Dry build and porch mockup

by brae  

Now that I have all the pieces I need to build the Newport, I decided to give it a test run without glue and amazingly, very little tape.  I am in love!  :D

As for the porch, I watched way too much HGTV over the weekend.  One show featured a curb appeal revamp of a red brick house with a large covered front porch including a seating area.  The Newport has a front porch but it's too narrow for any sort of comfy chair.  During the dry build, I took some scraps of wood, foam core board and some railing sections to build a quick and dirty front porch mockup.   These parts are in no way cut to fit together and it's missing the stairs and the second floor end post, but I rather like it!

Front door upgrade

by brae  

When I bought the Yorktown pediments to spruce up the windows, I also bought the Yorktown Front Door by Houseworks.  It is the same height as the door that came with the kit, but the opening wasn't wide enough to accommodate the new door.  Before making any cuts on the prefinished brick piece, I cut a mockup out of foam core board to try out the positioning.  I decided to widen the opening toward the outer edge since I didn't want the door any closer to the window.

I used the utility knife technique shown on dhbuilder.com.  First, I scored the line on the brick side using a straight edge, cutting toward the opening to avoid accidentally scratching the remaining brick surface.  After reaching some depth in the brick surface layer, I flipped the board over and started cutting the back side, chipping out the mdf along the way.  Then, I continued working on the front chipping out the brick layer and mdf underneath until the section began to separate.  The small portions of brick that came off on the remaining wall will be covered by the door trim.


click image to enlarge


I kept the brick scraps in case I need to repair any damage done during construction or in the future.

The new front door fits into the enlarged space nicely.  I will most likely add pieces under the bottom trim to prop the door up in the space when it is installed; this will make sure the top of the door and the top of the adjacent window are level.  It might not be like that in real life, but in this small of a space the horizontal lines of the brick make any difference in height obvious.

The Plan

by brae  

To help keep track of the ideas in my head, I created a simple mockup of the Newport as it stands currently (this is the third or fourth draft).  I do have a version that is more detailed, but this is the teaser page I am posting for now.  :D  I am still working out some ideas (and I am sure to continue doing so as I build and things turn out contrary to plan), but I don't want to give away all of the surprises just yet!

The first floor will have a study, living room, kitchen/dining room and a room to be announced later.  The second floor will have two bedrooms and a bathroom.  The third floor will have a sewing room, powder room and an art studio.

The last of the addition kits should be here shortly...I am very excited!  Now, who wants to join me and the cat for a glass of wine in the study?

Window upgrades

by brae  

The Newport kit came with window inserts with white lines printed on the acrylic.  Right away I planned to replace the window inserts with clear unlined plastic since I didn't like the look of the white lines.  Initially, I looked into getting working windows, and I loved the look of the Yorktown style by Houseworks.  There were two problems with replacing the existing windows with the Yorktown working windows.  First, the working windows fit an opening 1/2" deep.  The walls are 3/8" thick.  The gap would have to be addressed either on the inside or out.  Second, and more importantly, there was the cost of replacing 16 windows (including the 2-story addition).  Since I don't plan to sit around opening and closing the windows anyway and it is more about the overall look for me, I decided to go with a more economical solution.

I purchased Yorktown window pediments to use with the existing windows.  I then cut a piece of 1/8" x 1/4" scrap wood to fit the inner width of the window.  With the existing acrylic window inserted, I lined up the new mullion piece with the middle horizontal line on the acrylic.  I will also cut a mullion piece for the interior side of the acrylic.


click image to enlarge

Upgrading with the Yorktown window pediments was no problem for the main house windows, but the dormers are constructed with the pediment as part of the overall structure - not just placed on the exterior surface as decoration.  The Yorktown pediment is taller than the one that came in the kit, and this difference created a large gap between the top of the dormer walls and the dormer roof; it also pushed the peak of the dormer too close to the top edge of the mansard roof.  To fix this, I carefully disassembled the dormer windows and cut off the amount equal to the height difference between the pediments.  I then glued the window back together.  Since I planned to replace the acrylic anyway, it didn't matter that the provided insert no longer fit properly.

Good read before the build

by brae  

I've spent a lot of time online looking at what other miniaturists have done and have read quite a few tutorials on everything from making my own furniture to basic building and decorating techniques.  After a quick search on amazon.com, I quickly discovered just how many books there are on the subject.  Since I really don't know what books I'll want to add to my collection permanently, I finally got around to signing up for a library card.  :]  My local library has a drive-up window and a bookmobile that stops right by my house once a week.  The library has certainly changed since the last time I visited!

I checked out five books that seemed promising, though only one was devoted exclusively to building and decorating techniques.  She used a number of houses with different features to illustrate her points, so it has universal application.  This is a "must read" for any dollhouse builder, but in my opinion you have to get to it before you do anything.


The ABC's of Dollhouse Finishing by Barbara Warner

One thing I especially liked was her commentary on windows in brick houses, that they are recessed into the brick and not installed on top the way windows are on a sided house.  Of course, then I found myself eyeing all the brick houses on the way to work and found she was right.  But, I also saw windows with cast stone surrounds that mimic the look of a 'regular' window.

I want a more realistic look to my dollhouse, but since the Newport is prefinished, there really isn't a way for me to recess the windows in the typical fashion and be able to match the exterior around the edges of the window.  I thought about installing the windows in reverse, making them flush with the outer wall, with the pediment and sill as finishing (this would have the decorative trim on the interior, which didn't look bad at all).

But, I like the decorative trim on the outside, so we'll just say they're cast stone.  ;]

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