Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Victorian Dollhouse Surprise Christmas Present

I finally broke down and bought a really big Victorian dollhouse on Kijiji to give to my favourite 12-year-old doll collector for Christmas. This is what's called the Real Good Toys Lilliput Apple Blossom dollhouse kit, and it had been lovingly put together by a fond parent, sometime in the '80s I'd guess by the colour scheme. It's about three feet high by 28" wide.

I took a GO train trip out to Whitby to collect it. I had a brief moment of panic when I suddenly thought I might end up carrying it back through Union Station during the mad rush of the Santa Claus Parade, but luckily I was one day early. Nonetheless, I made quite the spectacle.

I had planned to take a cab home from the station, but when I realized I could actually lift it quite easily by crooking my arm inside and around the staircase well, I ended up taking the Queen streetcar, which engendered plenty of pleasant conversations and the fun of spontaneously giving a pink plastic doll bed to a very admiring little girl heading to the movies with her mom. She embraced it in both hands; I think she'll enjoy having it.

It was a pretty good deal; it was about two-thirds the price of an unassembled kit bought new. It also came with a few piece of furniture. The original assembly job was careful, but there was a little damage: A missing piece of trim on the porch railing (bottom right), missing "glass" in the round window over the porch roof, and an entirely missing window in the turret, as well as a missing porch post at the back, some broken and missing shingles and some pieces that needed reglueing.

I updated the paint job, and made it a little more grown-up and Gothic-feeling. My very sweet in-laws treated me to a trip to the Little Dollhouse Company to buy supplies to replace the missing window in the turret and the porch post. For the second hexagonal window, I cut a piece of clear plastic out of some bubble packaging, tucked it in the space and filled in the gaps with wood filler.

More wood filler and glue, plus the dark paint job, fixed or hid most of the shingle damage. If you look very closely, you can see I added a "brass" doorknob and a lion's-head door knocker to the front door.

In order to replace the missing bit of railing trim, I moved a section of railing that used to enclose this gap, and turned it sideways to give a "back" to the porch. That saved exactly one piece of trim, which I installed in at the front. The leftmost porch post is the one that was missing. I still have to add a lick of paint, I see.

Here's the original interior. The  floors were wood-grain stick-on vinyl, and the paint  job was fairly simple. After repairing a few broken bits, I kind of went to town. In fact, I'm not quite finished yet, but this will give an idea as to where it's going.

The top turret room is now a bathroom with plastic "tiles" and a real mirror that I made with some little pieces of "frame" plus scrap plastic, paint and glue. The sink was part of the kind gift from my in-laws.

This is the right-hand room on the middle floor. I applied tongue-depressor or stir-stick wooden floors in most rooms. I've learned a lot. They curl up like crazy when you first lay them down, but if you're patient, and sand and stain them when they're dry, they come out looking very realistic. While I was at it, I faced the stairs with tongue depressors and added posts. (I used real stain in a tiny jar from the hardware store.)

The furniture has pretty much all come from little lots that people have been selling online. I was very pleased to find a pug, because the eventual recipient likes them a lot. I'm actually still looking for a couple of beds; this one is a "loaner" from my little house, but I'll be able to give her lots of other pieces to start out with. And half the fun is collecting and making your own furnishings, right?

This is the bottom right room. The wallpaper is scrapbooking paper from the dollar store. The Christmas trees are dollar-store items (two for $1!) with stuck-on Mardi Gras beads for ornaments. I was delighted to find a little pack of stick-on glass stars, also at the dollar store.

The kitchen floor (bottom left room) was fun to tile. These plastic tiles come in one sheet, and they were also part of the generous contribution of my in-laws, as was most of the baseboard and some of the wallpaper that will go on the top floor. The corner cupboard was one of my odd-lot bits; originally dark wood, but now painted white and glued in place. The door opens.

My indulgent brother is springing for this set of kitchen furniture (and a small doll family). I can't wait to see how it will look in the space.

This is the left-hand room on the middle floor. She already has a piano, so I'll keep this one, but I was quite pleased to find the nice sturdy and realistic-looking chair and sofa for her, second-hand. The white coffee table barely visible behind the armchair was just a broken tabletop; I added new legs and painted them to match.

Finally, the secret turret room. This is an option and the original builders didn't include it, so I carefully pried off the back of the turret and refinished the edges so it can now be lifted off to reveal the enchanted hidden room within. The floors were made with coloured craft popsicle sticks, then sanded and washed with paint, so they're faintly coloured blue, pink, yellow and so on. And see how nice the replacement hexagon window looks; thanks again to my kind benefactors!

I thought the chair had a nice fairytale feel, and the chest opens like a puzzle box; it has "hidden" sliding wood pieces that lock it closed.

I still need to finish the upper two rooms, but the floors are all but done (drying), and all that's really left is the wallpaper and baseboards, plus various last-minute paint touchups and extra glueing.

I just hope she likes it!

1 comment:

  1. Your niece is going to be ecstatic when she receives this beautiful dollhouse! The Apple Blossom has always been one of my favourites.You have done a wonderful job of restoring it. I like the blue exterior much better than the pink. And the interior is coming along beautifully. I get that Christmas morning magic feeling when I think of how your niece will feel when she first sees it. What a wonderful Aunt you are!