When I was a child, my dollhouses provided me with hours of free-play joy. What made my dollhouse experience perhaps different from other children is that I tossed out the dolls and played with the furniture. Adorning the rooms of my dollhouses then were a combination of molded-plastic furniture and furniture I made out of found objects from around the house. The household’s junk-drawer, my dad’s tool box, and my mom’s sewing basket were among some of my favourite places that yielded bounties of dollhouse outfitting.
Fast forward a few decades and my love for furniture hasn’t subsided. I reimagine life-size antique and vintage furniture at Hollis Newton but like everyone else on the planet, Covid-19 has suspended my routine and the future of everything is on hold.
Re-enter Childhood Pastime
Being unable to return to Burkcraft Furniture Company during social isolation hasn’t stopped my reimagining of things. I just had to downscale a bit. To a 1:12 ratio to be exact.
The Plan and Playlist
Even though I had intended on replicating my actual living room, that plan proved to be too ambitious and I ended up just capturing the things in the room that I love most, those being, vintage and thrifted furniture, art, plants and books. The only thing missing was music, and if this tiny suite had a playlist, you would hear tracks from Curtis Mayfield, Fela Kuti, Roy Ayers, ATCQ, EW&F, Donald Byrd, Hall & Oats, Steely Dan …I could go on. Planning is good but I wasn’t inflexible.
For this miniature suite, I was determined to make everything with objects I had on hand. The only exception was backsplash sticker tiles I bought from the Dollar Store. However I wasn’t going to use them as the manufacturer recommended therefore, no backsplash. But I did use the adhesive tiles—cut up into tiny squares—as my fireplace hearth and as fireplace-facing inlay tiles. Other found object that I reimagined were beads, lip balm caps, nail polish, a woven belt, toothpicks, matchsticks, chop-sticks, coffee stirrers, and barbecue skewers. The take-away: Nothing was off limits from being reimagined.
I’m not sure how this happened but it did. I go for walks in the morning and evening and in a span of three weeks, I managed to find five fake plants on totally random routes. I washed each thoroughly once home then cut the foliage into miniature plants. On yet another outing, I found a tiny “R” which just happens to be my initial. My lesson: The power of attraction only works if your eyes are wide open.
The Tools, Gear and Materials
If you’re planning on making miniatures, the most valuable tools you’ll have are time and the internet. YouTube provided me with a great paper-clay recipe which made plant pots, vases, bowls and a fireplace brick facade. I also used Pinterest for inspiration and to source traditional African masks.
Below I listed all the tools, safety gear and materials I used. My one regret is that I didn’t take more process photos—same story, different scale. If you want to know how I did something specifically, comment below and I’ll do my best to take you through the steps. Or at least, point you in the direction of a good tutorial.
– Right-angle ruler
– Straight ruler (with imperial and metric units)
– Glue gun
– Utility knife
– Artist paint-brushes
– Sewing needle and thread
– Darning needle
– Graph paper (invaluable for making things symmetrical)
– Cutting mat
– Sewing machine
– Miter box (great for making 90° and 45° cuts)
– Printer (for book jacket covers)
– Dremel tool kit
– Dusk mask
– Utility gloves
– Safety goggles
– Work Apron
– PVA or white glue
– Carpenter’s glue
– Acrylic craft paints (for wall art, plant leaves, furniture “stain”, and rug yarn “dye”)
– Model-grade plywood (for furniture and wall art “canvases”)
– Various thin wood scraps (for fireplace mantle, and wall art “canvases”)
– Fireplace matchsticks, Bamboo BBQ skewers, Chop-sticks, Coffee stirrers, and Toothpicks (for furniture and Mid-century modern plant stand )
– Paper-clay (for plant pots, African masks, fireplace brick facade, decorative bowls and vases)
– Beads (for vases and lamp base)
– Scrap fabric (for upholstery and pillows)
– Yarn (Bernat and Lily brands for rug, pillows, macrame plant holder)
– Masking tape (for plant leaves)
– Paper (for book jacket covers and pages, wall art collage, flower pot decoupage)
– Cardboard box lid (weaving loom for rug and pillows)
– Old business cards (for book covers)
– Thin wire (for plant stems)
– Cosmetic container tops (for plant container molds and plant pots)
– Metallic Nail-polish (as gold and brass details)
– Fake plants
– Boxwood hedge leaves and other plants that kept their shape once dried
– Wood building blocks (for fireplace construction)
– Backsplash sticker tiles (for fireplace hearth and tile inlay)
– Jute trim (for flower pot)
– Old woven belt (for flower pot)
– Small tree branches (for fireplace logs)