Monday, April 6, 2015

It All Started With Aunt Dorothy's Barbie House.

In the 1960s, I had an aunt who hired a craftsman to build a house for her collection of Barbie dolls. I admired the house beyond measure, and my admiration extended to all the furniture, including the kitchen sink, which had a tiny faucet with running water. That house was my first real experience of covetousness. I was determined that I would someday have my own doll house, although I knew that mine would not be so large; my aunt eventually had to build an extra room onto her home to provide space for the ever-expanding Barbie house. Unfortunately, I have only my memories of that house; no photos.

In the 1970s, determination turned to action. A friend gave me several pieces of 1:12 scaled furniture from a miniature shop that he happened across in San Francisco.  Now I needed a house for the brass bed, the white ice cream parlor set, and a porcelain bathroom set. I knew nothing about building; I had no tools; but there was that determination. With my friend's help (he knew as little about building as I did and also had no tools) a house of sorts was contrived.  It was a basic open box structure with slightly crooked walls and a lavish use of quarter-round edging. We didn't think of building a staircase, and someone gently pointed out that we had put the roof on going the wrong way. But it was a start.

Eventually, in the 1980s, I finished painting and papering the rooms, put down floor coverings, added wood trim, and collected more furniture pieces. I couldn't decide whether I was a little embarrassed by my creation or shyly proud of it. Shy pride won out, and the doll house was hung on a wall in my upstairs hallway, safely out of sight of anyone other than family and my closest friends.                                                                     
Also in the '80s, my friend, by this time transformed into my husband, (who is still my friend!) gave me a miniature house that he found in an antique shop. It was crudely built but had a closed front, open back, with doors and windows and a staircase! Every room was papered in a different full-scale wallpaper, and the flooring was a full-scale piece of carpet - a different color for each room. The challenge was irresistible, and I spent two weeks renovating the house, turning it into what I call my Victorian Townhouse. I have it in a corner of my workroom, the front turned to the wall and the open side facing into the room so that it is always in view. (All my houses have an open front that I prefer over houses with hinged fronts - those always seem awkward to me.)

This is my Victorian Townhouse viewed from the front.

The parlor of the townhouse in its original state. This is an example of the condition of all the rooms before restoration.

An overview of the townhouse after I had it stripped down and ready for its makeover.

 An overall view of the Victorian Townhouse after restoration was completed.

The parlor of the townhouse. Yes, I know that the framed picture on the mantle is too large, but it's a small print of "The Gleaners" that I found in an antique store - and I can't make myself remove it!
The floor-length curtains are made from the softest netting fabric that I could find, and it drapes beautifully.

The kitchen, where Hannah Holmes, the sole occupant of the townhouse, gets a bit carried away with her weekly baking. The window valance is made from an antique handkerchief, and I cut the stencil that borders the top of the wall with the tiniest point of my smallest stencil knife.

 The study, where Hannah enjoys afternoon tea beneath paintings of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
I cut the window pelmet from cardboard and decoupaged the rose-patterned paper onto it. The curtains are made from the same soft netting as the living room curtains.

Two views of the bathroom, where another portrait of Queen Victoria reigns. 

Two views of the bedroom. I made the window valances and the bed linens from old handkerchiefs that I found in an antique store. The softness of the old fabric makes it very pliable. 

This comprises the FIRST post of my FIRST blog, so I'm feeling very pleased, excited, intimidated and downright terrified just now. I'm trying to muster courage to actually press that "publish" button, but if I do, and someone reads this and would like to read more, just stay tuned (yes, I'm from that generation) for the stories and photographs of my New Mexico adobe house and my French farmhouse - both built entirely from sticks and stones and styrofoam! Following those posts, I'll introduce you to my next project, a Tuscan villa fattoria, still in the planning stage but getting close to the "starting-construction" stage. And - it will be constructed using sticks…... and stones…… and……styrofoam!


  1. Your Victorian house is beautiful. I love the bed.
    Hugs Maria

    1. Thanks, Maria - That house was so much fun to do, although it was slightly addictive, too - I could hardly stop until it was all finished. On another note, I noticed from your profile that you're a fan of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" - one of my forever favorites! I love their woodcutting song, "Lonesome Polecat." (Or whatever the actual title is.) Until later - Marjorie


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