Thursday, 5 December 2013

Painting Up

With walls and floors removed and all the wiring out of the way, it was time to start painting up the interior. While we'd started with the idea of individual décor in each room - the way a real house would be - a few words of caution from my sister gave us pause for thought, and the current plan is to paint all the rooms white for the time being.

That certainly cut down the time it took to get all the rooms painted, since we didn't have to channel our inner four-year-old to pick colours for the rooms. The first coat in most rooms was a joint effort between my mother and me, but the second coat - after a round of sanding to smooth out some of the blobby bits - was all my mother's work.

Something that became apparent during the painting was that much of the hardboard must have been recycled because it's riddled with nail holes which needed filling. What was interesting about the painting was that, while the paint liked to fill the holes that had been drilled for the ceiling light fittings, it never did quite such a good job with the nail holes - they ended up with some Polyfilla spread over them.

It's quite amazing what a coat of simple white paint does for the interior... Not only does it look brand new, but it's brighter (even compared to when it was papered inside) and possibly looks larger. This effect should be enhanced when the window holes are enlarged for the new window frames...
Front of house - rear walls removed (so the top right room
needn't have had the rear wall painted)
Back of house. The top right room is currently planned
to be the bathroom, and the bottom right room as the kitchen
The landing and the handrail around the top of the staircase
In the original dolls' house, all the carpeting was made using dressmaking fabric, but none of it was ever fastened down. These days, there are many more options available for floor (and wall) coverings, and my mother ordered a small sampling, including molded and painted plastic 'tile' effects for the bathroom/kitchen and several different colours of sticky-backed foamy 'carpet'

Since it's difficult to know how these sorts of things will look in situ, I took the above photos of all of the samples in order to do a quick, rough Photoshop job on the front of the house. This isn't an example of how the finished house is going to look (for one thing, the bathroom will be at the back of the house, not the front), but it was enough to convince my mother that she wanted the whole bathroom 'tiled', not just the floor. The kitchen will likely only have a tiled floor, but that remains to be decided.

Along with the carpet samples, my mother ordered a strip of the yellow carpet for the stairs. This was the first piece of carpet to be installed, though it needs a bit of trimming to fit it around the handrail posts at the top and bottom of the stairs.

I've been saying all along that the dolls' house is going to look fantastic once it's finished but, even at this early stage, one can begin to see its potential. The only worry we have about the décor stems from my sister's concerns that her daughter may be at the stage where she'll scribble on anything (because that's apparently what one of her schoolfriends does)... but based on my experience of the precocious young 'un, she tends to scribble on paper more than objects (and it tends to be only paper she's been given for the purpose rather than random scraps), though I have to admit I don't see her often enough to be certain that my experience counts for much.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

One Door Installed, But...

After much discussion on the relative merits of cutting down the wooden doors my mother bought months ago, versus building new doors to the required size, based on the design of those doors, my father eventually - somewhat reluctantly - cut down the existing doors, removing the shorter, topmost sections and refitting them within a truncated frame.

Some of the cutting wasn't perfectly even, leaving a subtle gap in the frame on one side, but a touch of Polyfilla and coat of paint will cover that up well enough.

Just for fun, though, the front door - pictured above - has been fitted to the larger of the two rear panels of the dolls' house and, because the rooms are not consistently sized, these panels cannot be simply switched from front to back. In the photo, the panel is about 1.5" inset from the left hand side of the house in order to give the impression of where the front door would be, had it been fitted to the correct panel.

When last I checked, we still weren't entirely decided on what would be done about the 'true' front door, since the only ornate door frame we purchased is glued firmly in as the back door... but at least we can begin to see how good the finished house will look.

Also, that window above the door looks awesome, and demonstrates the height all the other window frames will be, once all the alterations are done. The remaining frames aren't going to be as detailed, since we needed eighteen in total(!) but all of them will have thin plastic sheeting glued on as the 'windows'.

Stripped & Bared

I've been a bit lax with this blog (and all the others, frankly), so this is the first part of a big catch up which should bring us as up-to-date as possible, until I next visit my folks...

One important part of this update is the news from my sister that she was hoping to give this to her daughter as a Christmas present. This year. That's a bit of a blow, as the rest of us were hoping for a little longer so the work (and cost) could be spread out more gradually. It also means this blog could end up being substantially shorter unless, once the dolls' house is complete, my sister picks it up and writes about her memories of playing with it 30-odd years ago and/or how her daughter gets on with it. That could go on for another few years but, unless we miss the deadline, the refurb has only a couple more weeks to go.

Still... Plenty to add for the moment, starting with the last of the stripping and making ready and the first bits of painting and decorating.

With the exterior fully stripped, it was time to move onto the interior... where it all gets a bit fiddly. The papered parts of the walls are slightly inset versus the framework so, while the paper was peeling in some places, getting it all off evenly was quite tricky. On the upside, the back walls of the rooms on the front of the house were screwed in place so they could be removed to access wiring, making the stripping of those surfaces far easier. The back walls of the rooms at the rear of the house were glued in place, like the ground floor's ceilings, leaving cavities of a few millimetres through which all the wiring could run. The switches sit in small indentations in the hardboard, allowing them to be pushed through far enough that they can be fixed in place by the nuts they were supplied with.

The rooms aren't perfectly consistent in their construction, though it was still considered wise to label the removable floors and walls, as well as the front and back of the house, to ensure everything goes back in its correct place.

Of course, things don't always work out that way... but more on that in a later post...

Removing the back wall panels from the front rooms allowed us to see the wiring for the first time in about thirty years, giving us a better idea of how it all came together in the first place. Chances are, like the fresh batch of ceiling lights we bought, the originals came with little 2-pin plugs for their power, but they ended up fully wired in, via the individual switches in the back walls of most rooms, and the ceilings of the hall, landing and through lounge.

Like the back walls panels from the front of the house, the upstairs floors were screwed down, and came out easily enough. This revealed how most wires from all over the house were fed through to the loft on one side, via a hole drilled in one of the pieces of framework. The wiring was kept loose and fairly slack, rather than trying to fit it precisely to the walls. Each wire from a ceiling light looped down the back wall to its switch, then back up to the loft where they were connected into a screw terminal block, which then led down to the bottom of the house, out under the base to a transformer and, from there, to the mains.

I asked my father if he had any circuit diagrams for the wiring of the dolls house, or if it was done on-the-fly. After answering very emphatically that it was done on-the-fly, he muttered "diagrams..." in a somewhat incredulous tone. With my father, it seems, proper preparation does not necessitate painstakingly logging every step of the process...

There's one internal wall surface in the third photo, above, which seems to show signs of burning at one of the wire joints. While this has been painted over now, it wasn't noticeable after the original wiring was removed, and the wiring itself shows no sign of having burnt, so I guess it was just a trick of the flash. One light had stopped working, but no-one can quite remember which room it had been in.

After these photos were taken, all the wiring was removed and set aside, and work began on painting the interior...