DIY Doll House Floor

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You can easily make this pink and white marble floor for your doll photography or for a dollhouse floor.  I’ve pick a pattern I saw in a magazine, but you can google marble floors and find ultra fabulous patterns that can make you crazy looking at them.  They’re not that hard to figure out and since there are no rules…..you can’t go far wrong.

Start with your materials.  I’ve chosen a large piece of pink poster board which will serve as the base for the tiles and will show through as my “grout”.  Honestly, it’s a pink grout floor, but that didn’t have the zing that “pink marble floor” has, and I was going for subtle pink.  Also shown below (click on any photo to enlarge), are a couple of pieces of white poster board and some darker pink wall paper which will be used as accent tiles for this floor.  Some of the white poster board has already been cut into small rectangles which will be my white slate/marble tiles.

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I started by drawing a very very very light pencil line on a diagonal across the pink board as a guide line to get started.  All you have to do is start placing the white marble tiles on the pink board with a touch of glue.  You don’t have to be perfect.  I only made the one guideline and eyeballed it from there, but do whatever you have to do to keep things in line and fairly square.

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Keep adding more of the white tiles.  Below, you can also see that I’ve cut up the piece of wallpaper into small accent tiles.  You will have to figure out the scale of your floor to suit your needs at the start of the project.  I wanted pink “grout” to also show around the little accent tiles, so they were cut with that in mind.  Paste them in just like the big tiles.

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Here’s a close look at the finished product and then a photo of the whole scene.  You might notice that the accent tiles are made from the same wallpaper as the wall.  These kinds of touches are fun to make and can add so much visual appeal to your doll photography or dollhouse.  The garden door in the last photo is fun to make and you can learn how here.   Hope you like it.  Thanks for looking.  Ask questions if you have any.  Best Wishes, Melanie

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Doll Accessories, My Garden Door View

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Dolls can only look at walls for so long before they go bonkers.  Yes, they like art & books, but a great view is a lovely thing.  Creating a door or window will add a lot of depth and ambiance to your doll photography.  It also just makes it more fun to appreciate them when you see them in a space as lovely as they are.

Making a door or window with a view is easy.  I’ve used wood in this case….because I can.  I’m a tool girl and playing with my bandsaw is just too much fun to pass up, but you can simply substitute poster board or foam board.

First I decided on the scale, which in this case is 1/3 so it will go with my bookcase.  The first photo below (click on any photo to enlarge) shows my pattern, which was cut from heavy paper.  You can see that I’ve planned for the door and the surrounding moulding.

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Next, I mark the pattern onto my wood.  Even if you’re doing a version using poster board or foam board, play it safe and make a pattern first.  It might save you a trip to the store to purchase more materials when you realize you’d really like it a bit bigger or smaller or wider or whatever.

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Here’s my finished cuts ready for spray paint.  Just in case you’re wondering, I cut my trim parts in two pieces because it’s less wasteful of my wood.  If you’re doing the poster board version you can do it in one nice sweeping arch.  Of course you can make a rectangular garden door also, but I just love the elegance of an arch.

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This next photo shows the painted door and trim in off-white satin finish spray paint.  The beauty of using poster board is that you can simply pick the color you want and skip the painting step.  We’re looking at the back side of the door and you can see my staples holding everything in place.  You’re also looking at the back side of the photo of my garden, which was enlarged in photoshop (in sections) and taped together to get it that large.  Remember I mentioned that this is 1/3 scale (SD or 24″ size dolls), so the total height of the door is 27 inches.  The photo is 22″ tall, which is just enough to cover the needed area.  I simply taped the photo to the door from the back side and when you turn it over, voila!, you have a fabulous view.

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The last part is putting the hardware on to give it authenticity.  What you’re seeing below is a piece of green poster board which I used to hold my door hardware before I spray painted it with an old can of gold paint in a hammered metal look.  Love using up old cans of paint.  You can see four little pieces of wood that will make my door hinges.  They are  little wooden skewers bought at the grocery store and cut into one inch pieces.  You know, the kind you put veggies or meat on so they don’t fall through the grill as you BB-Que them.  Place them on a piece of masking tape, with the sticky side up.  This holds them in place while sprayed them.  Otherwise they’d have flow off from the power of the spray can.  The two brown circle looking items are the door knobs, which are large decorative nails I use in my upholstery business.  They worked fantastic, but you could just cut circles and add several small layers of poster board behind them to lift them off the surface and create the illusion of depth.  You could also make nice door knobs out of polymer clay. The little white paper shapes are my door knob plates, which are just poster board cut to a decorative shape and painted.  Pretty cute, huh?

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Here’s one of the many photos I’ve taken of this door.  The finished product is so easy.  You can make it in any size you want.  You could take a picture of yourself (or one of your dolls) looking in the window just for fun…..or your cat peering in….or aliens.  Whatever you like.  This is my garden just outside my dining room doors and the path I laid out of local antique brick and all the plants I planted…..cause I’m a DIY girl and don’t know when to stop.  ;o}    I think the wall looks better with more contrast between the door trim and the wall, but…..

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As an added bonus, here’s my latest view for my new modern furniture.  I wanted city girls to have appropriate views of their world.  It’s using the same techniques.  You can instantly create a fun space for your dolls or your stuff.  If you have smaller dolls you could set this up on the shelf of a bookcase, adding depth and interest.  See how I did the brick wall for these photos here.

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Please feel free to ask questions and thank you for looking.  Hope you liked it.

My Photography…..so far, Pt. 2

My photography improved as I began to create more illusion with intentionally created walls and floors.  I consider them props just like the rugs, furniture and plants.  It’s important to create them so they lay flat when not in use and can be mixed and matched.  I would recommend creating a “base wall”.  This is like the “bones” of your set.  It keeps the wall standing up straight and not falling over on the dolls, and allows you to shift the whole set as needed to get optimal light.

I frequently use my bookcases as a base wall because they’re so sturdy, but you can easily make one with common tools.  For the purposes of this demo, it took about less than ten minutes to make this since I had the materials on hand.  It’s simply a piece of foam board to which I attached small feet, also created from foam board.  The feet are removable (so it will lie flat), since they’re only attached with straight pins, which easily slide into the foam (below).  You can see one pin at the top and one at the bottom.  If you’re not worried about space, you could also hot glue them permanently into place.  This base wall measures 29 inches wide and 25 inches tall.  My cutting table is 57 inches wide and by turning it at an angle to my window, or letting the bookshelves hang off a little on each side, I can get up to 60 inch wide shots.  My bookcase is 29.5 inches tall, but can extend it upward with little wall extensions if I want to.

Now, you can start to place any one of the several beautiful floors you’ve created up next to it. Then lay one of your wall textures against it vertically (temporarily held in place with pins or tape, see second photo close up, below).  Voila!  You have the basic set ready to adorn with accessories.  A small piece of moulding (not shown) spray painted gives the appearance of a base board, adding realism.  Setting the stage is much like getting dressed in the morning.  You want lots of options that you can mix and match and accessories to make it pop.

My architectural prints wall was first covered in fabric and the prints permanently applied.  Fixing them permanently is a good idea if you have a collection……I love collections.  But, if you’ve worked hard creating a beautiful wall, or it’s a beautiful color of poster board and you don’t want to make a permanent hole in it or risk pulling the color off with tape, here’s what I do.  Rather than metal wire or twine, use clear wire commonly used for beading and jewelry making, or fishing line.   For the purposes of this demonstration, I’ve used a black twine.  Otherwise you couldn’t see it and would think I was bonkers!

The twine was looped through the little metal attachment on the back (I purchased this frame at a hobby craft store on sale). Several knots can be tied in it to allow you to hang it at various levels and it’s simply secured with a pin stuck down into the foam board  at the top of your base wall.  The clear jewelry thread doesn’t show at all in the photos.  I’m using 1/8 inch foam board which seemed sturdy enough.  If your picture frame is not too heavy, a pair of magnets works wonders without marring the wall surface.  Super glue one magnet to the top back of the frame and then position the other directly across from it on the back side of the base wall.  It stays up like magic and is easy to move up and down.

So here’s the base wall with the floor and the picture.  A really realistic scene coming together and haven’t even thrown in accessories!  Let’s add a rug and plant next. The rug is a nice piece of upholstery fabric…..very nice.

Now put in all the other little items that make you and your doll happy and we have the un-cropped finished look, followed by the cropped version.

In hindsight, probably should have lowered the painting to a lower knot on the chain, but……..I’d already broken down the set (takes about 30 seconds) and couldn’t reshoot it…….but this is how I’m currently creating realistic scenes for my stuff.   I like the way the small size of this set cuts off the floor, the pot, the chair & the painting.  It looks like we’re looking in on a private moment.  Shooting from an even lower level might have been interesting….and this is the problem….you can never get it quite right….so you never get it done….and you never stop having fun and being creative!  What luck!

Developing my vision of the scene in my mind and doing a little sketch on paper is a time saving practice.  Drawing it helps more idea flow to you.  You don’t have to be a great artist…..just a sketch is helpful.  I hope this has sparked your imagination or convinced you that great idea you had two months ago just might work.  Thank you so much for reading.

My Photography…..so far, Pt.1

A friend and patron from Etsy, Mustangridergirl, asked a great question:

First of all, I’m only a professional upholsterer.  I am definitely not a professional photographer and do not have professional photographic equipment, nor studied theater in school or learn about set design.  This all got started because I had to photograph my furniture for the Etsy shop.  Check out “sales” at my shop and you can see my progression, not only in my furniture, but in my photography.  (click on any photo to enlarge)

So, this post is a behind the scenes look at my current photographic technique.  Should I study lighting?  Of course.  Do I currently have the time or inclination….not really.  Am I interested in spending tons of money on professional lighting and then having to find a place to store it when not in use?…..yeah, right.  Sound familiar?  Does this describe you?  I think I’m very much like any doll owner/enthusiast, making the most of what I have or can create.  I’m a DIY kind of girl and can’t even remember the name brand of the camera I’m using.

I don’t think it’s about the camera.  Most people now acknowledge that camera phones are on par with many available cameras.  I don’t use my phone for the dolls and furniture, but you get the idea…. just trying to make the most of what you have. Thankfully, my camera has a rechargeable battery.   I never never ever ever use a flash.   Holding my finger on the flash as I start the camera keeps it from popping up, and I ignore all prompts and flashing messages telling me I need more light.  The lights in my shop are fluorescent….yes!….fluorescent lights!  It’s been a workshop long before it became a posh environment for dolls. ;o)

The cutting table is directly behind the chair sitting on the upholstery horses…..waiting for me to quit playing with dolls and re-upholsterer it.

Floors and walls stacked neatly out of the way under the currently cluttered cutting table.

My shop is a 10 ft x 18 ft space.  The cutting table sits next to one of two west facing windows, although the huge Burr Oak tree just outside, shades most of the direct light.  My fully lit photos, like this fun take on the board game Clue (below), are photographed using only those two overhead lights, and I almost never adjust it later in Photoshop.   The only extra work done on this shot was to crop it.  In hindsight, I would have liked a little more atmosphere in this shot, but hey!, “me and the girls was just havin’ a little fun, ya know”, and crime should be exposed.  I amuse myself.

Miss Scarlett….in the library…..with…..the copper pipe?

Lately, I’ve started using a large white piece of foam board to deflect the light up to the ceiling and get a more subtle atmosphere, and have been known to drape fabric over the fluorescent closest to the table in order to affect the quality of the light.   Shifting  the whole scene to angle it towards the window, gives me a little less angled more direct natural light.    And if it’s atmosphere you’re looking for, I can’t say enough about making your own lamps.  It’s fun, easy and does double duty as a light source and a decorative prop.

This photo (above) was taken with the overhead lights turned off, only the two windows letting in a little bit of indirect natural light, and my doll lamp creating added  effect.  Strong late afternoon light gave it the feeling of dusk.  I left the scene lined up with the table (instead of angling toward the window) which gives the illusion that my dolls house indeed has a large grand window on the wall not shown in the photo.

The next one has only the light from the window.  I love that moment when the day is getting to dusk and you know if you don’t turn on a light now….if you wait any longer…. it will be very harsh when you finally do.  I always use “Auto Focus” on my camera, letting it do what it does best.  It’s a Canon Power Shot 5×210 IS.

Realize that the bulb color of artificial light, will affect the color of your sets, dolls and clothing.  That’s probably why my fluorescent lights work OK, because they’re white light…..not yellow or bluish.  I am using a yellow light in the lamp, which has a warming effect in the “night” shots.

The angle of the shot is also important.  I like to get low enough with my camera to be on the dolls eye level.  There are plenty of artistic exceptions to this, but for my purposes, shooting from the dolls point of view will look most natural.

Speaking of cropping, I’m still learning not to judge too quickly the merits of a photo before I crop it.  Cropping is a very creative process.  I occasionally find myself dragging photo’s out of the trash and finding interesting compositions within a shot I previously thought was trash worthy.  This paragraph is more important than some might think at first. Trying to take a completely finished shot with the camera is not as much fun or effective as cropping.   Play with cropping!  Most photo processing software (whether on your computer or the free ones on line) will let you “duplicate” your photo, which allows you to play to your hearts content.  It’s one of the most creative and fun parts of photography.

I work hard at the photos.  Sometimes I’ll take a dozen shots only to realize I’ve failed to notice a blunder.  Here’s an example:  The table skirt just didn’t look real enough until I stopped and forced it into a shape that seemed right.  I must have taken a dozen shots of it crumpled, but once I saw the photos on the computer, I ran back to the shop, adjusted the table skirt and it only took one more shot to get it.

Uncropped version with funky table skirt.

That’s much better!

My next goal is to develop mid-tone lighting.  Perhaps bring in a table lamp from the house, setting it up across the room, turn out the fluorescence, and shooting late in the day when the sun is lower and coming strongly in the widow….but not creating shadows.  Atmosphere is good!  Have fun!!

I’ll try to post Part 2 tomorrow.  It’s about scene construction and should be fun.  Thanks for reading, and Thank YOU again Mustangridergirl!  You’re a doll!