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Artist’s Cottage floor & door

In the Artist’s Cottage, I’m planning to use a funky kitchen set I got at last year’s CHAMPS show for cheap (along with an Acme fridge). This kitchen lacks an oven, but in keeping with the funky “off the grid” vibe I don’t have a problem with that. I’ll add a microwave and a grill outdoors.

Behind the sink unit I’ll build a breakfast bar with bar stools, but I haven’t bought them yet so the chairs in the photo below are just to give an idea of placement. I’m also planning to paint the cabinets and cover the countertops with Spanish-looking tile.

A picture I found on Google — which I can’t find again now, despite my best efforts — gave me the idea to separate the kitchen area from the rest of the Artist’s Cottage with different flooring. I have a about half a sheet of Itsy Bitsy mosaic tile leftover from the rowhouse kitchen and cut a square to form the cottage’s kitchen floor.

Then I taped pieces of paper together to figure out what shape I needed to cut the hardwood for the rest of the floor.

This is a sheet of old Handley House hardwood flooring I got at another mini yard sale. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be half scale, but the boards are very narrow, so it works well.

The piece of flooring wasn’t big enough to do the whole house, but I had enough from the cut-out pieces to finish the front part of the floor.

I stained the flooring with Minwax Natural. It didn’t really change the color, but made the dark wood more vibrant.

I cut some double bead trim to go around the edge of the kitchen area and stained it so it’s close enough to the floor color.

And voila!

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Categories: Dollhouses.

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Getting started on the Artist’s Cottage (half scale Spanish revival house made out of gatorboard)

Last summer I bought this scratch built half scale house shell at a mini flea market for $2. I’m trying to finish off some smaller projects before I dig in on the Little Belle, so after a year of it sitting on the shelf I pulled it out this week.

The woman who sold it to me told me the shell is made out of gatorboard, which seems to be similar to foam core. The joints are glued and also held together with pins.

The inside wall has already been textured, which gave me the idea to make it a Southwestern style house with a stucco exterior and red barrel tiles on the roof. But in poking around online for ideas I learned that Southwestern houses always have flat roofs (like this). A stucco house with a peaked, barrel tile roof could fall into the category of Spanish revival or Mission revival (as in Spanish missions, not Craftsman Mission).

I’m making up the design as I go along, so the semantics don’t really matter, but for the sake of having something to call it I’m going to refer to it as Spanish revival. Since it’s only one room I’m envisioning a funky “off the grid” studio cottage located in some hippie area of Southern California.

This doorway to nowhere gave me the idea to add a room to the side. I bought a Petite Properties lean to greenhouse kit with the plan of building it “inside out” so the door is at the back (to prevent having two doors next to each other at the front of the house). While playing around with the house this week, I decided that an artist lives here and uses the lean-to room as her studio.

I bought a 4-panel exterior door and three 12-light windows to fit in the pre-cut holes. On the corner, the two windows needed to be modified so they don’t bump into each other.

I started by removing one side piece on each window, which was pretty easy to do just by wiggling until the piece broke off.

I cut back the edge of each side piece and also had to cut some notches in the windows to make them fit. I didn’t think it through carefully before cutting and ended up with some holes visible from the inside, but they can easily be covered up with trim.

With the corner windows figured out, I stained all of the components using ACE Hardware Red Mahogany.

Next I stucco’d, using watered down wood filler and a sponge to make the texture. (I used this same process on my Rosedale).

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Categories: Dollhouses.

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Half scale Victorian bed how-to

I recently bought a Victorian bedroom set for my half scale Queen Anne Rowhouse. I really liked how the ornate bed looked with the damask wallpaper and wood trim in the room, but the only good place to put the bed is up against the window, which then gets blocked by the tall headboard.

I wanted to replace it with something equally ornate, but with a less obtrusive headboard. I did a Google image search for “Victorian bed” and this was one of the pictures that came up. Pretty!

The only bed I could find in half scale that looked remotely like it was this one, made by Town Square Miniatures, which retails for $16 (plus shipping). It’s cute but doesn’t have the elegance I was looking for, and I figured I could make my own for less than that.

I got a package of filigrees in the jewelry section at Michaels, and a package of Houseworks legs from the mini shop, for a grand total of $7. The rest of the wood I used were pieces I had on hand already, but even if I’d bought them I think the materials would come in at less than $16.

And the end result is much prettier. :)

Want to make your own? Read on for a tutorial!

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Categories: Dollhouses.

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The Little Belle — a half scale dollhouse by Jim Marcus and Lew Kummerow

Earlier this summer I went to a sale at Peg’s Dollhouse in Santa Rosa and bought what might be the coolest dollhouse I’ll ever own. Peg buys and resells old stock and estates, so she’s guaranteed to have stuff you can’t find anywhere else. When I visited her shop once before I got a bunch of old furniture kits and building supplies including the hard to find Littlewonders Lumber flooring strips I’m now in love with. This time she was selling off the contents of Studio 7, a Bay Area miniatures shop that closed about thirty years ago. The stock has been in storage ever since.

The Little Belle was up on a shelf but even without being able to get a good look at it, I knew I wanted it. Peg asked for $100; I handed over cash.

After I paid for it I realized I’d seen this house before, in an old Nutshell News article from 1980. Even then, the Little Belle was no longer in production, so I knew my chances of ever finding one were slim to none. Still, when I read that article a few years ago, I’d told myself I would find one someday. Apparently the gods were listening!

Two Little Belles pictured in the June 1980 issue of Nutshell News

The Little Belle is a front-opening, half scale dollhouse (1/2″ = 1′) that looks like a San Francisco rowhouse. This house is unique because the front is cast resin, made from a mold of a facade that was hand carved by Jim Marcus. I didn’t know who he was or the significance of owning a “Jim Marcus house” until after I bought the Little Belle and started researching it. There’s very little information about Jim’s dollhouses online, so I decided to post everything I’ve found out about the Little Belle to document the house’s history.

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