Category Archives: orchid hill house

The Secrets Within the Walls

This could be a title for a mystery story but actually it is the reveal of construction methods of the first floor of the Orchid Hill House. Perhaps they will aide you in a dollhouse/roombox project!

If you studied the parlor and entry way pictures of the last posting you might be wondering how to do that — so here you go!

As I had mentioned the stairs had railing on both sides – this really took away the realism I was trying for in making a miniature version of a staircase. I also stated my carpentry skills are slim so this is an modification I could do with what I had.

Lastly, I am happy to note — these stairs are available on Ebay,  Mine came with the dollhouse.  Search for dollhouse staircase and you will find them in the selection. I was glad to see them there otherwise this  staircase information would be of limited use.

The original staircase with both railings

Here is mine after it is stained, inner handrail removed and spindle holes filled and attached wall.

Now it is has a more elegant look

I do not have a step by step guide but pictures do tell a good share of it.

Here is the back side.  It tells you several things.  I tacked the fitted wallpapered wall to the staircase with tiny nails.  I wanted a strong connection and did not want to deal with glue and it sliding around until it set up and have glue in places I didn’t want.  The other thing is this is fabric instead of paper wallpaper.  More on that in a minute! I can not remember for sure but I think I have may started the wall curving by ironing it around an oatmeal container after the fabric was attached to gently curve it and then attached it to the staircase so it was not as big of a fight getting it to curve.  Time makes some things fuzzy.

Attaching the curving wall

Make a paper mockup of the wall to get the size.  Check it several times – the old saying measure twice and cut once really applies here!  Now use the paper pattern to cut the wall out of crescent board – illustration board – not matt board.  It is sturdier and less apt to warp ( it does a little but not as much as matt board). Below is the two I use regularly.  The thicker one is for flooring and the medium weight is for walls.

Available at art supplies stores or online

 Now for the reasoning behind using crescent board walls instead of just wallpapering the existing walls.  First – it is SO MUCH EASIER to wallpaper on a flat surface than to fit your body in odd angles to get the wallpaper attached in such tight quarters as a dollhouse.  Second – you can have wider options on wallpaper choices!  It doesn’t always have to be paper!  Fabric is an option – sounds odd but it is a good one but it is not glued – now I have you attention – use the iron without steam and fusible craft interfacing to attach it.

the interfacing I used.  I did not wash the fabric.

With this project I needed the wallpaper to flow from the upstairs hallway, down the stairs into the entry way.  My fabric wallpaper allowed a change to the bolder William Morris print in the rest of the entry way.  The entry hall paper coordinates with the parlor paper (another William Morris print).  In a miniature project you are seeing all the areas at the same time so it needs to be a smoother transition versus real life when you walk from one room to another area.

The colors and patterns that worked together

Third – it hides the wiring.  Walls are smooth without areas being lumpy due to wires or tape underneath.  That is all on the back side of the papered crescent board.

NOTE:   these are construction methods picked up in classes taken a long time ago with Brooke Tucker and Ray Whitledge.  Neither are teaching anymore and these are good design techniques that need to be passed along and not lost!

The use of crescent board for walls expands your options on adding interesting features in your rooms so I heartily recommend try it out sometime! Examples in this project is the curved wall of the staircase and the built in bookcases and window seat.

Now back to the construction……….the floor has to in place before the stairs goes in NOT afterwards.  Make note of that!

Wall in place
No supports yet, so it is floppy

The wall is in place but needs supports so wood “beams” are glued on the back and make a firm fit at the ceiling and the floor to anchor it down. Stairs are glued to floor.

Needs a firm ending beam here
added three or so beams around the curve

I added a another wall that butted up against this wall to create a little nook that tucks into the corner of the dollhouse. I curved it slightly but the baseboard joining is masked by the floor urn since it wasn’t a perfect match to the curve. I covered the wall joining with some wood trim.

A nook for a small floral accent.

The key is to have supports to keep the walls braced and stay in place.

Now for another trick… this is my ceiling for the entry hall.  It is merely a embossed foil wrapping paper painted.  It was available at TJ Maxx and seems to appear in varied colors around the holidays. It may or not be there but keep an eye out for wrapping papers as an option for inexpensive textured ceiling paper. I used tube paint and liquin to color it but probably could use regular acrylic paints also.

transforming the gift wrap into a textured ceiling

My front door visible in the very back is a little bit of a cheat but may be of use to you.  In this dollhouse, the back in not visible – just ugly with wires and window openings that are crudely cut.  So I reversed the door so the pretty exterior trim is now my interior trim.  Now it you are a purest or want to see both sides this won’t work for you but I thought you like to know that trick.  I also changed the arch trim to match my big windows in the parlor windows.

The exterior view on the left vs the the usual interior on the right.

Now for the arch way……….

I used an arch way available from Lawbre.  It starts out white and you can paint it to suit your tastes.  It fit a 1/2 in thick wall.  The wall can be solid wood OR something else.  I used Gator Board – this is different from foam board.  It is stronger and does not warp.  This is the material Rik Pierce used for his structures.  It is lightweight and you can carve a tunnel in it to tuck wiring in.

Gator board with a tunnel carved out for wiring
The yellow line shows the path of my hidden wiring.
A smooth wall with no wiring lumps in the wallpaper.
The beginning pieces
Painting really transformed the arch pieces!
The painted archway that makes a statement!

Here is the beginning of dreaming of the window seat area………the start but no clue how to implement at the time.

Details later…………out of time today!


Enjoy the secrets the walls reveal and possibly incorporate some techniques to translate that dream in your head to your dollhouse!

A Snail’s Pace

Sometimes things can take a really, really long time — a snail’s pace.  My Orchid Hill House project is an example.  I have worked on and off on it for many years.  Each year it is on the list to finish it but  some aspect would seem overwhelming and progress stalled out for a time.

I do believe the snail may actually be crossing the finishing line!

This project was my first project to electrify a multi-room dollhouse.  Roomboxes have been my comfort zone for electrifying, so this has been a learning process.  I have gained confidence now that all the lights are on and working!

The finished structure!

Since it is a multi-room structure the furnishings, wallpaper, and  flooring has to play well together.  The coloring and style has to draw the eye smoothly from room to room.  Dollhouses have to account for the fact that you are visually seeing all the rooms at the same time.  In real life, your eyes only have to take in the details of one room at a time as you walk through them.  Due to the my very slow work pace, I really thought through my choices instead of haphazardly making decisions just to complete it.

The original dollhouse design – note the stairs double railing.

I am a bit perverse and decided to make the open back the front since I don’t have the space for viewing both sides.  I decided early on that it is my dollhouse, so my rules.

The original front is the NEW back.

We all have our methods – for me it is a bit like childhood playtime – arranging and rearranging furniture pieces until I like the view and the purpose of each of the rooms take hold.

I did make structural changes to the rooms to make them work better for my final arrangements.  I increased the window size in the drawing room  to accommodate having built in bookcases and a window seat. Also, an enlarged archway to move from the entry area into the drawing room.  The bedroom window was deleted to make room for a cozy fireplace.  The window on the 2nd floor landing was enlarged to make a more interesting area instead of just a pass through spot of a stairway.  The staircase was also modified from the original.  Okay, it may seem like a lot but it was a process that I gave heavy thought to before each modification.

To have stairs or not was not a quick decision.  Stairs can add to the realism of a dollhouse but can also take up a large foot print that limits the detail that you can put in the structure.  So it is a balancing act.  The stairs going from the main floor to the 2nd floor was enough for me.  The top floor layout was hindered by stairs so they were left out for a better room arrangement. This house came with stairs but having a railing on BOTH sides of the stairs really narrowed its appearance. I knew something was bugging my eye appeal but I wasn’t really seeing it until one side of the railing fell off in the handling of the stairs in my many room rearranging.  Ummm….  I can’t widen the stairs to the base with this set of stairs BUT I could curve the wall to match the inner curve of the stairs – much better!

I could live with that!  I filled in the railing holes with wood putty and covering the stairs with a carpet runner to hide the changes. As you guessed, figuring out a way to curve the stairway wall and its supports lead to another really long pause until I had some firm thoughts on how to do it.  I did figure it out and you would think clear sailing but no, I would just see somethings else that I just couldn’t easily do and wander off to a different project to satisfy the creative whim until my enthusiasm returned.

If I wandered through all the individual decisions this could be become a very long posting and put you to sleep.  SO enough of the details this time and some photos that explore the first floor. More about the construction later but time for some eye candy now!

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The parlor details…..

A warm and inviting parlor.
A comfortable chair by the fire is never a bad idea.
Rich details to add to the character of the room.
A warm fire and sweet songs of canaries draws the guests in.
Another chair that draws the eye with its elegance.

I will end with my favorite spot.  The window seat with built in bookcases for the quiet escape into the pages of a book.

 A cozy place to read!

Hopefully, the photos tweak your interest and want to come back for more about Orchid Hill House.  Until the next posting…………

A Creativity Crawl to Tranquility

It is odd how this room created the story of this home’s inhabitants. I didn’t start with a story and build a dollhouse around it. I just was going to create a dollhouse from a structure I had brought many years ago. I had played with many ideas but never loved one idea enough to begin it. So it sat waiting. Also, I wanted to conquer the fear of wiring an entire structure. I have mainly stayed with roomboxes. A mighty ambitious plan but you know how fired up you can be on New Year resolutions. I will not state what year but it wasn’t 2016 goals. It has been a meandering path but I think it may be finished this year. I am saying that quietly and with fingers crossed.

Determining what each room was going to be was the first thing – sewing room, servant quarters, bedroom, a child’s room, entry hall, stairway nook and the drawing room. This is so a wiring plan could be planned and laid out under flooring and wallpaper. Each room’s function  was dictated by a stash of furnishings that I wanted to see in use instead of storing away in boxes. Someday had arrived. Use it. Modifications were made to the original structure to accommodate these rooms and the wiring. Also, I wanted to be proactive to be able to get to things if the lights didn’t all work later. Nothing more frustrating that a dead light that you can’t fix long after it is done.

I pulled out furniture and played house to get a feel for what furnishings would work. It was OK but it had no life to it. Yes, it is a dollhouse but for a miniaturist it is a world, a place, that if it were physically possible we would go there. As a reality check, I know it is not possible BUT imagination plays a large role in this hobby.

In playing house, the staircase nook came alive.  The plants(orchids), desk, peacock glass wall, and  the warm color tones stirred into a story.  Uhh??

The orchids are important.  Orchid Hill House became the home’s name.  An older woman, her daughter-in-law and a granddaughter are the house inhabitants. This is due to the dolls and the rooms they seem to fit in.  There are no men in the household at the moment except for the butler.  This is due to the father and son off on a voyage exploring for new orchids.  The ladies gathering in the drawing room are meeting for the monthly meeting of the orchid society. Now there is life and a purpose to the inhabitants residing here! All because of a staircase nook, that I now can imagine my lady writing her letters to husband and son far away or completing her notes for the talk this afternoon to the ladies at the orchid society meeting.  Imagination crawls out of hiding sometimes and leads you down a path you were not expecting.  That makes my day when it happens!

Coming up the stairs to the nook
Books and Orchids
Husband’s past exploration journal
Lady of the House
Calm Tranquility



Tranquility beckons

Every time I look at this area it invites me in.  It has become one of my favorite scenes. Everything flowed together as I decorated this little nook at the top of the stairs.  I wanted to use the peacock stained glass piece a friend had given me to hide the stairway entrance on the second floor. Naturally, it needed a light to bring out the colors behind it. Then the green tone went with the warm browns.  The space needed plants,  so I raided the stash of mini treasures that I have collected over time.  My beautiful tall orchid on the pedestal by Karl Blindheim finally had its spot.  Pottery by various people decorated the desk and bookcase.  Lovely teals and blues.  I won the rug in an auction at the Denver Dollhouse show.  The vase holds feathers from my own peacocks.

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Marching Forward

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I got the curved staircase wall done (a very big sigh of relief here!!). I will be posting about the details in another post.  Trying to get to current spot of where I am on this project and will have to work backward to fill in the gaps.  Starting in the middle of the story does pose some problems but it is where I am on this project.

I papered the wall between the entry hall and the drawing room.  I have 2 wall scones on the wall in the drawing room.  My wall is 1/2 inch thick gator board which is light weight and doesn’t warp.  I carve out a little channel for the wiring to sit in the gator board so the wallpaper doesn’t show the a line where the wiring is. The wall has a smooth surface instead of a tunnel line like a mole trail. I didn’t get a picture at the time so here is an example of a wiring tunnel on a scrap piece of gator board.


Getting Unstuck

Fall has been good this year with a refocus on my miniatures with a renewed outlook.  I have had time to made decisions on two projects that I was stuck on.  I am bound and determined to make headway and hopeful finish them. I am a novice on this blogging project so bear with me learning. I am going to see saw between the two projects if it isn’t too confusing.  I am working on both of them at the same time.  When I need a break from one I switch to the other one.  Both have had long incubation periods and are pass the beginning phases.  They are stuck in the middle and need to progress to a FINISHED stage.

So this is the journey from the middle to the end.  I will be better at the whole journey story on the following projects upon completely these two structures. You have to start somewhere, right?

Today’s story is about Orchid Hill House.  It is an attempt to complete an electrified house instead of a roombox.  I have mainly done roomboxes and not a complete structure with multiple rooms that need the wiring all tied together.  It has been a lesson in planning electric layout. Hence, a lot of stop and starts.  Saga of a stuck in the middle project.

First rule of miniatures for me is that if it is yours you can do it however you want!  It is not graded or have to be done a certain way.  So it may be crazy but I abandon the front facade of the structure and made it the back.  I don’t have a turntable base for it and when I want to look at it, I want to see the inside scene not the outside windows and front door. So my point of view is looking to the interior rooms without peaking thru windows or a small doorway.

Here is the original kit picture. It was a Real Good Toys Model #PR-225.


I changed many things to make it MINE.  Good or bad, it is mine.  Walls changed and only put the first part of the staircase in.  You have to imagine the stairs being somewhere just not visible in the view.  I didn’t want all the space wasted with a staircase getting to the top floor. I covered the window on the left room on the second floor and added a smaller servant’s bedroom on the 3rd floor. I removed the right railing on the staircase.  It looked awkward and had the brilliant idea of having a curved wall (how to do it wasn’t worked out at the time-just that was going to be -yikes).  If you haven’t figured out that created quite the stopping point for a length of time BUT happy to report that is finally figured out and will give the how to info on that in another post!