Saturday, October 22, 2022

Remodeling a Duracraft Heritage Dollhouse part 7 ...... months later

 I confess, I'm sick and tired of reworking this house. I'm one of those people who, when a dollhouse or roombox is done, don't want to go back and do anything else to it, just sit back and enjoy looking at it. Therefore, I am taking a complete break from the Heritage and work on something else for a while.

Anyhow, this is what it looks like right now. I liked the color, so I just freshened it up with a fresh coat of paint. I did add a garden, though. The porch brackets still have to be replaced.

The mossy green grass was cut off a sheet of some kind of artificial moss for hanging baskets I got from the craft store.

One of the arches on the porch snapped, and after I fixed it, it snapped again, so I had to cut a new one.

Below are two pictures of what the house used to look like before the garden.

I pretty much gutted the inside, and removed the big staircase. 
Where did it go? 
It's now an invisible staircase and it's supposedly hidden behind the new pantry shelves in the kitchen and the roofed in area next to the bathroom.
Now, if I had been willing to remove the wing and the entire right hand wall of the main house I would have had room to make a staircase to fit in there........but who'd want to do that?  Certainly not me.
So all the staircase you can see is the little bit hanging around in the dining room, adding a bit more visual interest. It'll look good when the railing is in.

I didn't like the awkward unmatched angles in the ceiling of the right hand room, so I decided to make a new wall with a large archway. I've stuck in some pieces to show how that'll work. 
The entrance to the flower papered bedroom and the attic stair are hidden behind the wall. That's another invisible staircase, by the way.
I also redid the third floor to look more like a proper attic. The ceiling was way too low for rooms, anyway.

This is the kitchen and bathroom wing. I still need to add a ceiling to the bathroom.

Below is the living room, or as I prefer to call it, the parlor. I added more wall space by making a narrower door to the dining room and moving it back.
I don't remember how much of this I posted in previous blog entries (it was months ago) but the floors are made from stained bamboo placemats. I've had the mats for years, finally did a house where I felt they belonged. 
I had to remake all the windows and the front door, none of which open. 

I had to make and remake the wall between the parlor and dining room three times, primarily because of warping issues. Once I glued the final one into place I noticed irregularities in the finish whenever my worklight shone on it, drove me batty, so I unglued the wall, took it out, and decided to hide the imperfections with a mural. Crazy, huh?  Actually one of the walls of the bay window slants a little, so the mural helps disguise that.  

In the bedroom I changed the little alcove window into a door, and also changed the entry into the bedroom. The idea is that there's a little hallway leading from the other room.
You may notice that the baseboard is askew. At present it's only attached at one end. 
Here's what happened.....
I knew that wall was slightly crooked, but I didn't think it mattered much, it wasn't really noticable. However, when I went to glue in the baseboard it wouldn't stay in place unless I held it down. Now who wants to hold a strip of wood for 10 mintes hoping it'll stay in place when you let go? Not me.
The solution? I drilled a hole through the baseboard and the wall the same diameter as a toothpick. Then I applied glue to that end of the baseboard and to the toothpick, and shoved the toothpick through the baseboard and the wall. Later I checked to see if it would hold when I pressed the other end of the baseboard into place and it did.   By this time I'd had enough of this project and didn't feel like doing any more, so I decided to put it away till I felt like finishing it.

THE END ...... for now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Remodeling a Duracraft Heritage Dollhouse part 6 Yes, I'm still at it

Work has been proceeding at a very slow pace, partly because I tend to sit there in front of the house just thinking about what should be done.

So, here's what's new.

I've added a new wall between the living and dining rooms. The original wall was more of a room divider than a wall. It featured a wide archway plus a sort of pass through window. I felt both rooms would benefit from having some more wall space for things like sofas or hutches. 

I've also started on adding new flooring. I had several wood placemats stained in dark mahogany that I planned on using for dollhouse flooring, so now I'm finally using them. I cut the bound endging off, then peeled the boards off the fabric backing. I also used some same color stain to darken the board edges where needed.

I added mouldings between the windows and corner posts, but forgot about baseboards. When I realized my error I had to think about it for a while.
Meanwhile I got an idea to add windowsills using some moulding I found at Home Depot, and decorative elements over the windows by cutting sections of laser cut scrollwork I found at Michael's years ago. I'm so glad I bought a bunch of those. Everytime I went into the store I bought a few more as long as they had them.

Finally I got an idea of what to use for baseboards in the alcove. I used some scalloped dollhouse trim and square toothpicks to fashion them. The rest of the room will have Victorian dollhouse baseboard because I happen to have quite a bit of it on hand.

This is a view of how the house looked before I started reworking it.
The balcony railing was glued on badly, the front corner stuck up and didn't match up with the one on the side so I decided to try and remove the red rail to readjust it. It didn't go well, several inches on it broke off. The whole porch was now coming loose as it was, trying to redo the whole rail was out of the question. What to do, what to do?
Cover it up!

I had wanted to use some channel moulding I had, but it was too narrow and wouldn't fit over the existing rail, so I opted for L angle moulding. I liked the look better than the original, even though for some reason, at first it looked a little bulky. I then realized that it I painted out the red strips on the bay window's brackets, they'd look wider and everything would look just right.
I'd had to remove the brackets under the porch, because I realized I had glued them on incorrectly whan I built the house 30 years ago. I should have just left them alone, because 3 of them broke when I took them off, Now I'll probably need to cut all new ones for the porch.

I saw where someone turned their little bedroom window that opens out onto the porch balcony into a door, which I thought was a good idea, so, since I had to redo the window anyway, I turned it into a door too.
Please disregard the mess, reconstruction going on. 

Yesterday I started working on a new window to replace the French doors that open onto the little platform above the bay window. I've designed  a casement window which will have a window box below. More pictures will be forthcoming when ready.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Remodeling a Duracraft Heritage Dollhouse - part 5 Tackling the bay windows


So, this is what one of my Heritage bay windows has looked like for the past few weeks.
The acetate in the windows had yellowed badly over the years and needed to be replaced, but I couldn't get the windows out so I could just pry the frames apart and insert fresh acetate panels.
I've read over several Heritage builders' blogs and one mentioned that although the windows are meant to open and close, it's next to impossible to install them so they will, so just glue them in place and forget about opening them. 
I found this to be true when I was building the house also, so I made some windows closed and some open.

While prying out the bay I discovered that the house had become unglued from the base, so I resecured it with glue and several strategically placed wooden blocks.

Once the pieces were apart I was able to measure and cut out new ones. 
Since the original parts were punched out of thin, brittle plywood, I had to make a few design adjustments, using 1/8" thick basswood.

Things were going comparitively well till I got to the acetate.
I found 6"x6" acetate sheets at the craft store, and decided to try and use a white oil marker to paint on the muntins. The first pane looked ok, but after that the marker would sometimes just spurt out a blob of white paint so I switched to pinstriping tape.

Next I tackled the interior window frames.
In the end, this is what worked best for me.
I wound up using a combination of bass stripwood and glued together layers of cardstock.
I used Grandmother Stover's Stick Flat Glue to glue the cardstock layers together. Now that I'm writing this, I can't remember for sure if it was 4 layers of cardstock or three, which is why I made this instruction sheet for myself, so I have something to remind myself of how I'm supposed to do this.
The reason I mixed two mediums is because I discovered I can't cut in straight lines to save my soul, deciding it was worth the money it cost to buy the right dimension basswood than ruin a mess of basswood and glued cardstock.
For anyone reading this, you're welcome to print this diagram if you think it'll help you. 

Here's a finished exterior window panel.

and the interior side
Once the panels are inserted into the corner moldings I'll be able to tidy the look up with trim molding and maybe a window sill, however the original windows had no sills.

Next I'll be finishing the other two windows of this bay, and I'll have to tackle the French door window above so I can put the bay back into place.

Then I guess I'll have to do the bay on the front of the house......sigh.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Remodeling a Duracraft Heritage Dollhouse - part 4 The Bathroom

 Below is a photo of the original setup in the addition I built years ago.

And this is what that wing looks like now.

If you've read my previous posts, you'll recall I ripped out the staircase and decided to replace it with a hidden staircase (that doesn't really exist). You can see the area where it would be next to the bathroom, and if I had felt like redoing the wall of the Heritage, I could have actually built a new, up-down, turnaround staircase, but, I didn't want to tear apart the house to change the wall. That empty area next to the bathroom will be hidden when I finish extending the roof.

A better picture of the bathroom.
The door doesn't open, after all, why?  I still have to make a replacement window, but as I said before, I think it'll be easier to redo all the windows at once. The ceiling panel is just sitting there on top of the walls for now. I think I'll have to add some trim molding along the edges in the end.
I used a sheet from a wallpaper book for the wallpaper. Although I hate doing wallpaper I do like the way it turned out. As a rule I prefer to paint, but in these circumstances I decided it would be too much of a challenge to get the right hand wall smooth enough to paint. I'm a scratch builder, and as a rule I make my walls painted and ready before gluing them into place. Cutting these pieces of wallpaper was a pain, though, since the angles were in several cases, just a little off kilter. The window wall panel was cut just right twice before I realized it was just a bit off. To make sure that the third cut was right in the end, I painted along the annoying back corner of the wall with some paint that matched the paper. That way if one tiny area wound up uncovered, it wouldn't be visible.

I used my daughter's old bathroom fixtures to show the size of the room.
For the floor, I used another sheet of subway tile, with white grout lines instead of black. I knew I'd never use it for another project, and I think it came out looking pretty nice.

Next I must tackle the main section of the house.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Remodeling a Duracraft Heritage Dollhouse - part 4 The Attic

 When I built the Duracraft Heritage years ago for my then young daughter, I wallpapered the attic. In this remodel, I looked at the attic and said to myself, just how low is the ceiling in there? I forget exactly, but if you're more than 5" tall, expect to bang your head in there. So I decided to turn the space into the attic it should be.

In the picture below, you can see the small attic alcove which I had originally painted white, because there was no way I could get my hands in there to wallpaper it way back when.  I drew black lines across the space to remind myself that walling it off would be a good idea.

When we built our present real life home some 25 years ago, there were rules or covenants concerning how the homes in the neighborhood were to look. One of them was that they should all have wooden shingled roofs. Our contractor was a carpenter who liked to use tried and true traditional building methods. He advised us to put our shingles on strapping instead of plywood sheathing, because wooden shingles tend to rot more readily when nailed to plywood. When nailed to strips of wood called strapping, they can dry out after being drenched in rain or snowstorms, and be less likely to rot.

I learned that roofs that had shingles nailed to strapping have been known to last over 200 years. Unfortunately, in our century, shingles, like many other things, just ain't what they used to be, and we'd probably have to replace them after 20 years or so.

Here's an example of the underside of a roof made up of wooden shingles on strapping.  You're learning so much history, aren't you?

The vertical beams are the rafters. The horizontal boards are the strapping. The wood behind the strapping are the shingles. The strapping in my real life attic wasn't as wide as the boards shown here, and there were more of them. I can't show you a photo of my attic, because several years ago we put on a new asphalt shingled roof which was laid on plywood sheathing.

Here's a picture of the first stage of the Heritage's redone attic.

First I had to make some rafters. On corners, if I can, I prefer to use L molding instead of butting 2 pieces of stripwood together. It makes a neater, more secure look. The bottom cut can be a little tricky when on an angle like this, but after a few false cuts using leftover bits of molding I finally got a cut that worked ok.
I simulated the wooden shingles using random dabs of 2 or 3 shades of brown all over the walls.
Also, I cut a triangular piece of scrap plywood to fit in and cover the entrance to the small alcove.
I must confess, I got carried away dabbing my shingles and dabbed right across the triangular false wall, so I ended up painting that piece brown. My story is that after the plasterer finished the wall, the homeowner didn't like the glaring white and requested it be painted brown to blend in. 
Next I needed to do something about the floor.
During the original building process, here and there I used some kind of glue that would not come off. It was a real battle to wrench some things out, using a hair dryer on the glue just would not soften it enough to remove a wall, shelves, or whatever. I was left with bits of glue here and there on the floor that would not come off or sand down, so I needed to install flooring.

I decided to cut pieces of basswood and score lines to simulate the floorboards, then piece them in as best I could. The main problem was that the space was small, my hands were too big, and the lighting was lousy. So much of this attic was completed by feel, because I simply couldn't see what I was doing in there.
Once the stained floor panels were in place, I glued in the rafters. 
There were some random looking strips of wood at the edges of the floor in some places. They were there to help strengthen the connection between the sloped attic walls and the floor, but over the years, some of them pulled away from the walls. Unfortunately, they remained firmly stuck to the floor and I felt if I tried to pry them out all sorts of things might start falling apart.
In old attics, however, one may sometimes find old pieces of wood nailed to places, and you have no idea why they're there. In those conditions, it's best to leave them alone. 
I wound up adding a few more random pieces of wood to the Heritage attic because it developed a few gaps over the years, and the wood helped fill them.

Here's the completed attic. I stained Skinny Sticks to make the strapping. It reminds me of how my real life attic used to look.

The next photo shows more of the floor.
I needed to somehow work in the areas where 2 sections of basswood butted together, so they wouldn't look so glaringly obvious.
Our modern eyes are used to floorboards looking a certain way, in nice neat lines, but I've seen illustrations of cottages and even photos of original centuries old floors where the boards sometimes went everywhich way. In an attic, the builders certainly wouldn't have been very picky. "Hey, Homer, I'm runnin' outta boards here!" "Use some of them short leftovers from the pile, then."
More history.
Before the latter half of the 1800's, floorboards used to be wider than they are now. Up to one foot wide was pretty common in the 1700's and earlier. Also, wooden floors were not varnished. They were left bare, or if you wanted a fancy floor you might paint it a nice color. People also covered their floors with strips of carpeting that were laid or stitched edge to edge to form a wall to wall carpet.
It wasn't till the 20th century that varnished, polished hardwood floors started becoming more common. Even then, many floors were still being painted, then covered with a rectangular rug they called an "Art Square". In the 1920's magazines advertised that anyone could now afford the luxury of oak floors.
If you're interested in the way people decorated their homes in the Victorian era, visit my other blog, Victorian Interiors and More.

But I digress......
I used a plaster product to fill in the small gaps where the basswood pieces butted together. Next I started brushing some brown acrylic paint over the white plaster brushing away in each direction to spread the paint out over the wood, after which I'd swoop over the area with a small piece of slightly damp paper towel. I had to do that several times in each section, then I thinned the brown paint a little more, and using a slightly larger brush, I swooped some paint in other sections of the floor, finished with a couple swoops with the dampened paper towel. In the end, I would up with what looked like a dirty old wooden attic floor.
What to tackle next?
I confess, when I look at the main gutted section of the building it scares me. I had never built a dollhouse kit before, and the going was much slower than I expected, and Christmas was looming fast. I don't know how much of the damage in the house was due to my ineptness, trying to get it done too quickly, or the warpage of age, probably just a combination of all those things. I still have to remove the windows out of one bay, plus the door.
Maybe I'll do the bathroom in the second story of the wing addition next. I had found the addition much easier to build than the kit. I am the daughter of a carpenter, after all, and my grandfather built his own home with his own two hands. Blood will tell. My siblings and I all laugh at how all four of us felt compelled to plant gardens when we bought out own homes, even though none of us had previously had any interest in gardening at all. Mama was always a devoted gardener.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Remodeling a Duracraft Heritage Dollhouse - part 3

 I bet some of you are wishing I'd get to the main part of the house, aren't you? That will come, however, I got so involved in the staircase planning, that once I figured out what I wanted to do (which was not to build a staircase at all), I really wanted to finish off the addition I had built.

Today I managed to finish the room that will be the kitchen.

Well, yeah, the windows aren't redone yet. The stuff I was planning on using for the "glass" turned out to be a problem. I'm going to see if I can find something else. It may be easier to do all the windows in the house at once anyway. Once you figure out the first few you get into the groove, and the rest are easier.

The pantry shelves, however, were a real pain in the $^#&^%8# !
Well, not so much the shelves, but the panel they're glued to.
I swear, I must have measured the space and the 3 different panels I made at LEAST 15 times. The first panel was turned out to be too big, so I trimmed it, still too big, shaved off some more, then it was too small, so I decided to start over. All the other plywood scraps I had left were all warped to some degree, so I looked for something else to use.

Do you have any old hard vinyl covered binders? I had to throw away a couple a while back, and wondered if that thick, stiff, hard cardboard would be good for anything useful, so I slit the vinyl open and saved them. I cut a new back panel for the pantry out of one, and it didn't matter if I messed up, because I had more, and it was FREE! 
I don't like to spend a lot of money on my dollhouses. If my hobby becomes too expensive I cease to enjoy it.
I digress...
Anyway, that panel turned out pretty good, so then I used some 1/16" basswood to make the front of the panel.  My worries weren't quite over, though, because with every remeasurement and recut, they kept turning out just a little bit off. 
Finally, all was perfect, the panel fit, the sides of the shelves were glued on, the 2 bottom shelves were in place, I slowly slid the unit back into place, ...... and it wouldn't fit........

Want to know what I did?
I began to laugh hysterically, that's what I did.

Once I stopped laughing I retried the unit, shaved off a little more from the top, and replaced it.
This time it was a little short......
.......which is why I installed a piece of crown molding on top of it.
I thought the hooks on the side wall were a good idea. A kitchen should have someplace to hang a mop, broom, dustpan, etc.

I took a few of my daughter's old kitchen pieces to give an idea of the layout.
I could make my own better versions of that sort of range and sink. Maybe someday I will.

I had planned on building the bathroom on the floor above next, but now I'm thinking maybe I want to do a simpler challenge, the attic.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Remodeling a Duracraft Heritage Dollhouse - part 2

 So far I've removed most of the windows. One set of bay windows and the door still to be taken out. The bay windows are very stubborn and hold on for dear life.

I've also removed the wallpaper in the attic. Since the ceiling in there is only about 5" high, I decided to make the space over as an attic, showing the underside of roof shingles, strapping and rafters. There's a poky little alcove up there that's painted white. Rather than trying to deal with getting a brush in there and painting it to match the rest of the attic, I think I may just close it off. I drew lines across the space to try and illustrate the concept.

Work is progressing a bit in the kitchen. Behind the blocked in area is where the staircase is..... or would be if I were building an actual staircase.

You can see the 2 steps heading down onto the kitchen from the hidden landing. I haven't made up my mind if I want an enclosed handrail, a spindled handrail, or no handrail at all.

I had a sheet of classic blue tile which I decided to use for the kitchen floor. I gave the ceiling a fresh coat of white paint, but I'll need to get out a hand mirror to see if I completely covered it or not. I can't turn the house sideways or anything, and must manage as best as I can. 

Where you see the plywood wall facing front is where the pantry shelves will go. These walls are just popped into place for now, as I hadn't noticed that one panel was slightly warped till after I'd cut it. That means I need to recut the other panel too. Drat.....

I've been thinking about the kitchen walls, and maybe doing tile at least half way up. I'm leaning towards the tile sheet in the foreground. I's a sort of sand color. I'm not wild about how it looks in this photo, in real life they go pretty nicely together. My other tile options are 2 sets of white subway tiles, one with white grout, the other with dark. On the other hand, I might change my mind if something else pops to mind.

I've also pulled up most of the floorboards. They're made of very thin wood, like veneer, and the instructions said to glue them down, then build the exterior walls on top of them. I recall I was dubious of the sense of this, but I did as instructed. Sometimes I was able to pull the parts out from under the walls, but  other times it was a struggle, and I felt the walls move. Yikes!
BTW, I used a hot iron to soften the glue, then inserted a thin palette knife, followed by a stronger putty knife to yank those suckers up off the subfloor.