Sunday, October 1, 2017

What's Done Is Done and Undone and Redone

My blog posts seem to be turning into public confessions of all the mistakes I've made during the construction of Villa del Vigneto. But at this point, if I don't write about the mistakes, there won't be anything to write about! So I'm going to 'fess up again this month, but after this, I do not intend to make ANY mistakes, so all my future blog posts will be all about perfection and the carefree fun I have as I work on the villa. (Do I hear someone snickering out there in blog land???)


This is the BIG piece of 3/4" styrofoam that will be the "false" back wall of the villa, covering all the electrical wiring. I built up a frame of styrofoam strips around the edges of the existing back wall, so that there's a space between the two walls. (I didn't want the wires and plugs to be smashed.)

I applied joint compound to the styrofoam piece. The little window hardly shows in that solid wall.

All sanded and ready to paint. I wet sanded first, then went over the piece lightly with fine sand paper.

All dry and ready to hang. I carried the wall downstairs to check its fit on the back of the villa. AND DISCOVERED THAT I HAD FINISHED THE WRONG SIDE OF THE STYROFOAM WALL! I'm pretty sure that I never even once stopped to consider which side was which. I can't think of one good excuse for such carelessness. The window is just off center, so that should have been an obvious clue. But nope. Clueless.

So I spent a lot more time doing the same thing all over again. At least there was no doubt this time about which side I should work on. (Of course, I had no doubts the first time either!)


I knew exactly how I wanted the villa's exterior finish to look; I just didn't know how to go about getting it to look that way. So I experimented. I found a texturing gel at the craft store that I thought was a great idea. I applied the gel randomly, along with swipes of joint compound. I started at the west end....

...and continued on the front...

...then moved to the east end...

...and around to the back. Then I waited overnight for the texturing gel and the joint compound to dry.

I was surprised the next day to find that the gel had dried to a glossy finish, leaving great shiny globs on all the walls. I started painting anyway, assuming that the flat paint would cover the gloss. It didn't. I tried sanding off the gloss, but even the coarsest sandpaper wouldn't sand through the dried gel.

So I started over again, applying more joint compound to cover the glossy globs.

I put on just a thin layer of joint compound and wiped it down gently with a wet sponge. (Thanks to Betsy, from Daydreamer, for that technique.)

The wall that juts out at an angle didn't receive a gel treatment, because I was using that wall to experiment with paint colors and smudges. I left it "as is."

After repainting the walls, I experimented again, smudging the walls with charcoal, most of which I later covered with a blend of paint colors.

 I tried out an "aging stucco" finish on the west wall, using sandpaper, Antique Gold, Rose Pink, and Crushed Coral paints, a gray wash, taupe eye shadow, and charcoal from our Oklahoma Joe smoker.
I also needed to make "camouflage corners" for the back wall, which didn't fit quite flush with the end walls of the villa. I cut strips of mat board and made a sharp fold down the center so that each strip would wrap around the corner from back to front. I glued the strips to the back wall, but attached them only lightly with sticky wax to the end walls so that the back wall and the strips can be removed as one unit if necessary. I applied joint compound to the corner strips, wet sanded the strips with a sponge to smooth and blend the joint compound, then I painted over the strips so that they blend with the walls. Both back corners will eventually be covered with vines. (Further camouflage.)

  I had a vision of the color I wanted for the window frames - but mixing the hoped-for color was a challenge.

It took several attempts and a variety of "concoctions"....

...but I finally mixed up the right blend of colors. This close-up photo shows one of the living room windows and a portion of the "aged" west wall.


Even before I decided to construct the central tower, I had planned to have a grape vine emblem above each of the front openings. (The lower opening is the main villa entrance, and the upper opening looks into the stair landing on the second level.) After I built the tower, the front of the villa looked so plain that I was even more determined to create the emblems. So I gathered up some likely pieces from my stash and started designing. (I did not use the smallest oval frame in the above photograph.)

I think I've had the grape cluster piece on the left for maybe twenty years. It was attached to a greeting card that I received, and there was a tiny candle inserted into the space where you can see the green pin head that I added. The grape cluster on the right is a brooch that I found in an antique store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last year. The other pieces are picture frames. I cut cork shapes to form backs for the pieces.

I spread joint compound (of course) over the back pieces.

I also added a light layer of joint compound to the frames...

...and to the grape clusters.

I glued the grapes to the frames and glued the frames to the cork backing.
You can see that I added an additional backing piece to the larger frame.

Both emblems are assembled and ready to turn into stone. I've tried to think what these things may be called, other than "emblems;" but I've checked all the synonyms, and nothing sounds right. (Heraldry, Crest, Symbol, Logo, Insignia, Coat of Arms, Plaque.) So I'm sticking with "emblem" for now, unless someone knows what it is that I'm trying to think of.

I painted a dark gray finish on first,

then dry-brushed on a lighter gray, a cream, and two shades of tan.

I think I added a bit of white to this mixture, but I forgot to take a photo.

I was so excited about attaching the emblems to the villa wall that I glued them right on. I had held them up to the wall time and again and was happy with the way they looked. I should, of course, have attached them temporarily with sticky wax. No sooner had the glue dried than I decided that the emblems jutted out too far and definitely looked just "stuck on."

I lived with them for a couple of days anyway, then just couldn't bear it longer, so I pried the emblems off with a sturdy knife - bringing paint, joint compound, and styrofoam off with them.

I pried the cork backing off the oval frame and removed one of the cork backs from the larger frame.

I had to do some repair work, of course. I leveled out the styrofoam where the emblems had pulled away, then filled the spaces with joint compound, which I also smoothed around the edges of the "raw" space. Instead of using glue, I pressed the emblems into the wet joint compound, which holds like glue when dry.

After the joint compound dried, I sanded it very lightly and repainted the repaired areas.

You probably can't tell from the photo that there's any difference between the "before" and "after" views of the emblems. But I solemnly swear that the new version is better! The repairs also gave me a chance to put a little "wear and tear" in the stucco around the emblems, which lends a more authentic look.

That's the extent of my September mistakes (oops - I mean accomplishments!) But one thing did go well. The end of September is the time for Nebraska's annual Junk Jaunt - 300 miles of Junk, Antiques, Bargains, and Treasures of all kinds. I hoped that I'd find at least one miniature of some kind. But there were no minis to be found in the places I looked. However, a couple of months ago, I brought some tiny bits of cactus back from the Nebraska Sandhills and planted them in miniature pots in the courtyard of my miniature adobe house. The cactus needs an occasional taste of water, but I never found anything small enough to do the job. An eyedropper was inconvenient, and a tiny cream pitcher made a muddy mess. But on the Junk Jaunt, I found a very small glass bottle with a perfect pour top - probably used to dispense oil or vinegar. It cost me a dollar, but that was money well spent, because it's the perfect vessel for watering the cactus plants. 

My Junk Jaunt Treasure!

And speaking of treasure, I hope that you'll all have a truly Golden October.


  1. Hello Marjorie,
    Sometimes making miniatures can feel like a real battle. You may have had a few bumps in the road, but in the end you are victorious. The finish on the walls looks beautiful. I love the depth of layers that comes through the looks so authentic. The emblems are such a wonderful touch. I am glad you reworked them because they look perfect in the end. It is such a beautiful villa! As for painting the wrong side of the back...been there, done that, understand the frustration. You have done some amazing work and the project keep on getting better. Fear not, it is all well worth your time and efforts.
    Big hug

    1. Hello, Giac - I'm so glad that you like the finish on the villa walls. I wasn't sure that I'd be able to achieve the look that I wanted - but I did come very close, and I'm happy with it. (That's not to say that I won't keep "fiddling" with it!) Thank you for your very nice comments; I appreciate your continued encouragement.

  2. Hi Marjorie,
    Thanks for another great post. Don't feel like you are alone in the trial & error learning process we call miniatures. I am liking the texture that you have created on the exterior adobe/stucco finish and the grape medallions are a great touch. (I'm glad you found an alternate use for the Oklahoma Joe Smoker!) The color you came up for the windows is good too. I am looking forward to seeing what you do with the vines! Keep up the progress and good work - Troy

    1. Hi, Troy - It's always nice to read your positive comments on the villa construction. Even though I struggled with the finish on the walls, and with the grape emblems, I'm happy too with the end results. And yes, it's nice to have that Oklahoma Joe smoker. When Robert isn't busy smoking something, I'm free to help myself to soot, ashes, and bits of charcoal - and those things always come in handy! Thanks for stopping by the villa!

  3. I think the Villa looks amazing! And every journey has a few bumps: that's what makes them interesting journeys!
    I don't know if it's the word you are looking for or not, but Unique Miniatures calls those emblems "appliques".
    Can't wait for the next blog update -- mistakes or not I love reading your blog!
    Lori K.

    1. Hi, Lori - Thanks for your suggestion of "applique" for the villa's grape design. It's a good word and one I hadn't thought of using. I'm hoping that my work on the villa in October won't be quite as bumpy as September. I'll be doing some fun things that I'm looking forward to, so I hope it's a fairly smooth ride! You had asked earlier about the light fixture in the East Bedroom. I wasn't sure whether you meant the wall sconce or the hanging light - but in fact, I can't find either! The hanging ceiling light came from "SP Miniatures," but I don't know who makes it. My invoice had only the description and order #, but no manufacturer. I tried to find it again at SP Minis, but it's apparently not in their inventory any longer. It wasn't expensive, so I doubt that it was a "one of a kind." I had the exact same experience trying to trace the wall light. I ordered it from "Mainly Minis" and can't find it in their inventory either. I bought both lights about six months ago, so they're apparently both out of stock. I'm so sorry I can't be of any help. I really like both lights, and I especially like the color on the hanging light. If any more information should "come to light," I'll be sure to let you know.

    2. Thank you for looking for the information! I do appreciate it!

  4. Hi Marjorie! Do not worry about the "mistakes".... we all make them, and then sometimes a mistake ends up being for the best! I think the progress you have made on the Villa is Awesome!!! It is really starting to look like a wonderful old building! The colors look great and the added stone "Bosses" are really lovely! I think you will end up with the "layered" effect that you desire... because you will have had to add and cover so many layers... just like in real life! LOL! I know it never feels like what we are doing is "right" but that is partly because of the experimenting and learning that you are doing! In the end you will have a fantastic old building! It is already more than ninety per-cent there! Keep up the wonderful work!

  5. Hi, Betsy - Thanks for your inspiring and encouraging message. You're right in that some mistakes can be for the best - and some of mine have turned out that way. There are others that just leave me open-mouthed, thinking, "What the heck did I think I was doing?!!" But fortunately, so far I haven't made a mistake that couldn't be remedied somehow. I'm feeling excited about the ongoing villa projects. Some fun things are coming up (not that there's much that isn't fun) that I'm looking forward to doing. I appreciate your stopping by - your comments are always very welcome.

  6. I have nothing but admiration your work and as they say mistakes are how we learn. Your villa is amazing. I love the emblems they look like they should be there.
    Hugs Maria

    1. Hi, Maria - Thank you for those lovely comments. You're right that we learn through our mistakes. (I'm learning a LOT!) I'm so glad that you like the emblems. I wanted to have them from the very beginning of planning the villa construction, so I'm very happy that I finally got them to look the way I wanted! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. It's looking great Majorie! I love the exterior colour palette. The contrast of the windows was well worth the trial and error paint mixing. The end result is lovely. I would call your "stone" grapes, embellishments or architectural detail. And they are wonderful. You have really transformed those pieces to stone with your artful painting. Looking forward to the next installment. :)

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by the villa and leaving such nice comments. And thanks, too, for suggesting a substitute for "emblem." That "phantom" word has plagued me! I'm already having a good time with the next additions to the villa, so I hope you'll come back and see what's been going on.

  8. Hi Marjorie!
    I don't know HOW I missed this entry of yours so I'm sorry to be so late to the party, but I must tell you that I have had THE SAME kinds of problems with my project too! I have put things on backwards and had second thoughts after gluing things on permanently and had to pry them off and patch over, so Never Fear; you are NOT ALONE in your mini misadventures.
    In any case the re-painting and painting has proved worthwhile since you have added layers of history to the Villa. The final color is a soft gently faded surface that has captured all of the warmth of the Tuscan Sun.
    The Vine Medallions couldn't be BETTER and announce to the world- Viva Villa del Vigneto! :D



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