Hooked on Half Scale
By Emily Morganti
I got into half scale thanks to peer pressure. I’d recently completed my first dollhouse kit (the Orchid) and wanted to build another, but with two 1:12 houses already, my studio apartment was running out of display space. Plus, I received a set of Avon resin furniture as a Christmas gift that was much too small to display in my 1:12 houses. As I bemoaned these injustices on the Greenleaf forum, some other members who were far braver than me suggested I try the half scale Fairfield as a solution to both problems. I remember initially discounting the idea: half scale, me?! It seemed impossible (not to mention impossibly tiny!), a project only a hardcore miniaturist with much more experience should dare to attempt. But I really liked the house’s layout, and after seeing some pictures of beautifully finished Fairfields, I crossed my fingers and took the plunge.
Six years later, it seems silly that I was so worried about it. Working in half scale is second nature to me now. But I still remember that feeling—the apprehension, the mental block (half scale, me?!)—that I’m sure some of you have when you think about jumping into 1:24 scale. This smaller scale has been steadily gaining popularity in the six years since I first gave it a try, and especially now with the introduction of Greenleaf’s half scale laser cut houses, I bet there are a lot of people reading this who could use a little nudge. So I’ll do my best! Without further ado, here are the five things I love best about half scale—and maybe you will in the near future, too.
1) Half scale takes up less space.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but until you’ve seen how compact a half scale house is, I don’t think the space issue really sinks in. In half scale, one inch equals two feet. This means that all three dimensions—width, height, and depth—are cut in half. Due to the smaller size, a half scale house takes less room to work on and less display space when it’s finished. The house can have an intricate floor plan or a fully landscaped base, without turning into a hulking monstrosity that takes up half the living room and won’t fit through the door when it’s finished. Likewise, you have more freedom to come up with creative bashes (like the dual Rosedale I’ve been thinking about) without the size going out of control.
I want to display my finished houses. My own home is fairly small and I simply don’t have the space to accommodate multiple 1:12 dollhouses, but there are all sorts of nooks and crannies, bookshelves and table tops that will easily accommodate a 1:24 structure. And that means I can show off my handiwork to anyone who comes to visit, instead of keeping the houses closed off in my craft room!
One final space benefit: if you’re a multitasker with several projects going at once, a half scale house is easy to put out of the way on a shelf until you’re ready to go back to it. Try doing that with a Garfield!
2) Half scale houses are easy to move around.
I didn’t realize until after I finished my Fairfield and went back to 1:12 projects how much I had come to rely on its portability. Due to their smaller sizes, half scale houses—especially those made from Greenleaf’s lightweight plywood—are very easy to pick up, turn around, and even turn upside down to get closer to the spot you’re working on. Because 1:24 houses are compact, they’re not bulky and awkward to lift like many 1:12 houses can be. You can always find a hand-hold. This is helpful during all sorts of building and decorating tasks, such as painting, wallpapering, and applying siding and shingles.
Here’s an example: when I electrify my houses, I hide the junction splice under the floor. When it came time to landscape the Fairfield, I needed to run a cord through a hole drilled in the base and plug this into the junction splice that was secured inside of the foundation. With its trim and shingles in place the house was too delicate to safely turn on its side. I ended up lifting the house above my head in order to see the junction splice and plug in the cord. This would have been much harder to do with a larger house, but the approximately 14" x 14" Fairfield was simple to lift and move around.
3) Half scale houses require smaller quantities of certain supplies.
This is simple math. A house that’s half as large uses half as much of any supplies that cover its surface area than a standard 1:12 house. I’m talking about things like paint, wallpaper, flooring paper, wallpaper paste, molding, and baseboard trim.
I’ve found this to be especially liberating when it comes to wallpaper, since I’m able to turn to the ever-expanding scrapbook sections at the craft store for inspiration. Most scrapbook paper comes in 12" x 12" sheets, but the walls in most 1:12 houses are longer than this, which leaves a seam in the middle of the wall where two sheets of scrapbook paper meet. Even if you use regular dollhouse wallpaper, you usually only need one sheet to paper a half scale room, as opposed to three or four sheets for a 1:12 house. Another point: I love the Minigraphics wallpaper mucilage, but it’s expensive and comes in a small jar. When I’m working in half scale, that little jar lasts twice as long!
4) With half scale houses, some building tasks are cut in half, too.
This doesn’t hold true for every task. Cutting crown molding takes just as long (and is just as frustrating) whether your rooms are one inch scale or half inch. But certain tedious jobs, like painting an assembled house or gluing on shingles, definitely benefit from the smaller footprint. This isn’t only good from an efficiency standpoint; it’s also an incredible motivator. When I can spend a few hours painting or shingling and step back to admire a (more or less) finished product, I’m inspired to keep working on the house. And considering that my attention span is about the size of a thumbtack, anything that motivates me to keep plugging away on a dollhouse is a good thing!
5) Half scale allows for more creativity.
I saved this one for last, but it’s actually my favorite aspect of working in this smaller scale. Half scale makes me think differently. This is partly because there are fewer furniture and accessory products to choose from, so I need to get creative and make the items I’m unable to buy. But I also seem to come across more opportunities to use “found objects” in half scale—and the satisfaction that comes with their discovery is priceless. The selection in the miniature shops may be less extensive, but there are many other perfectly sized “collectables” lying in wait at thrift stores and on eBay. Christmas ornaments, dollar store toys, refrigerator magnets, pieces of Lemax and Dept. 56 villages, and even resin furniture sets like the Avon kitchen I received for Christmas years ago can all work well in half scale settings—often for better prices than “real” miniatures! (Case in point: recently I was eyeing an artisan-crafted picket fence and arbor in half scale that my local miniature store wanted $50 for. Instead, I walked into the train department and picked up a Lemax fence and arbor, intended for Christmas village scenes, for $2.50 a piece.)
I have also started to look at 1:12 components with an eye toward how they can be used differently. Turned spindles for 1-inch staircases have become the back legs of half-scale ladderback chairs; a 1-inch coffee table is now a half scale dining table; Houseworks’ 1:12 Jamestown shutters can be used as 1:24 decorative panels in a formal Victorian parlor. It’s also easier to scratch build in half scale; since the pieces are smaller, they don’t need as much detail as a 1-inch piece to come out looking just as good.
These are just a few of the reasons I’m hooked on half scale. Half scale houses are cute, compact, and creative—and they’re a lot of fun to build. So… what do you say? Consider yourself nudged!
Bonus: Half Scale Landscaping!
Click here for landscaping tips and tricks in half scale, including how to create the perfect base for your half scale house.
Editor’s Note: Emily is a miniaturist and freelance writer based in Northern California. To see more of Emily’s creations (including her full scale dollhouses), visit her Greenleaf gallery and her website, or find more half scale how-to on her blog.
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