The kitchen of Bob’s House turned out to be the most labor intensive aspect of the entire project. In my last post, I shared with you how I almost forgot to add the pantry and had to rip out a wall and reroute my wiring to make it happen. In this post, I will share how I made and installed the stone feature behind the stove as well as the stenciled floor.
Construction of old farmhouses often include using natural materials off the land. Farmers used what was available and rarely shopped in stores for what they could cobble together themselves, hence my idea to use natural field stone instead of bricks or tile.
I call my workroom the Crown Jewel Imaginarium© for a reason. In it I have amassed a dizzying collection of “stuff” over the course of 35 years. Materials range from non-minis and various materials and mediums that I think will come in handy “someday” to minis collected along the way with little idea how, where or when I plan to use them. It’s a creative minaturist’s dream… until you want to find something you have not seen or thought of in years. It’s fairly well organized but trust me when I say I could fall inside the mini abysss in the closets and be lost for hours until my husband comes looking for me. When Dad would call, he would often ask my husband if I was available or if I had “fallen in”, in which case he would call back later, LOL.
Many years ago I purchased a huge lot of stone, bricks and slate online and in it was an old bag of natural field stone, hand cut to 1:12th scale in New Hampshire. The company is long since gone, but the quality of these stones are amazing in their simplicity and perfect for the backdrop of my stove.
It took 2 days to find them, hahaha!
I looked at the bag with no small amount of chagrin. How was I going to adhere these to the wall, keeping straight edges along the sides and get mortar in between to look realistic? My solution was to cut a piece of extremely thin birch sheeting to size for the base. I had some leftover from when I paneled the walls of my mini gent’s library in Crown Jewel Manor. Using this thin, flexible, sheet wood I could build the stone wall outside of the dollhouse and then install it.
Next, I recalled there were packets of dry mortar mix in the Magic Stone kits I had laying around. Years ago Millie (Dollhouses Plus) and I used Magic Stone kits to brick the exterior of a southern mansion dollhouse and she taught me a clever trick to make the mortar stronger… add glue!
With my thin sheet of birch cut to size, I mixed the mortar in a bowl; mortar powder, a huge squeeze of Aleene’s Tacky glue (about 2 tablespoons) and just enough water to get it to the right consistency (not too stiff but not runny). Using a plastic spreader, I smeared a thin layer of tacky glue all over the board and while still wet, I spread the mortar on the board to 1/8″ thickness. I worked one quarter of the board at a time so that the mortar would not dry out before all the stones were set. Working quickly, I selected each stone, one at a time, added glue to the bottom of each stone and pushed each stone into the mortar. The extra glue worked wonders and held every stone to the mortar with no issues. Taking care to keep the side edges of my birch sheet neat, I soon had a sheet of stone and set the assembly aside to dry overnight.
I then spread Quick Grip glue all over the back of the birch sheet and pressed it to the wall where I wanted it to go. I had to hold it in place, pressing against the corners and all over for a minute or two but eventually the glue dried and it’s rock solid now!
Originally I had planned to add narrow strips of wood trim down each side to frame it out but later I decided that definition would not be realistic in an old farmhouse. I had to add a smidge of extra mortar here and there around the edges to fill in a few gaps (especially near the ceiling) and voila! The stone backdrop added a lot of natural character to the kitchen!
With the stone feature finished, I turned my focus to the floor. Dad had said the wood kitchen floor had been painted and stamped. No pattern or color was recalled so I chose a natural color scheme appropriate for that era and home. Creamy beige walls with green stenciling. Nothing in this room could be stark white except the porcelain sink and appliances. The overall theme had to reflect the nature of a farm.
Note: I wallpapered and installed shiplap on the kitchen walls before painting the floor. Shiplap will be shown in the next post.
Suddenly I recalled a few tiny brass stencils I had purchased years ago. Most were not the style I wanted, they were too fancy and the micro checkerboard stencil (plastic) was more suited to the 1950’s but in the bottom of the case was a stencil with a leaf design. It resembled a fern but I thought it could work. Next I had to decide how this leaf would make a convincing floor pattern. A freehand design would work for walls, but a floor needed some sort of geometric pattern so I decided to make a grid with the leaves and angle the grid diagonally on the floor to keep it from resembling a checkerboard too much.
The floor was so beautiful in its original state that I cringed when I began to paint it. The wood was a gorgeous red oak left over from the same old DuraCraft dollhouse kit from which I had previously used scraps of strip wood for the pantry. I always save scraps and leftovers from kits and I’m so glad I did in this case because this quality of wood is no longer found in today’s dollhouse kits and is quite costly when purchased separately. The reason I selected this wood over cheap stripwood even though I was going to paint it, is the gorgeous wood grain. As expected, the grain shows right through the paint, adding an ultra dose of realism.
I gave the floor two coats of paint and left it to dry overnight. Using a pencil and ruler, I drew an “X” in the center of the room to use as guidelines for the stenciling. The brass stencil was so tiny that I needed a to make a “handle” that would allow me to lay it flat on the floor and hold in such a way to prevent any paint around the stencil from marking the floor. I used blue tape to create a flange by folding blue tape all around the edges of the stencil, like a picture frame and it worked beautifully.
Using a sponge tipped craft dowel, I dabbed most of the paint onto a paper plate and then dabbed the paint onto the stencil to stamp the paint onto the floor. A few times the images were blurry and I simply wiped them away using a damp paper towel and did them again. At first I attempted to measure an exact distance between each stamping but this quickly proved to be far more trouble than what it was worth so I simply “eyeballed” the spacing and accepted that stenciling in an old farmhouse would not be “perfect”. With this kind of realism in mind, I stopped being so fussy about some stampings looking a little blurry and kept stenciling away until the overall pattern began to take shape. I then used clear satin varnish (soap & water cleanup) to seal the floor against the inevitable scrape of furniture.
“Try new things”. Dad often strayed outside the bounds to create new things, like the time he siphoned gasoline from the gas tank of the General’s jeep to use as heating fuel for his troops on a bitter cold January night while out on Army manoeuvers. The men were toasty warm that night but the General was hot under the collar when he learned of this escapade the next morning and Dad was on KP and Latrine duty for weeks afterward. True story.
I told you he led a storied life!
By the time this project was finished I considered lightly sanding the floor to add a bit of “worn” character to the floorboards, but for now I’ve left it as is. I worry that the sanding might obliterate most of the stenciling as it was only dabbed on lightly. The brass stencil did not hold up very well and is now quite bent (from being pressed into corners and against walls) but still usable for smaller projects in future. This floor is truly one-of-a-kind. How befitting.
Next up, closets and wardrobes!
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IGMA Artisan Robin Brady-Boxwell