I recently wrote about our October SibSab trip to Montreat, NC but one thing I did not mention is on the way there, my sister asked me out of the blue if I would like to build a dollhouse for her two granddaughters. I don’t recall my exact response, but I am confident it was something along the lines of an excited “Absolutely! I’d love to.” We then proceeded to discuss some of the particulars, such as what kind of house (a farmhouse) as well as how the dollhouse would get out to California where they live (another miniature road trip).
She seemed pretty excited about the prospect and said she could even make some miniature furniture to furnish the house. We left the discussion that she would ask her son and daughter-in-law if they would want me to build one for their girls. A few weeks later, my sister asked if I was still interested, and I said most definitely so, she immediately asked their parents; we quickly got the answer: a resounding yes, they would love for me to.
So, the next day, I went to my local hobby store where via texts and photos, we ruled out a smaller farmhouse kit…
…and picked the larger one with more character.
As I loaded the box in my car, I was quite excited myself getting the unexpected pleasure of building another dollhouse.
If you recall from my previous blog posts, I built two dollhouses in 2020 for my two granddaughters. But on the most recent post about the Chris Craft model boat I built, I figured that my next project was going to be a dollhouse for my other sister’s granddaughter. But since she only recently turned three, it would probably be over a year before I started that one. So, getting to build another dollhouse before that one was quite a nice treat.
My sister got busy too and found some vintage (circa 1978) 1/12-scale furniture kits online. The day the furniture kits arrived in the mail, my sister started a series of texts about how we should get started. I could tell she was most excited, and she even commented that she was not only building this for her granddaughters but for herself as well (an aside, my sister had four boys, so she never got the chance to do this for her kids). My sister, being an artist, said she wanted to pick out the interior and exterior color schemes, to which I readily agreed. She thought it would be easiest if she drove over to do that, but we could not make it happen before Thanksgiving. So, in order for me to go ahead and get started, I told her if she just went to her local hardware store and picked out paint chips for the exterior walls and trim, I could get started before she drove over.
The next day, I unloaded the pieces of the dollhouse first, to make sure I had them all and second, to identify them with penciled numbers so they could be easily retrieved as construction began.
Via texts, my sister picked out the exterior colors and I went and purchased samples of them to get started. Then over the next several days, I got excited texts from my sister about additions she could make. First up was to build some miniature Adirondack chairs for the porch using the same plans I had scaled down a number of years ago to make phone chairs. Then she found a book on making miniature oriental rugs. Then she ran across a porch swing and wanted to know if there was a place for it. Of course, I said, on the first-floor porch!
Over the next few weeks prior to her visit, with exterior colors selected, I made progress on building the foundation…
…and then trial fit the first-floor walls to make sure the painted porch lined up.
I then started what I have written about before as the most tedious, tiring, and labor-intensive step—painting and sanding the exterior clapboards between coats of paint. As the instructions indicated, I had to be careful not to wear down the bottom edge of the simulated clapboards which had been machined into the smooth medium density fiberboard (MDF). On this my third dollhouse made from this material, I tried a third different approach. After painting the first coat, I used a home-made sanding block to first sand with 120-grit paper and then with 220-grit paper, vacuuming the dust off between sandings.
Then between the second and third paint coats, I only sanded with the finer 220-grit paper and then used no sanding between the third and fourth coats which I finished the day before Thanksgiving.
Before my sister’s arrival, I also painted three coats of paint on all the exterior trim pieces, with the exception of the 148 individual balusters for the porch railing.
Prior to her visit, she had built a hall table and a bed, and she exclaimed she had had tremendous fun doing it.
On Saturday, we started out early at a local hobby shop that carried dollhouses as well as furniture and furnishings. My sister was like a little child in a candy shop with glee in her eyes seeing all of the possible items. As it turned out, she made quite a few purchases.
We then headed over to my favorite hardware store to pick paint colors for the interior walls.
We next temporarily set up the first-floor walls to decide which room would be which color (that’s her dog making a careful inspection).
On Sunday, I told my sister I was going to put her to work doing some of the painting to which she happily agreed. Even after a couple hours of tediously painting over 80 small interior trim pieces, she said she was having a blast.
Meanwhile, I got busy painting the first-floor interior walls with the first of four colors and for the first time, I used a small roller which made the job much easier.
At my sister’s suggestion, between coats, I wrapped the roller in plastic wrap, and I additionally put the tray and roller inside a sealed plastic bag.
This kept the roller and pan from drying out which was much easier than cleaning everything up. A couple of hours later, I rolled the second coat which was all that was needed to provide a nice finish. This was a much easier approach than the previous brush painting that I had done on the other doll houses which took as many as four coats to adequately hide the brown MDF material.
When my sister left on Monday morning, we both commented what a great time we had both had over the weekend. It was the first time in over 50 years that we had “played” together, sharing something we both love: working with our hands and building something. We still have other details to work out such as flooring and potential upgrades to the kit, but my sister said she would probably come back over again in the spring for another “hands on” play session.
The target date for having the dollhouse and furniture finished and ready for their road trip out west is the end of May, when my sister will be through teaching. So, look for updates in 2022 on this dollhouse and my sister’s furniture as well, an unexpected pleasure for the little kids inside both of us senior citizens!