The Den of Slack

Artist’s Cottage addition

Last week I bought this gorgeous Braxton Payne fireplace on eBay. It’s a limited edition from a 2007 convention in Fresno and the auction said it was half scale. I love Braxon’s fireplaces and own a few — including the Southwestern beehive fireplace in my quirky Spanish Revival artist’s cottage — but I’d never seen this one before and I couldn’t pass it up. I snagged it for $28 with Buy It Now (which is comparable to the prices on his website).

I’m usually careful not to buy miniatures online without knowing the dimensions or at least seeing a ruler in the photo. In the seconds before I hit the “buy” button it occurred to me that this might not really be half scale, but I didn’t want to risk missing out on it by asking the seller for dimensions and having someone else buy it while I waited for the answer. What were the chances it wouldn’t really be half scale?

100%, apparently.

I didn’t try to return it or even mention the error to the seller, because I still love this little fireplace. I’ve never done quarter scale before but I do have a Villa kit (now retired) in my stash that’s been waiting about 12 years for me to work up the nerve to build it. That house has a Spanish feel and I think this fireplace could look good in it. So I’ll hold onto the quarter scale fireplace, and gaze lovingly at it every now and then…

The fireplace mishap got me thinking about the artist’s cottage again. Even after I fixed the roof to the best of my ability, I had a hard time deciding on a trim that worked for the eaves. Initially I used stained half-round left over from the Little House in the Big Woods cabin.

That just wasn’t right. I pulled it off and replaced it with some of the chair rail trim I often use for half scale baseboards, painted to match the house. It was better, but still kind of funky.

After looking at a lot of pictures and real life roofs (we have an abundance of these in Northern California!), I decided to try again with cornice. This is Classics “small cornice” (#70272), and it’s been out of stock for months at every mini shop I tried. I had a piece in my stash that turned out to be just long enough.

On most of the roof sections, the tiles hang over the black matboard I used for the roof so it kind of looks like a shadow. This isn’t true on the roof over the bump-out window, and I didn’t like how obvious that black edge looked. I added some skinny trim (leftover window mullions) to the top edge of the cornice, to hide the black edge of the matboard. This also helped me mask that the roof was a bit crooked on one side of the bump-out.

I think this looks much better than either of the other two attempts.

(The flooring had started pulling up, so I removed some of it and applied new glue — hence the clamps and paint jars weighting it down in the pic below.)

I mitered the corners so they barely wrap around. I like that it looks like a gutter. Maybe I’ll add a drainpipe somewhere.

Moving on! The trim isn’t even the subject of this blog. There are two big things left to do on this little house: the side addition and the sleeping loft. Both are in progress but the loft’s waiting on something to show up in the mail, so let’s start with the addition.

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Victorianna – bay window exterior

I think die cut dollhouses look best when the plywood is covered up. It takes a lot of sanding and prep work to give luan plywood a nice finish, and I’ve never managed to completely hide slots/tabs no matter how much wood filler I use. My back to back Victorianna is half birch plywood, which is a step up from the luan quality-wise, but the two sides need to match, so I’ve been planning all along to cover up the bay windows somehow.

I looked at a lot of real houses to figure out how to tackle this. (Dollhouse bay windows rarely look like real bay windows…) Luckily, living in San Francisco, I see tons of bay windows just walking around my neighborhood, so I took inspiration from some of those. Also pictures like this (from a page about Victorian house styles) and this (from Houzz) gave me ideas.

After months of putting this off, I finally came up with a plan and went to Dollhouses Trains and More for the wood. Those little pieces add up! I spent about $50 on strip wood (not all of it’s for the bays, but it is all for the Victorianna…)

I wanted some kind of cornice for the top and bottom of each bay window. It needed to be around 1/4″ tall, 1/8″ deep, and have a flat edge on the top and bottom. I couldn’t find anything like what I wanted, so I ended up getting a flat trim (chair rail maybe?) and gluing it to a piece of 1/4″ x 1/8″ strip wood. Here you can see the two pieces at the bottom, and a glued together piece sitting on the porch.

I’m using 1:12 corner blocks as a decorative element. These were a bit too thick for my purposes so I sliced off the backs with a utility knife. Some got a bit mangled but I managed to cut them all without destroying any completely.

Here’s the concept. The vertical pieces are 3/8″ wide x 5/16″ deep, with a piece of quarter round filling the gap between them. The window acetate will be glued to the exterior walls, sandwiched under the strip wood.

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Half scale suede sofa tutorial

My Victorianna has a deep living room in need of a couple of modern couches, but the pickings are slim in half scale… so I made my own! These are made with wood and suede scrapbook paper that looks just like the suede/microfiber that’s so popular on couches lately. They’re kind of time intensive, with a lot of steps, but the end result sure is pretty.

After making the larger one as a prototype, I perfected the process with the smaller one and took oodles of pictures so I could post a tutorial. These are 1:24 scale, but of course you can use the same method for a 1:12 couch if you double all the dimensions.

Here’s the smaller couch with a Lee’s Line sofa for a size comparison. Most half scale couches are loveseat sized; that’s why I wanted to make a bigger one as well. (I actually started out planning to make a sectional, but mis-cut something early on and abandoned the idea…)

This is how they’ll be positioned in the Victorianna. Since the back of the larger one is on display, I had to make sure it looked good from every angle.

Read on for the tutorial, then go make your own!

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