18th century Pennsylvania stone house



The first floor of the house is made of builders' foam, also known as foam board insulation. The board I used was green, just like the one shown below. It came in a 1" x 24" x 24" sheet, was inexpensive, easy to cut with a scroll saw and carvable.
My inspiration for this house was the photo below.
This is a photo of an old stone farmhouse taken sometime in the 1800's. The farm this house stood on is now part of urban Philadelphia, near what is now 17th and Dauphin streets. Similar houses were built throughout eastern Pennsylvania from around 1690 onwards.

Whitewashing of exterior walls was common. It was supposed to keep bugs out of the house and help preserve the stonework.

The door in the upper story was a common feature in homes of this era. This was so it would be easier to transfer stored items in and out of the building. Anything you can think of would be kept up there, even grain and lumber.

Closeup of the loft door. Usually they were plainer than this, but I saw a photo of one that I liked on a house that was rebuilt by a historical society, so I made my own version.
I added a little stone veranda. The stones were cut or torn from a cardboard egg carton, then colored with a series of paint washes. The moss between the stones is simply paint.
Here's a closer view of the stonework. Instructions showing how I did it are here.

I've furnished the house in an 1830's period. 
The story that came to me was that the house belonged to a prosperous widow who decided she needed some peace and quiet and the house she was born in would be the perfect place, so she had it reroofed and made comfortable. Her sons and daughters said, "But Ma, won't you miss having us and all your grandchildren around you everyday?"
Back in her grandfather's day it could have sheltered a family of 6 or more.

Here's the main room of the house.
I've found that photos often make items in the foreground look oversized, so I retook the picture without the rocker. In real eye view the rocker looks just fine where it is. I decided to go for the invisible 4th wall look.

Here's the hearth and heart of the home, complete with ashes and a water pitcher and bucket in case a fire got out of hand (which they often did).

The other side of the room with a hutch displaying the homeowner's treasured china.


Here's a view of the inner side of the front door. All of the doors are fixed in place. The black iron hinges are clock hands. The latch here is also made using tiny clock hands.
Black slick Tulip brand fabric paint is very handy for black ironwork details. Recently, while working on another project, I discovered that I could form a shape with the stuff, then once it was dry, I could peel it off and glue it into place. Nice when you're trying to make a version of something and can't get it quite right the first time or two.

The bedroom with the height of luxury, a fireplace. As in any farmhouse of this era, it still continued to function as a storeroom.




Making a 1:12 scale stone wall using builders foam





Start with a sheet of rigid insulating builders foam and cut to size. I cut mine with a band saw or a scroll saw, which left a nice smooth edge.
When drawing on your stones, it’s best to get started by looking at some pictures of stone walls. It’s all too easy to make your stones get too big or too small. 


I found it easiest to start by drawing them with a pencil, applying enough pressure to indent my lines. 

Next I filled a medium sized ziploc bag with pebbles of assorted shapes and sizes. I think mine were originally purchased for an aquarium or something. I placed my bag on a section of incised wall, then I used a wooden dowel as a rolling pin to press the stones into the foam board. Sometimes I used the side of a hammer when I got tired of rolling, whacking without too much force, otherwise I’d have torn the surface of the foam. The pebbles do tend to wear through the bag, needing to be rebagged now and then. I tried pressing them into the foam board without the use of a bag, but it got pretty messy. The smaller stones tend to break down and you wind up with lots of stone dust.


The next step was to go back over my lines to define the shapes of the stones. Sometimes I used a metal skewer, holding it like a pencil, tracing my initial lines to deepen and define them. Sometimes I found a small screwdriver gave me a look I wanted, other times I used a small wedged tool. It gave some of the stones a slightly different edge. I think it was part of some arts and crafts kit we bought for one of the kids. 


I knew I needed more texture, so I got out 3 different sized chains. I’d drop a piece of chain down in a sort of clump, then roll over it with my dowel. You don’t want to press too hard or you’ll break through the foam surface and you’ll wind up with a messy area. I did this with each size of chain. I probably didn’t need to use the finer sized golden one, but what the heck, why not?



The final textures were applied to stones individually. For some I applied a little joint compound, using the tip of a palette knife, then patted gently with the tip of my finger. For others I dabbed a little glue on the stone then used the palette knife to apply a little artists’ texture paste. I found the texture paste easier to use than the joint compound. It’s “fluffier” than the wetter joint compound, but they gave me slightly different results.

On other stones I applied a little paperclay, first applying a little glue to the stone. I’d take a small ball of paperclay, press it out between my fingers and press it onto the stone, smoothing down the edges with the tip of my palette knife or the tip of the eraser on my pencil.
By the way, on the paperclay, joint compound, and texture pasted stones, once dry, I sanded their surfaces gently with an emery board.


On still other stones I used the rough paper of an egg carton. I’d cut off a small piece, then gently pry the section apart and peel off a piece, applying it with a bit of glue.


After I’d finished applying texture I’d go back and deepen or define the edges of the stones wherever I felt they needed it.

The stone wall is then ready to be painted.

























Inglenook Room Box



An old painting was my inspiration for this room box. I always found those big old fireplaces with windows within utterly fascinating.

The fireplace walls, hearthstone and ceiling timbers are styrofoam. 

The bricks that cover the floor were cut from bass stripwood.

While under construction, the floor was painted brick red in preparation for the laying of the wooden bricks.


Caribbean Cottage

I found a pair of cute dolls at a craft center in the Bahamas a few years ago and thought about making them a little house. I finally got around to it and just finished and here they are celebrating in their completed home. - Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

I opted to make it a room box that I could display on a shelf. The roof is a representation of a palm thatch roof, and is made from straw whisk brooms. There's an acrylic panel that slides into the front to keep out the dust. The front panel of the roof flips up so I can slide the panel in and out.
In January my husband and I were in Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and our taxi driver remarked that she'd just returned from a trip to Canada. She said many tourists who rode in her taxi wondered why in the heck she went to Canada in the middle of winter. It was cold there with snow! So different from living in the Caribbean she'd say. This is why the little cottage has travel posters to places like New York City and Scandinavia, places the little Bahamian couple would like to visit some day.


The first thing I made for the house was a blue table. Later I decided the table I made was all wrong for the room, so I made another one, same size, slightly different design, different shade of blue.
I also changed my mind at least 3 times about the chairs. In the end I went back to my original choice, only I painted the chairs blue with spray paint.
The red side table is a first for me. It's the first time I decided to make a drawer. Usually my drawers are false fronts, but this time I didn't have a piece of wood the right thickness, so I had to make a working drawer. 


In order to make the bedspread lay more naturally I inserted some heavy duty foil into it. The foil can be molded to shape.
I started to draw out a plan for the bedside cabinet, then I began wondering if I had anything I could use in my stash of broken furniture. I had a damaged wooden Victorian bathroom set with a sink that was almost the exact size of the cabinet I had drawn out, so I heated the sink in my microwave to loosen the glue and I pulled off the backsplash and I pulled out the faucets. Then I spray painted the cabinet and made a new top to cover the sink and I cut about 1/8" off the base to make the cabinet a little shorter. Eventually I decided it had too much blue mass and needed some alterations. I painted the panels the same red as the side table. I had a piece of fabric a similar color red, with a sprigged design and thought something similar would look nice on the panels - but then I decided I hated the effect, so I painted the side panels over in black and thought the contrasting colors didn't look half bad, so I stopped fooling with it.


In the beginning I was thinking of making this a front opening house, but I changed my mind. There's no real front architectural interest in such a simple cottage, a room box would be better. I did like the idea of an open window with louvered shutters, though.
The louvered shutters on the window are made from 1/8" flat strip wood and heavy watercolor paper.



Colonial Kitchen Room Box

The colonial kitchen started with this:
The colonial fireplace by Aztec Imports. It's a nice piece, but the bricks were just too brown, so I decided to be brave and change the color. I dabbed on some raw sienna and another brown shade with a stipple brush. I forget what the other color was, I think it may have been iron oxide. Then I used a blend of off white and a creamy light brown color and applied that lightly with a smaller stipple brush, rubbing it in with my finger till I got the look I wanted.

Here's the room. The setting is North America around the time of the Revolution.


The walls are sheathed in wooden panels and whitewashed, as is the ceiling. Wooden paneling helped block out the drafts, and whitewashing made the room much brighter. Candlelight was pretty dim, and the housewife needed all the light she could get. By the way, oil lamps were often more commonly used than candles, but generally that meant a cup of oil with a wick in it, which doesn't show up all that well in a miniature setting, so I chose to use candles.
The black baseboards are another authentic touch.

The floor in front of the fireplace is brick. The bricks were made of stripwood, with beveled edges. 
There are piles of ashes in the fireplace. They look better in real life than they do in the picture. I really struggled with those ashes, too. I wound up making the piles out of Paperclay. 
Of the 2 openings on the right, the upper one is the oven. Oven doors were originally made of wood, later they were replaced by removable metal doors or by hinged metal doors.
The lower opening was used as a warming oven.


A blue bucket bench is in the foreground. People were forever dragging about buckets of water. Every time you needed water for cooking or washing you had to go out to a spring, well, creek or river to get some.
After making this bench I was chagrined to find I had 2 more that I made a couple of years ago sitting in boxes on a shelf behind some other items. Oh well.... it's ok. I wanted the furniture in this room to look fairly new, and  I'd aged the other benches. Maybe I'll list them on Ebay.


I spray painted the cupboard hutch green. The original finish was oak or pine.
I took apart an unpainted table that was a bit too long, cut it back and glued it together to make one just the right size. The towel rack is one I made. 
The slat back chairs were originally white. They used to make them in dark walnut, but now they don't, so I had to apply many layers of paint to get them the shade of brown I wanted.


I have one more picture of the fireplace that reveals the basket of firewood.





1:24 finished half timbered cottage

Deep within the forest lies a little cottage. An elderly woman dwells within. Some think she's a witch, some a healer. Some think she's just a pleasant old woman who likes the peace and beauty of the forest.
Maybe she does have magical powers? Where did the forest go?
Here's a better look at her porch.
The living room and a work room in the cellar.
I had cut up pieces of laser cut filagree medallions I found at Michael's to add carved elements to the furniture, but couldn't find a piece that had bits to adapt as carvings for the easy chair. I tried to cut some, but they'd keep splintering and breaking about halfway through. They were just too tiny and I found it so frustrating. I thought about the chair's decoration a lot and finally decided to try some leaves from an artificial plant. Yay! Once I added a few painted leaves it began to look much better. The seat cushion is made of Paperclay.

The bedding is big and bulky, just like in the olden days. They're plumped up with dryer lint.
You can't see it well in this picture, but the old lady's cloak is hanging by the door.
In this picture the items on the shelves attached to the bed can be seen.
I needed 1/2" scale candles and candleholders. I had a couple of silver Clare Bell candlesticks, so I painted one black, because I felt 2 silver candlesticks or even 2 polished pewter candlesticks wouldn't be quite correct for this house. I managed to get a little wooden sliver into one candlestick to be a candle, but the second time I tried, I couldn't get it the right size to stay in place. I decided to try a piece of stiff string for the black candle. I added some glue to the snippet of string to firm it up, then added a few more layers of glue to thicken it. Then I got the idea to make wax drips. I used Aleene's Tacky Glue, it's stiff enough to form drips that will stay. I applied each drip with the tip of a darning needle, adding bits of glue as I needed them to get the look I wanted. I'll have to try it in 1" scale and see how it works out. The glue dried white, but the 2nd day I found out that when it's completely dry it turns clear, so I had to paint over the added "wax" layers and the drips.
Here's a peek down the cellar stairs. There's a barrel of potatoes, a hank of rope, I don't know what's in the bag in the crate. Onions maybe?
We've reached the cellar workroom. This is where the old woman does things that are no one else's business, just her own. There's a good sized cauldron in the fireplace. Maybe she makes soup for gnomes and elves? Or maybe not.

Accessories for 1:24 scale can be difficult. In the hutch on the right you can see a jar full of some golden liquid. That's actually a 1" scale jam jar with the label removed. In 1:24 it looks huge. Other items on the shelves are assorted beads,  1" scale sugars and creamers, the tiniest 1" scale bowls I could find, and bits of wood and dowels I turned into boxes and big pottery jars. The trunk in the left foreground is made from a little block of wood and a piece of molding I found years ago.
This view shows the things tucked into the area by the bottom of the stairs better. I filled the wooden basket with bead "apples". I wanted a tall candleholder, but couldn't get my ideas to work out quite right. They kept turning out funky looking, so I decided to paint a funky looking candlestick black and added one of my drippy candles.
Finally here's the work table. The potion book turned out to be easier to make than I thought it would be. I painted a flat piece of cardboard with a splotchy layer of Payne's Grey acrylic paint. The pages are made of facial tissue. I cut some pieces to size, stitched them together down the center and snipped off the edges of the sheets to size. Next I gave the pages a light spray of Krylon Matte Finish. It stiffened the pages a little and puckered them slightly giving them that old parchment look. next I just glued the pages to the backing, glued the book to the table, and dabbed on some writing using Payne's Grey paint with a very fine brush. I decided to add a couple of rolled parchments. To make them I just wound the tissue paper around a thin dowel before spraying with the matte finish. I used red thread to tie them closed. The other parchment is tucked into the hutch by the fireplace.
The little red box is one of several I made from a piece of wooden molding I found at Michael's. Here's a picture showing the molding and how I cut part of it off to form an interesting box shape.

I thought the tarnished brass "jar" was an interesting looking finial that had been laying in a box in my basement for years, so I used it.  The large gold candleholder with the drippy stump of wax in the corner of the table was the bottom of a 1" scale candle I had been experimenting on. I told myself I had wasted a perfectly good candlestick and then got an idea of how to use it.