The Doll House - A Poem

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Mad Miniaturist - 19 November 2000

19 November 2000:  A few changes to record!  I've painted the Cabinet House's Doll House! Yes, the doll house has a doll house! Though not finished yet, it will be Williamsburg Blue with white trim, medium grey roof and barn red chimneys. I'm hoping to paint "features" inside (i.e., rug, window, cabinets, etc.) as it's far too small to accommodate any furniture. 

Time for Tea for the Ladies - With Toy Soldiers Standing Attendance!

I'm also in the process of transforming a small wooden bird house into a gingerbread house.I think used match sticks will work for candy canes.  And I bought three small mirrors (without frames) that I plan to surround with shell trim.  I also bought three "pictures" - more for their frames. I'll put my own pictures in them. I've been gathering quite a few colored ones which I plan to reduce in size. Should (fingers crossed) turn out well!

The Christmas tree is up in the den (naturally!), with presents underneath and my two little boxes of Christmas decorations.  For now, I've put a garland of fake lights on the tree itself, but I'd like to be more authentic to the period, more traditional.  Candles would be nice if I can figure out how to do it. Paper chains and popcorn would be even better.  Or perhaps both.

Total chaos! And lousy photography! String of "lights" replaced with "pearl" string, but I still want to make a paper chain and perhaps a popcorn string. The little dog on the stairs belonged to my Gran; she gave him to me years ago, and now I know why. It would one day be on these stairs, unknown to us at the time!

I finally discovered how to hang the four resin "stockings" (formerly miniature ornaments). I thought initially that a small nail or brad would work, but I couldn't find any small enough that wouldn't split the wood. Then I found doll house sized door knobs in brass! They work perfectly.  I've glued them to the top of the mantel and hung the stockings from them.  Sounds odd, but looks very nice!  They may even be able to stay, as they have a certain nautical look to them - like miniature capstans!  And this is a "nautical" room!

And to finish the day's accomplishments, Mama gave me some blue and red metal "spatterware" cups and plates for the kitchen and a pair of Victorian style ladies' boots, which probably need to be put in the attic now I think of it!

Disgraceful state of affairs - dirty dishes in the sink!

As you can see, I've been having a lot of fun. And I'm also enjoying working in my bedroom studio. My own little niche - while visions of sugarplums dance in my head!! Ha Ha

P.S.  Lace seam binding makes great curtains for the CHDH (cabinet house doll house). A bit large of pattern, but still sweet!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Mad Miniaturist - 29 October 2000

29 October 2000:  I found a small, whole (perfect) sand dollar in the surf early this morning! I plan to display it on a homemade tripod (of matchsticks?) in the doll house.  Perhaps on a piece of furniture, or on a fireplace mantel?

30 October 2000:  I've spent the day searching for just the right kinds of shells, both on the beach and in the shops.  From the beach, I found groupings of particular shells, either by colors or species.  These I shall display as collections.  From the shops I found a variety of shells for my "one of a kinds", to be displayed individually.
I'm looking forward to returning home and working on my house! I wonder if I should name it - at least just yet?  Perhaps not.  But when the time is right.......

I simply must have something that will consume me in its wake!  Otherwise, I shall miss Nigel terribly.  There it is, in a nutshell.  The reason.

11 November 2000:  It's been awhile, I know.  Christmas - decorating the house (another passion of mine) - has consumed me the past few days.  Though not to the point where it's kept me from purchasing several new items!  And then, there is the fun of decorating the cabinet house for Christmas!

Today I bought two new books, and I also bought a nice little linen cupboard (for the bathroom I think) and a nice little chest.  I also found some tiny miniatures for the Cabinet House's doll house!  I found everything at Hartlex Antiques Mall (except for the books). 

I'm forever "looking" for items now.  It's funny how once this bug has bitten you, you look at the world in a completely different way.  Everything you look at, you wonder "Is it small enough? Will it fit? Can I use any part of this?"

Nigel refers to me as being in "la la land".  It is a whole different world, I must admit.  But a nice world!  I'm hoping to finish decorating soon so I can return to the (doll) house!  Finally I've found something which tears at me as much as - if not more than - Christmas.  My Cabinet House!

P.S.  I've purchased "wood" for the flooring.  Popsicle sticks!!

Jan Fursdon
Madison, Alabama

Monday, November 14, 2011

Diary of a Mad Miniaturist: 29 October 2000

29 October 2000:  Greetings from Gulf Shores, Alabama!  I have indeed found many shells for the doll house.  I'm even toying with the idea of a "shell wall" in the Mud Room.  Or if it's going to be a Sun Room. . . well, perhaps a shell wall would work there as well, or perhaps in the Roof Top Garden?  I'll have to give that further thought.

New items of interest - I "rediscovered" a lovely doily in the house the other day (Thursday?) and I've purchased two more here - at Nigel's urging no less! He found them and suggested I use them as "rugs"!  I was so pleased that he took an interest.  But the best is yet to come!

Some time later, when we'd been through so many shops I'd lost track and I was all for giving up but Nigel kept insisting we stay.....we found a bookstore.  I went in and found a spot to browse, then I saw Nigel in the Craft Section, looking for something.  The next thing I know, he's gone and I start to look through the books in that area - to see if I could find any about - what else - doll houses.  Then I hear him calling my name and motioning for me to join him.  I have to admit I was a little exasperated because I didn't want to leave my search just yet.  But I gave in and went over to him.  That's when he presented me with a book on doll houses!  He said it was the only one he could find and he hoped I didn't already have it.

I was so proud of him and so thoughtfully touched by his sweet gesture.  It still makes me smile inside! I think he approves! Or at least he acknowledges that I have a keen interest in this.....and I will do for some time to come!

P.S.  I have no idea if the book is any good. But I was so pleased with Nigel's interest that even if I already had the book, I don't think I would have told him!

Until the next post.
May God Bless, Jan

Diary of a Mad Miniaturist: 22 October 2000

22 October 2000:  I found a white picket fence and an arbor to walk under!  They'll be stunning in the rooftop garden, with greenery and perhaps roses entertwined!
24 October 2000:  A new development! A stitched quilt-pattern rug for the dining room! It's a piece of 12 quilt block patterns I cross stitched years ago - in 1993 to be exact.  When completed though, I never cared for the piece.  Now it will serve the dining room well.  All I have to do is stitch along the edge of the design, then fray the edges to resemble a rug.
Completed "rug".  It looks great, even if I do say so myself!

26 October 2000:  My glass faceted door knobs have come in and - after some fiddling with them on my part - they are now in place.  A trifle large, but pretty nonetheless!  I've also decided (at least I think I've decided) to distress the overall outside finish.

Last evening, we went to the Public Library where not only did I find several books on the subject of doll houses, I actually saw a real doll house on display!  If truth be told, I believe I've seen it before, but having no particular interest in the subject at the time, I failed to truly appreciate it then. 

I've also been given the telephone number of a lady here in Huntsville who apparently is "chairperson" of a local miniaturist club!  I haven't called her yet.  Perhaps when we return from our trip to Gulf Shores (Nigel and I).

Today, I found what appears to be a good Internet address for doll accessories.  The items on view were extraordinary!! Garden furniture, food, kitchenware, etc.  Perhaps if there is a local club, they'll know where best to shop!

And while in Gulf Shores, I hope (at a minimum) to collect baby shells for projects later on.  Maybe a shell encrusted mirror frame, or covered box or chest?  Or just some shells to display!

I almost forgot!!  I've painted and assembled the staircase!  Green, burgundy, camel and walnut - with a flower design painted on the risers.  I must say - it looks rather grand.  And I plan not to attach it permanently so I can rearrange it whenever I wish.
I'm enjoying myself quite a lot as you can see.  At least it keeps my mind occupied most of the time.  There are some days however when I shouldn't spend so much time on it (when Nigel is actually home!)  But it's very hard to break the habit once started.  I suppose there are far worse things I could be doing!

Until next post.....May God Bless,

Diary of a Mad Miniaturist: 21 October 2000

Up until now, I've told you about how the current Mulberry Cottage got it's start in 2000.  Now I'm going to share with you my journal entries over the years since concerning the dolls house!  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did, getting to re-read them!

21 October 2000:  Here are the rooms and their lay-out inside the cabinet:

Yes, I have given it a lot of thought.  It's almost an obsession with me lately.  Even led to me having this journal, as well as a detailed "workbook" of ideas, plans, etc. 

There are times when I think I'll go crazy, trying to sort it all out in my head.  But those are few and far between.  The best moments are when I think of all the possibilities, all the fun I'll have, all the "oohs and aahs" I'll have! For it is my plan to have a show piece, if you will, albeit a loved and cared for show piece.

Perhaps this week I'll be carrying it upstairs to my "currently evolving" studio.  Then I think I'll start to work on that staircase!

P.S.  Yes, this is my mid-life crisis Nigel.  But you have to admit - there are far worse things I could be doing!

P.S. P.S.  As for the jewelry cabinet - I've already sanded off the old finish.  It's about 18" tall, with 2 doors opening in the center.  It also has a bottom drawer.  I think it might make a lovely shop or two - perhaps an English bakery and a flower shop.  A tea room?!?  You can see the possibilities are endless! 

Jan Fursdon, Madison, Alabama

 21 October 2000:  I think my first project - now I have the cabinet house upstairs - will be the stairs.  I'm painting them,  perhaps with a design on each tread?  Then stain the wood over it.  I just hope I can follow the instructions when putting the banister and rails up.  Before I do anything though, I need to take photographs.  And buy some decent colored paint.

View of completed staircase.  The right side (without the railing) goes up against the wall in the Foyer.

I haven't decided if I'm happy with the high gloss white on the exterior of the cabinet.  I may distress it, but then again......the difficulty is trying to picture how the cabinet will look with hardwood floors and other furniture that will eventually be in the rooms - also painted.

I think the best thing to do at this point is to step back and wait . . . . . not easy for me as you well know!

I do like the interior I've painted - a pale tan (masking tape color).

Till the next post....
May God Bless, Jan

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jan's New "Cabinet" Dolls House

Goodness! Where to begin?  I guess the best place is when I returned my doll house kit to the store and, in return, purchased doll house furnishings.  Now why would I want furnishings if I didn't have a house to put them in?  Whoops! I'm ahead of myself.  Let's rewind a bit and I'll tell you what furnishings I purchased on that first, rather momentous day:


2 wardrobes (remember, closets are a relatively new luxury)
1 rocking chair (I love rocking chairs!)
1 china hutch (with a curved "glass" front like the one that belonged to my paternal grandmother)
1 master bed (first things first)
1 writing table (I am a writer after all)
1 coat rack (remember - no closets)
1 tea set (Tea is always served in the Fursdon Households)
Various pots and pans for the kitchen
1 set of 3 real glass canisters
1 watering can
Flower pots made of terra cotta
Clay flowers (not the proper scale, but small enough and so beautiful it was worth the purchase)
1 vintage 1920's style kitchen stove
1 Hoover cabinet (I've always wanted one but Nigel hates them.  I guess I showed him, huh?)
2 fireplaces (I love fireplaces and would have them in every room of our house, except for their upkeep!)
1 Jack in the Box (like I had when I was a child, as did my daughters and granddaughter)
1 "toy" rocking horse (again, as I had as a child, as did my daughters and granddaughter)
1 secretary (lovely place to keep writing materials and special books)
4 staircases (3 of which were later returned after I devised a way of "suggesting" stairs were in the back of
   the house and, as such, were unseen)
1 bowl of eggs
1 set of "pewter" plates and silverware (Nigel especially loves pewter and we have a fine collection of it)
1 small bag of blank miniature "books" (have to have books! I wrote things in several of them - naturally)
2 Lady bugs (after all, they're for good luck!)
Miniature bricks (actual bricks! I was amazed!)
Molding (first time I ever used this stuff, even if it was miniature!)

NOTE:  All of the above were miniatures, in the 1" = 1' scale (with the exception of the clay flowers, which were just slightly off scale).  This 1"=1' scale is the most common scale used for doll houses.

I have to admit, I had the time of my life looking for all of these!  And once everything was loaded into the car, I immediately went to a store (now sadly out of business) which specialized in unfinished (and therefore, much more reasonably priced) furniture!

I finally settled on a five foot high, two-door "pantry" with movable shelves.  Here's another "stupendously marvelous" drawing to show you how it looked:

Of course the first order of business - that is, after getting all of my treasures home - was to coerce Brilliant and Talented Husband to build "partitions" to create the various "rooms".  I have to admit, Brilliant and Talented Husband outdid himself and by 12 October 2000, I had a cabinet with designated "rooms", like this:

I remember wondering how I was going to explain to Husband exactly what size rooms I wanted.  Finally I hit upon the idea of masking tape!  I took the tape and literally "taped off" divisions of the open space.  Wherever there was tape, Husband created a "wall".  I heartily admit I'm SPOILED ROTTEN when it comes to having something built to my liking!  No matter what I've come up with over the 31 years we've been married, Husband has created it! Now you know why he's Brilliant and Talented!

Once dearest Husband had the "shell" complete, I was in my element!  I caulked the holes which had previously allowed the shelves to be moved up or down. I then spread primer on and gave it two coats of a high-gloss warm white paint.  I also ordered glass knobs.  Now here's one of the best reasons (one of many I should say) to have a doll house.  I love glass door knobs! I'd have them throughout my own house if Husband (also Stubborn and Opinionated, like his wife) would agree to it.  But he absolutely hates them! And over the years, we've tried very hard to decorate our home as much as possible with things that we can either both agree on, or at least be able to reasonably agree on.  Now, where was I?  Oh yes, glass doorknobs!  Well, if I find it difficult to have something in my own house that I truly love without upsetting the sensibilities of Husband, I put it in my doll house!  For instance, one of these days, I'm determined to have a wall - perhaps in the rooftop garden or in the art studio - made out of a mosaic of either shells, or colorful brokEn bits of sea glass, or something!  I'd likely never have that in my own home; besides, I might get very tired of it after awhile and then where would I be?  But the doll house is another matter entirely! And if it turns out I don't like it after awhile, I simply remove it!

Until the next post!  May God Bless, Jan

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My First Doll House Kit Experience!

I have tried in vain to find the photographs I took of all the pieces of my doll house kit, but to date, I've been unsuccessful.  In the meantime, I'm going to grace you with my dubious abilities to draw.  Poor you!!

In the photos, each piece was lined up carefully on my spare bedroom floor, neatly labeled so I knew exactly where everything was.  I was so determined to do things correctly, rather than in my frequent slap-dash manner, and I just knew that the only thing really required was patience and the ability to follow directions carefully.  I possessed both of these qualities so I figured - how hard could it be?

However, after painstakingly measuring, labeling and laying out all the pieces, I realized I was missing a few pieces and some pieces were actually damaged!  It should have been an omen, but I plunged ahead - just knowing if I worked hard enough and carefully enough, it would all work out in the end.  I mean, surely I could recreate the few missing pieces and mend the broken ones as they were all relatively small and simply designed.
Okay, so I was younger then - 11 years and a whole lot of experience and wisdom younger - and that was an extremely naive, if not downright stupid, outlook!! What I did not count on was that life frequently has a way of intervening when we least expect it.  This, combined with the well known fact that Murphy was (and remains to this day) my close cousin and frequent companion, worked absolute havoc on all my plans!  When all is said and done though, I can at least say I gave it my very best effort!

If you look in my journal entries of August, September and October 2000, you'll get an idea of some of the frustration I went through.  However, in the end I realized that it was giving me stress, rather than the hoped for relief from same!  After days of soul-searching and prayer, wondering why I couldn't accomplish what I thought was a relatively simple task, I finally had the intelligence to ask my genius builder husband to look things over and see if I was just missing something "obvious" or if I was simply losing my mind!
"No," replied my husband, after reviewing my puny efforts.  "You're not losing your mind.  These pieces here (he held up two very large, major pieces) are backward.  They should look like this.  So you'll never be able to put the kit together with what you have here.  Are you sure you have all the pieces?"

"Yes, dear." I replied.  "I'm very sure. I've searched that box - and the instructions - about a gazillion times and there's nothing else left."

" need to see if you can return it then and get your money back."  I have to admit he was very sweet about the whole thing, considering he thought the entire idea was perfectly ludicrous in the first place.  But he had the grace, and the good sense, not to bring this up.

So....I packed up all the little pieces, and all the big pieces, and all the everything-in-between pieces, labeled by me in my careful penmanship, and went back to the store.  I knew better than to speak with a clerk so I asked for the manager on duty, to whom I painstakingly explained everything that had occurred.  And to my utter relief and complete delight, he was very obliging! He even apologized several times for all the trouble I'd had.  And before he could go any further, I asked if I could have doll house items in return for another kit or getting a refund.  The poor man probably thought I was nuts by then anyway and he happily agreed.  I imagine he was even happier when he discovered I actually spent more on those items than the house kit's worth!

And why did I need these furnishings if I didn't have a doll house?  Well you may ask!  You all my anguish and frustration, I was still completely taken with the idea of creating a doll house.  I'd never had one as a child and I was determined to have one now if at all possible.  And - perhaps even more important - it just so happened that my neighbor Susan, who knew of my latest passion, had spied a book in a gift shop that she thought I'd really enjoy.  She'd been in a rush and hadn't been able to look through it, but she said if the outside cover was anything to go by, it should be great!  Knowing Susan's taste for good books, I went to the gift shop and saw for myself.  Here's the book!

Now I ask you?  Does it take a brain surgeon to realize that any book that looked this good on the outside must be worth a look on the inside? So I looked.  And I bought it right then and there, and I've never looked back since.  Why?  Because it introduced me to the fact that doll houses had originally been "cabinet" houses!  They were primarily of German and Dutch origin, from around the 17th century and they were not shaped like houses at all.  Rather, they had "rooms" partitioned off in cabinets which could be closed up when not in use, with none the wiser that "doll furnishings" were inside! 

And don't think for a minute these "cabinets" were used as toys!  They were considered a symbol of wealth and, as Ms. Finnegan states in her book, they were one of our original status symbols.  Great sums of money were expended on these "houses" in an effort to "show up the Jones Family" in the next county (my words; not Ms. Finnegan's).

Additionally, these cabinet houses were often used as a "teaching tool" for daughters of very affluent families.  By "working" with the cabinet houses and their contents, a daughter learned how to "run her own household" for future reference!  I guess they might be considered the forerunner of our Home Economics classes we took in high school!

Regardless of what their purpose, I was completely, unequivocally, topsy-turvy, head-over-heels in love with them!  Moreover, I was determined that a "cabinet" would be my next doll house.  I just didn't realize how soon my next doll house would be created! That is - until I returned my doll house kit!

Till the next post then......Love and God's Blessings!  Jan

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jan's Cabinet Doll House - Mulberry Cottage

What is it about dolls houses that immediately grabs our attention and calls us over for a second, third or even fourth look?  Having had my own dolls house for almost nine years, I've done a bit of watching people whenever they're around it.  And following a trip to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., this summer, where I was able to view (and drool over) Faith Bradford's Doll House (, I've come to the conclusion that no one - male, female, young, old, rich, poor - can completely resist that initial pull, that urge to "just take a peek" into that magical world of make-believe, where anything is possible.

The first entry I have in my journals on the subject of a doll house was on August 2, 2000.  It's a fun entry, one of those where you ask yourself a hypothetical question and have the luxury of answering without giving the consequences so much as a second thought.

My question was. . ."If I had a studio of my very own, to decorate exactly as I chose, what would I put in it?At the very top of my list was "the most elaborate of doll houses."  I remarked that this would be a special place, where my imagination would have no boundaries placed around it, where anything was possible. 

Three days later, on August 5, I purchased a kit for a 10-room Victorian mansion! But that's another story and one which I will tell eventually.  For now...I dedicate this blog to my first (and perhaps first of many) doll houses - my Cabinet House - Willow Cottage.

How It All Began

I think it was this magazine article in Mary Englebreit's magazine, "Home Companion", (the August - September 2000 issue) which first captured my attention.

 It spoke of miniature worlds where anything was possible.  Truth be told, I think I enjoyed the idea of being able to control my surroundings, even if they were of small stature!  Ironically, despite the extreme detail that would be required for such an undertaking, the idea gave me a sense of peace - of being able to control things - at least to some small degree.  And it afforded me the opportunity of decorating to my heart's content without spending an absolute fortune!  Then too - it kept my mind off the fact that my husband was away so much and my youngest child would soon leave the nest.  Add to all this the creative urges it satisfied within me and you have the primary reasons for the creation of my own Cabinet Dollhouse.  That and it was just plain F.U.N.!!!  And still is for that matter, after more than 11 years have passed!

But first, let me take you back to the very beginning, with my first attempt - a Victorian style mansion dollhouse kit, similar to this one shown here:
Beautiful, isn't it?  It had 10 rooms and was full of all kinds of nooks and crannies on the inside, with room for me to make some changes of my own.  I bought the kit ($279.00!!) as well as two additional "staircases".  I also bought this wonderful book (below) on making miniature accessories with polymer clay.

I was ready!!

Till the next post.......Jan