Downton Manor - Creating the Dolls House Part 1

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26 August 2012
imports_HAC_pic-17a-1-_29482.jpg Downton Manor - Creating the Dolls House Part 1
Downton Manor Interior Decoration - Starting with the Grand Entrance Hall this series turns an MDF carcase into a luxurious dolls house. ...
Downton Manor - Creating the Dolls House Part 1 Images

Downton Manor Interior Decoration


Grand Entrance Hall

This tutorial follows the methods and materials I have used in turning the hallway of Downton Manor, from a MDF carcase into a luxurious space and a main focal point within the house. I have decorated the entrance hall and stairway in a traditional way, but have added some extras to give it the luxury finish it deserves.  

The staircase has been cut from MDF leaving the cut surface of the stairs very rough and porous. This has posed quite a problem, as I have tried a number of ways to finish them. After doing some research on the internet it was suggested that MDF could be finished like wood by using an oil based stain and once dry the surface could be waxed, I did try this, firstly staining using some sikkens stain, I then sanded them using some very fine sandpaper, but I found that the finish after waxing was still unsatisfactory. Perhaps with more applications it may have worked, but because I am on limited time I finally opted to face each stair tread with a hardwood hockey stick moulding, it fits on top of the tread with the curve at the front of the tread.

  • Firstly it was stained as a whole length and then waxed using a 000 grade of wire wool; this gives a very smooth and soft sheen.
  • Finally I cut the entire length into the individual stair widths and glued them onto each stair.
  • For the rise of each stair I used some of the flooring sheet which has been stained to match the treads, it has to be trimmed to size which is quite time consuming but I think it is worth the effort, as the stairway is such a focal point of the house. 


  • The original sides of the stairs and spindles are in one piece with a separate handrail, but again because the staircase is a focal point I have opted to use single spindles
  • The spindles have been sprayed white, and the handrail and newel posts have been stained with a Colron wood dye colour "Georgian Medium Oak" and finished with an antique wax.  
  • The spindles are fitted one to each stair tread, firstly the treads have to be drilled, then the spindles are glued in place.



  • Once the glue has dried the hand rail can be cut to size, along with any adjustments to the newel posts. The process is repeated for all sections of the stairs.


  • The stairs will be fitted once the floors are laid.
  • Before we can lay the floors we need to make the grooves to take the lighting, some dolls houses come pre-grooved but this one does not.
  • I have a handy tool for this purpose, it is a Lino Cutter, used for making designs in lino blocks for printing. (Priced at £5.75 from online retailer



  • Take a metal ruler and carefully make the groove using the cutter, I have found that the No 4 blade is just the right size for a single wire, make a deeper groove if you are inserting more than one wire.
  • It can be difficult to keep the line of the cut straight, but this is not a problem as we will be laying a wooden floor over the top.


  • I am using a wooden flooring sheet from Streets Ahead. Unfortunately the length is about 1 inch too short, so I have made the join towards the back of the room.
  • I have stained and waxed the floor as I did for the stair components.
  • The flooring sheets have a self adhesive backing, so I advise you apply the stain with a lint free cloth, as on a previous occasion I used a brush and the quantity of stain destroyed the backing sheet.
  • When fitting the flooring to the gallery landing, start from the outer walls and work your way into the middle in sections, mark each section using a Stanley knife, then trim to shape before fixing.



  • Fit the stairs starting from the bottom and working your way up, this way you can adjust the position of the newel posts to suit.
  • Put something weighty at the base until the glue has dried.


  • Move onto the next stairway, gluing it in place before adding the rail and newel posts. 


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  • Add the rail and newel posts and leave to dry.


  • The gallery landing has been created from some ready-made lengths of railing, they are sold in packs of three which is just enough to complete this area.
  • The lengths were sprayed white before the top rail was removed and replaced with the matching hand rail.
  • I made a template of the opening from card; I then drew the position of each newel post, and then drew the angles that needed to be cut from the lengths.
  • Everything was cut before it was assembled onto the template, it was glued and left to dry overnight.



  • The gallery landing will be fitted after the upper stairs are in place. 
  • The second photo above shows the ground floor



  • 1st floor with gallery landing.
  • The second photo shows the finished stairway.



  • I have selected a beautiful 24 bulb chandelier to hang from the central stairway.
  • For extra detail I have firstly fitted a detailed large ceiling rose. 



  • On the ground floor below, I have fitted a wall light on each of the side walls beyond each pair of double doors.
  • To fit them I am taking the wire into the outer rooms and making the groove for the wire downwards.
  • I will fit some wall lights to these rooms as well, the groove with then be filled, sanded and walls will be papered.
  • Finishing touches include a plain coving, replica Georgian skirting boards and around all of the doors in the hallway.
  • I have fitted a miniature frieze, this should be fitted below the cornice, but I think it adds a nice touch around the doors.



 Please take a moment to visit Carol Clarke's website to see more of her lovely work at

This feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you like making miniatures, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Or better still take out a subscription so you never miss an issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, or to email, print or comment on the feature, please use the buttons above to share with your friends.

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