Monday, September 18, 2017

Tiny Fixer Upper: The Labor Day Adventure

Labor Day weekend was rehab time for the Dura-Craft Ponderosa that my parents bought for the furniture and I guess I talked them into redoing. Because doesn't everybody get on a plane to go rehab a dollhouse? You don't? Well...


Blue, blue, this house is blue
Around the early 80s, you'd'a been blue too.
I feel like "before" should be "beware." The porch is missing bits, the front door isn't actually attached, the blue exterior is, well, blue... and the interior has its own issues.

I got issues...
Those issues include elderly carpet, a mysterious wall that makes the kitchen barely usable, peeling wallpaper, and bathroom fixtures that were glued in. Oh, and missing window frames and window "glass" so yellowed with age that once I'd stacked the old windows on the kitchen counter, six times a day, someone would mistake them for a coffee spill.

Come along, bip-bip-bip after the jump, and we're going to make something of this house. (This post is going to be unusually photo-heavy, except for the parts where I forgot to take any photos at all. To help you get through the long journey, if you have Spotify, here's a playlist that turned up in my Twitter feed, which obviously is from more expert ears than mine but is very good for dealing with places and fixing things -- and then we can pretend we're all on MySpace, back in the day, except no purple sparkling text.)


My original plan would have had me fending off the first avalanche of over-enthusiastic dogs and picking up a wallpaper scraper at about 2 p.m. on Friday, September 1. Instead, my plane left Phoenix late, the entire San Francisco Bay Area was under a sullen cloud of 100-degree heat, BART had to slow to a crawl because the tracks were melting, and the entire population of Northern California had decided it needed to be somewhere else. I picked up the scraper at 4:45.

First thing to go was the fake brick paper in the kitchen (Dad had already removed the mystery wall). Second thing to go was the peeling, warping kitchen flooring, followed by the bedroom and living room carpet.

After that, it became a project to get the rest of the wallpaper off. Dad, being approximately 600 million times more patient and painstaking than I am, did a lot of late-stage scraping with a razor. (Also, I cannot be trusted with a razor.)

The bare modernist look
Yanking down big strips of the wallpaper, I'd removed a lot of interior trim as well, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I hated it. Of course, the trim in the most difficult-to-reach spots was hot-glued down with a firmness that would do credit to space shuttle construction. So Mom was aiming a hair dryer at the trim to loosen the glue, and this happened.

Hey, it also got the trim to come off.

On Saturday morning, we pulled out the soft, gentle green paint (also used in my parents' bedroom) so I could swash paint vaguely in the direction of the body of the house. After the first coat, things looked somewhat less blue.

Peruvian Llama Cat supervises.
The body of the house absorbed about 83 coats of paint. Or six. But it felt like 83. The long front interior wall on the first floor (open plan kitchen and parlor) got painted the same color. And all those bare walls upstairs had to be primed with handy off-white paint so that the wood wouldn't show through the wallpaper, as the absolutely perfect book of scrapbook paper from Joann's proved to contain the thinnest paper I've ever seen that wasn't tissue.

Oh, and since I'd swear I chose that scrapbook paper set for one specific color ("Millennial pink," a.k.a. peach) and Mom would swear we chose that scrapbook paper set for one specific color... when we went to pick papers from the book, there was no peach. At all. None. Zero. Zip. I wonder what color fabrics people think they're picking in that Joann.

Tyvek Tudor!
Some unknown amount of time later (it's doubtful whether I can read a calendar or a clock), the house was ready to be taped so I could paint trim. The body looks weirdly yellow but is nonetheless green.

This became an issue on Sunday morning, when I came downstairs earlier than anyone else, opened the can of paint that had been left for me the night before, and went to put on a third coat of trim color in the gray pre-dawn light. The new trim coat seemed awfully greenish, but that had to be the lighting... no, it was the green paint. Looks like it'll be 86 coats of trim paint, too.

Now the body looks pale blue. It lies.
There is incredible anxiousness to peeling off the blue painter's tape.

So few flowers are larger than people's heads, that it hardly seems like I was involved.
Monday was wallpaper day. Note how neat and tidy the wallpaper is. Dad makes templates first, and he uses a paper cutter to cut straight lines. This contrasts mightily with my approach of fitting and folding paper until it seems about right, then grabbing whatever scissors are handy (which would be delightfully quirky if I were seven, but at some point, I should be embarrassed by myself).

We all trooped out to the patio in 103-degree weather and madly spray-adhesived paper into place.

Where'd the movers put the piano?
The floor is a roll of cork shelf paper. One roll was just enough. It's neutral, it flows, and Dad cut the complicated upper floor as a single sheet because that's how he rolls.

Breaking to Mom that there was no way to fit both a baby grand piano and a dining table was not my favorite part of the process. Her houses always have a piano. (Please, y'all, help me remember that I promised before Christmas to go through my stock of miniature guitars and guitar-like objects, so that the residents can have musical instruments.)

Speaking of residents... meet Yvonne, Greg, and their dog Gracie.

Gracie is not sure about the cork floor.
The former bathroom is now a walk-in closet.

The bedroom gets such beautiful light without a roof.
We accessorized with speed and decisiveness. When I left on Monday evening, final decisions on interior trim (such as whether it needed any) were still to be made, and Dad was working on 3-D printing new interior window frames. But the final product is final enough for the reveal... (It was just like an HGTV show -- you think you'll never, ever get done and then you run in circles for a bit and then WHOMP IT'S ALL DONE HALLELUJAH.)


The kitchen has a pillar, so the ceiling doesn't sag. It also has a ton of china and the pitcher that I painted in the manner of the insanely ornate Portuguese pottery that turns up in the Central Valley.

Yvonne cherishes her farmhouse sink.
Accessorizing is fun. There's a stacked washer/dryer combo next to the bath tub and thus out of the shot.

This bathroom is better equipped than my real-life one.
 The closet was the best place for a lovely floral watercolor painted by Yvonne's grandmother.

Okay, THESE flowers are bigger than people's heads.
The living room focal point is obviously the fireplace. Greg is doing exceedingly well to get comfortable in a Victorian chair.

Nesting tables are so handy when the party involves a lot of snacks.

Gracie has her own bed in the bedroom, as she snores. Yvonne thought Gracie would find the primitive painting above it reassuring when she's home alone.

Gracie secretly is trying to figure out how to turn on the TV and watch Animal Planet.
 The whole interior...
Cozy yet quirky?
 And the exterior.. with added porch pillars!

Still green, not blue, I swear it.
The front door is painted a mixture of dark red and copper paint. That was a hold-your-breath-and-hope-the-first-mix-is-enough experience. Dad fitted the door frame properly and rehung the door on pins so that it opens as it should. That "wrought iron" chair started as white wire wicker and got weathered.

Welcome home!
 With their flea-market-find plaque hung, Yvonne, Greg, and Gracie feel they've truly come home.

Happily ever after
The house resides comfortably in my parents' bedroom, where it fades into the wall color (which is green, not blue).

At Christmas, Dad and I are going to build a Greenleaf Brookwood kit because Mom is tired of having the partly built core hanging around.


  1. Great job. It looks fantastic. I have a dollhouse I got from a thrift store that needs a lot of work. I learned a lot from this post. Thanks.

  2. It is a lovely house! Is it wrong of me to admit that my favorite color is blue? XD

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