Wednesday, 26 October 2011

New Artwork

Just a little posting tonight! here are some new 'paintings' I have made to go in the Georgian house. They're just right for the period! Sorry the photo is a bit fuzzy, I probably got too close with the camera. No idea who actually painted either of these, but I really like the little landscape. The frames came from Hobby's (UK)  and look quite good, they're only about £4.50 for the pair, so good value too.

see, for more details.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Hall

                                                                    Barley Hall

In most homes today the hallway is little more than a passage way leading from the front door to selected rooms on the ground floor, and usually contains the staircase to the floor above too. There are many homes that have no hall at all, and the front door leads straight into the main reception rooms (if that doesn’t make me sound too much like an estate agent!). It wasn’t always that way, in fact, in the past the hall was the biggest and most important room in the house. In the Middle Ages it was where the household spent most of their daily lives; they ate there, and slept there, were entertained there and kept warm there. The master of the house, his family and servants ate and slept in the same room, there was little or no privacy, although status was clearly defined by the position you sat in the room when eating, the master and family at the head table, often raised on a dais, and the servants seated at benches along the side of the room. A fire was kept in the centre of the room, smoke rising to a louvered panel in the roof, the chimney and fireplace where things of the future! The fire was covered overnight to prevent fires, and you would have bedded down on little more than straw overnight. Another fire precaution was to keep the kitchens separate from the hall, often in a completely different building. Other features you might have seen in a medieval hall were the screens passage and gallery above.

                                                                     Haddon Hall

Over time the Master and his family desired more privacy, and began to withdraw from the hall and the lives of the servants. These ‘withdrawing’ rooms were where the master of the house and his family would eat and sleep, but the hall would still have been used for feasting and entertaining guests. New furniture was designed for these private rooms; beds became more common, with heavy drapes to keep out the chill of the night, supported by bedposts. Tapestries would also help keep out the draughts, as well as showing of a family's status and wealth; none of these furnishings came cheaply!

But, even as more and more private rooms were added to houses, the hall didn’t disappear. That isn’t to say that it didn’t become smaller in some cases; to make room for the new private rooms a floor was often inserted reducing the height of the hall, and creating a new first floor for the family. Another development was the fireplace and chimney, however early chimneys weren’t terribly effective and lots of smoke would still have drifted into the hall. Chimneys were expensive and were a clear status of wealth, one that could be seen from outside the house too, and large elaborate chimney stacks were added to the roof line of many grand houses, often made of brick, another expensive product!

By the end of the Tudor period the servants were being kept largely out of site in the main house, and the hall was little more than an entrance to a house, where visitors would wait. But it was still an important room when it came to status. In humble dwellings people still lived as they had for centuries before with only one or two rooms to perform daily rituals and sleep. By having a hall, as well as showing the family's ancestral heritage, a person was showing that they could afford the space for a room that had no real function anymore, and that they were certainly not forced to live in one room. Keeping visitors waiting in the hall meant it was a good place to show off your wealth and power too, fine woods and marble replaced stone and plaster in the decoration, fireplaces got grander and other treasures could be housed there too. And all the while the visitor was being kept from the family’s private rooms until invited to enter, and the further into the private rooms one was allowed the more intimate or powerful a guest one was.

                                                                      Audley End

Part 2

                                                   top: Syon House bottom: Holkham Hall

By the 18th century there was no longer any notion that the hall was a room for living in, but the entrance hall was still being incorporated in the plans for the grand classical houses of the period. Inspired by the work of Palladio and the classical architecture of ancient Rome (as well as a symbolic rejection of European Baroque) the classical style and English Palladianism became increasingly popular over the 18th and early 19th century. The entrance hall was usually on the piano nobile directly behind the temple front, with stairs on the outside of the building leading up to it. It would have been the first room your guests would have seen and was often very richly and elaborately decorated. The entrance hall’s primary function was to wow your guests. Some entrance halls were large enough to hold parties and balls. A special type of chair was designed to sit in the entrance hall, called, unsurprisingly, a hall chair! They were usually plain wood, not upholstered, and look rather uncomfortable! (see the example below). The staircase was rarely in the entrance hall, but kept separately in another part of the house, often a room beyond the entrance hall. A less grand general entrance may have been added in the ground floor of the house for the owner and his family to enter the house for day to day use, such as that at Chiswick House near London and Nostell Priory in Yorkshire.

                                             The entrance hall at  Nostell Priory, by Robert Adam

The homes of the ‘middling sort’ may not have been as grand as the large country homes of the land owners, but would still usually have had a small entrance hall, more like a passageway in most homes. In the terraced houses being built in the towns and cities of Britain with their narrow facades, the passage hall was the most practical design to give access to the rooms behind. Georgian terraced housing was classified in size and features by a rate system, first rate to forth rate. First rate were the largest with the finest features, and usually for the nobility, but it would be a mistake to assume that a third of forth rate house was bad or for the poor, they would still have been way beyond the means of many people, and probably housed merchants and people who could best be described as comfortable rather than wealthy. Third and forth rate house would both have been likely to have a staircase in the hall. You can see examples of how first, second and third rate houses compared (on the façade at least) on the main title picture of my blog! A hall was also a useful way of keeping dirt and grime of the town and city out of the living rooms of a house, confining it to the entrance, and boot scrapers started to appear outside the front door to help with this.

                                           top: Fairfax House  Bottom: Carlton House (Regancy)

By the Victorian age the staircase was in the hallway of most new terraced homes. A hall stand was a popular feature in the Victorian hall, a piece of furniture designed to hold coats, hats and umbrellas etc, with a mirror inset within it. Queen Victoria’s love of the Scottish Highlands led to a fashion for the Baronial Scottish style hall, rich with tartans and hunting trophies. A fashion for Gothic Revival brought the medieval hall back in to fashion too, a good example can be seen at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire.(though strictly speaking this is earlier than the Victorian period!). The eclectic tastes of the Victorians led to Tudor revivals too and Whitwick Manor, in Wolverhampton is a perfect example of this, complete with fancy chimney stacks on the roof and a medieval hall inside! 

                                                            Linley Sambourne House

Despite this brief revival of the hall during the 19th century, its days of importance were coming to an end. During the 20th century the hall just got smaller, and as architects became more adventurous with designs and materials the hallway was squeezed out of many houses altogether. One good example of the entrance hall in its grandest in the early 20th century would be that at Eltham Palace, full of art Deco splendour! 

                                                                Eltham Palace

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Happy Landings!

OK, so you've seen the hallway, now here's the landing on the floor above. Same colour on the walls as in the hall (and same tipsy banisters!). More blue and white china too! The chairs are made from kits by Robert Longstaff. I have borrowed the tall chest from one of the attic bedrooms, to replace a cheap Queen Anne style display case (which if you look carefully can just about be seen on the left of the top photo) which looked OK but wasn't quite what I wanted. I will hopefully replace the chest with a tallboy at some stage (depending on what Father Christmas brings me!) and the chest can return to the attic room it came from! The gold picture frames are from Hobby's, and I've used some seascapes I cut from an old leaflet for the Queens House in Greenwich to fill them.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Making an Entrance!!

Back to the Georgian house for a while. There's not much left to show you in this house really. The hall takes up the space behind the central three bays of my house, on the first floor, with a landing taking up the central three bays of the floor above. That's quite a lot of space really, and if I were building my dolls house again I would have done something different with the space I think.

My hallway looks very plain when compared to John's Merrimen Park. I like the yellow colour, another Farrow and Ball paint; I just love the quality of the pigment in their paints and they do very handy sample tins which are just right for dolls house builders! The colour is Sudbury Yellow, and is based on samples taken from  Sudbury Hall. The colour also looks great against the blue and white china I have been collecting. I don't really have much furniture in this room yet, as I was busy getting the main rooms furnished first. The grandfather clock is new, and was made from a white wood kit I got for my birthday. I don't really like the sideboard to be honest, and it will eventually be replaced, but it fills a gap for now!

I'm also unhappy with the staircase, I really struggled with this, and the banisters, but the end result was not great, it all looks a little wobbly to be honest! Unfortunately, I stuck it all in, otherwise I would like to rip it out and start again. I'll put it down as a learning curve (ergh!) and move on!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

More Views of the Shop

Just a couple more pictures of the shop. This is the top floor (Mr Buxton's bed/sitting room) in more detail. The bed clothes are unfinished, as usual the idea of a needle and thread has me running scared! But I like the fabric, it  looks a little like patchwork, and there's plenty of the fabric to run up a pair of curtains too.

The alarm clock is from Truly Scrumptious, who do some lovely, unusual miniatures, all hand crafted too. For more details see

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Tudor Shop

Well, I have been a busy boy with the camera today, taking lots of snaps, as you can see. This is the Tudor shop. I didn't build it myself, it was built by my partner's father, and when I met David, it was tucked away, empty and unloved in the attic. Like the Georgian house, it is based on plans form Brian Nickolls, this one from 'Making Dolls' Houses'. Imagine how thrilled I was in finding it! At first I wasn't sure what to do with it, and it was really just used to store various miniatures that I had purchased, particularly after I had started building my Georgian house, and was collecting suitable pieces for it. Whilst I was at the dolls house fairs I kept seeing sweet little packages, and that gave me an idea to create my own period shop. All the windows on the ground floor made the building look like a shop anyway. The wooden beams are all made from English elm wood (what a shame those trees have all but gone these days due to Dutch Elm Disease).

The dolls house is actually based on a real building in Exeter (UK) known as 'The House that Moved'. Which was moved along an entire street in the early 1960s to save it from redevelopment.

And this picture is of that house, which is now a bridal shop I believe.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Kristin Baybar's Shop

In my earlier blog about the kitchen above Buxton's shop, I mentioned buying the mixing bowl from Kristin Baybar's shop in Gospel Oak, North London. I had first seen the shop on a documentary called Hello Dollies shown on Channel 4, about dolls house builders and enthusiasts (see earlier blog 'Hello Dollies'). The shop looked wonderful, filled with little room sets and drawers full of miniature things, I knew I had to go there!

I did my research, found the shop, and how to get there, and one day  set off to see the shop for myself. Unfortunately, I didn't research well enough, as the train line to and from Gospel Oak was completely closed for months due to an upgrade that was happening for the new London Overground service at the time. I almost headed back home, but was told that a replacement bus service was available, so I jumped on the bus! It was all very exciting, I had never seen any of this part of London before, but began to wonder what route the bus was taking as we seemed to be going further and further into the East End of London, still I thought, it must just be going the long way round. I am not sure at what point I actually was certain that I was on the wrong bus entirely, but it was long before we stopped at our final destination at Stratford, where they are currently building and expensive running track or something. (!!) ((not Shakespeare's birthplace!!!)).

Fortunately, there is a good tube route back to central London from Stratford, so I just went back to where I had started and began again, this time making sure I was in the correct bus! Eventually, I arrived in Gospel Oak!

Was it all worth it? Yes! To be fair the shop doesn't look much from the outside, painted red, it had  a large grill covering the window, and you had to ring the bell to get in, but once inside it was wonderland! Kristin herself was very welcoming and invited me to explore all the drawers and have a good root around. There is so much stuff to look at, so many tiny little things, you really do start to feel like Alice after a while! it is not a big shop, but it would take you hours to see just some of the things inside. Kristin doesn't take credit cards, and I had a limited amount of cash at the time, or I would have bought a lot more, but still came home with plenty of treasures.

I believe the train lines are now running again, and it will take a fraction of the time to get to than it did when i first went, even without the  massive detour! So, i think it is about time I ventured forth again to Kristin's tiny emporium, what do you think?

Mr Buxton's Sitting Room

This is the top floor of Mr Buxton's shop. I've had to create a kind of bed-sitting room on this level as the other two floors are taken up with the shop and kitchen, and there is only one room on each floor. You can probably just see the old fashioned iron bedstead on the left of the picture. I'm still working on this room, and would like some more miniatures to go in there, but it's starting to take shape. I like the little lace table cloth, but can't remember where I got it, it's one of a pair, but the other one is in storage at the moment. The armchair fits in very well too, it's just what I was looking for, and I picked it up at an 'antiques' fair in Ampthill. It's amazing what you can get away with calling an antique! Anyway, it only cost £2.00 so I was thrilled! The blanket box, at the foot of the bed, was an inexpensive white wood piece which I have stained and distressed (very much I am sure) to look like a battered old oak one. The wireless came from Miniatura in Birmingham, I think it is made from resin, and supplied in blank form by Phoenix model developments, but I bought it already finished with a nice walnut style veneer painted onto it!

PS. Look Fi, Mr Buxton is ready for tea and cakes!!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Kitchen No2

Well Fi and John, here's the kitchen you both wanted to see! on the first floor (or second if you're looking at this in the US) of my Tudor house/shop. Most of the furniture and accessories are standard dollshouse pieces, picked up cheaply at local shops and fairs. I wanted to create a cottage kitchen feeling here. The sink is from Sussex crafts, who I have mentioned before. My favourite thing is (not the bright copper kettle, who do you think I am, Julie Andrews?! but I do like it!) the mixing bowl on the table. My mother has one just like it, and I remember all our childhood cakes being mixed in it. You cant see in the picture, but it has perfect miniature flour, raisins and butter in the bowl, along with the wooden spoon. Come to think of it, not sure what cake would be made with those ingredients all in the bowl at once, except maybe scones, hmmmm! Anyway, the bowl came from Kristin Baybar's shop in Gospel Oak,  London. I will tell you a little more about her shop later, and my little pilgrimage to it! Still got to speak to David about borrowing his camera. It's better done on his camera as he can then fancy-Mac them all upstairs before sending them to my decrepit old PC here in the cellar!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Well, I have looked through all the photos stored on disc and can't find any of the outside of the Tudor house, I did find this one, which is another view of Mr Buxton and a little more of the shop counter. it is also a sharper image than the other one. I'll need to ask David if I can borrow his camera and get some more photos taken. There are some photos of the kitchen in the Tudor house too, but I figured that maybe you've all seen enough of kitchens for a while!! ;o)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Something Different!

I'll tell you more about this dolls house another day, I'm very tired after  LONG day at work today! It's another dolls house that I own (but didn't build myself) and have furnished. You'll notice Buxton the Grocer behind the counter, a doll!! (if only an inexpensive resin one) but he fits in quite well I think. I was aiming for a traditional 1930's grocery store when I started, I think it looks quite authentic!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Meet Austin

A few days ago Simon was talking about having dolls in his dolls house, on his excellent Miniature Enthusiast blog. I decided early on that I wasn't going to have dolls in my Georgian house, but as I filled the house, I felt it needed something to bring a little life into it. I went along to Kensington last year, thinking I would get a dog for the library, or maybe a mouse for the pantry. Cats had crossed my mind, but I hadn't seen any I really liked before. When I saw this cat I fell for him immediately, he has a cheeky expression and looks like he's about to jump up for some tasty morsel on the kitchen table! For a while he was just called Cat, like Holly's in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but I felt he did deserve a name, and he is now called Austin, in honour of Jane of course!
I have just discovered that Michal Morse ( see below) has a new website. still in its infancy, looks like she will be selling furniture, accessories and houses on the site soon. the address is

The Servants Hall and Pantry

This is the servants hall and pantry of my dolls house, adjacent to the kitchen. The servants would eat in the servants hall, and I have set it up to be a supplementary kitchen too. You might just be able to see the early style range in the fireplace, which I purchased at Michal Morse's shop in Northleach, Gloucestershire, the chair in front of the fire is also from her shop. The other furniture is either from McQueenie Miniatures or I have made myself. I'm still working on the pantry, trying to fill it at least! I need to hang the game and cured meat that are currently just laying down. Much of the food comes from Mouse House Miniatures, who exhibit at most of the big UK shows. I love the detail of the work. The wooden storage jars are by Sandy Eismont.

Michal Morse's shop is called The Dolls House. it is based in Northleach in the Cotswolds (GL54 3EJ) she used to run the shop in Covent Garden in London until she retired. The shop is quite small, but packed with goodies, and if you're able to get there, it's worth popping in, might be an idea to call first as she has limited opening times. mostly Saturdays.


I thought that I would try and find some nice examples of what Georgians used for cooking, I've mentioned it before, so won't go on to much! We would have started with an open fire, logs of fire dogs and chimney cranes to carry the cauldrons, kettles trivets etc. As the Industrial Revolution began to advance across the country, coal became cheaper and more easily available, as did iron, and the first ranges were developed, little more than oversized hob grates, with adjustable cheeks to vary the amount of coal that was needed, and trivets that swung over the heat. These ranges could be small, or very large with rows of spits at the front (notice the one in the illustration of Brighton Pavillion's kitchen below) by the early 19th century some ranges had a tank for heating water too.

Here is a miniture example of open fire cooking from Sussex Crafts, note the fire dogs and spit with clockwork truning chain, fire back (to protect the brickwork from the heat of the fire) and the chimney crane for carrying pots. It's pretty much the arrangement I have in my dollshouse kitchen.

Another Sussex Crafts miniature, which looks very similar to the kitchen of Sally Lunn's in Bath. Note the bread oven and simple iron grate for cooking.

 Some examples of early ranges from the period. The first has definately seen better days!

And finally some more examples of a Georgian Kitchen (this one in Fairfax House in York) showing the things I've shown you above in use.

For more details of the products available at Sussex Crafts see
They are lovely, and will give excellent customer service too!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Ultimate Georgian Kitchen?

Is this perhaps the ultimate in Georgian Kitchens? George IV's kitchens at the exotic, eclectic Brighton Pavilion, complete with fake palms!

More about Georgian Kitchens

I promised Fi that I would post some pictures I had found of Georgian kitchens that I used to help me research what I wanted to put into my dollshouse. Kitchen ranges don't seem to have developed much before the early 19th century, which still allows them to fit in to a Georgian kitchen, albeit a Regency one. although I think there is one at Ham House in London dated much earlier than that. I've used the traditional fire dogs, chimney crane and spit (all Sussexcrafts) in the main kitchen, but do have an early range fitted in the servants hall (as you might be able to see later). Bread was baked in a bread oven, where hot embers were placed until the oven was hot, and then raked out again. A salt box would have been kept near the fire to keep the salt dry (mine is by Sandy Eismont, a lovely chap who makes great little miniatures suitable for kitchen or cottage from Tudor onwards!) A kitchen table was essential, with simple chairs and stools for the servants. Utensils were usually copper, earthenware iron or wood. Herbs would have hung from the ceiling too. The cleaning of dishes, pots and pans would usually have been done in a separate room. There would have been a pantry for storing food, especially food that might spoil quickly. Wine and beer was stored in the buttery (not dairy products! butt = barrel) and was under the care of the Butler.