the dollhouse.

Once upon a time, way back in the early 90’s, my dad took an early retirement from his job at IBM.  I believe he was around 55 or so at the time.  Back in the day an early retirement from an excellent company was totally do-able because companies were more likely to provide you with health insurance after retirement.  That’s no longer very likely and now people like me will have to work until they are medicare eligible because health insurance has gotten so ridiculously expensive.  But I digress.  This is not a post about the ongoing woes of our health care system, this is a post about a dollhouse.

You see, once retired my dad quickly grew bored.  He desperately needed a project.  So when I casually mentioned how I’d always wanted a dollhouse, he took that idea and ran with it.

At the time my parents lived in Kentucky, and I was here in Minnesota.  Now remember, this was the early 90’s.  We didn’t have email.  Nor did we have cell phones.  My dad would take photos of his progress, get them developed and then send them to me in the mail.  I would send paint chips, wallpaper (dollhouse sized) and tiny furnishings back to him in the mail.  It was an awesome way for my dad and I to connect.  We were both so excited about the project.  I will always have fond memories of that time (my dad passed away about 10 years ago).

All of that being said, the dollhouse is large and heavy.  For a long time it resided in what is now the Q Branch and it took up the entire room since you really need to be able to get around all sides of it.  I used to decorate it for the holidays when it was on display in that room, I even had a Christmas tree with working lights.  But eventually I decided that it was a poor use of a really great room so we moved the dollhouse up to the guest room where it has been sitting and gathering dust for quite some time.

Since we had to move the dollhouse downstairs to refinish the floors in the guest room, I did some serious thinking and decided it wasn’t going back up.  This will allow Mr. Q to take over the larger room as his study, and the smaller room will become the guest room  with no space for the dollhouse.  I just don’t have a large enough house to devote so much space to something that I barely pay attention to anymore.

My niece used to always say she would take the dollhouse one day, so I asked her if she really wanted it.  The answer was no.  I offered it to a couple of other family members who also didn’t want it.  I was starting to think I might have to just sell it, when Mr. Q’s step-dad mentioned that he would love to have it!  He loves anything miniature (just check out this post about his workshop for proof of that), plus he’s an extremely talented wood worker, so the dollhouse will be in good hands.

So it’s a happy ending.  The dollhouse is going to a wonderful new home.  Tom is in the process of adding a three season wrap around porch at their farmhouse and the dollhouse will fit neatly at one end.  I’ll be able to visit it whenever I want to, and the grandkids will all be able to play with it whenever they visit.

Before I send it off to its new home, I thought I’d take a few photos to share with you guys.

Gosh, where do I even start?  If you haven’t already gotten yourself a fresh cup of coffee, you might want to do that now.  This may be a long one.

Since this dollhouse was for me, obviously it had to have impressive gardens.

Most of the flowers are made out of Fimo clay.  I made some of them myself, like the trailing vines in the window boxes, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that I really don’t have the patience for working with tiny things.

Let’s head inside …

 and begin our tour in the kitchen.

Did you notice the tin ceiling or the ceiling fan?

Remember, this was decorated back in the early 90’s.  Stenciled borders were all the rage.  I added that stencil myself with a tiny little metal stencil.  And even though farmhouse sinks weren’t quite as popular yet, I wanted one in my dollhouse!

My dad was very detail oriented.  The door between the kitchen and the dining room is a swinging door.  And check out the paneling below the chair rail, the parquet floor and the dentil crown molding above the stenciled border.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but the dollhouse is fully electrified.

Another example of attention to detail, there is a little door under the stairs that opens and closes.  I suppose I could store the Christmas tree under there.  See it back there?

You can catch a glimpse of the foyer through the arched opening in the dining room.  The floor in the foyer is a type of blue shale that is found in Kentucky.  My dad just gathered some up from a field near his house and ’tiled’ the floor with it.

Boy, you can also tell the era of this dollhouse by all of the wallpaper!  My real house was entirely wallpapered at that time as well.  And the garish shades of pink, burgundy, sea foam green and forest green (all chosen by yours truly).  Yikes!

Here’s the living room.  See that wedding photo on the wall to the left?  That’s me and Mr. Q!

Oh, and did I mention that my dollhouse has two original water colors on the walls?  Yep, my dad was friends with local artist at the time and he asked him to paint a couple of paintings for the dollhouse.  The first one hangs over the living room fireplace.

The second one hangs over the master bedroom fireplace.  I really can’t decide which one of these is my favorite, I love them both.  Had I ended up having to sell the dollhouse I would have removed these and kept them.  But now they will stay in place.

Can I just mention here how much I love that fireplace?  Isn’t it fantastic!  This is another great example of my dad’s attention to detail.  He purposely added black ‘soot’ to the brick fireplace insert so it would look well used.  See it?  The little pile of logs on the fire is electrified so that it glows like a real fireplace.

Currently the master bedroom is sparsely furnished with just this lovely four poster bed.

Next door is the bathroom.  Originally there was just going to be the claw foot tub with the towel bar above it, but my dad found this amazing hot water heater and had to have it.

I love all of the details in this room; the tile floor, the wainscoted wall, the tin ceiling, the wall mounted sink, even the little toothpaste box next to the sink.

But I can’t lie.  My favorite detail in the bathroom is the tiny roll of toilet paper.  Seriously, does that thing just crack you up or what?

I decorated the second bedroom in the house as a young girl’s room.  Naturally.

Complete with a faux wicker vanity.

Just above the girl’s room is the attic.

I believe my dad originally came up with the idea for this space when he found the newspaper wallpaper.

My dad had a lot of fun with the details of this room like the exposed studs and electrical, and we both had fun coming up with stuff to ‘store’ in the attic.

The other room on the 3rd floor was inspired by the pool table.  When my dad found that, he knew he had to have a room for it.

Last, but not least, there is one more tiny room tucked away in the tower.

A cozy little reading nook.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the dollhouse.

I’m looking forward to a week off the day job next week.  A little staycation, during which I plan to work on my master bedroom makeover.  I’ve got several projects planned, so be sure to stay tuned!



forget about you? never.

I bet you guys thought I forgot all about you while I was off on my trip to Norway and Scotland.

sailing away from Bergen, Norway

And really, who could blame me with scenery like that to distract me?

I didn’t bring a laptop or anything like that with me on my trip, just my phone.  And my cell service was spotty at best.  For some reason I couldn’t get my email to load on my phone after the first couple of days either (remember, I’ve said it before, I’m not very good at the techie stuff).  I had been planning on at least attempting to respond to some blog comments while I was away, but that didn’t happen.

None the less, I was still thinking about you guys!

I wanted to bring back a fun giveaway and I remembered that I brought some German decorating magazines home after my Danube River cruise and they were a big hit.  So while I was hanging out in the Copenhagen airport I checked out the magazine stand and found some great stuff.

Now, I’m not entirely positive, but I think this first one is a Norwegian publication (can any of you confirm that by reading the cover?).

You may be thinking ‘why would I want a magazine that I can’t even read?’, I will counter that with ‘come on, do you really read the articles or do you mostly just look at the pictures?’

But I also grabbed a copy of the British edition of Country Living just in case you really do want to read the articles.

The tiny french garden chair in this article has me drooling all over the page (see it below in the lower right corner?).

But the really exciting find was this!

Jeanne d’ Arc Living magazine, right off the newsstand!  I got so excited about it because getting your hands on a Jeanne d’ Arc Living magazine in the U.S. is a bit more complicated than just heading to your local newsstand (although you can easily order them online from my friend Michelle, and they will be in English).

Of course it’s silly of me to be surprised.  This is a Danish magazine after all, so why wouldn’t it be right there on the airport newsstand in Copenhagen?!

I bought a copy for myself and a copy to give away.  The clerk at the cash register asked me if I realized I had two of the same magazine.  ‘Yep!’, I said.  And then I explained how excited I was to find them and she mentioned that she envied the quantity and variety of magazines that we have in the U.S.  The grass is always greener, right?

Anyway, this is the Danish version of the magazine, so not in English.  But still, again, the pictures …

Don’t need any translation to appreciate the pictures!

There is a great article about a garden house made from old doors.

How funny is it that the only thing I can read on this page is ‘Linda’ and ‘handy woman’?!  Seems as though this magazine was meant to wind up in my hands, and possible yours as well!

So now for the fun part, I’m giving all three of these magazines away to one lucky reader.  Would you like to have them?  All you have to do to be eligible to win is leave a comment on this blog post by Friday, June 9.  I will draw a name at random from among those who comment and ship off the magazines to the lucky winner.  Maybe I’ll throw in some milk paint too.  How about it?  Should I also add some milk paint?

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be eligible to win!

Debbie buys a house.

Today Mr. Q and I are in Edinburgh, Scotland and we’re planning to take a Book Lover’s Tour.  Our trip is winding down at this point with just one more port of call after today.

But meanwhile back home in Minnesota, today is a super big day for my sister.  While I’m away, she is closing on her new house!  I’m a little bummed to be missing this momentous occasion.  I would have liked to pop the champagne and toast her new status as a home owner, but we’ll just have to do that when I return.

In the current housing market in the Twin Cities, you have to move really fast and you have to outbid your competitors.  Debbie learned that the hard way after placing bids that were not accepted on two other houses that she really wanted.

The first house she bid on was really adorable.  It was built in the 1920’s and had some great original details like wood floors, cove ceilings and a fireplace in the living room.  It was in a really lovely neighborhood with giant trees where the houses were really far apart.  The seller had done a really spectacular job of preparing the house for sale by repainting all of the rooms and just really cleaning things up in general.  It had a charming farmhouse style kitchen with a little breakfast nook that jutted out into the back yard, and it also had a brand new furnace and hot water heater.  Unfortunately that house had somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 bids, most of them far over asking price, or so we assume since Debbie bid slightly over asking price and was still not in the running.

Perhaps it was just as well that she didn’t get that house since it was further away from her work, and a little bit closer to some less than ideal areas of the city.

The next house she bid on had tons of potential.  It was an 1884 farmhouse and much like my own house, suburbia had grown up around it.  It was a funky place.  For one thing, it faced away from the street it was on.  I’m sure at one point in time the house was accessed from another street that was actually in ‘front’ of the house, but over time the neighborhood was rearranged.  Here’s the front of the house that faced the back yard …

 It also sat way back off the street, so much so that you couldn’t really even see it from there.  It was on a huge lot, I believe an acre.  It would have been really fun for me to blog about that house because it needed a lot of work.  The kitchen was a really big room with nothing in it except a free standing fridge, a free standing oven and one small bank of cabinets with a sink.  In other words, a blank slate.  On the down side, a lot of the original details were long gone.  At some point in the 1950’s or so someone had gone through and ‘updated’ the doors and baseboards throughout with cheap replacements.  I’m sure there must have been wood floors on the main level originally, but they were all gone and currently there was just some awful carpeting over some sub-flooring.

This time there weren’t lots of competing bids, there was just one.  And it was higher than Debbie’s.

She was even more disappointed by the loss of this house.  But in the long run I think the house would have been a lot more work than she is ready for both inside and out.  She didn’t really want a ‘fixer upper’ and this house was definitely one of those.  So it really was not meant to be.

It seems that the third time was the charm!  After missing out on those two houses, Debbie knew to move fast on the next one she liked.  She looked at the house and put in a bid on the very first day it was listed and that strategy worked.  Today she is becoming the proud owner of house no. 3 (that’s just counting the houses she bid on, not all of the many houses we looked at and passed on).

When she first started looking I told her that she needed to stay within a one mile radius of my house.  That seems reasonable, right?

Well, she came close.  Her house is 4.2 miles away from mine in a charming little neighborhood in St. Paul.  She will be just half a block from Beaver Lake.

If you go upstairs and twist your head just so, she has a lake view!

Her house is a typical post WWII 1950’s ranch.  It’s the perfect cozy size for my niece and her to share.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that my sister moved to Minnesota two years ago after living in New Jersey for the previous 30 years or so.  She’d been in an apartment in New Jersey, and then rented an apartment here for the last two years.  In other words, it’s been a long, long time since she’s been a home owner.  She’s super excited about it, and really looking forward to having her own yard and a space to host BBQ’s (hopefully I’ll be invited to lots of those).

Since Debbie is in charge of monitoring blog comments until I return, I hope you’ll take a moment to wish her the best in her new home!

the unrealistic nature of blogging.

One of my favorite paintings by Vermeer is called The Astronomer.  He painted it in 1668 and usually it hangs in the Louvre in Paris.  It’s a gorgeous example of Dutch realism, or genre painting.

I was lucky enough to see it in person in 2009 when the Louvre loaned it to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  Paintings are always so much more beautiful in person.

Have you ever wondered what Dutch realism and blogging have in common?

OK, probably not.

But I was reading an interesting article about Vermeer by Alistair Sooke on recently, and the parallels between Dutch genre paintings and blogging really struck me.

First a quick lesson in art history.  Dutch genre paintings are basically paintings of everyday scenes painted in a ‘realistic’ style.  Here’s another nice example, Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.

Don’t you love that basket hanging on the wall?  And don’t you want to just take a bite of that delicious crusty bread?

I think when most of us look at a painting like this we assume we are looking at a realistic representation of life at the time it was painted; a woman pouring milk out of a jug in a seemingly utilitarian room with a simple basket of bread on the table.

But Sooke’s article explained that we would be wrong.  Instead it would be more accurate to consider these paintings an idealized version of real life.  The women are always beautiful, the lighting is perfect, the colors are rich and vibrant, the scene is very intentionally composed, that blue cloth on the table is draped just so.  Sooke calls this the “unrealistic nature of Dutch realism.”

Of course the Dutch painters did this on purpose.  Their goal wasn’t to provide a historically accurate representation of real life for future generations, they were trying to sell a painting.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  The same can be said about bloggers today, myself included.

When I take photos for my blog I often wait until the light is just right.

I compose my shot with seemingly utilitarian pieces arranged just so, in colors that work well together.  I try to tell a story with my composition.  But if you think about, rarely would you actually have things arranged this artfully in your home all of the time.

And it’s not likely that I’m ever going to set up a beautiful dining table like this outdoors.

But it sure did look pretty for the pictures.

I find it interesting that in the almost 360 years that have passed since Vermeer painted The Milkmaid, not much has changed in this regard.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of unrealistic realism.  I like being inspired by pretty pictures that I see online, I just have to remind myself that I can’t expect my own very real home to look like that.

the vintage crawl.

Hey all of you local readers, don’t forget that the Vintage Crawl presented by the Two Rivers Vintage Collective starts tomorrow!

If you’d like to read a little bit more about each of the shops that is participating, be sure to head over to my more detailed post on the Reclaiming Beautiful blog (click here).

I’ll be dropping off a truck load of goodies at Reclaiming Beautiful later this evening including the black and white dresser …

and the headboard sign …

and this chalkboard shelf …

and who knows what else I might come up with!

The forecast for the next four days calls for beautiful spring weather, perfect for checking out some vintage shops!

the problem with perfection.

I’m pretty sure we all suffer from self-doubt, right?

Well, I often feel like an impostor.  Like I’m just faking this furniture re-styling/blogging thing.  I’m not doing it for real, I’m just doing it for fun.

I frequently compare my work to others and find it lacking.  I feel like my work isn’t good enough to put me in the same league as what I call the ‘professional’ bloggers (those are the ones who make money from their blogs, but who also spend money on their blogs in the form of professional web design, expensive camera equipment, trips to blogging conferences, and they are also the ones for whom blogging is their job).

Recently I was reading a blog post by another furniture refinisher who takes the time to use spackling compound to fill any scratches or gouges in the furniture she is about to paint.  Her completed piece was beautiful, for sure.  It had a totally smooth, blemish-free finish.  And I found myself immediately thinking “oh my gosh, I should be doing that, why am I not doing that?” which really translates to “my work is inferior.”

I was just about to add “buy spackling compound” to my to-do list when I realized, hey, wait a minute, I actually prefer furniture with some flaws.

You see, the problem with perfection is that you can’t maintain it for very long. And let’s face it, that little bit of wisdom applies to pretty much everything, not just painted furniture.  It’s true about relationships, hair styles, gardening, new cars … that first ding on your new car is always such a disappointing moment.

Eventually every piece of furniture (or relationship, or car) is going to end up with some dings and scratches though.  Someone is going to set a cup of hot coffee on it, or bash the lower corner with the vacuum cleaner.  That’s life.

So here’s the thing.  If your furniture already has a distressed, chippy, not quite perfect yet still totally beautiful finish then one more scratch or ding isn’t going to make any difference what-so-ever.  In fact it’s not even going to be noticeable.

And that is precisely what I love about working with milk paint.  It’s not supposed to look perfect.  It’s supposed to look as though the finish has evolved over time.

And if it chips a little more down the road or if Mr. Q forgets to use a coaster for his hot cup of coffee, that’s perfectly fine.

As I get older, I am realizing that life is all about embracing the flaws and not wasting time trying to achieve perfection.

Who’s with me on this one?

putting this bed to rest.

In Monday’s post about the ‘catalogue dresser’ I mentioned that it came with a bed.

Although they aren’t pictured, it did include side rails and slats as well as the headboard and foot board.  But have you noticed anything odd?

Here’s a closer look …

Wow, right?  The seller told me that the bed was too tall for her elderly grandmother, so her dad’s solution to that problem was to cut off the original feet and replace them with a block of wood and tacky white plastic wheels.

And I am guessing that this bed probably originally had ball and claw feet on the foot board to match the dresser …

Sigh.  Let’s all observe a moment of silence over the loss of those feet, shall we?

OK, moving on.  Once I had this bed home, I asked Ken to come over and consult about the feet … or lack thereof.  After discussing some options, both Ken and I agreed that it was going to be difficult to add new feet and to attain the kind of stability that you really want in a bed.  More difficult than it was worth anyway.

Obviously it was time for this bed to be put to rest!

So I decided to turn it into two separate pieces.  I started with the foot board and simply removed the blocks of wood and the tacky wheels.  Then I painted it with a coat of Rachel Ashwell Clear Primer to prevent stain bleed-thru later.  I had some of my custom Blue Alligator milk paint left over from the dresser I painted a couple of weeks ago, so I started with a base layer of that.  To clarify:  once mixed, milk paint can only be saved for 2 to 3 days.  I painted this base coat at the same time as that dresser not two weeks later.  Once the paint was dry I added beeswax in areas that I wanted to chip.  You can see those smears of beeswax in this photo …

Next I added three coats of Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Farmhouse White.

Sure enough, I got amazing chipping wherever I had smeared on the beeswax.

I really love how this one crackled and chipped!

For the the pièce de résistance, I added another fabulous transfer from Iron Orchid Designs (FYI this design is not available at Sweet Pickins, I found it at Red Posie) …

I sealed the whole thing with General Finishes Flat Out Flat, and added a couple of hangers on the back.

And voilà, the foot board has been reinvented as a sign.

Although I currently have hung this on the wall in my dining room, I have other plans for this spot at some point so I’m going to go ahead and list it on my ‘available for local sale’ page.

I did something similar with the headboard, except I got a little help from Ken to add a shelf at the bottom.  The shelf was made from the support board that went between the two legs of the headboard.  Basically Ken cut off the legs just below the headboard, and then turned the support board perpendicular to the headboard and screwed it on from below.

Ken made an executive decision to leave just a 1/4″ below the curve on the two sides of the headboard.  He thought it would look more intentional that way, and he was absolutely right.

I mixed up some more Blue Alligator for the headboard shelf, and this time I left it that color.

I used the bottom section of the Iron Orchid Designs ‘Specimens’ transfer on this one.

I think this piece would be perfect hanging over a desk, or on the wall above a sofa.  And it’s the perfect spot to display your collection of ironstone pitchers or maybe vintage alarm clocks.

Unfortunately I definitely don’t have a spot for this piece myself, so check my ‘available for local sale’ on this one too!