So You Want to Build a Dollhouse
Part 2: Planning a theme or décor
By Deb Roberts
Now that you’ve selected your dream house, you may want to consider how you’re going to decorate or theme the house before you start building. A specific theme or décor can call for modifications to the house that may require planning ahead.
The planning process is unique to each builder, so there is no wrong or right way to proceed. Many builders consider the planning process to be one of the most entertaining parts of building miniatures. In this article we’ll cover some tips and techniques to try as you go thru the planning process.
If you already have the kit in hand, the best way to begin planning is to put the house in dry fit (assemble the house shell using tape instead of glue) so you have the house in front of you to visualize your plans. If you’re planning the house prior to receiving it, many sites such as the Greenleaf store have close up pictures of the interior and exterior of their houses, as well as a zoom feature so you can see details more clearly. Keep a notebook and pencil close at hand while you begin planning so you can make notes of your ideas as they come to you. Even if you think you have no drawing ability, make sketches of your ideas. The sketches don’t have to look perfect, but they do help you with a visualization of your concepts. They’ll also be helpful to refer to during the building process to ensure you don’t forget any tiny details.
When you begin planning, consider the overall design of the house. Does the kit fit your goal for the style and period you want? Were you wishing for a slightly more modern look to a Victorian house, or vice versa? Do you know yet if you’re going to need to add or remove walls, doors or windows? Are you going to be using any specialty items such as floor coverings, or will you use the existing wood for hardwood floors? This is the time to consider any modifications (bashing) that you’ll want to do. If the kit is in dry fit, you can use a light pencil to mark the walls and floors where the modifications will occur. (it’s also a good time to mark any tabs/slots that might need shaving and where your wallpaper lines will be) If you’ll be tape wiring the house, now is the time to plan where your tape runs will be and mark them in pencil. If you are working with sketches, make an extra copy of the pattern for your tape runs and when the house if finished, secure it to the underside of the foundation. If you ever need to modify or repair the wiring in the future, you’ll have a copy of your wiring schematics at hand.
Color choice is important for both interior and exterior and something you’ll want to consider right away. There is a very helpful article for color choices at Dollhouse Universe that can help with selections. You’ll be considering paint choices for exterior walls and trim as well as interior colors, wallpaper choices and stains for woodwork, so it’s helpful to lay out your palette and see how well the colors go together. Using paint chips to lay the colors side by side is the best way to visualize. If you’ll be using stain, ‘audition’ the stain on scraps of the wood from the kit so you can see how each stain will display on the wood. Keep in mind that the shade of the wood itself can change the end result of the stain color.
If you’ll be using wallpaper, you may want to print out swatches of the wallpaper before you purchase it. You can create swatches of wallpaper by copying and pasting images from online stores into a document, printing them out and then cutting out the individual swatches. Laying out the wallpaper on a table or floor in the order in which it will be seen in the house allows you to see the ‘flow’ of the paper from room to room and floor to floor. It’s much easier to rearrange the swatches to get the perfect balance than it is to repaper a room after you’ve discovered that two rooms next to one another clash in color, or that you’ve created an imbalance in the house by putting too many stripes on one side of the house and too many florals on the other side. Wallpaper is certainly not your only choice for interior walls. In fact, those options are so numerous that the choices for wall treatments are discussed in a separate article in this issue of the Gazette.
Also consider your choices for floor coverings. Comparing swatches of wallpaper with your auditions of stains for hardwood floors, or against tile, linoleum, carpet or other floor coverings will help you determine that the floors and walls are harmonious and ensure that the ‘break’ between floor and wall is visible. You’ll want to avoid floor patterns or colors that are too similar to the wall coverings since that can give an optical illusion that the floors and walls are blended. This is also a good time to determine if you’ll be adding baseboards and crown moulding, and if you want them to be stained or painted.
Many builders will already know the type of furnishings they’ll be including in a specific house before they begin. In fact, a large number of houses are actually built around one special miniature piece. As with decorating a large house, sometimes the best results are obtained when décor is planned around a favorite armoire, or living room suite, or even a lamp or rug. If you already have furnishings planned, place them in the house in dry fit—or sketch out the floor plan of your house and add in the measurements for the furnishings you’ll be using. This sense of placement gives you the confidence in knowing your treasures will fit well into your house, as well as allowing you to consider arrangements and the planning of other furnishings that will be included.
If you don’t have specific furnishings in mind but are planning on adding them into the house after it’s built, take some time to think ahead to those furnishings. This is the miniature version of window shopping and extremely fun to do. Many online miniature stores offer a “wish list” so you can save your favorite minis to one page and go thru them at leisure. Keep a tape measure handy so you can check to be sure the minis you desire will fit into the room for which they’re intended. While you’re planning, copy and paste the pictures of each item for a room into a document on your computer, and compare it to the wallpaper swatches, paint chips and stains to get an overall view how the completed room will look.
Finally, there is the decision of landscaping. If you’ll be adding landscaping to your house, you’ll want to decide on the types of greenery you’ll be using, the style and placement of the features, flowers, trees and bushes, and how those designs will fit with the style/era of the house. Will you be adding a gazebo or a fountain to a romantic Victorian side garden? Is there a vegetable garden behind the farmhouse? Or a swing set and slide in the front yard for the kids? Does your fairy or elf need a tree trunk to hide in when the ogre comes to call? Sketching out your landscaping designs will give you an idea of placement, proportion and space so you can plan for the size of the base you’ll need as well as gathering supplies.
Obviously, it’s not necessary to take all these steps to plan your décor, but it can be helpful to plan ahead on many things. Some builders never use any planning at all and follow their instincts for each step of the building process to tremendous success. Regardless of your method, the same key applies to any building or decorating………..make it suit your own personal tastes. After all, it’s your house and there are no rules. The most important thing is that you enjoy the processes of building and decorating, and that the end result is delightful for you.
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