Tuesday, 14 July 2020

At 'lock-up'

I have slowly been working away on the Toy House. I kept thinking, I really didn't have much to show & share and then...

... all of a sudden, the exterior is (almost) finished - from a plain sheet of plywood, I have built a house.

Now, the idea for this blog was to have somewhere to make 'note-to-self' to record how I got there, but looking at it now, I realize, I probably should have written a bit more along the way. Never mind, here is goes:
After I had stacked the three room boxes it was finally time to get to work on the exterior. The house front was going to be hinged and the roof (for now) lifts off completely. so I figured it would be easier to do as much of the finishing as I could before attaching the front. 

First up, my handy husband helped me cut the holes for windows and door. I taped off the openings from the inside, so the render would go a little bit up over the window and door frames.

I then 'rendered the front and the sides of the house shell with powder filler mixed with 2/3 water and 1/3 pva glue. I had learned from rendering the attic walls that the powder filler when only mixed with water, was quite fragile and porous and I don't want to the outside of the house to chip or flake. By adding the glue, the render is now much more hard wearing. I deliberately didn't smooth the render too perfectly - remember this is a very, very old little house!
The outside is painted with satin acrylic paint. It was way too 'perfect and too shiny so I have it a few washes of cream chalk paint over the top. Again, I have tried to deliberately make the paint a little uneven to look older and a bit weathered. 

I had not rendered the area behind the shop sign. I painted that section a slightly lighter shade of the wall colour and added a timber moulding (upside-down skirting) for the detail below. That also gives the wee soldiers at each side of the shop sign something to stand on :-) 
I am no good at painting, so I printed the sign onto watercolour paper (I like the texture). I then carefully went over the lettering with paint and a fine gold pen before giving the sign a very light sand and carefully 'aged' it with the tiniest bit of very weak tea. 

I had made all windows and adapted this door ages ago and had them painted and stashed away in a box, waiting to be popped into place. All the windows are made from strips of card stock with balsa wood frames. Back then, I wasn't taking picture, sorry. 
I had removed the original door frame so that I could add a fanlight above and by doing so, make it the same height as the shop window. 

The windows for the apartment and loft are all hinged, using This Tutorial for paper hinges by Aurelea Krieger. To make them a little stronger, I mixed the paint with pva glue and gave them a very generous coating. They are still not made for constant opening and closing, but the glue certainly makes them a little more durable. 

You will notice the windows open out which is most common in Denmark. I have added little knobs (pins) on the inside but I must confess, I stopped short of adding hooks and latches to keep them closed. Maybe next time...

Next up was the front step and narrow cobblestone footpath. The step was pretty straight forward, made from a block of balsa, suitably sanded for wear in the middle. I had imagined that I could make the cobblestone from air-drying clay and glue it in place but as it turned out, it shrank too much and just wouldn't work. Instead, I opted for the same filler and glue mix I had used for the walls and then scored the lines between the stones before it was completely dry. This wouldn't work for perfectly even paving stones but for uneven cobblestone I think it does the job just fine. 
I have since neatened the front of the footpath with a bit of timber, but I haven't decided yet if I will simply paint it or clad it with 'bricks' or 'stones'. 

I had a fabulous time painting and aging the exterior and the cobblestone was especially good fun. I still want to add a bit of moss and perhaps a dandelion or a few tufts of grass growing in the cracks here and there. 

The down pipe is made from a length of 6mm (1/4") balsa dowel. To make the spout, I wrapped the end with a bit of card. The brackets are also made from card with black marker dots for bolts (Thanks to Brae on Otterine's Miniature).
I also added card brackets to the ready-made gutter so it didn't look like it was 'just stuck' onto the wall. 

I was pretty pleased (and surprised) that I managed to cut the angles for the bends at the top of the downpipe correctly. The fact that it is the right distance from the wall to fit the gutter at the top is a complete 'fluke' - I was so focused on cutting the angles right that I forgot to measure it other than by just holding the piece against the wall. You have to be lucky sometimes. 

And with that, the facade is pretty much done and my plywood boxes have become a house. 

But there is still the 'almost finished' left. You would have noticed that the roof is just painted - for now. I am still working out what to do about tiles. I have been trying to make them, but that is a story for another day....

Have a lovely week everyone.
Anna X


  1. Oh Anna it is absolutely darling! I love the textures you achieved both on the stucco and for the cobblestones! I also love the look of the front facade with the interesting windows and door. The transom to raise the door height to equal the window was brilliant! Your sign looks wonderful, and I am so glad the wee soldier boys have a place to stand - how tired they would be if you hadn't thought to add that charming detail! In future hinges, if you apply a thin layer of UV resin to the exterior after it is attached, it will greatly improve the durability. It adds a tough coating. I have not tried it yet, but it is a tip from a FB group I have filed away for someday. Best of luck with the roof! I used Paperclay for cookie roof tiles on the Sweet Christmas Cottage. It was a lot of labor and material but the look is really lovely. I think you could also get fine tiles with card, if it's a thicker material.

    1. Thanks so much Jodi. I was rather intimidated by the exterior before I started, but I think it is the part I have had the most fun with so far.
      Thank you for the hint to strengthen the paper hinges. I just might have to 'graduate' to metal hinges for stuff that needs opening regularly, but I do like the hint of a hinge on windows and the paper is easy and perfect for that.
      The roof tiles is very much a work in progress. I have made a whole stack in air-drying clay and am yet to see if they will actually layer how I want them. Alternatively I have finally found terracotta tiles from a maker in Spain, but let's just see if I can work it out before I give in and buy them
      Anna X

  2. OH WOW- It all looks SENSATIONAL!!!
    I LOVE how you have fashioned the hinged windows and that you have made the windows from cardstock, they are AMAZING and your aging effects on the frames along with the sunbleached plaster on the exterior walls AND the old gutters and downspouts are ALL Wonderful and I LOVE IT!

    1. Gee wiz - thank you!!!!
      I regularly visit Studio E for ideas and inspiration so that means a lot coming from you Elizabeth.
      Anna X

  3. This looks fabulous Anna! Your paving, old plaster, the guttering and downpipes - all fantastic! And I love the green you chose - I think it’s perfect.

    1. Thanks Shannon, I have had a lot of fun with the exterior. I still have lots to do inside, but already have ideas for the next house(s). LOL, this is going to be never ending I think.
      Anna X

  4. Hello Anna, I love the rendering on the facade. It looks well kept but worn by time. I can easily see this house standing in the old towncenter of a Danish town.

    The added moss is a nice detail that enhances the scène.

    And your luck with the cutting the downpipe in the perfect length and angle without measuring first is well deserved! :-)

    1. Thank you for your nice compliments Huibrecht.

  5. It's delightful. All the details, the ageing, the pipes, the footpath, the sign and the gorgeous little soldiers. You've done a beautiful job.

  6. First, dear Anna, thank you so much for your kind words of condolences which warmed my heart.
    I love your toy shop. Amazing work!
    Hugs, Drora