The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Project is Revealed...da-dah!

A few weeks ago I tantalised my half-dozen regular commentators by mentioning that The Husband had embarked on building a special project for me, but without saying what it was.  I was holding back on you all until the job was sufficiently advanced to have something to show to the group.  Some of you claimed to be all agog (which I sincerely doubted - you are all TOO kind!), but a month has passed so I shan't keep you on tenterhooks any longer.

It is a Dolls' House.

There!  The relief is palpable, right?  You can breathe again...

It is a four-storey eight-roomed Regency-style edifice with "French influences", or so it said on the kit which turned up by courier on 21 March.  The French influence is the roof, which - although not a mansard roof - does have dormer windows with a little barrelled roof over each of them.

The husband set about assembling and gluing the parts, and after little more than three days' hectic activity on his part, on the large table in his study, the building was up;

I asked him not to fit and glue all the flights of stairs, as I wanted to stain the risers and treads, and maybe even add banisters (he thinks this is a little crazy, but I keep saying there is nothing at all sane about a middle-aged woman having a dolls' house in the first place, so let me indulge my whimsy, please!) and also fit carpet runners and paint or paper the walls before they are put in place, as it will be so much easier than trying to do it afterwards.

The week after he reached this point in the construction we had post-Easter visitors staying for a few days in the first week in April, so he put the dolls' house on a blanket box at the top of the stairs where it will eventually live permanently, and filled the rooms with a chain of LED Christmas lights, putting white paper up at the windows as blinds, so that the dolls' house could double as a muted night light on the landing for folks to find their way to the bathroom and loo easily at night.

Since the end of March I have been thoroughly enjoying an orgy of eBaying, buying furniture, appliances, fittings, fixtures and frippery for the family who will "live" in the house.  I have also bought the family itself, several 1/12th-scale dressed dolls with porcelain faces, and wired limbs one can pose, each tipped with porcelain extremities, teeny-tiny china hands and feet.  I have added a cook, and a couple of additional characters.  They still need a housemaid, but they won't have any male servants, I don't think, as they are a bourgeois family in a busy market town, the merchant class or the professional class, not nobility.

The era I originally wanted to re-create was the mid 1830s, the time of William IV, but that turned out to be much too much of a niche market, and what little there was commercially available which is styled to be from then is horrendously expensive, being handmade by cabinet-makers, not mass-produced.  So I have gone for very early Victorian instead.  1840s-ish.  Think the newly-married Victoria and Albert.  Think Mendelssohn and his sister, or Turner and his seaside landlady.  Think of Thomas and Jane Carlyle when they weren't squabbling, or Charles Darwin soon after he wed his cousin Emma Wedgwood.  That decade, but not quite that stratum of society.

Emma Darwin 1840

I even daydream about the characters, especially when I was in bed ill at the weekend, imagining their names and relationships.  There are two very similar young ladies.  They are sisters.  At the moment they are identically dressed, but I intend to re-dress all the dolls in handmade homemade clothes.  One sister is married, her husband is the householder, his widowed mother lives with them.  It is his family home which he has inherited from his late father.  His widowed mother is the children's nanny/governess, with help from a nursery maid.  There is a small daughter and a new baby. 

The wife's unmarried sister also spends her daytime hours with them to help with the children as well.  She often stays on for dinner and has a handsome bearded beau who visits, and plays the piano to accompany her as she sings or plays the violin.  But they are not engaged, so someone has to chaperon his visits, even if it's only the little girl.  The householder is a professional man of some sort, or a man of business, and has a study or library (which it is will depend on how many shelves of how many tiny little books I can afford, or manage to make...) where he relaxes or entertains his male guests after dinner

They are definitely in trade or the professions.  Not landed gentry.  There is work to be done in this house, the middle classes are rising!

On the ground floor we have a kitchen and a dining room, the first floor is the drawing room, a female preserve, and the study for the menfolk.  The third floor has the two largest bedrooms.  The attic rooms are the servants' bedroom and nursery/schoolroom.

Well, all that is the theory!  We shall have to see as the project progresses what is feasible, do-able and affordable.  I have got a lot of the big pieces already, enough to amuse myself with setting up room lay-outs and posing the dolls in little tableaux of domestic bliss.  It is a tremendous outlet for my control-freakery as I have an unprotesting army of underlings to boss about at will and bend to my every whim.  It's brilliant!

Here are the young courting couple making beautiful music together, very properly and decorously, in suitable sepia. I shall add a chaperon when I have an armchair to put her in.  The Husband is going to add candles in holders to the piano either side of the music.

and the here is master of the house at his leisure at the end of his day's work.  His large Turkish rug hasn't arrived yet, but when it does this room will be splendid. He also has a lot of pictures and objets d'art in storage which he got when he took the Grand Tour as a bachelor, after graduating.  Oh, HUMOUR me!

All the rooms need chimney breasts as well, and chimney stacks and pots need to be added to each side of the roof.  The Husband now has the kit to wire the whole place for lighting (and illuminated fire grates) so that's the next big job.  The tiny 12-amp electrical items which will reproduce the effect of candles, gas lights or oil lamps, and fires will all be controlled and dimmed via remote control, so I shan't even keep knocking everything over switching them on.  How good is that?

After that is all wired in, I can buy and lay the flooring, and add skirting boards, dado rails, picture rails, cornicing, moulding and ceiling roses where appropriate.  And paint and paper and pictures.  Oh, what fun we shall have!

Meanwhile, I will leave you with this charming vignette of the young Victorian mother with her second-born, soothing her before her bed time.  The infant is still in a cot in her parents' room, you will note.  It's quite a tough call to find places for everyone to sleep when there are ONLY eight rooms.  Perhaps we need an extension ...

(please no-one tell The Husband I just said that!).


  1. Gosh, what a change since I saw it ten days ago! it's going to look most impressive when it's finished. Have fun. :-)

  2. Hari Om
    oooh oohh ooohh - can I play too?! I LOOVE this. Your scenarios are wonderful and I read with my mouth open and eyes agog - I kid you not! You're onto something here.

    Am a bit concerned about the beardless bearded beau though. He can't be good news. I feel all will not be well in the music room e'er long... See, you are duly humoured! Looking forward with great anticipation to the updates and episodes. Does bubba sleep through the night? Is the head maid all she seems? (YAM! Kya? - leave it to GOL... okay... &< )

    1. You can come and play any time, Yam. Bring your own dollies, but they can't be any taller than about 5"

  3. Hari OM
    .....that means I'd fit!!! COL. (cackle out loud - am making my own short-speak now) &> cheers!

    1. Are you somewhat vertically challenged, Yam? If you ever want to move to the UK after you leave the ashram...

  4. I love the idea...but would never have the skill to do any of the 'fitting ups' that you and your husband are doing.
    You're going to have a whale of a time with this.

    1. It really is a Long Felt Want, Fly. Thirty years ago I renovated a secondhand dolls' house for my niece/goddaughter (she is both) when she was almost four, and furnished it with little room-sets of furniture from Poundstretchers, making additional items myself, and using wallpaper samples from a friend's shop to redecorate it throughout. I had SUCH fun, and always wanted to do a miniature house again.

  5. Oh isn't it grand - you will have so much fun!!!!!!!!

    1. I pass the little mansion every time I go up and down stairs, and often can't resist a peak inside, even when I should be being sensible about something more pressing. It is playtime chez Goldenoldenlady! Why should the grown men (often retired professional men...) with their model railway layouts have all the fun?!