French Country Manor
Instructions with the Manor advise the entire building, inside and out, should be primed to ensure no moisture penetrates and warps the wood. The Manor is made of finely milled, multi-layered plywood. At least that’s what my husband Brent said. Even though we’re in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and there is zero moisture in the air most of the time, I went ahead and painted all surfaces with Behr primer. I love Behr and have used it on all my real houses, inside and out, even on concrete. It covers beautifully every time. Gives me a nice comfy feeling inside to use Behr, a friend by side on all my crazy painting adventures over the years.
And then I started priming the windows and trim, and even the muntin (the strips of wood that separate multiple pieces of glass in the window), when it occurred to me that I could go ahead and buy the color for the trim in the paint that includes primer. Bleached Linen in semi-gloss is the color of the interior trim pieces and exterior trim pieces are being painted Gotham Gray in semi-gloss.
I’m contemplating using Bleached Linen in eggshell on all interior walls, and the semi-gloss on crown molding and baseboards. My vision is of an all-white house. White walls, white tiles, white furniture (with gold trim). And the curves of the deep moldings will add textures. The only color will come from window treatments and floral arrangements, maybe some throw pillows and an occasional gold chair or settee.
That’s what’s in my head. We’ll see if it turns out that way.
All along, I’ve been thinking furniture would be the last thing I’d buy. After ceilings are painted, it will be time to run the electrical tape through the house, so I thought light fixtures would be the first thing to pick out. But it makes no sense to pick out sconces or chandeliers if you don’t where they’ll be placed, or how many you need in each room. Clearly, furniture is needed in the initial stages. And it should be arranged in each room so lighting fixtures can be chosen for specific areas of the ceiling or walls. Choosing lighting fixtures is quite exciting, but it can be costly. Some chandeliers are more than $200. Artisan made chandeliers can go as high as $2700. Mind boggling, right?
I found Minimumworld.com and discovered their lighting is considerably less than other vendors, including miniatures.com, who offer coupons for 15 to 20% discounts, sometimes higher. I compared the fixtures on both sites and they are the exact same, only much less expensive on minimumworld, so that’s where I’ll order the lights… when the furniture has been arranged.
Now, about the furniture. As I was building Ella’s dollhouse, I found several tutorials on Pinterest that showed in detail how to make miniature furniture. I tried my hand at it and was impressed with the results. I made a French Chaise in white with green and pink fabric; a white dining table with a stained wood top and 6 parsons chairs in beige and cream fabric; two twin french-style beds that I painted pale blue after taking the photos below. I made mattresses using pink striped fabric with miniature pink flowers that looks like mattress ticking; two box springs and two top mattresses that are padded with quilting batting and sewn in a pattern resembling button tufting. They are adorable, if I do say so myself! The trick will be to sew sheets, then a spread, and a bed skirt and pillow cases, etc.
I began to troll ebay, looking for vintage miniature furniture, something with a little character that you might find in the attic of a 1770s country manor. I bought an elegant (yet shabby chic) love seat with pale pink fabric and a throw pillow. So French it hurts! Following the idea of all white furniture, I expanded my search and began to find hand-crafted, high-quality furniture in white made by Ja-lyi or Bespaq.
A brand new kitchen set (minus the island and double cabinet) was being sold by someone in North Caroline for $127. Bought retail, the entire set cost $299. Then I found an ebay merchant from China who carried the individual kitchen pieces and they were on sale for 10% off, plus they were already $5 to $15 cheaper than what U.S. vendors sold them for.
Should I buy from a company located in China? Would the shipment take six months? Would it be a knock-off? To test the vendor, I ordered the kitchen island and double cabinet. When they arrived within two weeks, they were brand new and perfectly matched the rest of the kitchen pieces bought from the North Caroline seller! Well, why not buy other things from China if the service is this good?
Plus, when I looked at the glorious detail in the carved and hand-painted furniture, it made my own handmade goods look rather pitiful. Not in line with my dream of a white house and white furniture with gold accents.
So I went back to that seller and bought a bed with matching night stands, a vanity and chair (in the same mint green fabric on the bed’s upholstered head and foot boards). More wall panels a large chest for the sunroom that has a very, very, teeny, tiny dollhouse built into the top part of the cabinet. I’ve been wanting to get a dollhouse scaled to fit inside a 1:12 dollhouse and this is an elegant option!!
The merchants from China even sell wall sections with inset panels, and wall sections with fireplaces and mirrors that match the furniture design, down to the gold trim. It’s all very French.
When the box arrived, wrapped in tape with Chinese characters all over it, I carefully removed each piece from it’s little box and tested the house’s layout, deciding which room should go where by placing the pieces in the Manor.
I found myself smiling. Is it ridiculous that a 53-year-old woman should be designing a miniature Manor? Maybe. Maybe not. I just know it brings me lots of joy and warms my soul. Gives me something to look forward to when I’m standing at my work desk, at my real job as a communications specialist for a insurance company. Maybe when Ella is 53-years-old, or my great-great-granddaughter is 53-years-old, she’ll also smile and feel joyful around the Manor.
One can only hope.