It’s Finally Here…!!!

A good few months ago, I made the decision to replace my old, tired Edwardian house with a new, ready to move in model.

After much searching and deliberation I placed an order with the lovely Sally and Richard at Cloverley Dolls Houses. I went for their Beeches house with basement.

All the way through the process they’ve been in close contact about every detail so I knew I was going to have a house which was finished exactly to my specifications – and for what I consider to be excellent value.

After a long but worthwhile wait, the finished article arrived yesterday, delivered and set up for me in person by Sally and Richard themselves. Now, before I even get to the house, I have to say that they are such a lovely, friendly couple who are clearly very passionate about their work and the personal service they give is a real credit to them. And on top of that they are clearly very, very, skilled!

As for the house, well, I have to say my expectations were exceeded. It is the house I’ve always wanted but never had the time, patience or skill to produce. The finish is exceptional, the attention to detail is immaculate and I still feel like a kid at Christmas everytime I look at it!

From beautifully executed mouldings to expertly fitted lights, from faultless wallpapering to beautiful stencilled flooring, there is so much about this house to admire. And admiring it is something I’ve spent pretty much all of the last 24 hours doing!

I’ve moved most of the furniture and miniatures from the old house in already (pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had!) and will probably end up buying a few new bits and bobs and replacing some of the older things as I go along. But then that’s the continuing joy of this hobby!

I’m planning a slightly more in depth blog about all the wonderful details and features soon but I must sign off now…need to go and play…I mean “admire” again!!

I will just finish by saying that if you’re looking for a house built to your specifications, with an attentive, friendly and personal service then you need look no further! Thank you Cloverley Dolls Houses! You’ve made me very happy.

 

LINKS

Cloverley Dolls Houses – http://www.cloverleydollshouses.co.uk/

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Mastery in Miniature

It’s been a while since I last blogged…so much has been going on. I’ve also been hanging on because I knew I wanted this to be my next post and I was awaiting the arrival of some new goodies from the lovely people at Masters Miniatures.

Some time ago, I discovered Masters Miniatures when looking for some gifts for my Mum. She’s been very slowly building a regency style cottage and the chaps at Masters were super helpful in suggesting the pieces that would work best from their stock. They also made me some beautiful dining chairs for the purpose.

So they seemed to be an obvious choice when furnishing my Tudor house. Given the rush job I did on the Edwardian house, I have been determined to only fill the Tudor house with really quality items, regardless of how long it might take me!

Masters Miniatures are Gary and Heidi Masters, who hand craft beautiful wooden furniture in a variety of scales from their workshop on the Devon-Cornwall border. The first item I ordered for the Tudor house was a simple but carefully made Tudor table which sits perfectly in the kitchen area but is versatile enough to suit anything from a grand Tudor hall to a witch’s cottage or apothecary shop.

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Tudor Table by Masters Miniatures – £20

Then, after my visit to Weald and Downland, a truckle bed became top of my shopping list. Masters Miniatures just happened to have a perfect replica on their site which, at just £36.00, I snapped up. And I adore it. It couldn’t be more perfect! I have since been on ebay and acquired materials to make bedding and drapes but I’ve not been brave enough to dress it yet!

Inspired and excited by these exquisite items, I emailed Masters Miniatures with photographs of some shelving and a cabinet from Weald and Downland to see if they could custom build them for me. Which they happily did and they arrived this morning!

I immediately dropped everything else I was doing, unwrapped the package and stomped over to my Tudor house to try them in situ. They are so delicately and carefully made and look completely spot on – exactly as I’d hoped. Despite my somewhat sketchy instructions and measurements, they have been made to perfection.

I’m yet to hang the shelves, I need to be completely decided on where they’re going to go, but I can’t wait to fill them with all sorts of pots and kitchen paraphernalia!

I’m starting to get the feeling that most, if not all of my Tudor house will end up being furnished entirely by Masters Miniatures! For what I think is an exceptionally reasonable cost, their work is just beautiful. You can see the time and care that goes into their furniture and indeed the incredible skill.

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Cabinet and Table in the house.

They have an excellent Tudor section but they also make and sell furniture from most eras and can offer great advice on what would work in your setting. And if they don’t already have one, then you can be sure they will be able to make exactly what you need.  Each piece can be made in a variety of woods, with a choice of finishes and custom upholstery.

If you want to fill your dollshouse with quality, handmade, bespoke furniture but you don’t have the hundreds of pounds that some companies charge for a single chair, then you literally cannot go wrong with Masters Miniatures.

Visit Masters Miniatures here.

A Little “Research” Trip

The last time I went to Weald and Downland Open Air Museum was on a school trip more than 20 years ago. I remember loving it but as I think I may have spent half the trip wrestling with a teenage crush I had on one of the boys in my class, I remember little else about it!

It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit as an adult, especially as it has evolved and grown since that school trip. My husband and I were wracking our brains yesterday morning trying to think of something to do and after dismissing the same Isle of Wight attractions we’ve been to a million times, we decided to throw caution to the wind and leap on the next available ferry. The decision was made at 9am and by lunchtime we were in beautiful West Sussex.

Whilst I hadn’t intended this to be a research trip for my Tudor dollshouse, I thought I might gain a little inspiration whilst indulging in my love of medieval and Tudor history. However, I got more than just a little inspired and armed with my husband’s DSLR camera, I was snapping away at every room and every piece of furniture.

For those who haven’t been to Weald and Downland or know what it is, I’ll attempt to describe what it’s all about. In very basic terms, they have saved historic buildings from the bulldozer by carefully pulling them down and then rebuilding them within the most breathtaking rural setting of the west Sussex Countryside. These buildings date from the 13th century onwards and rather than being the grand manor houses you may be used to visiting, they are all the homes and working buildings of ‘ordinary’ people. This, to me, makes them more special.

There are some 50 buildings on the 40 acre site and each one tells the very individual stories of the people who would have lived and worked in them. Each time you step into one you genuinely feel like you’re stepping back into history and that, at any moment, the medieval farmer or Elizabethan merchant might return home and catch you there!

The surroundings allow you to totally absorb yourself. You can’t hear or see a single road, or car. Despite the car park being stuffed full, it never felt crowded. The houses are mostly spread out (be prepared to walk ALOT!) so that you can see them within the context of their original settings, against a backdrop of rolling sheep-filled fields, or nestled within equally ancient farm buildings and animal pens. You feel as much as if you’re THERE as it’s possible to be.

A real highlight for me was “Bayleaf”, a Wealdon House presented to the museum in 1968 by the East Surrey Water Company. It was originally built in the late 15th/early 16th century and has been set within a farmstead, including a barn dating from 1536, to show how it may have looked in about 1540.

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The open hall in “Bayleaf”

As I entered the building I realised I was the only person in there. It’s a big space, and so atmospheric when it’s not full of visitors! I stepped into one of the upstairs rooms and I was utterly transported to 1540. I looked out of the window to see geese running across the grass and outside I could hear a cow mooing and the metallic ‘tap tap tap’ of a blacksmith shoeing a horse. As someone who loves history and makes every effort to absorb myself in it as much as I can, it was really a magical feeling.

At the other end of the scale is Poplar Cottage which is believed to have been the home of a craftsman or “landless husbandman” dating from the early to mid 17th century. Whilst in no way is it as grand as Bayleaf, it is no less magical. The interior furnishings are recreated in such a way that you expect to turn a corner and see the original inhabitants at their work. It gave me goosebumps.

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Beautiful Poplar Cottage

As far as “research” goes, well it was very fruitful. It’s given me some great ideas for the affluence level of my Tudor dollshouse, who may have lived there and how they may have used the space. I’ve discovered that bunches of lavender tied to the walls and ceilings of each room are a must, that I need lots of pots and baskets and that a truckle bed is the best choice for the bedroom! I have a shopping list for miniatures as long as my arm!

I’ve come away from Weald and Downland having had a truly special experience and I’m adding it to my list of absolute favourite places to be! If you love social history, or indeed any kind of history, you have to visit this place. And if you’re researching a miniature Tudor family home it’s an absolute must! If you’re doing both, then you’ll be utterly in your element!

To find out more (and I suggest you do!) visit the Weald and Downland website.

Early Mistakes and Eaton Place!

I think it was about 14 years ago I got my first grown up dollshouse. At the time I couldn’t afford much but still wanted as many rooms as possible. So I really went for quantity over quality.

I was a total novice, I was pretty much skint and terribly impatient to get started. I wish I had waited and done things more slowly and with more care but hindsight is a wonderful thing! In my rush to get going, I didn’t even think about lighting, skirting, cornices or even painting the interior! Instead I used off-cuts of full sized wallpaper, the cheapest dollshouse carpet I could find and made some frankly horrific curtains from scrap material my Mum had.

The exterior faired slightly better but none of the work was done with the care and attention it deserved and, as a result, over a decade later, the decor is looking pretty poor! On top of that, the interior walls are falling down, the glue I used has yellowed and the whole structure is in a fairly sad state.

However, as time went on I became a little more able to buy bits and pieces and have amassed quite a collection of accessories and furniture. I also have some lovely dolls. These came from various places including a couple made by my Mum (I’ll talk about my Mum’s first steps into 12th scale dolls in another post!), and one beautiful one which was a gift, but now of the wrong era! Lots of the furniture is budget and mass produced or bought on ebay but most of it looks pretty good in situ.

About 8 years ago I got seriously into watching re-runs of Upstairs, Downstairs (I even have the box set!) and finally had more of a vision and new enthusiasm for my dollshouse project. Sadly, most of the damage was done and trying to create 165 Eaton Place out of the proverbial sow’s ear was going to be a mammoth task. I also had a real mishmash of periods going on with the furniture.

4 or 5 years ago I added a basement. I took a little more care over the basement rooms (pantry/scullery and a maid’s bedroom – which to my annoyance should really be in the roof!). I’m fairly happy with them but I can’t get away from the errors and issues with the rest of the house!

So despite being a 14 year old project, I have so much work to do and I’m weighing up my options. 

I’ve narrowed it down to either ripping the whole lot out and starting again or saving up for a better quality house and letting Munch start her own little miniature adventures with the old one.

I’m leaning towards option 2. I’ve already identified a few possible candidates! I’ll keep you posted! 🙂

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Maisie cat getting in on the action during a reset and dust!

Something Tasty

For some reason, I’m always most excited about kitchens and more specifically teeny tiny food items! The first rooms I think about are those that involve food! In fact, fireplaces aside, a table full of food is the only thing I’ve placed in my Tudor house so far!

My favourite rooms in the Edwardian house (I’ll be introducing that project to you later) are the kitchen and pantry. The kitchen was the first room to be finished, the pantry the last. As such there is quite a difference in how well they are finished, as my knowledge and understanding has grown over the years.

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Edwardian Pantry

There are some great places to find miniature food items for your houses and I’m going to share a few of my favourites with you. I started the Edwardian house well over a decade ago so sadly I don’t really recall where half of the stuff came from. It’s a shame as I have some lovely bits but no idea where they were purchased and I know that various Ebay sellers have also been a source.

COUNTRY CONTRAST

I can’t remember whether I first discovered these guys online or at Kensington but I’ve been back to them time and time again. Their food is really beautifully produced and they also do some great accessories (my pantry contains a meat cupboard, butchers block and a few little cleaning accessories from them too!) for all sorts of eras. They luckily have a very nice little Tudor section too.

When I’ve been to fairs, I always head straight to their stall and end up happily filling a bag with little treats and they’re my first port of call for online miniature groceries!

The little vegetable basket is so realistic with exceptional attention to detail. There’s also one hiding on the back of the pantry table. On the Edwardian kitchen table the vegetable prep board is from Country Contrast.

The pantry table also contains an adorable basket of eggs and in the background you can see meat and a delightful ex-turkey hanging perfectly over the aforementioned butcher’s block. The “brace” of pheasants was purchased at Kensington but as they’d run out of girls at the time, I was quite happy to have two boys!

Country Contrast also have an array of wonderful preparation boards and other items and are well worth a visit.

TUDOR FOOD

Most recently I’ve been busy looking for authentic looking Tudor food. Again, I turned to Country Contrast and found some lovely bits and bobs but I also discovered a couple of new sites well worth a look for this era.

The first is Small Wonders Miniatures. It was only when I received my items from Country Contrast and Small Wonders together that I realised they were connected! In fact they are a husband and wife team – Doreen who is behind Small Wonders and Bob of Country Contrast!  My favourite discovery in Doreen’s Medieval and Tudor section was a little set of spice sacks and they accompany other food items and a hippocras set from Bob!

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Also currently on my table are an adorable pair of pigs trotters and a bowl of eggs. These are from Medieval Morsels on Etsy and are just two of a vast array of accurate and beautifully made items. If you want authenticity then you’re sure to get it here. Almost every item description includes information on the origins and history of each food item so you know if it’s going to be right for your setting.

So if I’ve whetted your appetite for some miniature munchies, here are the links:

Country Contrast

Small Wonders

Medieval Morsels

Let’s Cook!

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I was awaiting my Tudor fireplace from Firecraft Miniatures, who can be found on Etsy.

Well, today it arrived, all snug amongst a mountain of shredded paper and bubble wrap. The first thing I noticed as I unwrapped it was the smell! You can smell the handmade! The aroma of wood, paint and clay is one which immediately screams “quality and care”.

It is beautifully made, there’s no doubt about it and fits beautifully in the space.

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I was a little worried I was going to have to do some beam removal for it to sit flush but actually, I’m rather pleased with how it looks. It’s exactly what I’d been looking for and for what I think is a pretty reasonable price for something handmade to this standard – £37.95 plus postage. I have seen vaguely similar things for well over the £100 mark and i doubt I would have been as happy with them!

Firecraft Miniatures is actually a chap called Chris who, according to his website, hand crafts items to order in his spare time. He says “If your [sic] fed up with buying high priced low quality unrealistic dollshouse accessories and now want to start buying lifelike high quality, fairly priced products then look no further.” I hear you Chris and that’s why I’m pleased as punch with my fireplace.

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I’m going to look at finding a very teeny drill bit to make a hole for an LED to light the cute little fire and I can’t wait to get going on accessorising!

See FirecraftMiniatures on Etsy here or visit the website here.

 

 

 

Hearth and Home – Introducing the Tudor House

A few years ago I headed to the Kensington Dollshouse Festival with my Mum, a fellow miniature fan, and an exceptionally patient husband!

Whilst there I fell hopelessly in love with some hand built 1/24th scale Tudor houses by Triggerpond and have coveted them ever since. They had to be custom built to order and the price, whilst fair, was way out of reach. I’ve been constantly on the look out for one which was more suited to my budget ever since but never seen anything that came close to these.

My reason for going down in scale from my usual 1/12th was purely a matter of space. We don’t have a huge house and whilst she’s a wee little thing, it’s amazing how much space Munch takes up! I’d seen quite a few 12th scale tudor houses which met my criteria but I just couldn’t see how we’d fit them in.

Fast forward to Christmas 2015. My husband starts to look worried and drops the odd comment expressing his concern about a gift he’s purchased. “I think you’ll love it” he says “but I think your first reaction will be to flip out in a panic about space”.

Here is the gift he was worrying about. A beautiful Tudor house which he found on the website of a little antique shop in Lincoln. I’m told it was quite an epic task to get it couriered to the Isle of Wight!

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He was assured it was one of a kind, hand built and a replica of the Lincoln Tea Rooms. I’ve not been able to find reference to the building as yet. He was also however, assured it was 1/24th scale but when the courier delivered it, he started to realise that perhaps there had been some mix up! It is indeed 1/12th scale but I’m not going to quibble. It’s really quite beautiful.

It has 3 removable sections revealing a large open plan downstairs and a cute little room upstairs. It’s pre-lit and pretty much good to go, ready to fill with furniture. My plan is to make it the home of a Tudor merchant, or at least a middle class Tudor family. I’m undecided about thatching. My initial thoughts (based on minimal research) are that most houses in towns were tiled to protect from fire so I think I may leave it as is.

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It looks great when it’s lit but the light fittings are a bit on the modern side. There was also a fire in the bedroom which was a little too 1980s for my liking. I’ve replaced this with an adorable little log and peat fire from Romney Miniatures (links below) which cost me all of about a fiver! I already had the bulb to insert from the other fire but you can buy the bulbs on the same site, either separately or along with their fireplaces, for a reasonable price too.

Also from Romney Miniatures are my replacement light fittings, again around a fiver each. They have a great range of Tudor light fixtures and for pretty much the best price I’ve seen online thus far. I’m yet to tackle fitting them because the bulbs are unbelievably small but will let you know how this goes when I get brave enough to do it! As an important aside, the guys at Romney Miniatures are also super efficient and delivery was swift!

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Current light fittings

Whilst we’re on fires, I’ve ordered a whole tudor fireplace complete with bread oven from FirecraftMiniatures on Etsy for the kitchen area. They’re made to order so take a little while to arrive but I have an inkling it will be worth the wait. I had a despatch email yesterday so watch this space for a review!

You can find the log and peat fires, fittings and lighting at:

http://www.romneymin.com/

 

 

Introducing Minis, Munch and Me!

Well, here goes nothing! My first ever blog post! I hope it doesn’t prove too painful for me or for you!

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ME

I’m very adept at repeating myself, so in order not to do that, it might be worth checking out the About page to learn more about why I started this blog and what I hope to gain from it.

To introduce myself properly though, I’m Sarah. I’m 36 and I live on the Isle of Wight but I’m originally from Southampton. I live with my husband of 5 years, Matt and my beautiful almost 2 year old daughter…more about her later! Oh, and Maisie the cat, who I must mention as she’s spent the last 2 years looking rather put-out!

I used to be a professional dancer, until I got injured and realised that actually, as much as I loved dancing, a lot of what comes with being a dancer, wasn’t for me after all. I now work for an awesome charity and find helping people through some of the worst experiences of their lives super rewarding.

I love history, music, reading, art and I am collecting hobbies! You can read more about why in that About page I mentioned before. When the little one is in bed or Daddy is being amazing and letting me have some “me” time, that’s when I indulge myself in all the things I love. Which brings me to “Minis”.

MINIS

This refers to just one of my hobbies and was the only one that seemed to lend itself to the blog title!

Maybe it’s because I’m short (5ft exactly) that I like small things or maybe I’m trying to recapture some part of childhood! Whatever the reason, I’m the proud owner of 3 doll houses. My first is Edwardian in style and this is the most complete, the second is a modern bridal shop (you’ll see a theme here) and the most recent acquisition is tudor. They’re all 12th scale and in varying states of completion. I intend to blog a bit about my progress on each of these and any really good products or techniques I uncover along the way.

Other hobbies which I shall be blogging about (is that even the right term?!) are my newly discovered love of fashion design (specifically bridal), my lifelong love of music and 3 month long relationship with acoustic guitar and perhaps a little bit of baking and cake decoration may find its way in.

Hopefully anyone reading will find something they like or find interesting – or perhaps just something that you want to point and laugh at! As long as it makes you smile!

MUNCH

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And finally, Munch.

This is an easy one to explain. When I was pregnant with my little girl, we had a scan at 10 weeks. My husband’s first reaction to seeing the little bean-like dot on the screen was “it looks like one of the Munch Bunch!”.

I couldn’t see it myself but somehow the Munch bit stuck and from then until this day, despite having a very pretty name, our little girl is very often referred to as “Munch”. Thus fulfilling the “Mummy Stuff” element!

That’s it! Introductory post done. Now follows the interesting stuff…I hope!