Thursday, August 10, 2017

Back to the drawing Bo... er.. Paper

I just couldn't put my finger on why I wasn't loving the staircase in the New Orleans kit. Here's a photo to refresh your memory. Take a look, I'l wait...

Then I realized, after letting the thought niggle at me while I worked on the Sweet Christmas Cottage, that they were just too wide. About 3/4" too wide, and they really crowded the entryway. Not to mention the room in general. Picky, picky - I know. But in 1:1 that's 9 inches, and that can make all the difference!

So, after I finished swearing and chastising myself for not just leaving well enough alone, I drew up some new plans. Hey - I am willing to make two attempts before I settle for the best result.

This new set of stairs would include built in shelves, solving once and for all the other nagging issue: the column bookcase. Now I would be free to give up the idea and still have a place to display some of the really cool stuff I've been collecting for this project. And, I'd gain back 2" there. Are you adding it up? 2-3/4" of regained floor space! Totally worth the investment of time and a new staircase kit. A perfect opportunity to take advantage of the HBS/ 25% off sale!

Remember the issue I had when I originally decided not to use the pre-built stairs that came with the kit? They were extremely narrow, and the pitch made them very child dollhous-y. Not grown up dollhous-y. Well, a more realistic pitch meant that they were longer in length, so when installed, were about 1-1/2" too long for a believable landing. This was something I tried to ignore, but if I'm honest, it kept me up at night.

One of my brilliant readers asked if I had considered making it a return staircase. At the time, when I was stuck on the idea of keeping the column bookcase, I dismissed the thought thinking it would make that end of the room too heavy. But now, without the column bookcase, the idea was back on the table.

After my very helpful husband cut the new staircase to width for me (I bent my scroll saw blade in the attempt), I made a mock-up with a return. Bingo! That was just what they needed for better fit and function!

I cut and attached the wall stringer, shelves, back wall, landing and step from 1/16" illustration art boards. This stuff is great because it won't warp from glue or paint, can be cut with an Xacto, can be sanded and has a smooth surface.

Once the structure was figured out (the hard part), it was just a matter of the painting and sanding and staining and trimming over and over for days - whew! Why do I always look forward to this stuff until I am mid-way into it? That's when the whining starts...

But, in the end I am much more happy with these stairs. And, because I gave it two good tries, it will no longer keep me up at night! I think my next mini endeavor will be a much easier one with almost instant gratification. I'm switching back over to the Sweet Christmas Cottage kitchen, where it is mostly filling shelves with adorable minis!

Have a wonderful weekend, full of peaceful dreams...

xo xo

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sweet Christmas Cottage - Kitchen Layout

Who is that glamorous woman in the kitchen? Why, that's Ellie! She;s here to demonstrate how a few small changes made to mass produced miniatures can make them just right for your space!

The kitchen furnishings are made up of some barewood hutch units, a Jane Harrop farm sink kit, and some scratch and dent appliances found on eBay. The layout works, but they need a little something...

20 seconds in the microwave, and I was able to carefully remove the the hutch pieces from the bases.

New counter tops and trim were cut from 1/16" basswood, then stained. These created a continual surface, turning individual pieces into one unit. More counter space is appreciated by everyone, even mini cooks!

Top molding was stained to match, new drawer fronts and hardware added, "tile" backsplash and old fashioned taps. Copper wire created the perfect plate rack.

The stand alone hutch now has more room for baking preparations.

A great fit for the room, lots of storage space, and the functionality that every busy Christmas kitchen needs.

The appliances were given a little silver paint in strategic places to add interest and realism.

Even Ellie was transformed to fit in better with her new surroundings. It's amazing what a new hairstyle and outfit can do for you.

 She loves her new look, and her new kitchen! It won't be long until this place will be filled with the sights and smells of Christmas!

With temperatures reaching 94 degrees today, I'm going to embrace that Christmas thought.

Hope you're keeping cool in the Northern Hemisphere, and warm thoughts in the Southern.

xo xo,

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sweet Christmas Cottage - The Backdrop

The idea for working on the Dura-Craft Columbian kit was to get the inside completely wired, floored, papered and trimmed out so I could work on little projects inside as I had the time or motivation. Same with the exterior - as inspiration strikes I'll work on texture, leaded windows and the like...

Just to prove I have nothing against tape wire systems (on non MDF structures), that's what I used to electrify this project. It was a pretty straightforward plan with ceiling fixtures, sconces and plenty of outlets for strings of Christmas lights.

 I made the modifications I mentioned in my last post: adding a kitchen window for above the future sink, expanding the kitchen by an inch, narrowing the staircase etc. I covered the low kitchen windows with a bead board panel to gain some much needed wall space. The windows will still be visible from the outside, likely "frosted in addition to the leading and some Christmas-sy color.

I went with a fun gingerbread cookie patterned wallpaper for the walls - apropos for a Christmas kitchen totally geared for making the stuff of sugarplum visions. The flooring paper gives a nice retro feeling, post war of course, because there is no sugar rationing happening here! I went with sheepskin chalk paint for the trims in here to keep it light and help balance all those patterns.

I managed to cobble together scraps of the tin ceiling I used in the New Orleans kitchen, covering seams with stripwood.

The living room might be a little on the small side, but I think the tree will fit nicely, taking up the front corner and window area, leaving just enough room for comfy chairs and an old time radio. Maybe even a little dollhouse if I'm lucky!

Cutting the stairs down to 2-1/4" gave me additional space in the living room, yet they still look wide enough for cottage standards. As I promised myself I would, I kept them simple. I used Houseworks random plank flooring and stained them with a Minwax Provincial stain marker. I think they turned out nice.

I used a House Of Miniatures fireplace kit as the basis for the fireplace, reducing the width, depth and adding some shelving for display. The log holder is improvised using WireForm Metal Mesh. There are a million ideas for this stuff... My fire lights need some adjusting still, and take no notice of my toothpick shim: the unit will remain removable for easier accessorizing. I see that I forgot my outlet covers, as well.

The bedroom should be just large enough for a double bed, a couple nightstands, a dresser and a chair. I have plans to make a custom bed. Need to finalize the design then dust off the old soldering iron and copper wire. I'll need to make that stairway opening a bit safer, and I see my trim has popped itself away from the wall. One step forward, one step back...

I forgot to mention that I'd swapped out the bedroom and bathrooms from the original kit design by relocating the divider wall to the other side of the stair opening. I thought it would be a shame to have a headboard practically covering up the dormer window.

To indulge my love for making kits, I decided to use the Greenleaf Master Bathroom furniture kit. It's charming style fits right in to the Christmas cottage, but the scale seemed a little on the small side of 1/12th. The wainscoting is 3" tall, so the sink counter should match that.

Not to worry! They make the perfect foundation for a little sprucing up! I made up and cut some chipboard panels with the Cricut. Getting better...

Paint, knobs, faucets, legs, Triple Thick, some ingenuity and now they're just right for the old time-y vibe!

Now the debate begins... Start on the kitchen build out on this one, or the New Orleans? Or the New Orleans staircase rebuild? Or take a nap? Oh yes, my pillow is calling...

Until next time,


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Duracraft Columbian - Sweet Christmas Cottage

Last fall I became aware of the existence of a great little arts and crafts supplier called AlphaStamps. Oh doggy! It spurred on many ideas for projects, including the two chipboard secret book projects I made during December and January. One was for my daughter, a retro kitchen baking scene, and was labeled Super Secret Mini because it was a surprise thank you gift for all her help with Thanksgiving. I just had to make one for myself, but the style was very different.

One of the chipboard kits that Alpha Stamps sold was for an advent calendar. I thought it would be great fun to fill the drawers up with mini Christmas ornaments, each day adding one to a mini tree displayed in the center, until finally the star (or gingerbread man in my case) was placed at the tree top the final day of advent. Soon I started collecting not just ornaments, but candy. Then I thought a little fireplace with stockings would be great, and then I picked up some lights to light the whole thing. Then I thought "if I could just make the display space a little larger"...Well, thanks to my miniature madness, I soon had too many ideas and too many over-the-top adorable Christmas themed minis and no good plan to increase the space of the advent calendar any larger. What now?

Enter the Dura-Craft Columbian. With it's adorable arched leaded glass windows and heart punched shutters it was a perfect Sweet Christmas Cottage! And large enough to accommodate a decent sized scene set up inside, and small enough to justify carving out some valuable real estate in the RL house. But best of all, after only a few months of daily emails as a result of very specific search criteria, I found a massive bargain for an unopened kit on eBay!

Now I realize that it is only July, but with all the things I want to make and include in this project, it feels like I better get a move on! I'd love to have it finished by Thanksgiving. Plus, I'm just so excited about doing my first ever Dura-Craft kit, and my first ever Christmas project! I have found inspiration for so many great ideas from the pool of incredibly talented and creative bloggers in our community. I just know this will be a blast to create! Now that the first floor lighting of The New Orleans is finished, and while I come to terms with the fact that I need to completely re-think the staircase, I'm going to start on the The Columbian!

I told myself again and again to keep it simple. No complicated bashing, no fancy trims and moldings. Essentially, just create a nice and basic shell and let all the amazing mini details inside be the star. Of course, I had to do some space planning and start with a basic layout in mind. To that end, I started spending time just looking at photos and imagining (and measuring) all of the larger furnishings and fixtures I want to include. If I left the kit as is, this would create some space and display issues. So after much thought, these are the only things I'm going to change about the kit itself:

1. Cover over the double front windows on the left (kitchen) side - interior only. They'll still be installed and visible from the outside - I'll just add curtains and other camouflage methods.
2. Utilize the interior trim from the covered up window to cut a new window into the left side wall, above where the sink will be.
3. Decrease the width of the stairs by aprox. 1". I am leaving them as open tread and though I'll finish them as nicely as I can, they will not be a major feature.
4. Use the space gained from the stairs to move the kitchen wall to the right to gain about 1".
5. Fill in the excess stairwell opening.
6. Move the upstairs interior wall to the right, on the opposite side of the stairwell opening. This will create the new smaller bathroom on the right, and a larger bedroom space on the left.

Sound reasonable? I thought so too!

The first thing that has to happen is that I need to get my work space thoroughly cleaned and organized. I can't remember ever working on two full projects at a time, so finding space and functionality will be a challenge. One nice benefit will be the ability to move back and forth between pieces of each project as boredom, frustration or lack of inspiration rear their ugly heads.


I hope it will be interesting enough for all of you follow along, even if Christmas is not your thing. It is your thoughtful encouragement and comments that make me feel connected and truly adds to the excitement of each new mini dream. I love your like minds, excellent ideas, and hope you know that each one of you is so very much appreciated!