15 May 2012
We continue on the journey with Erin Summers' dolls house build with the trials and tribulations of miniature flooring in her Georgian ballroom. ...
Ah, the ballroom! Every self-respecting Georgian mansion should have one. From the beginning of my dream of creating a huge, glittering dolls’ house fit for a Duchess, the ballroom was always paramount to me. I think I’ve finally got it fit for a dozen pairs of 1/12 scale dancing slippers to slide across, but I found the flooring was not as easy as I anticipated. I’m here today to tell you exactly how many different ways I went wrong trying to floor this double-width room.
The first stage of decoration went smoothly. Papers were applied to the ceiling and walls, I made the two crystal chandeliers, and next I painted the ceiling coving using a metallic gold paint. My inspiration for this room was the Palace of Versailles, there being few other places I would have wished to attend a ball were I a member of the Georgian aristocracy. Trying to accurately recreate the ballroom at Versailles was far too intricate a task for my ability level and purse. Instead I looked at pictures of it as a sort of recipe card. This determined several features of my room, including the use of mirrors, a colour palette dominated by gold, and an intricately fashioned parquet floor. And that parquet floor, ladies and gentlemen, is where my troubles began. What’s that you say? You see a marble floor in the pictures on this page!? Well let me tell you how it got there.
First, I began shopping around for miniature parquet floors. There are plenty of great solutions on the market, from the humble printed sheet of paper up to ‘the sky is the limit’ when it comes to producing miniatures, isn’t it? Despite having used wood effect paper flooring satisfactorily before, I wanted real wood for this room. With a limited budget, I had a brainwave, why not make my own parquet floor from scratch? After all, I only needed to make about 800 one inch squares, I could buy the wood at a fraction of the cost of a retail floor, and what could be easier than that? I promptly ordered several thin sheets of walnut, and patted myself on the back for my display of ingenuity in austerity.
When the walnut arrived I eagerly took my tools to it. About 15 minutes into the exercise I realised it was doomed. Firstly, I did not have the hand strength I thought I had. Secondly, I discovered that my cutting tool was cutting inaccurately, and this changed the game considerably. By the end of the day I realised there was no way I was going to be able to floor this room, and that my ingenuity had been a false economy. I was down but not out, a parquet floor was still on my must list. It became something like a point of honour; a parquet floor was promised and a parquet floor I would deliver!
I decided this was one situation where quality would rule over economy, so I stumped up the cash and bought several parquet floor kits from one of my favourite online retailers, Jennifer’s of Walsall. My purchase included a central star motif, and complimentary detailed squares to surround it. A cardboard template of the ballroom floor was ready and waiting to be built upon. As soon as the kits arrived I began to happily arrange the pieces, working from the centre outwards. All was going beautifully; my head was full of visions of gently sanding and waxing the finished floor. Then I came to the end of my beautiful little squares, and was faced with this…
What I had, was a very beautiful, but very small floor. Apparently, working out square inches is the least of all my talents. I hadn’t ordered nearly enough packets of beautiful parquet squares to cover the floor of my double-width ballroom. After a quick calculation I realised I would need more packs that I could afford to finish this floor. I had a moment of pure despondency, and a lot of thinking to do.
Of course I didn’t waste this beautiful parquet floor, it will be used in the standard sized Games Room instead. However the problem remained that I had a floorless ballroom. Going back to the drawing board, I deliberated the paper options once again, but was unable to find one of suitable detail and appropriate size. Many flooring papers on the market are made to fit standard sized dolls’ house rooms, with integral borders that would not fit in a room with larger proportions. Finally, I released the dream of having a parquet floor gracing this room.
I bought two beautifully finished self-sticking marble flooring sheets at reasonable cost, and finally finished the first room in my Grosvenor Hall. Since this floor was constructed on a cardboard template, I folded the paper over the edges which gave a very neat finish. After that it was all downhill. The fireplace was fitted, wired and connected to the lighting strip at the back of the house. Lastly, the interior door was fitted and knobs added. Finally, the ballroom was complete.
Despite the fact that I compromised on my original vision of this room, I love it. The floor looks appropriately rich; its marbling perfectly matching the warm shades of gold elsewhere in the room. I even have the added bonus of a ready prepared, beautifully made parquet floor for the Games Room. The walnut left from my first attempt will also not be wasted, but used to create a floor in another room.
Lesson learned: Be flexible with your materials. A dolls’ house is a hobby, not a torture chamber. Let’s keep it fun and build it to the spirit, not the letter, of the laws of inspiration. I for one know that I will sleep better at night knowing good things can come from poor measuring.
N.B. I mentioned in the last blog that I was looking for a more personal name for this house. I’ve chosen my son’s suggestion, Norman House, after our surname. I’m pleased to give it an identity that he will always associate as a part of himself, so Norman House it is. Now – onto the Games Room!