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June 25, 2013

I managed to create and burst a blister on my middle left uppermost finger joint with the rough part of my Xacto blade, so I am out of commission on cutting at the moment.  Grumble with me now!

The house is primed now, and I did get quite a few fun alterations done, or at least decided, so I thought I'd show you some pictures while I'm waiting for it to heal.  (petroleum jelly is wonderful for wounds like this.)

New Willowcrest porch.  Now THIS is a porch you can sit on!
First off, I haven't gotten around to showing you the porch!  Mainly because I haven't decided on trim, but that's something I can put off until inspiration strikes.  (I discovered MWK Designs, a local business woman who will cut any shape I request with a laser cutter, and the excitement has temporarily fried my brain.  I guess the light bulb over my head got too bright.)

Anyway, porch!  I added 4" to whatever width was there originally, so it's a little over 7" wide.  Plenty of room for that swing at the far end.  I used 1/32" thick basswood and my nifty stylus tool to create the plank floor.  I'm still not sure about the color.  I saw some awesome glossy black porch floors on Pinterest, but historical accuracy and possibly physics screams that it would absorb heat and make the porch too hot to sit on.  Wasn't a function of a porch to be someplace cooler than inside the house on a hot day?  I went with wood for now, I may paint it a light blue or lighter green.  It will get a few more pieces of furniture and possibly a trellis.

I'm still debating switching out the light for something fancier.  I stupidly ran the wire down the front of the wall and inside at the bottom, meaning I bricked over the wire.  I'll likely just cut it off at the base rather than trying to extract it again, and drill a new hole at its placement point.

Willowcrest upper staircase, before painting and finishing.
I'm still trying to figure out what color to paint the hall.  
Next and quite likely equally exciting, at least to me, is the attic stairs.  I changed my mind a lot about the upper level stairs, and managed to lose a few parts in my indecisiveness.  I also glued carpeting down REALLY WELL and, well, can't get it off again.  There are STILL fuzzies and glue all over them and it's more effort than I care to exert to scrape it off again.

What's left of the staircase is now installed over the first floor staircase!  I cut off the top of the staircase and made that the bottom.  It's got a turning platform so there's a nice wide section at the top that reached all the way to the opposite wall.  Now, technically, I COULD use the rest of the staircase here, I would just need to add a little bit at the other end to make it reach the wall.  I could also forego stairs altogether and move the door to the bottom.  I'm still debating whether to keep going and make new stairs out of illustration board, too.  The whole wall is two layers of illustration board.  There's wall behind the door, and it won't open when I'm done.  (You can only really see this through the window, and even then I'm not sure if you'll be able to when I get the new wall up.

You're just going to have to suck it in, Robin.
In this position, the stairs are actually BEHIND the wall of the upstairs attic.  (or garret, I can never remember how to spell it.)  I will put a door upstairs, facing the viewer on the upper left of the front window.  The stairs 'climb' up the left side of the house and curve to the right again at the top.

The bit that makes me twitch is that it's incredibly narrow.  It LOOKS OK, but there's no way you could move furniture upstairs that way if these were real dimensions.  If you were claustrophobic you would never visit that upper floor.  And yet, these are the original dimensions, made to the staircase provided.  If Robin were to stand on that top step, her head would brush the ceiling.  I just could not bring myself to cut a hole in the ceiling.  This placement technically works for me. I have an explanation for how to get upstairs and it's not taking up floor space.  I'll try not to think about it.

I love my fishtank.  I Got it at a mini show but
don't know the maker.  I see I attached a mini
plug, too.  I will have to remember to install a
wall socket for it!
The stairs do stick out a little bit into the door space of the bathroom.  I should be able to nudge that doorway hole over to prevent it.  it'll depend on what I decide about redoing the staircase.  In the meantime there's still enough room for my lighted fishtank on the landing.  It's showing its age, unfortunately! Some of the 'water' is starting to vanish.

I decided to swap the office and bedroom, since the attic has so much more open space.  The middle bedroom wall is another of those pieces that has gone AWOL, so I had to cut another - out of illustration board, of course.  I haven't cut out a door to it yet!

The reason I need the wall again
is that I want to add built in closets in the space formerly occupied by the upper staircase.  One side will be a closet in the bedroom.  The other will be in the bathroom.  I decided that I HAD to have a washer and dryer this time around.  And they make them now, if you can find them in stock!  They're roughly 2" square and about 3" tall, depending on who made them.  Easy enough to make, but there's cheap enough models that I don't feel bad about buying them.  (My finger would appreciate less work!)  I haven't decided if I'll make the closet in the bedroom a 'real' closet, or just install yet another fake door.

A floor plan for the living room.  Plenty of custom
work to do!
Moving on downstairs, I've made a few drastic decisions.  The biggest is covering up the french doors in the living room.  I am going to install a 'gas' fireplace, with a TV hanging above.  (If I can get it to work I'm going to 'hide' the TV behind a pair of hinged paintings.)  This gives me a great focal point, and I can display awesome artwork!  Now I need to FIND some awesome artwork.

In the picture, the middle rectangle is the fireplace, and on either side will be either bookcases or tables, depending on what I find.  The middle square will be a very small coffee table, and the L shape is the sofa I'm planning.  Oooh, the sofa.  I can't wait.  I found a fine, large red leather purse for 99 cents!  It came home with me.  I don't necessarily LIKE leather furniture, but the red fabric I bought for the project really didn't inspire me.  If I end up not doing it, I will make a red leather jacket to hang in the hallway with it instead.

the upper cabinet is a little hard to see.
To make up for the lack of light from the french doors, I'll hang mirrors and install lamps on either side.  I'll still install the doors on the outside, and just fill the space with small scale siding.  Maybe add a half table to it for decoration.  I'll also be sure to make the front door windows as big as I can.

Finally, there's the space between the kitchen and the dining room.  I was never quite satisfied with it, and I think I came up with a solution.  A hutch pass-through!  I have moved the doorway to the inner wall, so now there's three doorways all in a fun but short circle, which seems a bit silly.  This gives me about 4" of room for the hutch.  The notecard mockups help me determine just how big I can make it.

The upper part will have glass doors and shelves.  This will hopefully make the cabinet less of a light and vision barrier.  I have lots of display items from the Archaeologist's Study that can go in there.  It also means more kitchen storage and dining room storage!  I am debating making it a counter and adding stools.  It may be too much.

I think the hardest part about doing a dollhouse is deciding what to do once you get beyond the house instructions.  Sometimes you just need to make changes to accommodate what you want.  I struggle with overdoing realism and functionality. I keep telling myself to just relax and let it be, no one will care, but a certain part of me still points at my first dollhouse and my cardboard box bed with felt bedspreads and red and green clay candles for light, inhabited by bears.  I was clever with making do with what I could get my hands on then, think of what I can do NOW.

June 19, 2013

Today I was back at wallpaper removal.  This time I grabbed a small Dollar Tree squirt bottle (I love these things, I have half a dozen scattered about the house)  and filled it with warm water and vinegar to spray on the wallpaper.  Roughly half and half, probably a little more water than vinegar.  The mixture eventually cools down, but it's easy to pop into the microwave for a minute.  I poured it into the cup because I was concerned the cheap plastic might prove to be un-microwavable and I didn't want to deal with melted plastic.

Did it ever work!  I was able to peel huge pieces off the wall rather than scraping little bits, and managed to finish the rest of the house.

I'm not sure if it's due to what was left on the walls that I had an easier time this time. The wallpaper I had was pretty high quality, and I probably could have washed it down with water if I needed to and not have a problem.  The upstairs rooms I had already peeled the decorative part of the paper off, which left an under layer still clinging tightly to the wall.

It looks so bare now!
So if you're having problems, try pulling off the decorative layer so you can get to the underside with the water/vinegar mix.  I have also read that liquid fabric softener works, but I had no intention of buying a huge bottle of smelly chemicals that I would never use again.

Don't be concerned about the copper wire in the picture.  I pulled that off after I finished the walls, since I'm going to be rewiring the entire house.  I actually don't know how the liquid would affect the wiring, and I wasn't really tempted to find out.  Hopefully someone else knows.

I will give the walls a chance to dry out from its bath and then go over it once more to get all the little bits.  I haven't had any problems with warping, which was a concern for me.  Next I will give everything a good sanding, and then start priming with white latex!  (well, whitish.  The paint I originally bought to do the outside has a slight lavendar tint!  It won't matter inside since I'll be covering it up again.)

Some tips:
I used a knife on some of the upper edges, since the paper had gotten pinched behind the wall of the upper floors and was caught.
You may have to go over it a few times, depending on what glue you used and how long it takes you to get to the next section.
Don't forget to spray the corners!
Watch your fingers.  It's easy to bang into possibly sharp parts of the house or get a splinter.
Keep a trashcan handy, you WILL be making a mess!
Also keep some paper towels handy to mop up puddles.
Watch where you spray and mop up quickly, especially when working around the windows.

June 17, 2013

Pardon the mess.  I have been stripping the wallpaper off the walls, using hot water mixed with vinegar, a sponge and one of those fake credit cards the credit companies mail you when they're trying to get you to apply.  (I love those things.  Great for spreading glue and scraping!)  I tore out the wall between the dining room and kitchen, I am thinking about installing a pass-through here.  The wiring will come out next, and then I will PAINT the walls this time.  I feel like I'm completely rebuilding this house!

My topic for today is picking out the right furniture for your house.  1:12 scale can have a LOT of different meanings.  Just like with full size furniture, you can have a wide variety of sizes.  Half of the sofas we looked at when shopping for our living room would not have worked for the room due to their oversized dimensions.  They'd make the room feel smaller, harder to fit other needed pieces of furniture, and very difficult to navigate from one end to the other. I hate dealing with this frustration, but at least it's a little easier to solve when shopping for dollhouse furniture.

There are two tricks you can bring along when going to your favorite miniatures store.

This is for my Knupp House.  I need to start one
for this house!
The first is to make a paper layout of each room's floor, and then you can physically place pieces of furniture on it.  If your house's rooms are small enough,   you can draw them out in a spiral notebook.  This way you can also include the room's colors and wallpaper, and perhaps pictures of already purchased furniture.

The other test is useful if your house is occupied.  Will the doll fit realistically next to or on the furniture, or does he or she look like a 6 year old with feet dangling?  If you bring both floor layout and doll, you can also get an idea of how well they can navigate the room with everything in it.

Above, Robin, Nora and Theo are testing out the furniture.  Theo fits OK in the Chrysnbon chair, but poor Robin's feet are a good half inch (or half foot) off the floor!  She also cannot touch the back of the chair without some major slouching or a pillow or two.   (My 4'11" grandmother struggles with this same problem, so don't assume these pieces are out of scale.)  Nora's legs are a bit longer and her knees are more flexible (TOO flexible, I just unpacked her from the move and had to do some physical therapy to get them to fold the right way again) so she sits a bit better.

The sofa, chair, and coffee table take up the ENTIRE living room.  Theo is technically in the dining room.  The chair blocks over half of the entryway.  This was the only layout I could manage that would allow all three pieces to fit at all without totally blocking the door.  If you were in this room, you would have that same cautious feeling that you get when you're edging your way through a cheap furniture store that's crammed full of sofas and tables.  Again, they're not necessarily out of scale, this is just a tiny room.  Were I to move these pieces upstairs to the second or third floor,  they would likely work better.  

I'm really disappointed because I just adore this living room set.  I've had the coffee table with the curio drawer for YEARS, and have never gotten to display it.          I may end up regifting them to my sister or my niece when she gets old enough.  My sister's dollhouse has a huge living room!  

I get to design my own sofa now!  I'm thinking red with a chaise.  I'm also considering blocking up the french doors to put in a fireplace and wall TV.  This room needs a focal point!

June 15, 2013

I brought home these awesome little ball tipped stylus tools the other day.  They allow me to turn regular thin sheet basswood into wood floors and beadboard.  You can find something similar here on Amazon, but I found mine in the woodcraft section at Hobby Lobby.  It's also useful for clay sculpting!

I am excited about how creative these tools will let me be.  It's hard to find the pre-scored wood except in miniature shops, and then you're limited to what's available.  With these I can create parquet flooring and even fancy tile work.  I have PLANS.  
June 14, 2013

I've decided to ignore that little voice that says "Don't make more work for yourself, just do the fancy electrical work in the NEXT dollhouse."

I don't know that there will BE a next dollhouse.  I have two.  They take up a lot of room.  Sometimes I hate having to put all the same rooms in every house.  My next house will more likely be a roombox.  My opportunity to get complicated is RIGHT NOW.  And right now I want to be able to separately turn on and off the lights in each room.

I have a vague idea of how the system works.  Cir-Kit Concepts makes a miniature slide switch that allows you to disrupt the power flowing past the point you install it.  All's I need to do is run the wires in the right places and make sure they don't go beyond that room.

First I had to determine where those places were.  The instructions all tell you to draw lines, but I came up with a fancier idea.

Those are little post-it strips that I found in the Dollar Tree.  I got them to be all organized in college, but only used a small amount.  In my plotting, the blue strips indicate a light fixture, the orange a switch, and the green the tape wire.  

There are a few areas where I don't yet know where I will have lighting, but I have been able to plot how to get the wire through the switch.  These areas will likely have floor/table lamps, so it should be pretty easy to run them around, or perhaps hide an extra switch if necessary.  

My next decision will be whether to use adapters to make it easy to switch out fixtures, or just hardwire them into the tapewire.  I also need to conduct more research on whether there are LED lights that can be used on this 12 volt tape wire system.  I THINK the answer is yes, and I just need to determine what exactly I need to buy and how to do it.  
June 12, 2013

One day, while going through some old photos, my mother handed me this photo.  "Here's Gran with your dollhouse!  Do you want it?"  Of course I did!  I was always very proud that my great-grandfather had custom designed and built my one-of-a-kind dollhouse, and to have a picture of him with it was very special.

Then I looked closer.  "This isn't my dollhouse!"  It's a different color.  The front door is different.  The windows have different mullions.  There are little knobs to open up the front.  He had made more than one!

This is what my dollhouse looks like.
I have vague memories of a dollhouse in his basement.  It must have been this one, as we only saw it once.  I don't know which he made first, or who has it now.  I'm just slightly bummed that mine is no longer 'unique.'  

On the other hand, it could be fun to track it down.

June 11, 2013

Judging from what I've read online, the Willowcrest dollhouse kit by Greenleaf has a pretty big fan club.  I decided to see what other miniaturists did with their kits.  What changes did they make?  What problems did they run into?

I found quite a bit of awesomeness, and I sincerely hope that this time I'm up to the challenge.  Right now my Willowcrest just makes me want to hide it or pretend it had been trashed by tiny squatters.

I just had to share my findings.  You will find more pictures of each dollhouse by clicking on the provided link.

Check out these Willowcrests:

This UK miniaturist made her Willowcrest a fabric and yarn shop!  She addressed the super narrow front porch by turning them into shop windows.  Be sure to notice the railing on the roof and the intriguing multicolored shingles.


An elegant version with a beautiful nursery in the top floor.  I got a little lost trying to find my way around the house. She bumped out the kitchen bay, added a hallway on the 2nd floor, and reversed the attic stairs. willowcrest.html

Robin Carey does FANTASTIC interiors.  Be sure to check out the rest of her blog!  I've never actually looked at dollhouse ceilings before, but she really makes you look in every corner. Maryland/Frederick/Willowcrest/search/

Laura Davidson made her Willowcrest a classic Victorian.  I love the bold colors she uses on the interior, and the kitchen is amazing.

And now for something a little bolder:

Jenny did some amazing things with the siding on her Willowcrest.  I just love it! search/label/Willowcrest

De made her Willowcrest into a wonderfully detailed home for her handmade dolls.  Seeing the photos and the accessories makes me want to get in there and meet Baily and Josh!

Scroll to the bottom and click on the Willowcrest slideshow.  It's nice to see another red Willowcrest!  I love the modern kitchen.

No exterior shot that I could find, but if you're an art nouveau lover, get ready to drool at the interior!  Dominique's petit cabinet de curiosites is an amazing tribute to the style.  LOOK AT THE WINDOWS.  And then stick around and check out the amazing items she has made or collected for the house.  And obviously I need to pay more attention to my ceilings.

I believe this is the same house, with a few extra pictures, as seen at archives/la_willowcrest/index.html willowcrest.htm

Deb Roberts provides a fantastic tour of her Willowcrest.  She's turned it into a select men's club in London.  Don't miss the spiral staircase, and I would totally live in the exclusive attic.

She also has a video. search/label/Willowcrest

Gina at More Minis blogged the building and decorating process for her Willowcrest.  I wish I had been able to see this before I started on mine 16 years ago.  Love the painted lady look! willowcrestdollhouse.html

Heather and Tommy assemble and decorate houses for those who don't have the time or inclination.  Their version of the Willowcrest has sold, but you can still get some great decorating ideas from their gallery! DollhouseSecondShowcase.htm

Ok, these pictures are a little hard to see, but look as hard as you can at that domed roofline!  Very unique.  Now to track down Joyce Tidrick and beg for bigger photos! dollhouse-ballet-school-reserved-for

I don't know how much longer this sold listing will be here, so I'm posting two of the pictures.  Here we have the Willowcrest posing as a ballet school by Teresa of Plume Poppy Designs!


This website is in Dutch.  Click on the big 'hier' link to see more photos! Dinie in the Netherlands took out the stairs altogether to make a huge kitchen.  Also be sure to check out the magnificent parquet floor in the living room!

Pamela J's dollhouse has a tea party in progress.  I've never seen the resin dolls used so effectively!  Check out the placement of the attic stairs, as well as the clever use of trimwork all over the house. album/view/21082276

Grammapux demonstrates a few decorating tips with her Willowcrest album.  I never considered model railroad gravel for flat roofs! midnightmagicminiatures

CDHM artist Lauretta Carroll of Midnight Magic Miniatures loved the Willowcrest so much she designed a version in 1/144th scale!  Scroll down to see it and possibly order your own.

Finally, Lady Christin has just started on her Willowcrest, and it looks like she will blogging about it.  Judging from her inspiration pictures, it's going to be amazing!  Keep an eye on her site!

Even more versions can be found on Greenleaf's forum.  It's free to sign up, and you can find a lot of helpful people there!  

If you have a Willowcrest, I would love to link to it, or post pictures of it in this collection!  Send me photos!

Update - 9/5/2013

I found Linchen's Little Cottage blog, with work-in-progress posts of Lina's Willowcrest.  So far she has added windows and divided up the third floor attic into two rooms with a hall!

Update - 10/23/2013

I found this auction on eBay - hopefully you'll be able to see the images after it's over.  Yellow house, claiming to be a replica in Saratoga, New York.  Cute swinging bar doors to the kitchen, and a bathroom and walls added to the garrett.

I also discovered a birdhouse on Wayfair that is VERY similar to the Willowcrest.  What fun!

Update: 11/24/2013

Nancy and Vall in the Netherlands made this wonderfully detailed 'house of negotiable affection.' I love the colors and wallpapers, and so much attention to detail!  (I actually did the moss bird's nest on my house, but mainly to hide a mistake I made under the eaves of the dormer windows.)  Caution - there are some very naughty dolls in the last few pictures!

Update: November 2, 2014

Wasting-Gold-Paper found a finished Willowcrest in wild colors and has plans for a magical girl's school.  So far this is the only post about her Willowcrest, but hopefully she'll swing back to it!

Update: 3/21/15

Gina at More Minis has an awesome blog where she documents building various dollhouse kits.  Watch her build her Willowcrest!  (It's probably going to  be a lot faster than watching me redo mine.)

For information on historical architecture relating to the Willowcrest, check out another post - Real Life Willowcrest?

Update: May 14, 2016

Elizabeth at Studio E Miniatures has been carefully planning for a long time.  I know because I've been following HER collection of Willowcrest images on Pinterest!  (It was really exciting to see my photos show up there.)  She's taking an amazingly Mediterranean direction.

Update: June 20, 2016

The Willowcrest is also appearing in artwork!  Admire this oil painting by Susan Lyon.

Also, website designer Anne Gerdes designed the menu feature for the Miniature Designs shop.  Look familiar?    (Websites change their look frequently, so I posted the obvious elements below.)

Updated 6/26/16

Carys of Northampton is parting with her completed Willowcrest and posted some amazing photos. I uploaded the two most thorough since there's nowhere to link to them.  Her version even has a back so you can fully close it up! I love how it has furniture and lighting attached to it.

I recently come across another super miniature kit on eBay.  They are calling it an 'Aegean Sea' house, and claiming it's 1:48 scale (or O scale.)  The glass ball it's in is 5" wide, according to the description.  If it's a direct Chinese knockoff of Midnight Magic Miniature's version, I apologize for purchasing it.  I'll let you know the actual dimensions, and hope that this is a Willowcrest I actually finish!

June 9, 2013

In my second renovation, I cut off the top of the roof and put in a skylight.

This was originally a wooden decoration over a mirror.

I loved the look, but last year I spent the night in a fancy hotel room with a skylight and realized that you would never be able to sleep after sunrise with such a thing in your bedroom, and that I'm going to have to make some sort of change.

Should I  . . .

A.  Switch the bedroom and the study?  
B.  Take out the skylight and replace the original roofline and save the skylight for another project?  
C.  Replace the roofline, but reinstall the skylight as a fancy ceiling medallion?  

C.1.  Hang a chandelier from it?
C. 2.  Install lighting behind it, effectively making it a very large ceiling light?
C. 3. both?

D.  Leave it as it is and stop trying to be so practical with a dollhouse?

Feel free to vote in comments.  I'm leaning towards option C.1 myself, but it could be years before I find or make a chandelier I feel would be adequate.  

June 6, 2013

We are now on attempt #3 with this bathroom window.  I wanted something fancy.

Here is the 'original' bathroom.  *update!  I found a photo of the outside! Had to dig through hard copies to get it!*  It was a very simple design, just a row of angled shingles and a large 'stained glass' window.

I decided to try going fancier and making it an angled bay a few years later.  

I never secured it to the house, and it totally fell apart in the move.  (It was in a separate box at the time, not on the house.)  I was kind of forced to do Bay #3 after that. Plus the need to update the peach corian look!  

So I began update #3.  I used illustration board this time, and spent ages trying to fit the three arched windows evenly across the extension.  I feel this version fits the exterior style better than the other two.  I tried to match the shape of the mansard roof line, but it wasn't easy!

Yes, I AM a messy crafter!
  I can already see that I need to redo the roof.  I've decided to leave the bathtub and such for later.  There will be more trimwork added, too.

While I was at it I also filled out the bits of the floor along the front edge so it was even all the way across.  Previously it had a half inch inset since this was originally a small bay.  You can see below the patchwork of wood I've done for every renovation.  What a jigsaw puzzle!