Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Beach House from start to finish

Here’s a little one room beach house, inspired by a colorful reed placemat.
The house is up on stilts, like a proper beach house. Here's a picture of the base section as it was being put together. I drilled holes into the bottom of the posts and the base board and used toothpicks as tiny dowels to keep the posts in place, gluing everything securely. I could have glued small wooden blocks by the posts to keep them secure. They would have needed to be hidden somehow with mounded sand or greenery, etc.

Speaking of sand, I thought I should experiment with it under the house, since it wouldn't be very visible.
Although I later bought some fine white sand, the day I started my sand experiments I only had light brown  and some white play sand from the hardware store. The grains of play sand turned out to be too large.
I didn't want the sand to just be flat the way the it was around Amos Gooch's cottage. I looked around for some kind of glue that would let me add a bit of texture to the ground.
First I tried Mod Podge. The problem with the Mod Podge was that it darkened the white play sand, turning it gray looking.
Next I decided to try drywall compound, aka plaster, spackling compound, joint compound. It left my brown sand nice and light in color, which was promising. The next day, though, my sand had developed cracks.
For the heck of it, I used some wood glue that I happened to have right at hand to fill the cracked areas, sprinkling more sand on top of it. The squiggly darker lines on the light colored sand show what happens when you mix sand with wood glue. It turns dark too.
I tried silicone caulk in the next section, but the light brown sand turned very dark.
Finally I opted for white glue. As you can see, my light brown sand turned dark and wet looking.
I might have had somewhat better results if I had painted the board white.
In the end, I sprayed the sand with adhesive and sprinkled white fine sand on top of everything. It looks fine for under the house, but I'll have to do better for the outside edges.
My next step was to glue a thin sheet of plywood on top of the platform. I used a 1/8" thick sheet I bought at the hobby shop. This would be the base floor of the house.

I built using posts and studs, as you can see in this picture.
Why is it that no matter how carefully I measure and cut, I usually wind up with something being just a little too long or too short? I was ready to cut the beam that goes on top of this wall when I found out that the 2 center beams were a hair taller than the others. I wound up sanding them down a bit.

You may have noticed that my studs and crosspieces are not neatly aligned. They're not neatly aligned in your real life house either.

Here's a picture of the house's deck or floor before the floorboards were added.

Here we have two walls up, and part of another.

Originally, I had meant to install the window shutters before I put the walls into place, but I realized I had no hinges. I thought I did, but I didn't. Since I had some free time and was in the mood to continue, I decided to attach the shutters later.
My windows will have no glass, the beach house is not designed to be used for chilly weather.

I used wooden pegs and glue to attach the walls to the floor and to each other. I just drilled some holes and inserted pegs which I cut from either bamboo skewers or toothpicks. In the corner shown, there will be a corner table with a couch and a chair, built as a single unit.

Here we have the three walls glued into place. together with the floor.

Here's a view of the front with the porch. There's a section missing, where the door goes.
For the flooring, I used a bamboo place mat. I was able to just cut a section and glue it down in one piece, very handy.

I cut strips of wood to act as battens, covering the seams where boards meet, (and where boards supposedly meet when I actually used a bigger piece of plywood). I guess you could call some of them faux battens.

Then I had to think about the door. I wasn't happy about how the door opened. It's just your basic dollhouse door complete in its package. I spent quite a bit of time sitting there opening and closing it, thinking about it, wondering if I should hinge it, or leave it be or do something else.
Finally I decided to take it apart.
I pulled off the threshold, then I pulled the door off its pin. I also decided to cut back the frame that went around the door. My wall is a little deeper than the frame and I decided it would be easier to cut it off than to fill in the gaps. Besides, the molding didn't go with the rest of the house. It was too "fancy".
I drilled new holes for the pins, and put the door back into the frame so it would open the opposite way, next to the bed. If I had just put the door in to open inwards, the door would have been in the wrong place, partially blocking the view.
Now to the shutters.
I bought several packets of miniature dollhouse hinges, planning on using them on my shutters, since I didn't have enough of the hinges I did have. I also thought that my hinges were too big.
However, once I put the little hinges on a shutter, I decided the miniature scale hinges looked too small. I realized they were better scale for furniture, not shutters. I wish I had thought of that before I bought them. I dropped one on the basement floor, by the way, and I still haven't found it. I also seem to have lost a few of the teensy weensy little nails too.
From the moment I thought of a beach house, I wanted upward swinging shutters that could act as sunshades. It took me a while to work those out.

The house is painted white, by the way. I took the pictures without flash and they came out rather yellow, I touched them up a little.
Instead of using shingles, I opted for a board roof, painted light blue.

* * * *
I wanted the house to look like it was right on the beach, but that was proving to be a problem

I had bought white sand, not snowy white, but definitely white.
Previously I showed examples of how my sand gluing tests turned out.

I discovered that most people recommend using white glue to glue on sand, so I decided to give it a try.
I had used sand on another project, Amos Gooch’s cottage, but the beach house needed a different look.
I wanted to try and achieve a look of soft, rather than flat packed sand, so I sculpted some styrofoam. I used a hot gun made for cutting styrofoam, and sandpaper. I then spread white glue on it and sprinkled on the sand. it turned out looking more like well treaded snow.
So, if you ever want to do a snow scene, in which children have been romping, you've got an idea of what you might try. You might want to try sprinkling some kind of white flocking on the styrofoam and see how it comes out.

Next I resigned my self to flat sand, so I painted the ground white, spread on white glue, and sprinkled on the white sand.
It did not look white. I had hoped that as it dried it might get lighter, but the next day it looked even darker.
You can see spots of white that I failed to cover with glue. The actual color of the sand is slightly grayer than the white paint.
Apparently using white glue does a great job with tan beach sand, and only tan beach sand.
I don't think the spray adhesive I used for Amos Gooch's front yard would be any better. Everything I tried turned my white sand brown.

Some people advised spraying sand with hair spray to keep it in place. I learned that this only works if the project is never bumped or touched.

I also considered making a tray and sticking the base in it, then pouring on the sand, but I didn’t really want to do that.

Finally I gave up on trying to give the look of soft beachy sand. I was getting tired of playing with sand.

As you can see, my sand isn't quite flat. All the experimenting I did helped to make a slightly lumpy base. There's several coats of sand and white paint under there, which was fine with me. I had planned on using the lumpiness anyway.
I wound up buying another can of spray adhesive to glue down the sand, the same as I did with Amos Gooch's front yard. The spray adhesive was the only thing I found that didn't darken my white sand very much.
Painting the board white and sprinkling sand on it came out looking ok, but I wasn't really satisfied with it.
I sprayed a section of the base with adhesive, and poured on some sand. After a few minutes I'd tilt the board and let the extra sand drop off. I finished by spraying on another light layer of adhesive.
I did try to make somewhat thicker layers of uneven sand, but discovered that if I let the can come too close, the force of the spray would push some of the sand away, and clump it. Since I was working in such close quarters, right next to the building, I had to keep the can just a few inches from the sand.
I think it may be possible to make a deeper, softer looking sand scene with the spray adhesive, as long as you work in layers and don't have to worry about overspray. If you make the sand too deep and spray over it, it'll work slightly better than hairspray did, holding it in place until you bump or jiggle the scene and break the hold.

The top layer of adhesive spray will feel a bit tacky, but I found from working with it before on the Gooch cottage, that in time the tackiness goes away. At least it does with sand. I don't know if this is because it acquired a slight layer of dust, but it really doesn't matter, the dust doesn't show.

I used plastic grasses I got at craft stores. I drilled holes into the base, inserting plant stems into holes where I could, and otherwise using toothpicks when the grass had no stem. See my miniature landscaping series about how to do that.

I happened to have some little clogs and a rolled up hose that would be just right for the front of the house.

Here's a view of the interior front before the furniture was added. I painted the walls using flat white spray paint. I felt it would give just the right sort of casual shabby chic look, with just a hint of bare wood.
Click here to see the roll up shade tutorial.

I thought about what I'd want in a tiny beach house for one.
The idea for this chair and sofa combination immediately leapt to mind.
As soon as I saw the red fabric I knew I had to use it for the upholstery.
The one piece corner unit consisting of a chair, table and sofa/bed is flanked by a narrow cabinet. I still had to add a knob for the cabinet door in the bottom.
I had originally planned on making an L shaped shelf on the corner table, but then I realized there might not be enough room for a lamp, so I cut it back to just one side.

Making the back cushions was harder than I thought it would be.
I wanted them to lean back, and not be just straight up and down, sort of wider at the bottom and slanting to a narrower top. I thought that cutting some foam to fit would be easy. It wasn't. Let's just say that the back sofa cushions came out lumpy and irregular. I decided on another way of getting the same look.
I wound up using pasteboard, the stuff they use to make gift boxes. Actually, I used the lid from an old gift box. I could have used a cereal box or something like that, but they all went out with the recycling the day before. I measured how long and high I wanted the cushion to be, and marked it out on the pasteboard. I marked out 4 folds like this.
I folded the card on the lines, then I glued the fold over flap to the inside of the front flap. Looking at it from the open end, it makes an oddly shaped triangle.
The front of the cushion curved a bit, as you can see in the pictures.
Next I used some polyester fiberfill to stuff inside the pasteboard form. This was to give it some body so it wouldn't flatten out. I also cut some foam in a shape similar to the form and stuffed it into the ends. Next I cut some very thin foam and glued it around the front and back of the cushion form. This would give it a more pillowy look, with softer edges.
Finally I covered it with fabric. This was a bit hit or miss. Frankly I was getting tired of fooling with the cushions for days. I snipped, tucked, stitched and glued till everything fit pretty much as it should.

The last piece I worked on was the kitchenette unit.
In this picture I still had to add the faucet handles, a couple of beads were set aside for that. Let's start at the beginning.

I used a broken sink unit. the faucet was snapped off and so was a horizontal handle just under the sink.
It's from a set we sell at New England Miniatures, AN262 By the way, I'm planning on selling the pieces separately later.
I pried the counter top off and then pulled it apart from the sink. Then I needed to pry out the remains of the faucet, and fill in the holes where the horizontal handle or "towel bar" was attached.
I made a little extension that will serve as a mini refrigerator. the door won't open, I don't care. I put it together from bits of scrap wood. the new section was covered with several coats of gesso, sanding between coats, till I thought it was smooth enough. After that I gave the whole unit several coats of enamel spray paint.

The refrigerator door handle is made from aluminum tubing and some steel wire, both from the hardware store.
The counter top is cut from basswood, primed, sanded, then painted with 2 shades of reddish brown acrylic paint, splotched down randomly in a pouncing type motion with a paint brush and blended together.
Next the countertop was sanded gently with very fine grit sand paper to smooth it a bit, and sprayed with Krylon matte finish. I could have used a shiny spray varnish, but it wasn't handy, and I thought the matte finish would be nice. My real life kitchen counters are a matte Corian, so I guess I just prefer that sort of counter finish usually.
I think it looks a little rough in this picture, but when I look at the piece in real life, it's much better, the little flaws all blend together.
For the faucet, I used a piece of steel wire. I just drilled a hole and glued it into place.
There's an indentation where the original faucet piece was. I painted the bottom of the indentation with white paint, then I filled it in with white glue and let the glue dry overnight. This morning I saw that the glue had shrunk quite a bit, so I added another layer of glue on top of it. the glue is wet in this picture.
I thought of filling the space in with wood putty or plaster, but I was worried that it might crack and become a pain to try and repair, and I feared I might damage the faucet doing so.

An angled view of the side, and below, one of the side and back. I added little posts in the windows to keep the shutters up. I used 2 different sets of hinges for the shutters, and one stays up by itself, and the other one won't. In reality the shutters should have some sort of prop or paraphernalia to keep them up, so I used the prop rods for both of them.
Here's the inside, I think it would make a fine place to hide out.
Another view of the inside.
A doll's eye view from the front door.
And here's another one.
Finally a closeup of the sink.
After letting several layers of white glue dry, I decided to see what would happen if I mixed Mod Podge with silver spray paint. I didn't have a pot of silver, or I would have tried mixing the Mod Podge with it, or I might have just painted the faucet area with the silver paint.

I sprayed the paint onto a tray aside some Mod Podge, and mixed them with a brush. the silver color held pretty well, but when I added a little more Mod Podge to the mix it began to look more gray, with little bits of silver color mixed in. It looked rather interesting, like something you'd see on a vinyl couch, or a 50's modern tabletop.
I used it to bring up the level of the faucet area, but since it was duller than I wanted, I touched it up after it was dry with the silver paint. I just sprayed some of the paint on a tray and dabbed it onto the dry faucet base with a brush. When the silver had dried I glued on 2 small clear plastic beads.

Finally finished!