30 August 2020

The Dollshouse Lounge


At last, it's finished. I think I could have constructed an entire real life house of flat pack furniture in less time than it has taken to complete this room! There are a number of reasons for this:
1. I spend an inordinate amount of time staring into studying a room hoping for inspiration to strike
2. I don't always know how to accomplish what I have in mind
3. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, if something doesn't turn out well I will start it again, and again ...... until I get it right.

I wanted to make everything myself, which explains reason 2 because ..............
Some time ago I sold house number 1 on Ebay for £150, my grandson thought I should have asked more. I explained that things are only worth what someone is prepared to pay, not what has been spent on it.


I've kept a running total of how much I've spent on each house, just as a matter of interest, not for financial reasons, it's my hobby, it gives me a lot of pleasure, it doesn't matter how much I spend, and it's a spend spread over many years. But then my grandson asked how much I have spent on each house. Number 1 was £700, and this one, number 2 so far is £1,400!! to which my grandson said "Nan, that could be two flights to Australia" Now as I said above, it's my hobby, BUT.... he had a valid point. So with that in mind I decided to make as much as I could for the rest of this house and for my next one, not only  to save money BUT for the immense satisfaction of saying "I made that". 


The making of the lounge.
The flooring is stained and varnished spatulas, and the wallpaper was some I had in my stash, nice easy start. Then came the curtains, quite fiddly but I've done fiddly before. Despite wanting to keep the spend to a minimum I was going to buy the furniture, I wanted a chaise sofa but there were none to be had anywhere, so, after finding an excellent tutorial on youtube I set about making one.
First delay - I couldn't decide what colour. I went through the whole spectrum. Definitely not red, pink, orange, yellow, purple, black or brown. Not much left. I liked the idea of white, but the TV unit was going to be white, I thought it would be too much, but in hindsight I wish I had gone with white - I could change it ......... so that only left grey or blue. Blue wouldn't match the curtains, so grey it was. Second delay, the right material. After weeks of searching I found one I liked in Laura Ashley but they wouldn't sell anything less than a metre. I only really needed a quarter metre but I would have bought half, but they were adamant, company policy. After more searching I found a £3.99 skirt in a charity shop! it matched the wallpaper and curtains perfectly.

So let's get started.

Pieces of foamboard. I used double thickness for the back and arms.

glued together

I glued on the material. The material over the back is one piece starting at the seat, over the top and under the back. Same for the base. The arm covering is one strip going from the front underneath, over the arm rest, down the back and underneath, and cut out shapes for each side of the arms. 

For the seats I cut pieces of foam, glued some card on the underside for support and covered them. I put some black foam feet on (which I later covered with silver sticky tape) then made the cushions.
Next job, the chair.

I thought if I did it in the same material it would be too much grey. Although I didn't want purple for the sofa I thought this from my stash provided a nice contrast. It took ages to make because the material is very thin and you could see every lump and bump from the foamboard.
I put 3 layers of white material over the chair before putting the purple material on.


I kept putting off the next job because, well basically I wasn't 100% confident of using my new dremel. But I gave myself a good talking to, along the lines of ..... there's a starting point for everything, we learn as we go along, and, what's the worst that can happen? - I mess it up and start again. I had protective gear -  a face mask and good quality goggles so I took myself off to the shed and started cutting. Securing miniature wood on a full size workmate was a bit tricky at times but I did it, and  produced this

I was so absorbed with it I forgot to take photos. I cut pieces of wood for the front, sides and bottom, a slightly deeper piece for the top to accommodate the overhang at the front, two lengths for pretend drawers, and two legs, one of which isn't right, but it's not seen once it's in place 😊 Then back to the shed for a few coats of spray paint.

Next came the TV, the second attempt

The frame was cut from a piece of plastic and painted with acrylic paint.
The Sky logo was printed and glued to a piece of card.

I glued some strips around the edges, put a piece of clear plastic over the logo image, then glued the frame in place. I cut a piece of old cabling, glued a piece of foam to one end to look like the bit that goes into the tv (the bit at the bottom of the picture), and attached it to the back of the tv.  

I forgot to take a photo of the back of it before sticking it to the wall

This was the second attempt at the bookshelf. The first one broke because it has very small surface areas. I used coffee stirrers for the uprights and wood from my stash for the shelves. I drilled holes in the uprights and the edges of the shelves and attached them to each other with tiny dowels. Finished off with a couple of coats of spray paint. The silver 'bowl' is a bauble from a bracelet with some flowers from a cheap bunch from Hobbycraft. The books are real printed covers glued over foamboard or wood, and the photo frame is silver ribbon glued onto card with a photo of me in New York! I enjoyed making the photo frames and have done more for other rooms.

I found the pictures online and printed them on gloss paper. I made the table by glueing small tiles onto card then painting a straw for the legs. The rug is a piece from some material that I found in a cupboard, I can't even remember when I bought it.

This was also a second attempt. I coloured both sides of small pieces of paper with 2 colours of felt tip pen. Folded the pieces in half and painstakingly cut out the stems and leaves, then coated them with mod podge. I stuck the leaves into some foam in the plant pot, which is the lid from something, I can't remember, maybe hand cream or body lotion. I put some glue around the base of the leaves to secure them and when dry I sprinkled in dried out coffee grinds which make great soil.

I found a tutorial on Youtube for the monstera. I coloured both sides of some paper in two shades of felt tip pen, cut out heart shapes, cut out bits from the leaves and coated them with mod podge. When they were dry I stuck them onto thin florists wire painted with green nail varnish and stuck them into some polystyrene to dry. I then gently bent the wires and leaves, stuck them into foam in another bottle lid, put some glue around the base and filled with coffee grinds.


I can't make lights, well not these sort of lights, so I had to buy them.
The next room is the kitchen - a bit daunting but I've already made templates for a fridge and some units so I'm feeling quietly confident 😊 

Be safe and well ~
Polly x

23 August 2020

Eltham Palace

Situated at the end of a leafy lane in south London, Eltham Palace is a truly magnificent building. A showpiece of cutting edge 1930's art deco design, this unique mansion was once home to eccentric millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld.
Little is known of any settlement on the site until the Domesday survey of 1086, when the manor of Eltham is recorded as belonging to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror.
The estate changed hands several times until 1295 when Antony Bek, an influential statesman, Bishop of Durham and friend of Edward I acquired the manor. He built a grand house surrounded by a moat and high stone walls. On his death Bek bequeathed the manor to the Crown, and the royal family gradually transformed it into a magnificent palace. Accessible from London, rural enough for fresh air and hunting, and on the travelling route to Europe, Eltham became a favourite royal residence. Henry VIII spent much of his boyhood there. During his reign the palace could accommodate the entire court of 800 or more. Kings, emperors and statesmen were entertained there. 
By the 1530s Henry rarely visited, preferring Hampton Court and Greenwich, both easily accessible by river. After Henry's reign royalty rarely visited, and by the 18th century the magnificent palace had become a picturesque ruin, only just avoiding complete destruction.
During the 1640's Civil War Parliamentary troops who were quartered there badly damaged the palace and deer park, cutting down many trees for firewood.
"I went to see his Majesty's house at Eltham, both palace and chapel in miserable ruins, the noble woods and park destroyed.." John Evelyn, 1656.
In 1663 the site was leased to Sir John Shaw. He built a new house, Eltham Lodge, in the Great Park. The land around the palace became a farm, with the Great Hall used as a barn. In 1859 the farmhouse adjoining the Great Hall was rebuilt as a fine residence, Eltham Court, with the hall becoming an indoor tennis court.

In the 1890's the government agency the Office of Works made minor repairs to the hall on behalf of the Crown.
In 1933 the palace site was leased by the Courtaulds, a cosmopolitan couple with a shed load of money and an interest in art and design. They built an opulent, modern house,  designed with sophistication and status in mind. The Courtaulds wanted a home where they could entertain their friends from the worlds of film and the arts. 
"One of the provisos when the house has been built, there had to be hot baths for twelve people before dinner .... fearfully luxurious"Mollie Butler, regular visitor.
The Courtaulds moved in in 1936 and lived there for eight years with their nephews and exotic pets including Mah-Jongg the lemur. They planted beautiful gardens, a fashionable rock garden, a formal rose garden, tennis courts and a swimming pool.
In 1940 the Great Hall was damaged by German incendiary bombs.
In 1944 the Courtaulds left Eltham, moving to Scotland and then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
In 1945 Eltham became home to the Royal Army Educational Corps. The Ministry of Works looked after the Great Hall and the archeological remains.
1952-7 Archeological excavations revealed remains of the medieval palace.
1975 The Royal Parks Training School started training gardeners and maintaining the grounds.
1992 The Royal Army Educational Corps left and English Heritage took over the care of the site and opened the house to the public. 


After parking, and a short walk, entrance to the house is over London's oldest working bridge

I'm sure the guide said this lovely little window was reclaimed from somewhere else but I can't remember or find anything online.


                              Entrance to the house                                         The Great Hall
The weather was intermittently threatening rain, gloomy and sunny when we visited last October 

The stunning domed entrance hall, where prestigious guests would have gathered. Encircled with intricate wood panelling and elegant period furniture, it conveys a sense of luxury.

Each side of the main entrance is surrounded by Italian and Scandinavian landscapes.
A Roman soldier and a Viking warrior guard the doors.

The tour of the house starts upstairs with numerous rooms leading off wide spacious landings.


The first room we see is a replica of the 'house' that Mah-Jongg the lemur lived in.
It benefitted from central heating, and in one of the corners at the back is a kind of slide
down to the ground floor where he could wander around!

Virginia's bedroom suite
The Courtauld’s bedroom suites would have been the height of modernity at the time, 
with elegant lines and luxurious comforts

including en-suite bathrooms & walk in wardrobes

Virginia's en-suite where a statue of the goddess Psyche presides over the bathroom which has walls lined with onyx and embellished with black slate disks. The stunning gold plated mosaic recess, matching bath taps and lion’s ‘spout’ are the epitome of luxury.

The chic styling of Virginia’s room, continued through to Stephen’s
To the right of the picture is a door that leads through to Virginia's room.


Back down to the ground floor and where the Courtaulds were able to display their true style.

Every house needs a heart and the centre of Eltham’s daily life was the sycamore-panelled boudoir, or study, where Virginia spent much of her time. You can imagine Mrs Courtauld drinking tea or enjoying a gin and tonic on the massive sofa, an early example of built-in furniture.

The mahogany library has a recess where maps can be pulled up and down on a roller, and to the left of this photo is a leather-panelled map room with a synchronous electric clock built into the map, and clocks on the walls showing the time in various cities around the globe. This is where they planned their many foreign trips.

The Italian designed dining room has some beautiful contrasting elements, aluminum-leaf ceiling, and the striking black and silver doors are real statement pieces with their black lacquer and embossed ivory coloured decorations of birds and animals, each one painstakingly drawn from real animals at London Zoo. Every design detail has a feeling of stylish glamour.

The Drawing Room has more of a traditional feel to it, with elements of the room feeling quite historical. It's designed in a traditional Italian style with decorative beams and cream walls to display Stephen's collection of Renaissance paintings and ceramics.

This was a house for living in, and as well as the luxury the Courtaulds also considered the practical aspects. A flower room was designed for sorting and arranging cut flowers. Fresh flowers were a very important part of the decor. The house boasted over 90 glass, porcelain and pottery vases. Proof that you can never have too many vases, especially if you’re rich and play host to society parties!

They commissioned Siemens to install a private internal telephone exchange, and for guests wanting to make outside phone calls, there was also a 1930s coin-operated telephone booth. 
I remember using telephones like this one!

The kitchen was very well equipped with all mod cons

The centralised vacuum cleaner in the basement.
The housemaid attached a hose to a hidden socket in each room.
It wasn't fool proof though, it regularly broke down!
The basement has a wartime bunker with beds and first aid equipment, 
a photographic dark room


and a billiard room

No expense was spared to give themselves and guests every comfort and pleasure they desired. As well as new technology there were electric fires in most rooms, and synchronous clocks to ensure their guests all arrived for meals on time! A loudspeaker system broadcasted records to rooms on the ground floor and gas was used to power underfloor and radiant ceiling heating throughout the house.

The Great Hall is accessible from the ground and upstairs
Many elaborate banquets would have been held below this magnificent oak roof.

It was dismantled and reassembled in 1911–14, and the hall itself was fully restored in the 1930’s

The Courtaulds had the minstrels’ gallery added

The house is surrounded by 19 acres of beautiful gardens 


The rain that was threatening all day eventually came later in the afternoon

and our day ended slightly earlier than planned. On the way back to the car park the rain turned torrential. We had had a lovely day though. With a lovely restaurant and shop it's well worth a visit.

∼ Be safe and well 
Polly x

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