 

 Once I got the wall built and put in place, it didn't fit. And it closes off the bathroom too much, so I have abandoned the architectural interest wall for the time being, anyway. I can always add the wall later, but for now I will leave the bathroom as it is. 

Tool of the month: the heat gun. Have I shared it with you before? For rebuilding chores it is a must. I use it to dissolve old glue when I want to deconstruct something, like removing old glue from the door jambs in the house, or removing the small items from the top of this old fireplace or even removing  this clock face that was glued on slightly off center.

So the work continues on this old house. Retrofitting every kit piece is just part of the challenge and the satisfaction that I get when the project turns out decently.

 Despite the rough edges, I am loving how the house is coming together. Here is a little tour:

I would live in this living room. I want to add some area rugs to make it feel more homey. The tea cart is a really sweet piece that I ordered from Superior.  The little tea set was a surprise find at a local garden center in its fairy garden collection.

I made the lamp and ordered the phone from Superior and found the ship at the miniature show in Denver. 

I decided to put hardwood in the bedroom because the carpet didn't fit the best. I am going take the carpet that I purchased for the room and cut it down to make an area rug.

The kitchen is just so cute. The sink does not match the stove and refrigerator that I purchased at Norm's Dollhouse store in Denver. The sink that goes with the set was out and has not come back into stock yet. Right now I am using a sink that came in the stash of miniature stuff that I bought from the junk man last summer. It does not have faucets, so if I keep it I will add the hardware. I have not yet painted the baking center. I will either stain it or maybe even leave it bare. The cabinet in the back corner is supposed to go on the wall, but I am having a hard time fitting it in a corner. The two windows take up a lot of wall space, making the kitchen layout hard. 

I found a great website that has such good stuff and unusual items: Minimumworld. I placed an order not realizing that it would come from England, so it was long 2 weeks before the order arrived.

But such good stuff. I am going to use the little skates to decorate a mini sled for Christmas. I don't think I will go to a lot of work to decorate the house for Christmas, but I won't be able to resist making it a little festive.

I showed my daughter the spinning wheel and she shouts, "oh I must have one." Hmmm. I will stain the side table using the same honey colored stain that I have used for all of the other pieces and place it in the downstairs hall. 

So there you have it. I will put work on the farm house on hold now until after the first of the year. I'll be back then as I tackle the second stair case, already stained and ready to install. I will be working on the 3rd floor to create the nursery, nanny's room, and the man cave--is there a Man of the House?  

Thanks for taking the time to visit. See you soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Building the Stairs

I spend so much time working on the dollhouse that I forget to update the blog. Renovating an old dollhouse poses the same problems that renovations on real houses present. Since this house is not a kit house, the room sizes vary--everything varies--, so every space has to measured and pieces have to be cut to fit. Take the stairs, for example. Walls are not straight, floors not level, corners not square. 

Take the stairwell, for example. I have the stairs taped in place so that I can figure out how everything will fit. You can see that the opening is too wide.

So I used pop sickle sticks (the narrow craft sticks) to extend the upstairs hall floor. I glued them to cardboard and stained them. The stain is a decent match to the original wood flooring. 

I have pre-fit all of the pieces, realizing that I need some sort of base on the floor for the railing that I have to create. While some of the pieces come with the Houseworks stairs kit, I have improvise other pieces.

You can see how the piece fits from the the ceiling downstairs. I will cover it with ceiling paper before I glue it permanently. I have stripped out the wallpaper so that I can repair the tape wiring on the wall, as you can see the patch. A previous owner had a off/on switch that controlled the hallway light and porch lights on the outside of the house. It quite working properly, so I took it out which meant that I had repair the wiring to restore the flow of the electrical current.

Now, the stairwell patch has been glued in place and held securely with small clamps to hold it until the glue dries. Next I begin planning the stairs by laying out the pieces, trying to figure how they will all fit together.

I have laid out the pieces after cutting pieces for the railing to fit to give the stairway a finished look. Of course I check many blogs to see how others have installed stairs. I used the same trim that I used for the window casings.

With the stairway opening project finished, I set about laying the flooring. Because I have placed much of the wiring on the floors for easy access, I don't want to permanently attach the flooring because I want to be ale to lift it out should the wiring go bad. So I used double sticky carpet tape, difficult stuff to work with and not totally satisfactory.

The tape worked in the living room to hold the flooring in place. I have added the baseboards and the room is beginning to look finished. The tape did not work in the hallway, however. It just would not grab hold to keep the flooring from buckling. The living room floor looks great. 

 So I pulled it up. I decided to use Gorilla wood glue to adhere the flooring. First I used the scroll saw to cut out a place in the flooring that I would not glue down. The cut will covered up with furniture or 

The downstairs has caused a lot of consternation--aggravation--frustration--angst. The living room lights above the fireplace have been flickering, so I decided to figure out how to create access to the the wiring. I ended up stripping out the the blah, band creamy wallpaper, replacing it with Hobby Lobby's paper. I like the stripes and the border at the top better than the plain paper. I fixed the tape wiring on one wall then wall papered over the patch. 

Now with the hall flooring installed, I am working on completing the stair installation and what a challenge it is proving to be. So, I will leave your here. I'll be back soon, hopefully with the stairs nicely installed, looking fabulous. 

Thanks so much stopping by.

Stair kit: Houseworks/ Hobby Lobby brand
Carpet double sticky tape: Ace Hardware store brand
Thin narrow casing for stairs: open stock Norm's Dollhouse Store, Denver

Saturday, August 29, 2015

More in Bathroom

When I first bought the Blue Farmhouse, I was somewhat agitated with myself for spending the $100. because I had a big farmhouse kit still in the box that the girls bought me. I really did not need another dollhouse.  But I am obsessed. Possessed. Once I had it home and inspected it more closely, I know that I had my work cut out for me, for it indeed did need a lot of work. Originally I had thought that I would just fix it up enough inside to sell it, but here I am putting in all my effort and lord knows how much money I have spent, but oh my what fun I am having.

As noted in previous posts, I have struggled with the bathroom simply because I got in a hurry and purchased wallpaper that was a second choice. Finding a paint to match presented a major problem.

Before I began to add color to the wall, I gave this back wall another coat of white primer. The wood surface is rough plywood that should have been sanded smooth before the house was assembled. At this stage there in no way to sand it smooth, so I gave it another coat of primer.

Now I am ready to add the first coat of Delta Creamcoat acrylic paint. The color is perfect, Cornflower.

I gave it two coats. Here it is not quite dry. I am loving it.

Now I am in the process of wallpapering. The ceiling was papered last night and today I will paper the walls. 

In the meantime, I wanted a chandelier above the bathtub in front of the window. This is my inspiration piece, one of my mother's gaudy 1970s clip-on chandelier earring. Just try to find such an earring these days or even the jewelry findings to make the earring. I didn't want to tear apart mom's earring for sentimental reasons even though it would have made a great light. Instead I created my own version.

I picked through my stash of beads, and through trail and error I finally came up with a chandelier for the bathroom.

I made it up as I went along. If you want to try your own hand at making a light, see what you have in your beading stash. Be sure to share your results with everyone.

In the photo:
  • Mini Lamp from Radio Shack. My Radio shack has a very limited selection of lamps/lights. You can also purchase lights from Superior and other sites. There you will have a better choice of the type of lamp you want to use. You can even choose battery LED lights
  • The clip looking tool is used to strip the plastic casing from the wire; a handy tool to use instead of your thumbnail.
  • Wire. You will have to splice your mini lamp wire (comes with short but adequate hookup leads) to the wire that will be attached to your dollhouse wiring system or battery operated unit. When I hard-wire in the wall sconces, I cut off the plug end, saving it for such a project. This chandelier will be hard-wired in, so I will remove the plug-in. If you don't have any spare plug-ins, Hobby Lobby carries both wire and plug-ins.
  • Shrink tube: Purchased from Superior. These very tiny tubes slip over your spliced wires to insulate the bear spice that you have when you join the plug-in wire to the lamp lead. I have tried electrical tape and while it does work, it just is not pretty or sound. I place the shrink tubes on each wire before hand, twist the wires of each end together then gently, ever so gently, push the shrink tube in place to cover the exposed wires. You do not want to allow the bare wires to touch when you plug in the light to test your splices because that is a sure fire way to short out your mini lamp. Once the shrink tubes are in place, I shrunk them by holding a lit stick match just close enough to shrink the tube in place. I will be ordering larger shrink tubes that will fit over the entire spice to make the splice look neater and stronger. At this point, I can plug in my light to see if it works. (It does).
Here are the pieces that I used to assemble the chandelier. I am sorry that I do not know what size the pieces are because I had them in my stash. I didn't have to buy anything:

  • The pink finding forms the cap for the chandelier. I found a package  of 4 on the discontinued sale wall at Hobby Lobby. So I painted it with Testors enamel paint. Some of which rubbed off as I added the beaded work, so I need to do some touch up. Next time I think I will use gold spray paint for a better finish and maybe a clear acrylic top coat to keep the paint from chipping.
  • You can see the pieces that I used to bead the head pins. Go through your stash and see what you come up with. I finished each head pin with a very tiny crimp bead that barely shows, using the crimp tool. If you do not do any beading supplies or tools then you will have to buy the crimp tool and a needle nosed beading pliers at Hobby Lobby or Michaels.
The bathroom fixtures are nearing completion.

I have the bathroom fixtures nearly all painted. I have the toilet left to finish. You can see what the pieces looked like just before I began painting.

I painted each piece with the Cornflower paint that went on the back wall then I sanded it down to smooth out the surface and to expose some of the wood, but not very much. Next I applied 3 coats of white acrylic paint, thinning it down with water, smoothing it on carefully with a small artist's brush, and sanding in between each coat.

I wanted to make sure that the Cornflower color dominated the white, so the white paint was thinned by dipping my brush into water before loading it with paint. I like the results very much. 

This afternoon I will finish the wallpapering. I had to wallpaper the ceiling first and add a wall sconce. Now I am ready to do the walls. I won't wire in the chandelier until I order the shrink tube to give the splice a more finished look. 

Suppliers used for today's post:
Radio Shack
Hobby Lobby

 Thanks so much for taking time to visit. See you soon.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Do you have a strategy for working on your dollhouse? Or do you find that you have so many projects to do that you just don't know how or where to focus? Perhaps you have to take a break from time to time to gather your wits and decide what you should do next. I have been stumped over the bathroom. On a whim, spur of the moment, I purchased wallpaper for it at Hobby Lobby mostly because I couldn't order the one that I liked online. So as I have struggled with the wall treatment for the bathroom, I have been working on little things. Literally, little things. Get a cup of tea and a biscuit, for I have a lot share with you.

I have 3 complete sets of bathroom fixtures: one porcelain, the Stromberger vintage wood set, and this set that I acquired when I made the big purchase of hundreds of pieces that I shared in the last post. This is a rather ugly set. The finish is thick, rough, ugly, a bit sticky. I searched the net looking for this set and indeed it was a kit that someone assembled. Superior Dollhouse Miniatures now carries thisVictorian bathroom set nicely assembled and finished, if you like this style.

Over the years, I have tackled stripping and refinishing some pieces, swearing each time that I wouldn't bother again. So this summer I found myself in the garage stripping these  little pieces using an orange goop that is odor free, non toxic, and works well.

Layer by layer, I stripped, scraped, sanded, and stripped some more until I thought I reached a workable surface.

The dissolved old finish resembled gooey chocolate sauce. I did end up removing some of the hardware, but on these little doors the nails are long and bent on the back. Because I didn't want to risk ruining the hinges,  I left them on. I did remove the handles on the little chest. The commode had been assembled incorrectly; as I looked at photos the tank is attached high above the stool on the wall with the chain that I will add along with a water pipe.

After much searching, I finally found the periwinkle craft paint that will match the wallpaper, so I will paint the fixtures periwinkle then try shabby chic-ing them with coats of white paint. I just don't like the wood stained look.

These are the faucets that I will use--I think. I am wondering if they are too small?

Love this shelf. It was created in an evening as I just poked minis stash looking to see what I could come up with. I purchased this shelf at JoAnn's in the miniature section. Their minis are more for those little shadow boxes, so their pieces are not true 1:12 scale. I used this shelf to practice my painting techniques. Underneath my created periwinkle are other layers of various colors.

Before I found my craft paint, I was trying to mix light blue, lavender, and white paint to make periwinkle. I came pretty close, so I painted this little shelf to see if my mix would work. It did match the wallpaper, but since I am going to paint that back wall in the photo below now covered with scrapbook paper that is the perfect color, I worried how I would mix enough to cover the wall.

 I considered having a paint store mix paint, but I'd have to buy a quart. Too much paint and too costly. I considered mixing chalk paint, but again it was way too much money for the small amount that I needed and I would again have to mix paints, requiring buying 3 different colors. Luckily, Hobby Lobby had just restocked it craft paints and had just the color I wanted.

So, where did I get all of the cool minis? Top shelf: Apochary jars: Hobby Lobby, scrapbook section and jewelry findings section. I filled them with glass beads. I made the perfume bottles from my stash of beads, finding inspirations on Pinterest. The tray is a necklace bezel.  

The hat box and the tooth paste box are printables I found on Pinterest. The purse was bonus in a drawer of a piece that I purchased from an antique store. There were several little purses in the drawer. The rest of the items came from Superior. 

The theme for the bathroom will be swans. I love swans. Notice the Avon bottle. Who didn't have one of those in the olden days? (like the 1980s) Every bathroom had one filled with Skin So Soft bath oil that is so strong that many used it as mosquito repellent. 

I ordered two sets of towels; each came with 1 towel, a pair of bath slippers, and two perfume bottles. (Superior)

From my stash, I found the Hobby Lobby chair that I wonder if it is 1:12 scale. I made the pillow and ordered the orchid from Superior. Hubby is into orchids, so I added this to the bathroom in his honor. He got a kick out the tiny plant. The swan is bigger than I wanted; it is not a figurine size--probably scaled for the real life swan, but I am going to use it anyway because it is so neat.

Next, I purchased this sofa and matching chair unfinished from Houseworks Ltd. com. I have seen them so beautifully finished on Pinterest. I was not brave enough to try to paint them, so I opted to stain them with fair results because the wood really didn't accept the stain very well, but I think that the pieces have a bit of a shabby charm anyway. So now I am ready to upholster the pieces.

I am not artsy or good a drawing and making stuff. My mom could (and now my one daughter) look at something and say "I want it to look like this," and magically she created whatever she wanted. I have to work at it--a lot. First I had to make a pattern for the fabric upholstery. I struggled with this step for weeks before i settled on a method.

I started by trying to use computer paper to trace the shape to be upholstered. Too heavy. I finally settled on inner facing. I have a lot of it that I inherited from my MIL. She crafted and bought it by the bolt. It is flexible, transparent, and very easy to work with. I was able to put it in place and using a fabric marker, traced the shapes that I wanted. The marker that I use is disappearing ink that disappears on its own. There is a more permanent fabric maker that you can use, but you have to wet the fabric to dissolve the ink.

 I applied Elmer's glue just along the outside edge.

The fabric that I used required some sort of stuffing or body, so I glued quilt batting again from my MIL's stash to the back the sofa.

Some  tutorials online show using card stock as the foundation and gluing the cloth to it, but it just didn't work for me, so I trimmed my upholstery piece--heavy muslin-- to fit and glued it to the batting.

I needed to cover my rough edges, so I used crochet thread, a heavy cotton from my crochet stash. I wish I could tell you what weight it is, but I can't. You can see that I missed a spot. It is probably better to cut the piece a wee bit larger then trim it down with wee scissors. 

I didn't get this top oval cut as accurately as I needed, but I followed the same procedure using the quilt batting as the foundation. I think next time I could even add two layers, especially if I to do any tufting or to make the upholstery more cushy.

The cushion on the chair was really hard to make because I couldn't accurately trace the seat. I will practice more for the next set and I definitely will paint the next set.

The set looks great in the house. I use the same stain for both the floor and the furniture. It is one I had mixed to match the original hard wood.

I am pretty happy with the set. Not perfect, but I am learning a lot just by doing. I hope you are brave enough to just do it, too.

I wanted some decorative plates for the kitchen. I have found beautiful ones on Etsy, but oh my are they pricey. I didn't mind so much paying a bit for pretty plates, but when the shipping from Spain doubled the cost, I had to come up with a better solution. So I purchased these white metal plates at Hobby Lobby--5/$1.00 and went to my computer files for my printables and was able to match the lamp and canisters in the kitchen.

There may be a Lady of the House--for now anyway. I was putting toys away after the kids were here and found this little Barbie ( a MacDonald's Happy Meal prize?) and wondered how she would look. She's okay, don't you think. For the moment anyway. About the right size. I find that the dollhouse dolls just don't have the right look.

My fun project this week has been pillow making. 

But you know what? I think I will leave you here now. It is nearly 10:30 PM, so I think rather than hurrying through pillow making as I did upholstery, I will slow down and save the pillows for the next post.

You can watch me finish this one.

 I'll finish by sharing the coffee table with you. I ordered from, too. I need to stain it to match the sofa and chair. Love the African violet that I ordered from Superior. I made several magazines--printables I found on Pinterest. The tea cup belongs to a set that I purchased last year at Hobby Lobby, I but I don't think they carry it anymore. It was a very nice tea set with a teapot. I have some of it in the green farmhouse. The little throw rug I printed on muslin, a Pinterest printable.

I'll share with you next time on how print on fabric.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I treasure your comments. All 5 of you. I know that not all of you are working on dollhouses and that you come to from the Garden Spot; still I am so very thankful that you take the time to visit me here. I wish you a wonderful week.