Color Schemes And Paint
Alternate Finishing Options
Color Schemes And Paint
Finding the right color for your dollhouse is one of the hardest things to choose. A dollhouses color can make or break it. Even the most well assembled and beautiful dollhouse will loose it’s appeal if you just can't live with it's color scheme. Colors have to be chosen carefully because once they are on your dollhouse, they are on to stay. Dollhouses can only be painted during the assembly process and not afterwards so make sure you won't change your mind later on, because you can't.
Plan your colors out carefully and actually get some samples and test them on wood sticks so you can see what they will look like once applied. The picture on the bottle or paint can will never show you what the color will look like on wood. The same is true for choosing colors online. Every monitor is different so the hue you see on yours, is not necessarily the real hue of the paint when you buy it. For this reason, you should always use color samples as a guide only, whether online or on paper.
If your using several different colors, take scrap wood sticks and put them together so you can see how the colors compliment one another. Put them side by side and lay them on top of one another. Think it through carefully and don’t be afraid of changing your mind because now is the time you will be able to. Take the painted wood sticks under different lighting so you can see how the hues change.
Your local hardware store has a wide array of color sample swatches for you to take home and decide on. Swatches are really helpful because they show you an entire scheme of complimentary colors together. Sometimes hardware stores have free paint sample pots for you to take home and try out. You can also order free paint sample pots from many paint manufacturers online. A lot of builders use these very samples to paint their dollhouses with.
Be fun and think outside the box. Maybe the colors you thought you would never want to see together will turn out being the best scheme for your dollhouse. Maybe your dollhouse looks great as is, without any color. All wood exteriors can be made to look interesting by just staining the dollhouse with different color stains, stenciling it with designs of your choice or applying different color washes to the exterior wood.
Look through dollhouse catalogs and the internet to get inspiration on different schemes. Sometimes it's easy to choose just one color that you really like and create a scheme from it by choosing different shades of that same color.
Most dollhouses come with many parts and you get the real impact of all those details when you use as many colors as you can. Victorian painted ladies were painted in many colors so the intricate decorations could be seen clearly. Color schemes are completely a personal preference though and there is no wrong color to paint a dollhouse with if the outcome is right for you.
I like painting my dollhouses in no less than three colors and no more than five. My rule of thumb for choosing a five color scheme is that white always be included as one of the five colors, three of the colors are of a similar hue and one of the colors is the bright accent. My Beacon Hill is an example of a 5 color scheme. The bright blue is the accent color.
In Victorian times a lot of earthtone hues were used on one house to make it multi-color but what about a brighter look with some stand out colors instead?
Just because there’s a preference for a multi-color palette, don’t be afraid of a monochrome look. Some dollhouses look just as detailed and appealing with gingerbread and walls in one color.
If it's too much to decide on, there’s always the classic three color scheme. In this scheme the walls are painted in the color of your choice and the gingerbread is always entirely white. The third color is used for doors and exterior floors.
Keep in mind what you want to do with your dollhouse before you paint it. What style of décor are you looking for, serious or fun? Will it be a display dollhouse or a child’s dollhouse? You should also factor in if your trying to replicate a certain historical era for realism or not. All of those factors have to be considered before, so you can more easily decide on a color scheme.
Also remember that when it comes to color schemes, size does matter. What works for a small dollhouse may not work for a large dollhouse. With smaller dollhouses it's easier to get away with non-traditional wall colors or brighter schemes. Larger dollhouses usually look better in more muted colors or dark primary colors. The style of the dollhouse should also be a factor for choosing it's scheme. Victorian mansions can handle more colors than a simpler farm house or modern ranch. And finally, you wouldn't want to put Victorian bright colors on a Tudor cottage.
After deciding the color scheme you want, you have to choose the paint. I recommend acrylic craft paint found at your local craft store. Acrylic craft paint comes in a variety of colors and it's not as expensive as it seems because you usually only need a large bottle for a dollhouse. Acrylic paint has a lower moisture content than latex so it provides excellent coverage and protects the wood nicely.
My top best brands of acrylic paints are Folk Art and Americana. Delta comes in at a close second choice but any other brand, is not recommended. Always keep a spare bottle of the paint colors you use on your dollhouse for future touch ups and repairs because your local craft store can discontinue carrying certain colors with time. If this occurs you will have to order your specific color directly from the manufacturer online.
Acrylic paint usually comes in a matte finish, which is the ideal for a dollhouse but if you want to add a gloss or satin sheen to it, you may do so by applying a layer of Acrylic Gloss Varnish over your paint after it's dry.
You can also use latex paints, found in the hardware store, for your dollhouse. I recommend avoiding semi-gloss and gloss latex paints because they will highlight any flaw in your dollhouse and interfere with the adhesion of glue.
Never apply oil based paints to your dollhouse. They have fumes which make working on your dollhouse a nightmare and they will interfere with the adhesion of glue.
You can view my dollhouse color scheme selections here.
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Alternate Finishing Options
When you think of an exterior finish for your dollhouse, you are more than likely thinking about siding and paint but don't limit yourself.
Dollhouses can have many finishes. Stucco, brick, half timber trim and stone are just a few different styles.
Stucco comes in a powdered form that's mixed with water or paint to achieve a product that creates texture when applied.
Bricks can come in real miniature sized, clay individual pieces or on a mesh. You can use mortar or glue to apply them. There are also faux brick sheets made of polystyrene plastic, rubber composite material or paper to give the brick look without the need for mortar or glue. A lot of miniaturists use Magic Brick to create stone and brick for their dollhouses. Magic Brick is a product that uses stencils to create the brick shapes.
Some dollhouses can have a mossy or earthy exterior finish.
Stone is also a very popular finish for dollhouses. It can also be bought in polystyrene sheets or paper. Most miniaturists achieve the stone look using air drying paper clay. This product can be made to achieve just about any exterior texture you can think of.
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In order to buy furniture for your dollhouse, you need to know it's scale first. Most furniture comes in one inch scale because most dollhouses are in one inch scale. But it doesn’t end there because guiding yourself by scale only, is not enough.
Miniature furniture is very expensive. Even if you buy mass produced items that aren’t custom or artisan made, you can end up paying a lot to furnish your dollhouse, depending on how large it is. It would be a shame to buy all of that furniture and then realize, it doesn’t fit in your dollhouse.
Scale size is not scientific and there is a difference between scale and proportion because scale refers to a ratio and not a measurement. There are a lot of miniature furniture manufacturers out there and sometimes size scale differs with each company. For instance Town Square Miniatures tend to appear large even though they are in one inch scale.
Chrysnbon are also one inch scale miniatures but look at the difference between a Chrysnbon chair and a Town Square Miniatures chair. In a one inch scale dollhouse both chairs will look in scale. They are both made for one inch scale dollhouses but when you have limited space in your dollhouse because the rooms happen to be small, then this small size difference between chairs, makes a big difference in whether your furniture will fit correctly or not.
Another reason why you shouldn’t guide yourself by scale only is in these pictures. Check out the one scale doll next to the one scale door. The doll looks bigger. If it was a real size woman next to a real size door, she would have a hard time getting through it but when you place them together in a scene, your eyes do not capture those slight differences. Even though this one inch scale door is slightly smaller, the doll still looks in scale to this dollhouse.
The same goes for this car. It's scale is 1/16th", not one inch scale but yet it looks in proportion to the one inch scale dollhouse. If I would have put a one inch scale car by the dollhouse it would have looked enormous. That is why measurement is so important rather than scale.
Get all the measurements for your furniture before buying it. Most online merchants will post the measurements in the description of their items. If they don’t, buy at your own risk. There is a chance that what you get, will not fit in your dollhouse. Check the return and exchange policy for the retailer you plan on buying from.
Measure the rooms of your dollhouse once it's built and take into consideration the windows and doors in the room and how they can affect the way you want your furniture positioned. You can't have that nice contemporary sectional sofa, in your living room, if you have a bay on one wall and a French door on the other.
When you get the measurements for your furniture, make paper templates out of those measurements and place them in your dollhouse so you can see just how much space each furniture piece will take up.
Most people are so excited about decorating their dollhouse that they begin buying furniture for it before it's even finished. I don’t recommend this unless you plan on building more than one dollhouse. The picture on a dollhouse kit box does not give you a real view of how large or small the dollhouse will be once finished. You can end up with too many or too few pieces of furniture once the dollhouse is built. Maybe you can end up changing your mind about what you want a certain room to be because it doesn’t fit what you had in mind once assembled. If you have other dollhouses to disperse your furniture in, it's not a big loss but if you don’t, your going to be disappointed.
The same is true for window treatments. All windows are different so make sure that you get measurements before you buy them.
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A question that always comes up for newbies about decorating a dollhouse is how do you hang pictures, put up chandeliers or keep small items in there place. Well the answer is museum wax. You can purchase it at any miniature dealer. The most popular brand is Mini Hold but they are all basically the same, no matter what the brand is.
Museum wax is soft, pliable and becomes sticky with heat. The heat from your hands will make it soft like clay and then it solidifies again at room temperature. Even in a solid state it is still relatively soft.
Keep in mind that this product is great because it's hardly visible and a little tiny bit goes a long way but it does leave a residue on everything you use it on. The residue can be removed by rubbing it off with a soft cloth or warm water.
It is harder to remove this residue from wallpaper. Even after rubbing it off with a soft cloth it can leave an invisible residue that can be felt and will show up as a shiny spot on photos. There still hasn’t been a good tip on removing it completely from wallpaper. You might not have this problem if you use a sealant on your wallpaper but I have not tried it myself. The reality is that every type of adhesive you use can leave a residue on your wallpaper so it's not just this particular product, it’s the nature of wallpaper.
Because wallpaper is so finicky be careful what adhesive you use on it. Wax can leave an invisible residue but some adhesives can down right ruin it by leaving an irremovable oil mark or dye stain on it. Test every adhesive you use, if your not sure about it, on a small inconspicuous area to see what it's effects are. Also read the instructions carefully. Your best bet is to buy these type of things at a miniatures dealer.
Wax is very prone to react to moisture and heat levels so if you have a heavy object like a chandelier or console mirror, the wax may not be strong enough to hold it and they will eventually fall off.
For heavier objects I suggest using poster putty or any other temporary gummy adhesive that is not as soft as wax. These types of temporary adhesives are sold at all craft stores.
Many times though, even these adhesives will fail for certain extra heavy objects like chandeliers or kitchen cabinets. That’s when you will have to resort to glue. You really have no other choice at this point because if your chandelier keeps dropping it will soon break or smash everything you have under it. You have to keep it in place. Most dollhouse lighting comes with a sticky backing so you can stick it in place but many times this backing is just not strong enough to hold an object against gravity like a metal chandelier. Also the stickiness of this backing will wear out the first time you move the object for redecorating.
If you have to use glue to hold an item in place on your dollhouse, use only hot melt glue. If you use white, tacky or wood glue you will never be able to pry the object off without doing extensive damage to your interior décor. When using hot melt glue always use a low temp setting and only the smallest dab possible to hold the item in place. The use of hot melt glue to hold an item in place should be considered permanent. Certain hot melt glues, when used on a low setting, allow for items to be gently snapped off without damage to the surface they were adhered to but this is not guaranteed nor should be expected.
ALWAYS keep a scrap of every single pattern of wallpaper you use for your dollhouses. That way no matter what damage can occur to it, you will always have the same pattern available to fix it. If you don’t have a wallpaper scrap and worse comes to worse, you will have to use colored pencils and try to blend in the damage or put something in front of it like a picture or a large piece of furniture.
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The most asked question about dollhouses is electrification. Any dollhouse can be electrified to have working lights on the interior and exterior. An electrified dollhouse can have flickering fireplaces and working door bells. What to use and how to do it though, is a much highly debated topic in the dollhouse world. Each person has their preference and opinion on what works better, lasts longer and is easier to work with. Here is some basic information about electrification.
I have electrified a dollhouse before using tape wire but all of the dollhouses that I own now are not electrified. I choose to not electrify for many reasons. First electricity is tricky and you have to keep in mind that all of your wires will be running underneath wallpaper, ceilings and flooring. If there is a problem with your wiring in the future, be prepared to have to take all of these decorations apart in order to find and fix the problem. No matter how carefully you wire your dollhouse, the wiring is never truly invisible. This is something you have to expect and be prepared to live with.
Whether you decide to electrify or not, you can still enjoy the beautiful lighting fixtures that are available for dollhouses.
If you electrify you might want to buy lighting that has replaceable bulbs because if you don’t, when the bulb goes out, you will need a whole new lamp. If the bulb is replaceable, then you just buy new bulbs.
There are two types of electrification methods. Tape wire and round wire. The most common is tape wire because most people find it easier to install and easier to hide. Tape wire is a series of copper lined conductive flat tapes and round wire is a copper conductive wire that works in much the same way your real house wires do. Cir-Kit Concepts is the largest manufacturer of electrification accessories and tools for dollhouses.
The first thing you have to do is choose an electrification kit that’s the right size for your dollhouse. Each kit will tell you how many bulbs it can power. The more bulbs you need powered, the more expensive the kit will be. Depending on how you want the lighting set up in your dollhouse, you might need more tape wire than what comes with your lighting kit.
You have to plan ahead of time how you will run your wire whether round or tape. You have to know where you want lighting in your dollhouse and what type of lighting. That means you have to decide now if you want chandeliers or lamps in each room so you can run your wires accordingly.
You will run into a problem right about here. First your dollhouse has to be completely assembled but the interior has to be completely unfinished so you can run the wire through all the rooms and then hide it with wallpaper, ceiling and flooring. This is hard to do when you have a dollhouse that has inaccessible areas which need to be finished before the dollhouse is fully assembled or they can't be finished later. You will have to be careful how you run wires in those areas to keep them hidden or just leave them without lighting. It takes careful planning to electrify a dollhouse and everything has to be considered before you proceed to avoid problems.
Make a drawn diagram of how your wiring system is set up and keep it in a safe place so you know where to find problems that can arise in the future. You don’t want to have to guess where a wire is five years down the line if you have an electrical problem.
I suggest to make everything faux in your dollhouse if you plan on electrifying, in order to avoid destruction of it in the future. Make templates of your walls, floors and ceilings and apply your wallpaper, ceiling paper and flooring to them instead of directly to your dollhouse. That way you can run all of your wiring and then apply these templates over them to hide them and also be able to remove them without damage if there is a wiring problem. Stick your template lightly to your walls around the edges and corners with double sided carpet tape or poster putty. Any non permanent adhesive will work. Not only is it good for wiring because it hides it very well and is removable in case of problems but it is also removable in case you want to redecorate in the future.
With round wire you will have to drill holes through your floors and out through your ceilings to be able to hang a chandelier because round wire will be very visible if you run it up to your ceiling on a wall. Some miniature baseboards and crown moulding have a small groove on their backs so you can run round wire in them seamlessly against a wall.
All wiring systems need a transformer. This transformer plugs into your wall outlet and it converts your standard 110 volt wall outlet into 12 volt power that your dollhouse lamps can use.
You also need a junction splice. This is the first object you will insert into your tape wire and it basically joins the both strips of copper that run through the tape wire.
Brads join two pieces of tape wire together in order to make turns around your dollhouse. They are extremely tiny and you will benefit from a brad replacement tool. It will help push your brads into their pilot holes or remove them if you have to.
You will need a pilot hole drill because the wood of your dollhouse is too hard to push the brad in without opening up a small starter hole first.
A tester is good to have because that way you can test each joined strip to make sure that there is conductivity and the brads are placed correctly. This will save you time because you can see immediately which strip of wire has the problem before proceeding.
Depending on the lighting kit you choose, it may or may not come with these extras.
Wiring is meant to be pretty durable so if there is a problem with your wiring, it is most likely due to a brad. Loose brads, pulled out brads, damaged brads or brads that have been placed incorrectly are often times the culprit to your system not working.
You also have to have the right transformer for the amount of lights and voltage you have running through your dollhouse. Many times, wiring will not work because the wrong transformer or amount of transformers were used.
I suggest you purchase the wiring instruction booklets that are sold by Cir-Kit Concepts if you plan on electrifying your dollhouse. It will explain the details of electrification, both tape or round wire for easier installation.
You can also see Darrell’s electrification guide with pictures here and a printable PDF guide on electrification from Real Good Toys here.
Greenleaf Dollhouses has extensive electrification articles and tutorials available here and there are more instructions and videos for electrification here.
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Landscaping adds life to a dollhouse. Whether you want a lot of landscaping accessories like a full garden, pond and children’s play area or just a few bushes and trees, landscaping makes all the difference in the outer appearance of a dollhouse. It doesn’t matter if the dollhouse is large or small, landscaping for either, is done the same way.
You first need a base. This base will go on top of the table your dollhouse will go on and the dollhouse will sit on top of it. The heavier and larger the dollhouse, the thicker you want the base to be. Bases are usually a plywood sheet, cut to the right size of the dollhouse. You have to measure your dollhouse and how much landscaping area you want around it in order to cut the right size sheet. Take your measurements to the hardware store and buy a plywood sheet of that size. You will want to landscape the sheet before you put your dollhouse on top of it so there are no patches or seams around your dollhouse.
Instead of plywood, I use a product called tile board. It is sold in the same area as plywood and it's less expensive. You can have it cut to whatever measurement you want as well. The good thing about this product versus plywood is that it doesn't warp or crack, it's super strong, has no splinters and has a smooth side that you can use to face your table so it won't scratch it. The rough side is great for adhering faux grass to.
Want a free base? Try using the cardboard from the box your dollhouse kit came in. This cardboard is sturdy and can be cut to size with a box cutter. You just add your grass on top of it and you have a quick and free base for your dollhouse. It works great on small dollhouses. For medium sized dollhouses, you can also make a base from foam core. It is easy to cut with scissors to size and you can even cut it in different, complimentary shapes for your dollhouse instead of the basic square.
Many things can be used for grass. Fabrics, textured paint and foams are just some materials but I’m going to focus on three basic products that are intended for miniatures. Noch grass, astro turf, and railroad grass paper.
The basic things you need to know about all three products is:
1. They all have paper backing so you can cut them to size with regular scissors.
2. They all have to be applied to your plywood with spray adhesive or a glue stick. If you use a regular water based glue, it will seep through the paper and be visible on the “grass” side. The glue stain can not be removed and will be visible as a wet mark even after the glue dries. This will ruin your grass sheet.
3. They do not patch well. Any patching you do will leave a visible seam running through your “yard” so it's best to measure your plywood base carefully so you get a big enough grass sheet to cover it completely. Also apply your grass first and then your dollhouse. Don’t try to cut the sheet around your dollhouse because you won't like the results.
Noch Grass is a material imported from Germany, that most looks and feels like grass. If your very careful and precise, you might be able to get away with patching two pieces together without a seam because this grass sheet is “fluffier” than the others.
Astro Turf is a grass sheet that feels like very thin velvet. It's cheaper than Noch Grass but the sheets are usually smaller than the base for a large dollhouse so you might end up having to patch and this product does not patch well at all.
Railroad grass paper is a large roll of “grass” that is commonly found at any hobby shop that sells model railroad accessories. It's inexpensive and the rolls are large enough to be able to landscape a few large dollhouses. This material is different from the others in texture. It's very rough and feels almost like glitter glued to paper. It's very messy and your going to want to take your plywood sheet outside or to the garage and cover it there. Once all of the loose green particles are shaken off of it, it won't release anymore. This grass sheet can be painted with acrylic paint and a foam brush, to give the appearance of autumn grass or maybe a realistic brown patch on a lawn. You might get away with gluing this grass sheet using tacky glue, if you use it sparingly, because it's very thick so glue does not go through it easily.
Another popular product is Spring Grass. It’s basically a bag of crumbled foam that looks more like moss than grass but it's sold as grass. It's very difficult to get loose foam to adhere anywhere and expect for it to continue to crumble particles on your floor for the life time of your dollhouse.
Another important aspect of landscaping is trees and bushes. They are sold in all shapes, types and sizes. You an buy them as tall as your dollhouse roof or as small as your front steps.
Squeeze Me Trees are a brand of miniatures trees that claim to not crumble or fade. I have many of them around my dollhouses.
You can find less expensive trees of all shapes and sizes at any hobby shop that sells model railroad accessories. There are also many trees and bushes available at some craft stores in their diorama section. I can not tell you about their longevity. All I can say is that they are all mostly made the same way. They are crumbled foam glued to branches and are usually hand made. They are delicate and they do release crumbs. Some times they can be made of plastic or paper but that reduces their realism while increasing their longevity.
Regardless of which trees you use, keep in mind that they are all fragile and you want to put them in a landscape scene that is not going to be bothered by pets or children. Spraying your trees with hairspray will reduce the crumbles and extend their life.
After my dollhouse is landscaped, I like to run a green ribbon around the edge of the board it's sitting on so it looks nicer. The ribbon can be made of lace or whatever material you like and is glued with hot glue. It also doesn't have to be green, it can be any color you want.
Don't limit yourself to just grass and few shrubs around your yard. You can add ponds, lakes, fences, outdoor buildings and even a deck. Many of these items are available at your miniatures dealer but a lot of them can be custom made to fit your available space and preferences. All you need to do is buy the materials at a hobby, craft or miniature store and get creative.
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