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Toward the end of grad school, when I needed an outlet in the middle of dissertation-writing, I took the plans out again. After having researched different ways of creating dollhouses, I concluded, due to my lack of wood-working skills, that I would do best with a poster-board walls / wooden studs and joists approach.

Apparently it makes for a lighter house but creates a solid framework…just like an old Victorian wooden frame house.

So early in 2008, I got to work. I started with the back of the house — the kitchen, scullery, and butler’s pantry area…I figured that would be the easiest place to begin.

First, I traced out the floor plan on poster board and added some pre-built furniture to get a sense of the size of the rooms.

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Then I cut the floor out.

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After cutting out a few walls, I propped them up to see what it would look like.

This is a view toward the kitchen, through the scullery on the left and the butler’s pantry on the right.

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I glued the beams and joists in the floor and the studs in the walls:

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Then I got to work on the scullery / wash room. I figured this is where all the dish-washing and laundry would happen, so it needed a good, solid stone floor. I found a couple of modeling clay colors that would work well and created these stone tiles, which I baked in the oven to harden them.

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With a bit of wainscoting, a window, and the ceiling and lamp in place, the room almost looked believable…

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With a quick view from above to show how it worked:

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I experimented with various materials to form the sandy grout, and ended up using buckwheat flour and glue.

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Then I started in on the butler’s pantry. I was inspired by a photo I found. Not sure where it came from. (Addendum: This butler’s pantry photo is from the Meyer May House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

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And also by a pattern for Victorian linoleum I found in a book.

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So I traced out a similar pattern on a piece of poster-board and used an X-acto knife to simulate the grooves.

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And started painting away…

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The parts with no linoleum are where I was planning to have built-in cabinets. (I have no idea how I’m going to make those yet…)

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So now I had the basics for two of the rooms:

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Finally, I started the kitchen. I wanted to model it loosely on the kitchen at Beaulieu, in Hampshire, England, which was fully rebuilt during the 19th century (notice the scullery in the background):

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So I built a couple walls and a chimney to surround the stove I had bought.

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And then somewhere around that time, I got busy with other things (finishing grad school, looking for jobs) and I packed everything into boxes (the walls were not glued in yet so it collapsed easily) and forgot about it all.

After a move to Indiana and a further move to Pennsylvania, I still had not unpacked the boxes, when, after having visited various local historic houses, I remembered I still had this in the garage somewhere.

So I dug it out. It seems to have weathered the moves well.

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The buckwheat grout seems a bit destroyed (did something try to eat it?…) but the rest is just fine.

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So now my challenge to myself is to go on with this project and document it as I go.

Time, I’ll find some somehow.  Inspiration, I have plenty of it. But technique, skills, materials, and patience…well, those I’ll just have to improvise as I go along.

(Please excuse the poor quality of these early photos. I had a lousy point-and-shoot at the time and I had no idea what white balance was.  Sigh…)