A Victorian House

The 1877 inventory of Sambourne House, the comfortable middle class English house of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne and his wife Marion, reveals that they had 66 upright chairs.
There were 10 in the dining room, 12 in the drawing room, 10 in the best bedroom, 10 in the day nursery, and the rest were distributed among the other rooms.
Can you imagine having 10 guests sitting around in your bedroom having a nice chat? People certainly did behave differently over 100 years ago.

Does your Victorian dollhouse have enough upright chairs?

Another unusual amount of an everyday thing in Mrs. Sambourne's house, unusual to us 21st century folk, but not to Mrs. Sambourne's contemporaries, is the number of framed photographs displayed on the walls. Just for starters, she had 35 in the rear hall, and 94 on the staircase.

The Sambournes lived at 18 Stafford Terrace in London. There are two rooms on each floor, and the staircase rises from the back of the hall. Bathrooms and lavatories are off the half landings.
The Stafford house has 5 stories, including the basement, where the kitchens and servants' quarters are located. The dining room and study are on the ground floor. The main entertaining rooms are on the first floor (2nd floor to Americans) the main bedrooms on the next floor, children and the nursery quarters above that. Servants rooms were on the top floor. Generally, female staff would sleep there, and manservants would sleep in the basement.

Today Sambourne House is a museum. The house is decorated the way it was in Marion Sambourne's time. Her son inherited it in 1914 and left it practically unchanged till his death in 1946. The house continued to be owned by the family for some time thereafter who continued the preservation.
You can see a video which features a partial tour of the house and people who lived in it here. You'll see that huge array of photographs on the walls.

I've found some more pictures online. They include the front of the house, the front hall, the drawing room, and a bedroom.

If you'd like to find out more, you can read A Victorian Household by Shirley Nicholson, based on the diaries of Marion Sambourne.

Since I started this post with the 1877 Sambourne inventory, here's another item from the same year.
Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Queen Victoria and future king, was living in Marlborough House in 1877.
At that time he had 88 servants, 29 were women, 59 were men. Of the men, 17 had no where to sleep because the house was overcrowded. The poor fellows without beds to sleep in were a page, a piper, a cook, a cook's apprentice, a valet, the prince's brusher, a cellar man, 2 under butlers, 2 pantry assistants, an usher of the hall, 2 lamp men and 3 coal porters.
I assume the brusher was the man who brushed the prince's clothes and kept them clean. Where did they sleep? Well, normally they'd roll out a mattress or some blankets and sleep on the floor in the basement.
When servants of overnight visitors came to stay they had to be boarded out in neighboring houses.
Eventually, the indoor and outdoor staff increased to 120.

This also from the book Victorians at Home by Susan Lansdun......
The Marlboro House basement was always blocked with boxes and cases of glass, china and empty boxes, and when balls were held, all the furniture in the drawing rooms and dining rooms had to be taken to the upholsterers for storage. The only storage room in the house had been turned into a drying closet. All the linen in the house was dried in front of a small fire .
In the 18880’s the 3 princesses still occupied the same small room they had slept in when they were little girls. when the eldest princess went to a party she had to dress in her maid's room, which was also shared by another maid. The passage to the princesses bedroom was also blocked by boxes and wardrobes.
Not exactly the picture you have in mind of a royal residence, is it?

To find out a whole lot more about Victorian homes, visit my Victorian blog, Victorian Interiors and More.

A miniature roll up reed shade

You can see the construction of the 1" scale Beach House from start to finish on the 1:12 Scale Beach House Page. 

 Today I can show you a working roll up reed shade for the beach house. I still have to make another one for the back window.
I made it out of a reed placemat, which was the inspiration for this project in the first place. The little grass mat is actually a coaster.
Here's a closeup of the front of the shade.
I cut a piece out of the placemat the width of the window and a little longer than the height of the window.
You want it to be a little longer, because the bottom few reeds will work loose and come off immediately. I then glued the loose strings together and to the back of the bottom of the blind, snipping off any loose thread after the glue had dried.
Here's a picture of the back.
First I ran the end of the pull string under the top reed. I used a piece of embroidery floss. I stiffened the end of the thread with glue so I could guide it through the tiny space between the reeds. I then tied it securely to the top reed.
I then ran the thread down the back of the blind, then back up the front, and over the top reed.
If you glance back at the first picture showing the front of the blind, you'll see the string hanging down from the back.
Next I had to hang it.
I cut a strip of basswood the width of the blind, and also several smaller pieces. I glued the small pieces to the strip as shown. I did this so that the pull string could move easily, and also because the original knotted threads of the placemat would have wound up glued to the wood strip instead of the top 2 reeds. This way the shade is more likely to stay put.
You can see what I mean in the picture below. I was just holding it all in place, I hadn't glued it together yet.

Today I also worked on making the roof. I discovered that the house turned out to be slightly off square. It's 1/8" wider at one end than the other. How this happened I have no idea. Anyway, it's causing me problems with my roof panels. I had to keep making little shifts and adjustments to get it to all come out evenly. I glued on one side of the roof, and am hoping to finish the other side tomorrow.
Instead of shingles, I think I might prefer a board roof. On the other hand, if I don't have enough wood to make the roof boards, I may fall back on wooden shingles. I do have a bag of those.

Finished pictures of Lithuanian Cottage

Today I finished scanning the rest of the pages of the 2010 Bespaq catalog for 1" scale. To see them click here, or the link in the right sidebar. You can enlarge the pages, just click the thumbnail, then click the full page image to enlarge it further. Use your browser's zoom control to see the images even larger. I know I always hated to buy miniatures just by looking at a tiny picture.

I also retook pictures of the Lithuanian cottage kitchen that I had made for my mother years ago. The last batch vanished when my computer crashed. It was a total loss, by the way.
Here's the room box, all spruced up, table glued back firmly into place.

Last time I forgot to take a picture with the cupboard door open to show what was inside. There's a wooden box on the top shelf. A screw eye stands in as a clasp, and a wooden bell painted with silver paint is below it.

On the table are preparations for a farmer's dinner, some bread, cheese, eggs ready to go into a pan, and dough rising for tomorrow's bread. The bread, dough, cheese and eggs in the blue bowl are all made from Sculpey.

Finally, here's the roof. These old cottages traditionally had thatched roofs, so I simulated one with drywall compound, aka: spackle or plaster. It's pretty rough looking, but it was just meant to give the suggestion of thatch. I think I used a whisk broom to mark up the plaster, then I painted it.

To see part one of the kitchen article, click here.


The Mahanoy City Lithuanian Miners Orchestra, of Mahanoy Pennsylvania, was an ensemble of Lithuanian immigrant coal miners. They recorded this medley of traditional Lithuanian village wedding tunes in April of 1929.

Press the first little arrow to play.

Repairing mama's Lithuanian kitchen


Just over a year ago I posted how I had made a little roombox to replace my mother's little kitchen. The post. And here's the picture I had taken of it before I sent it to my mother.

I must have made it around 17 years ago. I hadn't had much experience with miniatures then.

Over time the little kitchen got pretty dusty, and after mama died I brought it home in my suitcase, wherein it met with a little rough treatment. The kitchen table collapsed, and the hood over the stove broke.
Today I did a bit of a cleanup, and glued the stove hood back together.
The table was giving me a hard time, and I still have to repair it. I had simply glued the legs to the table, and then the table to the floor. Now I have marks on the floor where the table legs were glued. The floor is grooved MDF, so a little of the paper came off, which means I should try and glue the legs exactly where they were, or I'll have to figure out how to hide the damage on the floor.
By the way, I have no idea how I came to have some grooved MDF for a dollhouse floor.
The kitchen was meant to be reminiscent of old Lithuanian cottage kitchens, in traditional log homes. Whether or not it's a good representation, I'm not truly sure. I did as much research as I could, and my mother said it reminded her of home, so it must be close enough.
Here's a closeup of my logs.
I have a feeling I got the logs when I got the grooved floor. I don't know if I bought them to make the kitchen or for something else I've forgotten about. Here's a front on view of the wall.

I glued the log molding onto both sides of a thin piece of plywood.
Here's the stove. The hood had some plates glued to it, I'll have to put them back, and maybe give it a new coat of paint. The front panel of the hood cracked. I thought about making a replacement piece, but decided against it, and just make repairs.
People used masonry stoves similar to this in many parts of Europe. There was one in a British movie set in medieval England, I've seen them in photos of old Lithuanian and Scandinavian houses, I even saw a couple in some photos taken within the last 10-15 years or so of women cooking in their cottages in what used to be Yugoslavia.
The hutch is one from Michael's. I guess we had a Michael's where I used to live 17 years ago. That or some other store was selling them too.
My mother loved to garden, so there are some flower pots on the top of the hutch. There's a couple of items behind the cabinet door, but I forgot to take a picture with the door open. I'll try to remember to take another picture of the hutch when I'm done the renovation.
The basket holds a bunch on tiny silk roses, since mama liked flowers. I filled the other half with a couple kinds of potatoes and carrots, made from Sculpey. I touched them up with paint to color them.
Here are the shelves, with painted on cloths. I also made some red apples for the bowl, and painted some woodenware. The finished miniatures I bought all came from Just Miniature Scale, a dollhouse shop in Greensburg, PA where we lived at the time. If you're ever in Greensburg, stop by and say, Grazhina says hi.

I doubt my townhouse crown molding will arrive today, so I'll fix the table next.