Pros: quality, detail, instructions
Let me say this little project isnt for the impatient or faint of heart. I spent 3 months building this little baby, with signs all around it threatening the life of anyone that came near it. It finally met its inevitable end at the hands of my grandchildren when they used it for a Star Wars fort. Of course, my iguana had already wrecked it pretty good by then, so I was already over the pain. Irregardless, nothing was quite as satisfying as building my very own dollhouse from scratch.
After about five years of longing and research, I finally settled on the Greenleaf Beacon Hill Victorian style dollhouse. This is no nickel and dime operation, it runs a hefty $225 for the dollhouse kit and that is unfurnished, unpainted, and no accessories. I have always considered myself rather handy around tools and odd jobs, but I had no idea of what I was getting in to, especially in 1 scale.
The Beacon Hill, when completed, measures 4H x 33W x 25D. It has three floors, seven rooms, two hallways, three fireplaces, three bay windows and a winding staircase. That isnt all, it has a multi-level Mansard style roof and more dang gingerbread than a gingerbread house.
The back is completely open so you can fiddle around with your furniture and decorating sense to your hearts content. The windows and doors open on hinges except for a few that are for decorative use only. There are balconies with itty, bitty balusters that I dont even want to think about anymore.
You open the box and do nothing but gulp. There are layers and layers of plywood sheeting inside with the outlines of objects cut into them. The construction is tab/slot style so you have to be extremely careful when removing your piece from the plywood sheeting that you dont break a tab off. I found the easiest way was to take a box cutter and go round the piece before punching it out, even though it is fairly well cut through anyway. Do not get ahead of yourself and punch out pieces before they are called for because, as I found out, you lose track of what they are designed to do.
After your piece is punched out, you have to sand it lightly with a fine grit paper to remove burs and give it a finished appearance. I always topped that off with a rubbing of steel wool, just to be sure. Then assembly begins.
After the first couple of rooms, I quickly learned to pick my decorating finish [wallpaper or paint] and apply that before assembly. You cant imagine how tedious it is to get your hands and a paintbrush or wallpaper into those teeny spaces. There is specially designed wallpaper for dollhouses, you can pick it up at most craft stores. It is just like regular paper only the prints are to scale.
Another thing I learned was to paint my mullions before I assembled my windows and doors. You know how difficult it is to paint adult sized mullions around window panes, imagine that in 1 scale. You cant exactly tape off the glass area you know. Speaking of glass, they use a crystalline vinyl for the glass appearance, not actual glass. It is just a temperamental as glass though and harder to clean.
The siding comes in sheets that you have to cut to fit. They are full sheets, not individual slats, so that helps on the large areas. Not as fun on the small areas though. This is applied over the exterior of the house, their interior surface becomes the interior walls of the home. No insulation here - grin. Well, at least you dont have to worry about the insulation when you are doing the lighting. Lighting is something I discovered and attempted after the completion of the dollhouse. If you are interested in lighting, I suggest you do it during construction. It is so much easier.
The roofing is done in a couple of steps. First you have the plywood finish to assemble and then you have your bag of cedar shingles. These are actual cedar shingles and although there are a bazillion of them to install, they are quite easy to work with. They trim down and cut nicely with a box cutter.
The stairs were my most tedious projects. Each step is individually installed and keeping the entire project square, level, and in place during installation and drying was very tricky. I invested a fortune in little tiny clamps for this project and a lot of tape. There was a fair amount of cussing involved as well.
Along the foundation there are bricks, just like you would find in regular homes. Yes, you make these little bricks yourself. There is a bag of brick dust which you mix with water and craft glue and a brick grid. You apply the brick mixture to the grid and wait for it to dry. After you peel the grid away, there are the cutest little bricks, I was so proud of them. That was until I had to install them. Buy good tweezers is all I can say.
Sheets of hardwood flooring is included for the project. Again, this is actual flooring, just a very thin sheet of it. It is easily cut with scissors or a box cutter. Measure twice before cutting because there isnt that much included. Any mistakes and you are on your way to the craft store to purchase more hardwood flooring and it isnt cheap. After installing the flooring, steel wool it and then apply a poly coat to give it a high gloss sheen. The detail is incredible with the grain showing through and the individual slats.
Not included in the project box are all the whistles and bells to make your house a home. A visit to the craft store will break your bank book. Furniture can be almost as expensive as real life and just as detailed. Pianos that actually play, ceiling fans [run $25 each by the way] actually turn and light up, books with real words and pictures. The list is endless. After a few careful purchases, I ended up buying several the craft kits available to make my own furniture. Tedious is all I can say for that.
You can purchase mini pictures, calendars, phones, curtain rods eek! Leave the store while you still can. Then you get into things like curtains [make or purchase], toweling, bed linens, throw rugs, hand woven wool rugs. Have you ever seen nails, screws and hinges in 1" scale? Daunting.
And the lighting, cant forget the lighting. You can purchase the kit with carries the standard strips of lighting wiring, transformer, and wall outlets. Its so dang cute to see those little wall outlets.
Finishing the project
Like a real home, you are never done until you simply just stop. After about 18 months I quit buying, adding, decorating the thing. I had put it on a plywood base and landscaped the exterior. I had decorations for different holidays. It was becoming an obsession. Fortunately, I could do a lot of the stuff myself and didnt have to purchase everything. Still, I wrapped up over $3000 in this dollhouse. It was a masterpiece and I loved every minute of it.
Then the iguana came along. And he hid inside the thing, climbed the stairs and poked his stupid iguana head out of the upstairs windows. His claws scratched up the hardwood flooring and the vinyl tile I put in the kitchen soon was damaged. Then the grandkids I gave up. What had been a glorious beauty soon became a mysterious playground. I threw away the plywood base with the real grass [yes, I grew real grass] and all the trees and bushes. We wont even discuss the furniture but I think there is still some of it around somewhere.
Looking at the directions, I see in the fine print finished houses are not recommended for young children sigh
Would I build another one again? In a heartbeat! The crafting and quality of the materials on this is outstanding and worth every penny. The satisfaction of the completed project cant be measured. Greenleaf puts a lot of time and effort in their goods, the die casting is incredible and the instructions are wonderful, so easy to follow. Besides, I still have all the little tiny tools I had to buy to build the first one.
White House In Miniature