Sunday, November 11, 2012

let the framing begin

I'm back, after a three week absence . . . why does real life continue to get in the way of our miniature pursuits?!!  Anyway, I'm eager to share the first steps in the construction of "thedollscottage" with you!

Before I begin . . . I have had several comments from people who are interested in the construction methods being used in the creation of the cottage.  Here are a couple of reference books that I'm using.

"Building Construction Illustrated - Third Edition" by Francis D.K. Ching
This is a wonderful resource that describes pretty much all aspects of construction.  I used it as a textbook for a college course in residential construction.  It is clearly written and it's supplemented with many, easy to understand, drawings.  I highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in building construction methods.

"Get Your House Right" by Marianne Cusato
I was thrilled to find this book at my local Barnes & Noble just as I was designing my cottage.  It is a comprehensive guide on residential architectural elements.  While most are exterior elements, there is a chapter on interior moldings, casings and fireplace surrounds.  The book is written in a "use and avoid" format that helps to identify why the facades of some houses don't quite "work".

Not to undermine our local bookstores, but both of these books are available through

OK, enough of that.  Now to begin . . .

As mentioned as a preview in my last post, once the foundation was complete, the next step was to lay the sills, more correctly known as the sole plates.  This is the first step in translating the floor plan into a three dimensional building as these are the components from which the walls will be built.

To plan my sole plates accurately, I first needed to establish the proper thickness of my interior and exterior walls.  Here's a breakdown of my conversions . . .

Real life interior walls are framed using 2 x 4's.  These are sheathed in 5/8" sheetrock on both sides for a total thickness of 4 3/4".  I used 1/4" basswood strips sheathed in 1/16" illustration board. 

Real life exterior walls are framed using 2 x 6's.  These are sheathed in 5/8" sheetrock on the inside and some type of high density panel plus exterior siding on the outside for a total thickness of 8 - 10".  I used 1/2" basswood strips sheathed in 1/16" illustration board.  To this I'll add my exterior siding.

Wow . . . is this getting too technical?  You're not "nodding off" on me, are you?!
This is where feedback is important.  While I want to describe my process, I don't want to lose you if this isn't interesting . . . don't be shy about letting me know!!! 

So, now that I knew the dimensions of my stripwood, I drew the floorplan on the MDF sub-floor.  I then cut the stripwood in the appropriate lengths and glued them down.

First Floor Sole Plates

In the "real world", the studs would be nailed directly to this sole plate and the sheetrock would then be applied.  For the miniature version it's a bit different.  I'm actually building the walls using two sole plates.  The first is the one I glued to the MDF and the second is the one the studs are attached to.  I'm doing it this way because I need to be able to sheath the walls and do some of the finishing before they are glued in place.  When the walls are ready to be installed, I'll simply glue the sole plates together and voila!

Confused?  The following pictures might help . . .

Framing and Exterior Wall

This is one of the walls being framed.  You can clearly see the second sole plate which is attached to the studs, as well as the top plate which completes the wall.  More later about that . . . and how to frame a window or door opening.

This week's Preview

The Walls Being Installed . . . temporarily

As I complete a wall, I install it by "pinning" the sole plates together with sequin pins.  This allows me to see if I am proceeding correctly . . . and also satisfies my need for instant gratification!!!

Hopefully by now your heads aren't ready to explode.  I'll close for now and let you digest all of this information.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, October 21, 2012

transforming a "real life" house design into "the dollscottage"

To begin, thank you all for "signing on" to follow the construction of "the dollscottage".  I appreciate your enthusiastic comments and I'll do my best to keep this blog informative . . . and fun.

As promised in my last post, here's a little background on the design and the logistics of how the cottage comes apart.

the design

My goal was to create a small cottage style house with relatively simple geometry to minimize the construction costs . . . should it ever be built for "real"!  I also wanted to incorporate large windows to maximize the natural light.

The first floor has an open plan with the main living space consisting of a large kitchen open to a living room with fireplace, and a formal dining room.  Additional amenities include a half bath, mudroom, and laundry room.  Beyond this, my indulgences are a spacious front porch, large entry hall with a dramatic staircase, and a screened back porch.  The square footage for this floor is approximately 1615.  The second floor consists of two bedrooms, each with a walk-in closet and private bath.  The larger, "master suite", also features a roof top deck . . . another indulgence!  The square footage for this floor is approximately 960 which brings the total for the cottage to approximately 2575.  This of course, doesn't account for the garage . . . but that's another project!

the interior access
. . . or how does the cottage "open"

My goal is to conceal how the cottage comes apart as much as possible.  To best describe my approach, I'll start with a couple of drawings.

Front Elevation "open"

First Floor "open"

Second Floor "open"

Congratulations to those of you who guessed the cottage splits down the middle.  In addition, the front porch is built on a separate foundation so it easily "slips" in place beneath the overhanging second floor.  This is done so there's no visible "seam" in the porch.  Also, when the front porch is removed, the "boxed out" front wall of the dining room comes with it to give better access to the dining room.  In addition, the screened walls of the back porch are removable for easy access to this room.  Since the design of this cottage is being adapted to 1:12 scale, there will be secondary rooms with limited visual access.  The half bath, mud room, and laundry room are three of these spaces so my intention is to finish these rooms from the outside before the exterior wall is closed up.  They will be seen only through the windows and a door left cracked open!  To conceal the "seam" when the cottage is "closed", the flooring is cherry with the planks running from the front to the back.

Access to the second floor rooms is a little more challenging since the floor plan isn't open.  The wall running down the middle of the structure is constructed in such a way that when the cottage is "open", it can be removed for access into the bedrooms.  As with the half bath, mudroom, and laundry room on the first floor, the bathrooms for each bedroom will be finished from the outside before the exterior wall is closed up.  I'm relying on the large windows for visual access to these spaces.  The largest walk-in closet will actually conceal most of the electrical components for the structure, but more about that later.

I'm finding that, as the cottage is being constructed, modifications are becoming necessary to insure its success.  I'll be sharing these with you along the way.  I love the challenge . . .

the preview
 . . . "laying" the foundation

The Cottage Foundation Walls
The exterior foundation walls and intermediate support walls are 1" x 2" poplar.  This view shows the two parts of the cottage separated.

The Completed Cottage Foundation

The sub-floor is 1/4" MDF.  This makes the foundation very strong while keeping the weight down as much as possible.  Special credit for this foundation must be given to my talented sub-contractor.  You know him best as  . . . Ray W.  He surprised me by completing it in between his tasks on  La Maison des Grands RĂªves!!!

I hope your curiosity is piqued and that you all plan to stay tuned for the exciting third installment of "the dollscottage" where the sills will be laid for the first floor walls!

Until next time . . .

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I know what you're thinking . . . does the world really need another blog?!  Probably not, but here I am.  If blame can be placed, I point my finger toward my partner, Ray Whitledge of "modernminiatures-whitledge-burgess".  Ray has so enjoyed sharing his journey with the transformation of a Chessington Plaza structure, that he has encouraged me to enter the world of the blogger.  My question had been . . . what can I possibly write about that would be of interest to our fellow miniaturists?  Then it came to me.  I have always wanted to design a dollhouse in 1:12 scale and build it using "real life" construction techniques.  And so, as my journey begins, I'm proud to introduce . . .

"the dollscottage"

To begin, I spent the first few weeks playing the role of "the client".  Sounds simple enough, but this is a daunting task for any professional in the design field . . . there are sometimes simply too many options!  Plunging ahead, I asked myself, how could a house that I would want to "live in", be designed within the parameters of a dollhouse.  I knew that it couldn't be too large since we had to be able to get it out of the basement someday.  I also knew that while it had to "open" to allow access to the interior, I wanted to accomplish this in a way that didn't involve the opening of the exterior walls.  The end result is a house that is built in two halves, joined together.  Since we all know a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few drawings of the final design . . .

This is the front elevation

This is the right elevation

This is the rear elevation

And finally, this is the left elevation

I'll end this post with the floor plans.  This will give you some time to review the overall design of the cottage.  Next time, I'll explain my concepts for the function of all of the rooms . . . and how the house comes apart!

First Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

Thank you for visiting my new blog.  I hope you've enjoyed this introduction to "the dollscottage", and I hope you'll become followers of its progress over the next several months.  I'm looking forward to sharing my trials and tribulations with you!

Until next time . . .