Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Lafayette: A Little Charmer and a Real Bargain

Daughter Jennifer spends a lot of time on Craigslist. I try not to. She discovered an ad for a huge estate sale just east of us, close the farm where my husband helps out his farmer friend. I asked him to take me to the sale Thursday. It was mid afternoon before we were able to go and once there I got sick and had to leave, but not without a bit of looking around.

The building was piled with hundreds of boxes still packed, with many unpacked, and some things were displayed. The lady who owned the stuff, as I over heard, loved to shop and went to auctions. There were hundreds of boxes filled with everything imaginable: books, old magazines, figurines, Christmas, dishes, dolls stuffed animal, and on and on and on. There was even a stack, yes "stack" of fish aquariums of various sizes from 5 gallons to over 200. But sitting high up on an old desk was a dollhouse that caught my eye immediately.

I took it down from its perch and asked how much. $10, um. . .  I'll take $5. Not feeling well enough to make a decision and in need of going home, I left it behind. But you know when something haunts you, even late into the night. And you then dream about it. And then the daughter says, "Mom, you gotta get it. The girls can play with it at your house (emphasis on "at your house."). So Saturday morning I arrived back at the sale before it was open. Yep, the dollhouse was still there.

Still mulling around in my mind thinking that I did not want to become this lady, the one who hoards and buys and hoards, I held back. The lady in charge of the sale said that the house was left outside and had blown over in the wind the day before and suffered damage (more) and she didn't know if they even found all of the pieces. I looked at it, set it aside, bummed. What to do? I wandered around, finding other do-dads. Then the bug to buy hit as I picked up a large porcelain  owl to add to my collection at home (there were dozens of owls), 5 little ceramic Easter houses for an Easter village (brand new in boxes never opened), a red glass plate, and a porcelain swan (all for a dollar each), I decided to get the house. "How much?" I asked. $5. I replied, "That was the price yesterday. Today it is broken." $3," a quick reply.

What a little charmer it is. I adore it. I had a suspicion that is was the same vintage as Heather's house that I had build in the '80s and restored this spring. It is indeed a Dura-Craft, the Lafayette. You can still find new kits on ebay for under $40. It would make a very good starter kit for someone interested in starting a new project.

The house isn't' in terrible shape. The seams had come unglued so someone used clear packing tape to tape it back together. I pulled off all of the tape and in these photos you see the house all cleaned up. I used canned air to spray away the dust and dirt then gave it a light sanding. I believe it is now ready for paint and wall paper, after I glue it back together, that is.

This side suffered the most damage when it fell. The bay window got knocked off, but the pieces are in good shape and will glue back in easily. I have sanded and scraped away the old glue. There is still more glue inside that I would like to remove, but probably won't now. The glue does not scrap away easily. One Internet site suggested using a hair dyer to heat the glue. Not a good idea. I now need to buy a new hair dryer. I went to town to buy a heat gun that crafters use or one used to remove finish from old furniture and decided to spare the expense.

You will notice that at the front door is ajar. It is glued in place. Bummer. I don't think that I can get it free without heating the glue, so I may have to just live with a door that doesn't swing open.

While I love the natural wood look, I am thinking of painting the exterior gray with pink trim. Heather suggests pink and green. I may save those colors for the Alpine Farmhouse. 

I have discovered that special tools are needed for building a dollhouse. I found this kit on the Wallmart site and ordered it.

 It comes with a nice selection of tools

in a nice wooden box,

 but I am questioning the quality of the tools now. The blue clamps don't work very well, unless I don't know how to work them. I have a better one I found at Hobby Lobby. I'll note it when it appears in a photo. The best tool, though, is the miter box to cut 45 degree angles on pieces of trim to fit around corners.

 I have today to myself, so I am going to paint the interior walls of the Alpine house tbefore I begin gluing the walls on.

Here are some web sites that I have studied to get the nerve to begin:

Real Good Toys: Finishing the Interior Part I and Part II. Just follow the links.

Nana's Dollhouses and Miniatures

Thinking of building a dollhouse?

Hobby Lobby offers a really good starter kit: The Orchid for $30. Very similar to the Lafayette, it is made of the composite wood like the Alpine House. Made by Corona Concepts who also makes the Greenleaf kits, it will (I hate to promise easy to build) be a good project. Greenleaf also has great discussions on how to build their houses.

Well, the adventures begins. Thanks so much for joining me. The blog needs more work, so bear with me.

May all of your dollhouse dreams come true, and if you don't have any, enjoy mine or begin your own or both.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Alpine Farm House

It's here. My practice dollhouse arrived via UPS today. I was so anxious waiting that I decided to go downtown to pay the water bill  and wander through the antique stores on main street. I live in a very small town--about 1,500,  on the plains in northern Colorado. It is basically a bedroom community surrounded by farms. When I got home, the house had arrived.

I especially like that the house is made in the USA as the tag shows in Vermont.

Out of the box, all of the pieces are neatly packaged and marked with a list of exactly what pieces are included.

The shingles seem a bit thin and will need to be dyed. Dye not included.

After reading through the instructions, I begin to dry assemble the house, holding it together with blue painters tape, which I find is not strong enough to hold the walls up, so I switch to regular masking tape. I had expected a diagram labeling all of the pieces, but the instructions did not have one. So I had to guess what was what. The front pieces were pretty obvious.

With the main structure taped together, it should measure 19" wide, 16" in length (front to back), and 20" high. The yard stick actual measurement is a bit smaller, 16" x 15".

The photos don't show the gap between the side wall and the floor on the front. Frustrated that I may have to cut the front down, I leave.

We learn lessons in odd ways. Playing Angry Birds has taught me two things: when I can't master a level I go to YouTube to see video on how to aim the silly little bird and when that doesn't work, I leave the game. Generally when I return to the game, I master the level. So this strategy applies to this project. This particular house is not a popular one for builders, so there is no information from hobbyists on the internet with suggestions. I returned to the house a couple of hours later. I decided that perhaps I had pieces incorrectly placed; indeed, I did. With a minor adjustment, the gap disappeared and the front fit perfectly.

The manufacturer Real Good Toys has a great web site with lots of good information on how to build their houses, including instructions manuals for some of the more popular houses. No. the Alpine Farm House is not one of the more popular houses. Just my luck.

The instruction manual really is not the best; thus, I found that dry assembly was more helpful than trying to read the instructions and follow the illustrations. A diagram of the pieces would have saved time and frustration.

Next step: All of the instructions I found say to prime the wood first. Real Good Toys says to use semi gloss latex, which I have plenty of left over from painting my kitchen and living room. I am using an off white, Bone. 

I determined today that I will not get in a hurry. I will take my time. I will be patient.

I have been spending quite a bit of time reading this blog: Cinderella Moments, a really wonderful blog with the most beautiful dollhouses that the writer builds. I am getting a lot of ideas from her.

Tonight I am going to build the windows. I had thought that I might upgrade the window with the Hobby Lobby windows, but these windows are very nice. I do believe that I will upgrade the front door and perhaps the stairs since they are very attractive. Hobby Lobby has a very nice stair case kit.

I am so excited to have followers already. Thanks you ladies to signing on. I am still working on the blog format. Right now subscription is by email only, which I want to fix. Google has changed some of Blogger's features such as how the blogger's profile is made public--too complicated for me to explain, so when I get that all figured out you will hopefully be able to follow both with and without email. I don't want to make those drastic changes as they will affect my Garden Spot blog and I don't want it altered.

When we meet again, I hope to have the pieces primed.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Welcome to Ann's Doll Dreams. Perhaps you have discovered this side of me through my blog Welcome to the Garden Spot, a blog I started in 2010 to share my gardening experiences. When I started that blog, I was a full time English professor at the University of Northern Colorado. I retired a year ago while I still had health and energy to do the things I enjoyed. One of my life long passions has been dolls, pretty, sweet dolls. I do not have a large collection of dolls, but the ones I do have are very dear to me with great sentimental value. You will be meeting them as time goes on.

Years ago when my daughter was little I built her a dollhouse from a kit. Not knowing what I was doing, it was a pretty rough toy and she never really embraced it as a play thing, so for years it sat in a storage unit then in our barn. I'd see the old ratty thing and swear that when the barn was cleaned the dollhouse was going to the dump along with other non essential junk. Then she had one request for the 39th birthday: Momma, all want for my birthday is for you to fix up my dollhouse. So I did. She loved it. She became obsessed with furnishing it and continuing the renovations. Then the bug bit me. And now I have a blog dedicated to my dolls and to my newly acquired dollhouse obsession.

Perhaps you have the same obsession. Here, as I discover great web sites and other resources, I will share them with you, hoping that you will do the same.

So this is my first project. I am learning a lot more about building houses; in fact I have a bargain sitting in the garage just waiting for me to begin building it.  But first, the little red house built in the '80s refurbished in '14.

The little red house wasn't in horrible shape; though it did have some broken pieces, but its bones were strong.

The doll house sat on my center island in the kitchen as I worked steadily on it for two weeks. With a bit of help from my husband, we transformed her childhood dollhouse into a nostalgic piece that she will enjoy for a very long time.

So I began work on the little house. It required several coats to cover the red paint. I purchased a quart of latex flat interior paint for the outside. For the white trim I used craft store acrylic paint. For the interior walls that I painted, I used paint that I had recently used in my kitchen.

There is still work for her to do on the house, but she loves it. While the original porch railing had come unglued and it was still sound. The flat, one dimensional porch posts were gone or broken, so I replaced them with turned porch posts that I purchased from Hobby Lobby. I also replaced the front door with a new door from Hobby Lobby. 

The white table and chairs were on loan to Heather, but the doll and the tea set went with the house.

The bathroom fixtures original to the house were actually a vintage set that her grandmother had as a child. 

The finding the dolls and the furniture were a stroke of really good luck.

The house looked a little plain after I got the roof shingled, so I added the gingerbread trim that I found at Hobby Lobby. Gluing it on was very difficult and in retrospect I should have glued it on before I put on the shingles.

I purchased the bedroom furniture at, you guessed it, Hobby Lobby. I have the door taped instead of permanently installed because I figured Heather would want to paint. I wallpapered only one room using scrapbook paper that turned out to be cloth with an adhesive backing, but I didn't know that at the time. So if she wants to remove the wall paper she can just peel the cloth off and have a foundation to glue the new wallpaper to. 

I also purchased new two new stair steps that I did not glue in either. They are supposed to face the other direction, but I felt that the stairs looked better facing the back of the house. Heather will have to decide what she likes.

Once you begin working on a dollhouse, you begin making up a story that goes with it and the dolls end up with names and histories. This is the nanny.

On the porch we have the lady of the house, Martha, named after Heather's great grandma who lived in a two story farmhouse not so different from this one. Uncle Charlie has been to the garden and brings in his harvest for the day.

Martha enjoys tea in the afternoon on the veranda. She was purchased at local garage sale, a lucky find.

Heather wanted it painted blue, and "This time, mamma, I want shingles."

I shopped Hobby Lobby for shingles, finding them coming in very small packages and requiring staining. I wasn't up for that expense or work, so I decided that if she wanted shingles she could shingle the house. 

I am also a thriftier. I love going to the Goodwill and ARC looking for cool stuff. On one excursion to ARC,  I hit the grand jackpot, a shoe box full of not just shingles, but dolls and furniture, and the little tea set. I was in business. The Nanny, grandpa and grandma seen in in the living room holding a naked baby that I had used for a baby shower game, an over stuffed sofa and chair, and white wrought iron baker's rack all for $6.00. Sometimes things are just meant to be.

The little house really wasn't in horrible shape, but it did a lot of work to clean it up, repaint it, and make it ready as a suitable birthday gift.

On Heather's birthday, March 27th, I gave her gift in a rather unusual way, but by a totally modern way. She lives more than an hour away and works, so I created a blog post of her house on the Garden Spot, called her through Face Time and asked her to take a look at the Garden Spot. Click here to see her big smile and tears as she sees her house for the first time in over 20 years. What a grand moment.

The little house now has a family and Heather will have a lot of fun decorating it. It will be her winter project. I didn't shingle the porch roof, but there were more than enough shingles left over for her to add to the roof. 

Now, I am ready to start my next project. I mentioned a kit in the garage. It is the Bellingham Farm House made in the 1980s by Dura Craft, now out of business. My other daughters found it on Craigslist and bought it for $25. I am very nervous about building it, so I have been scouring the Internet, including Goggle, Pinterest, and YouTube learning about building dollhouses and creating the miniatures to furnish it. Before I tackle the farm house which is MDF (manufactured wood and not plywood), I have ordered a little two room MDF house to practice on before taking on the big house. 

I have so much to share with you. I hope you join me as I discover the world of dollhouses and miniatures. Perhaps you will have ideas to share, too. Be sure to check out my Pinterest Board Dollhouse. 

Thanks so much for stopping by. Ann

More Roofing

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