1912 Victorian – The DeWhitt-Dawson Cottage

This is my first dollhouse.  It began as a basic, rundown, RGT Lilliput Cherrydale.  This house has traveled halfway around the world and back over the years.  To say it was rather beat up would be an understatement.  Unfortunately, I have no before pictures for you.  Here is the advertisement for the Cherrydale.

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Before I tackled the project I spent countless hours researching dollhouse construction, decorating, etc. online.  

Once I had my theme (early 1900s) I began searching for the miniature items that would bring my dream house to life.  Along the way, I discovered a great site with FREE printable scale items.  One of the first items I printed was a newspaper for the front porch.  It was an exact replica of the New York Times article of the Titanic Sinking…thus the name of my cottage.

So I started to work on the beat up, broken down Lillyput Cherrydale dollhouse.

First thing was to repair the damage on my dollhouse.  It was in very poor shape after having travelled thousands of miles total in its lifetime.  There was very little that could be salvaged unfortunately. I had to replace all the windows, tear out all the exterior trim that was beyond repair.  I had to re-nail the second floor as it was caving in over the dining room/kitchen area underneath.  I also had to chisel TONS of dilapidated shingles off the roof!  That chore almost made me scrap the whole project and just buy a brand new kit.  I later learned that this is called “bashing” in the dollhouse community.

Eventually I was left with just a shell and a few bloody fingers.   I wish I had taken a “Before” picture for you but alas, I didn’t.  I then had the brilliant – HA – idea to add a few extra walls and window openings to the shell.  What was I thinking!?!

I was finally ready to begin creating at this point.  Wanting to ensure the authenticity of the era I hoped to represent with my dollhouse, I went to Lowes and began scouring through the National Historic Society paint colors and ended up choosing 5 colors for the house.

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After painting the house a soft yellow, I began adding the details.  The scalloped trim pieces running across the center and top of the “turret” of the house are the only two pieces of trim that were salvaged from the original house and I wanted them displayed prominently for sentimental reasons.  All the other gingerbread trim pieces and woodwork were purchased, to include the porch banisters and railings.  I just cut to length and added the accent colors of purple, green, and cranberry.  Aileens Tacky glue was my best friend.

I installed a new front door.  The new windows are the Economy windows from Houseworks.  I removed the screenprinted/painted-on mullions with finger nail polish remover and used tiny craft sticks from Hobby Lobby to create “real” mullions.  Lesson learned – BUY the windows with real mullions next time, they will be worth every penny 🙂  To finish the windows, I added paint for an attempted stained glass effect in places.  Once installed, I made my own shutters by using craft tongue depressors and craft sticks from Hobby Lobby.  The window boxes were purchased with some flowers and I added additional flowers to make it more lush.  I later built the front porch steps from scrap blocks of wood and left over stair banisters and newel posts from a used interior staircase I purchased and decided against using on the inside.

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Lastly, the roof shingles.  I was put off by the bags of individual shingles you could buy.  I did NOT want to spend hour upon hour glueing little shingles onto the roof.  So I found this “wonderful” product called shingle strips.  I was SO VERY excited!!  I just knew the shingles were going to be a breeze.  I have never been so wrong about anything in my life!!!  They were an absolute NIGHTMARE.  They were extremely difficult to cut and trim to fit.  I will never, ever use these again!  The best recommendation I can give to anyone who considers building a dollhouse is to STAY AWAY FROM THE STRIPS and buy the individual, thin, shingles.  You won’t be sorry.

As I stated, when I was bashing the house, I added extra window opening on each side of the house.  The original house was very dark inside with only the front windows allowing light in.  The sides of the house were plain and nothing! I loved the new windows being added and it lit the inside right up.  I built the right side, second story window balcony myself using leftover pieces from the scrapped staircase.  I added purchased window boxes, two small trellis, and vines.  I then built from craft sticks the large trellis and planter box.  I disassembled a flower vine and randomly glues the flowers and leaves around the trellis.  You can’t see in this picture but the dirt in the planter box is used, dried, coffee grounds.  Used coffee grounds are black like potting soil – just scoop them from your coffee maker, spread them on a paper towel, and allow to completely dry out for 24-48 hours depending on how much you use.

Now to the inside of Rose and Jack’s cottage…

Living Room:

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I began with my wallpapers.  I scoured the internet to get the inspiration for each room and how it would eventually be decorated.  Be sure to visit my Resources post to see some of my favorite site and vendors I came across.

Next I did the flooring.  I wanted dark stained hardwood floors.  I opted to create my own hardwood floors instead of purchasing the preassembled stuff.  I traced the footprint of each room onto graph paper and used  1/4″ x 7″ craft sticks from Hobby Lobby.  Each board was cut and glued onto the graph paper, then sanded, stained, and varnished (4 coats of varnish) before attaching to the floor of the house.

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I then plastered the ceiling using drywall compound from Lowes and painted it a high gloss white enamel so I would get as much reflected light as possible in the dark house.  I then purchased all the baseboard, crown moulding, corner blocks, etc. and painted them the same high gloss white.  Next I added the ceiling medallion.

Lastly, I constructed the staircase from a kit – Houseworks “Narrow Staircase”.  Then it was sanded, stained, and varnished to match the floor.  I printed a stair runner on regular printer paper from a shrunken design I found online and then I modge podged it to the steps.  I wanted to enclose the staircase to give me a wall to hang photographs from eventually (the plan is to shrink down actual family photos in Paint and frame them and hang).  I soon realized that dollhouse construction is not all that different from actual home construction.  After many failed attempts to enclose the staircase with a sturdy wall, I found myself actually building a frame with studs just like a contractor would.

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I am now to the decorating portion and have started hand sewing my own drapes for all the windows.  I chose to go with solid color drapes as much of the prints in the fabric shop in town are too large a scale to work in a dollhouse.  The living room drape was done in a deep red, light, satin fabric with gold fabric backing.  The cornice was made from popsicle sticks lined with the same red fabric with gold trim and a gold button.  I plan to make a duplicate pair of drapes for the other window eventually.

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Dining Room and Kitchen:

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The front and back areas have been divided using a basic room divider.  This created a separation to allow for a simple kitchen space and dining room.  I chose a yellow theme for the dining room and a pale green for the kitchen.  The kitchen has vinyl tin ceiling sheet.  It also has a different flooring than the dining room.  I printed out a linoleum floor tile pattern and glued the paper to a thin piece of wood board.  Then I modge podged it so it would shine like real linoleum tile.

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A history lesson on linoleum…linoleum was introduced in the late 1800’s and was the floor covering of the rich.  In 1912, linoleum was more expensive than marble!  The Titanic was adorned with nothing but linoleum since it was considered the best money could buy.

And more hand made windows treatments.

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Upstairs:

Hall

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When you ascend the stairs, you will find yourself in the hallway.  As you can see from the advertised house photo from above, I added a wall creating this hall space.  I didn’t like the idea of the stairs leading you directly into the master bedroom.  Again, I plastered the ceilings and made my own hardwood floors on the second story.  This house also has a large attic space but there was no access to it.

This drove me nuts!!  After adding windows to the house I certainly DID NOT want to attempt cutting out an opening in the floor of the attic.  So I went for illusion instead.  I built a ladder from popsicle sticks and scrap wood and encased the ladder at the ceiling to give the appearance that there is an opening there.  I choose a green floral wallpaper that I printed and glued to the walls.  I assembled the landing rails and sanded, stained, and varnished them.  I again made my own curtains with a sheer shade behind them.

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Master Bedroom:

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The color scheme for the master bedroom was a no-brainer.  Anyone who knows me, knows I have only ever had blue bedrooms of my own.  I just LOVE a blue bedroom.  Just like all the rooms in the dollhouse – handmade hardwood floors, same crown and baseboard throughout, hand-plastered ceilings, handpainted ceiling medallion, and handmade curtains.  I also tackled the task of making my own chandelier using a treble fishing hook, thin thread, and glass beads.  Let’s just say that from now on I will be purchasing all chandeliers ready made.

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The Dressing Room and Bathroom:

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And just because Rose is such a proper Victorian lady, she needs an entire room for dressing and it of course needs to be pink.  I can just see an elaborate vanity with miniature hairbrush, mirror, butterfly hair pin.  Hat boxes stacked in the corner next to an armoires filled with Victorian dresses.  Oh if only the budget would cooperate.

Again, I created the curtains – a white lace roman shade in the dressing room with tiny rose trim and a simpler pink damask with lace shade in the back area.

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I created the additional back area by dividing it off from the main area by using a ceiling room divider.  This room will be a bathroom.  Although you can not see it in this picture, the back room has a faux tin tile ceiling painted in white instead of my standard hand plastered finished.  Also, the flooring in this room is a parquet word floor.  I used the same craft sticks just stained them different tones and cut them on a miter to create the detail.

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Attic

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I opted to not add a hard wood floor to the attic.  I simply sanded, stained, and varnished the plywood floor.

I added a dividing wall in the middle of the attic to create two distinct spaces for decorating.  I am envisioning a child’s room with a small day bed tucked into the dormer space and in the additional room created, a play area with toys.

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And finally, as I did in the below hall, I added the illusion of an entrance into the attic via the ladder.

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There you have it.  My very first attempt at a dollhouse.  It took approx. 1 year to complete.  I believe my next project will be a small room box to allow myself a break from this massive project.

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