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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kitchen Plan Mockup

Hello folks!  

I want to wish all of you in the U.S.A. a very Happy Thanksgiving Season! Be sure to take inventory and notice all the wonderful things to be grateful for!  I am continually amazed at all that has been given to us, and how we can miss so much of it by just not paying attention.  Don't let this opportunity pass you by!  Give Thanks for all of the beauty in your life.

Speaking of beauty, I don't have a particularly "beautiful" post today.  This post is all about the creative process I use, and gives you an idea where I am going with the Kitchen in the Steampunk Chateau.  I warn you, it is pretty much ALL white!  But I hope you will find it interesting all the same. 

The Empty Box.  Always scary for me!

Some of you might wonder, given my several statements about how I do things, whether I plan at all!  I truly do!  

I always have a cadre of ideas.  Coming up with ideas is not my problem!   It is fitting them all into the picture and not getting too much happening that is my challenge.  

Knowing this about myself, I do usually build some sort of mock up of everything I do.  I may end up using the "mock up" to build the real thing if I like how it turns out, or I may entirely rebuild everything.  I went into this kitchen planning exercise knowing I would be rebuilding everything, so I didn't take a ton of time to create a beautiful mock up.  What I was after was a space plan.

Initial Sketch and Sample Pictures

I started, as usual, with a very quickly drawn plan.  I do not usually spend a lot of time on making beautiful pictures.  I do a LOT of research on the Internet and in Books, looking for examples I can work from to adapt for my own designs.  I keep the pictures in a folder, and if they are small, I'll glue them into the journal I keep on the project.  I add random ideas, plans, lessons learned, formulas, you name it, if I think I might want it later, it goes into this book.  I am on my second journal since January!  

Here is where I get to indulge my need for 3D work.  For some reason, I do not readily plan space based upon a 2D plan.  I always get things wrong.  I still don't know why, but its a pain!  So I most often start with a 3D mock up.   I've done this for years, even in real world projects. 

Playing with space

My first step is to cut Foam Core board or Cardboard into the general shapes, specifically the footprint for the furniture or built in items I think I want.  I set the 2 dimensional sizes by locating the dimensions of real world items. There are Interior Design books that you can purchase that give you standard sizes for just about anything inside a home.  I reference these if I cannot find a quicker source!  :0) 

So using the 2 dimensional pieces,I can play with those like a little puzzle. This allows me to "see" the dimensions in a way that I can process readily. I play with them until I get a configuration I like that meets my intended goals. Once I've "located" an item, and adjusted sizes if necessary, I label the card.  I repeat this until I have all of my ideas either on the space plan, or have rejected them due to either space or due to a change in my thinking based on the "puzzle". 

A list of adjusted dimensions

This exercise helps me to isolate the sizes of the items I want in the room.  A kitchen, in particular, is a very complex room, and there is a lot to fit and adjust.  I write the dimensions I want on a piece of paper (my journal!) and then I actually do redraw the plan with any changes.  Again, not much of a drawing, but I don't feel the effort is worth the gain for me to draw pretty plans.  I CAN do it, I just don't want to!  :0) 

A very fuzzy picture of the adjusted plan!

I'm sorry for the poor quality of the pictures of my journal pages.  My camera doesn't like to point "down" to get pictures, and they never turn out.   Oh well, this way, things remain a surprise for just a bit longer, don't they?!

I use this second plan mostly to capture my final arrangements.  I don't accurately dimension the plan most of the time, though I have been known to do that.  Mocking up in 2D helps me manage the dimensions, and I don't have to do that math!  Who'd think addition and subtraction could be so hard!  I swear, I know how, but put me into drawing dimensions on a plan view, and I fail.  Every time!  Cutting out little pieces is so much LESS EFFORT!

The final dimensions are determined for the rooms!

Using my handicapped method, I was able to verify the dimensions I needed for my raised platform.  Some of you will remember that the Entry Floor is raised by about 1/2 inch as opposed to the level of this floor. What works out nice is that a Scullery was usually built about 6 inches lower in height than the rest of the house floors in the Victorian era, because the poor Scullery Maid was standing in water all day long, and if the Scullery floor wasn't lower, water would seep into the rest of the house.  This worked nicely in my favor!

The Butler's Pantry is located at the door on the right rear, and is 7 1/2" by 7/12" in diameter.  The Kitchen is located at the front of the room box and is 8" by 14".  The Scullery is also 7 1/2" by 7 1/2" as well.  

A picture of the Butlers Pantry (right) and the Scullery (left)

Beginning at the back, I began to add the 3D models to the space.  I use straight pins to attach the pieces to one another as necessary.  This allows me to look at the way surfaces work together and allows me to adjust heights, sizes, and shapes as necessary to obtain the best interplay of space. 

Adding in furnishings that will be in the kitchen

You can see that I am using several levels of space to create interest, and to mimic real life use scenarios. Function usually drives heights, sizes and shapes.  I have twisted a thing or two a bit for interest though, to use the space in the best fashion I can imagine.  They are still "in scale" but will be interesting due to unusual features, I hope. 

The room arrangement as the plan stands for now

I continued to add the 3D elements until I reached the front of the room box.  I really like what is happening. You can see I am using the hidden space concept in this design again.  I love what happens with space when you hide just a bit of it.  It comes alive with interest.  By the way, the collapsed table in the forefront was not ever built!  My construction was not THAT bad! 

The final Mock Up Configuration

Here is a view from the top,  which will give you a bit more sense of how the space is being used.  

Rather than itemize everything with a picture, I am going to list what is in the room.  Maybe you can  have some fun trying to guess what is what is where! 

In these rooms, there will be:

a dumbwaiter
a bread oven
a Victorian Stove
a Victorian Oven
a Work Table 
a dirty sink
a clean sink
a servants table
and a dish rack  

And that is just the big stuff!  This room will be a long project, I can already tell.  (For those of you trying to find the dish rack, it isn't built either!)

Jorge evaluates the space plan

My friend Jorge has declared that he is happy with the space in general.  He does hope to have nicer furnishings some day though!

I hope you've enjoyed seeing where the Kitchen, Scullery, and Butlers Pantry are headed!  I had in my mind that I would just do a quick "complete the ceiling, walls, and floors" and then go back to the decorating of all the rooms, but I had another think coming!  The complexity of this room is going to cause me to need to do most of this room box build before attaching the kitchens to the rest of the house.  So we'll be dallying here for a while. 

Again, I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!  If you are not in the USA, I invite you to take inventory anyway! Luckily, there does not have to be a holiday in order to Give Thanks!

Until next time!

Doug S

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Secrets of the Nautilus Shell

Welcome back folks!  

I think that one of the most beautiful shapes in nature is the shape of the Nautilus shell. These shells are actually the natural protection for a very small octopus. Their graceful curves and myriad of colors are truly amazing, and there is a gracefulness and elegance that echoes the beauty found throughout nature.   

So when I was designing the floor for my Grand Parlor, guess where I turned!  I  The parlor now has two inlaid Nautilus shells that reinforce the undersea theme, while lending a grace and elegance to the space that belies the playfulness of the undersea concept.  A perfect device for my Steampunk Chateau!

The Chambered Nautilus Shell 

In fact, the nautilus shell is a perfect demonstration of the Fibonacci Sequence, which is a principle that was understood by mankind as far back as 200 BC.  We use it in math, science, art, and literature as a method to obtain balance and proportion.  So it truly can bring a sense of elegance to a space, whether used literally, as I have here, or used to develop the arrangement of space without direct reference to the shapes.  If you want to see more of how this principle is found throughout nature, you can watch the video I posted here.

Now I told you that these Nautilus shells in my parlor are inlaid.  But I have a dirty little secret.  They really are not inlaid!  Following I'll share my little secret with you, so you can see what a deceiver I really am!

I found a pattern on the Internet that I thought I could use as a pattern for the inlay.  And I actually DID start out trying to cut it all out and inlay it.  But if you will note in the photo above, the center of this pattern (and all nautilus shells!) gets extremely tiny.  This proved to be too much for the designer to manage, so we went to Plan B. 

I took the pattern and enlarged it to the size I wanted, and then cut the entire pattern out with a combination of a 360 degree X-Acto knife (pictured) and a pair of nail scissors!  This took me a bit of time, of course!  I was glad to finish up that piece of this effort.  My hands were sore before I was finished!

My original plan had been to create a copper inlay using those Oh so useful copper paper plates that would lay over the green and white floor, to create a counterpoint between the greens and the copper color.  So I decided that since I could not figure out how to cut the inlay with the paper plates, that I needed to paint the original design a copper color.  Above you see me in the process of coloring the black to become the copper color I wanted. You see the original printed paper with the design, and two of the cutouts I made, one painted and the other in progress.  

Since I was using the black background anyway, I decided to feature it as part of the shell pattern, which gives it a tad bit more dimension.  I love the look.  

Pictured are the finished paintings laid on the paper destined to become their final home.  They have not been glued, so you can see the curve in the paper caused by the paper retaining a memory of the contortions I took it through.  I would never forgive someone that did that to me!  

I glued the paintings onto the scrapbook paper I am using as the flooring, and completed that little task.  As you could see in the photo at the top of the post, the effect is rather magical. 

You will also remember my struggles with the fireplace.  After my last post, I painted the entire white portion of the fireplace surround with a Floating Medium and White paint mixture, which knocked back the dirty look, leaving the fireplace looking fresh again.  

I added several coats of Liquitex BASICS Gloss Varnish, which added a nice sheen to the white trim, and gave it some additional interest.  I think the effect is nice.

The jewel finding at the top of the mirror was black stone and brass trim.  I decided to take all the brass trim to white, which I think tied it in more to the rest of the mirror.  Unfortunately, those fine motor skills I discussed above have not been as finely developed as the job required, so it is not as clean as I would like it, but it is clean enough that it does not detract from the look in real life.  

Lastly, I covered the chimney breast with that lovely copper colored paper plate!  It ties the chimney breast into the rest of the room, I think, and sets off the white trim on the fireplace nicely.  There is much more to do to add the realism I am looking for before completed, but it is as far as I will take it for now.  I will finish it off when I do the rest of the interior trim for the room. 

At this point, I began to glue the floor down.  The scrapbook paper is now glued down on mountboard, which is then glued to the base of the room box.  

I also added Styrofoam and mount board under the copper and wood floor in the grand parlor.  The floor had warped a tad when I glued the veneer and paper plate onto the Foam core board, so I needed to flatten the floor, and also give the top surface support so that it will not cave in if it ever gets hit hard.  I don't imagine that would happen. . . but  you never know, do you!  Maybe one of the automatons will go haywire or something.  It is important to be prepared! 

Thus, we have now arrived at a final picture that is finally beginning to look like a room!  It is exciting to see something finally coming together.  I have been working since January of 2014 toward the point that something starts looking like a room, so it feels good to be there, even though I am still a long ways away from finishing!   

I still have some surprises up my sleeve for this room, but you will all have to be patient.  Those additional renovations will not take place until the three modules that make up the ground floor of the Chateau are attached.  

So, watch for some new activity in the kitchen soon!  

Until next time!

Doug S

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Magic Is Something You Make

Hi there folks!

The world of miniatures, no matter how seriously we take it, is a world of fantasy.  A world we make that is filled with playfulness and magical wonder.  Whether the focus of our miniatures is on the decaying world, the elegance and grandeur of the past, or the cheerfulness of an entirely imagined world, all share the goal of making magic happen.

We love the magical, imagined worlds we create.  The popularity of our movies and books, television shows and stage plays is a testament to the fact that this magical world we make speaks to us.

Walt Disney's 'The Little Mermaid' is one example that is evocative of the magic of an under sea adventure.  A wonderfully crafted, magical, and joyful expression of beauty.  Unless you have molasses in your blood, one cannot help but connect with the playful and beautifully constructed world world 'Under the Sea'

Most "adults" disparage these playful excursions as childish, but I think that secretly, we all love our fantasy worlds to some extent!  

It is our hope, as we patiently cut, assemble, sand, paint and carve our way into these miniature worlds to create such magic in the hearts of those who see our work.  I am continually amazed at the magic that can be created using paper, string, wood, and fabric.   This is how I felt as I began to work on the mirrored over mantel in the last few days.  

My job was to take this over mantel made of mirror and cardboard and turn it into a believable and hopefully elegant over mantel for my miniature fireplace surround.  I've spent days working on the little pieces that make up the whole, and as usual, experienced the many ups and downs of the creative processes.  There were times I wanted to take the whole business and dump it in the trash.

I began the process of transforming our little cardboard mirror by gathering a few things to help me create the detail I wanted on the over mantel.  These were a jewelry box my daughter has in her room with some incredibly wonderful detail,  a small frame from Goodwill, and two jewelry findings. 

Here is a closeup of the jewelry findings I used to help create detail.

I loved the Art Noveau detail on this little mirror I picked up for 99 cents at Goodwill.  I made ANOTHER mold of that detail out of the Amazing Mold Putty.  

From the jewelry case, there were two additional details I made a mold from.  The first is the straight bar with curled ends you see in the above closeup of the jewelry box door.

The second detail was the lovely scrolling that was part of the trim around the clock face.  

No, these are NOT slugs.  They are the new molds that I made to use to cast my little resin pieces.

I did the same with the two jewelry findings.  The little mermaid finding, after casting, I cut into a moon shaped circle, and I used the linked jewelry finding to cast some additional details to use around the mirror. 

Isn't it an ugly Christmas Ornament?  :0) 

Lastly I used some cardboard that came with that awful Christmas ornament I used as one of the inspiration pieces for the Grand Parlor.  I cut that into a couple of additional trim pieces to use for the mirror surround. 

This is the menagerie of materials I ended up with once completed with all my prep work.  An interesting, somewhat unrelated collection of "stuff".   In and of themselves, none of them are too especially magical.  In fact, a couple of them would be considered trash by the majority of the world. 

This is when the magic started to happen. 

Here is a shot of "The Plan", as I went into the process of creating a new magical over mantel.  I apologize for the fuzzy shot. 

Remember the rough edges that were created by the 4 layers of cardboard?  I took care of those by using Spackle to create a smooth edge along the sides and top of the mirror frame. 

The first step, after preparing the surfaces was to add copper leaf to the entire mirror frame.  The process for doing this is very simple, if lengthy!  I added Adhesive Sizing (available wherever fine Metal Leafing is sold!), and left it to "cure" for about 15 minutes for EACH surface!  There are a LOT of surfaces!  :0) 

After you get over seeing a closeup of my perfectly manicured hands, and the embarrassing glimpse of skin (yes I was dressed!) you will see that this is indeed a DIFFERENT picture than the one above.   Here I am actually applying the copper leaf after allowing the sizing to cure.  Good thing television has been invented, yes?  I believe I was watching "Gotham" On Demand.  :0) 

After several hours of applying sizing and applying copper leaf, this is what I ended up with.  Sorry about the horrid photo.  I really need to take lessons on how to use my camera (or better yet, replace it!  It is on its last legs, like everything else I own!).   I really should not subject you all to such ugly photos!

At this point, I got so into what I was doing that I forgot to take photos!  So you will have to imagine the process from this point on (as they sigh in relief!  This has gotten to be quite a photo heavy post as it is!)

This was when I almost threw the whole thing into the trash.  Remember that Indian Ink concoction I came up with in an earlier post?  I had decided to age the whole thing using that.  

It was atrocious!  That was WHY I forgot to take pictures.  I went into panic mode!  I literally tore my hair out trying to reclaim the ground I had lost.  I still did want the aged look. . . remember the aesthetic I am going for is elegant grunge, so I had to maintain some of that but I was SOOO unhappy with what had happened.  Oh well, I guess that is how we learn, isn't it. 

I went through an agonizing process of playing with every part of the fireplace to return it to it's former promise of elegance and beauty.  I painted stuff white, repainted stuff green, played with ink, and took a moment to feel sorry for myself.  

After much ado, I finally came up with something that I like.  I am SURE I will be playing with this more, because it still looks too dirty for me.  But in the spirit of open and complete sharing, I am showing you what things are looking like now.  There will be some small alterations, but overall, I do think that "magic" happened!

I think mostly, I do not like the "grey" feeling that is now there.  I'll continue to play with the aging and probably pull back the aged effect to be a little less obvious and more uniform, but overall, I think we are getting there.   Thank goodness it is all paint!  You can repair just about anything that is just painted. 

I'll take a moment here to point out my "solution" to the mirror overlapping the crown molding.   I rather like it!  I built a chimney breast right up to the molding out of mount board.  The fire place and mirror now sit just in front of the molding, and it makes sense to the eye. 

You can see that the "grunge" factor is starting to emerge.  As I noted before, I do want to back that off a tad, but overall, I do like the effect.   The "floor" is removed in these shots (I cut up part of it to use for the fireplace!).  I have another (clean) sheet, which I will use on the floor when I get there.   The original sheet, as you can imagine, was getting a bit "used" looking with all the ins and outs of things going on around it!

Here is another shot that gives you the entire height of the fireplace.  I love the way the walls reflect in the mirror.  It is so enchanting!   The darkness of the jewelry findings at the top helps balance the darkness of the "carved" mantel detail below.  

Some of the more observant may have noticed that one of my decoration pieces is missing from these shots. I forgot to glue the small shell on the carved piece before taking these pictures.  That is now remedied!  :0) 

A final shot to put everything into perspective!   It is always good to stand back and look at the overall effect.  I like what is happening.  I am excited to get to the point where the kitchen rooms are begun as well, and I can attach the modules together and begin the detail work that really brings everything to life. 

Once I have completed the fireplace and added the basic materials to the chimney breast, and gotten the floor of the Grand Parlor completed, I will be moving on to the kitchen module to get it to the point that it is ready to attach as well.  We are getting closer!  

I hope you like the transformation.  I am still finding fault with it, that is part of my process I guess.  But I do know how I will work to improve it, and I am excited for the final outcome.  I am on the "right" path now, I think!  

Until next time! 

Doug S

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Break a Mirror and Other Stories

Hello folks!

I continue to learn lots of little lessons about what not to do!  But on the other side of every one of those lessons comes a bit of new skill that will come in handy with new projects.  So I cheerfully press on!  And boy is this fun!

I thought I would take a moment to share what I have learned about breaking a mirror. . . literally!  I undertook this week, with the help of my long suffering and precious wife, the task of cutting the mirror for the over mantel in the Grand Parlor.

Just to prove to you that trial can beget beauty, at least of a sort, here is a shot of the fireplace surround with the mirror actually CUT, not BROKEN! What a relief!  

Seriously though, the process was not that bad, minus one broken mirror. I learned enough to know how to do this again without as much trial and suffering!   So on to the circuitous process WE went through.  (This became a family affair!  That made it even more fun!). 

Our little adventure started with my purchase of a glass cutter from Michaels ($6.99!  Not too bad!) Luckily, my wife actually worked as a framer for a few years, and knew what to tell me to get.  I went to Michaels to find the tool, bearing the description of what it looked like.  

Of course, it would not be that easy now, would it!   I got to the store only to find that there were three options, none of which appeared to fit the description proffered by my wife.  (It turns out her description was perfect, if I had been able to SEE what was in the package!)  So I spent ANOTHER ten minutes on the phone describing what I saw to my wife, reading all the instructions on the back to her, so she could guide me to a choice that might be the right one.  (The instances of my standing in front of an entire bank of merchandise in total confusion seem to have escalated in the last year.  In fact, I only recall once or twice in the past being in that situation, as I am a reasonably intelligent male.  At least I used to think so.)

That was one of the "Other stories" alluded to in the title of this post.  Now on to the something worth reading, I hope!

The tool pictured above has a tiny (I assume diamond) wheel facing you in the picture above.  In theory, you fill the clear handle with sewing machine oil, score the mirror or glass, only once, and then tap along the scored line from the back.  This is supposed to net a beautifully cut, perfectly straight line!  Very simple, yes? My wife is pictured above performing this wonderfully simple task. 

Well, you can see in the photo here what we ended up with!  And she had DONE this a lot before.  I don't know if it was the mirror, the way we performed the task, or the tool, but the advertised perfectly cut, straight line was not our first experience!  (Truth?  We scored TWICE!  An OBVIOUS blunder!)

I tried the mirror with it's imperfectly cut edge in the new frame, and breathed a sigh of relief.  We could still use it.  So we attempted to cut the other edge.  We were Oh so smart, and limited our cuts to only two. . . you see, we planned ahead, and used the already cut edges for two sides.  So we patted ourselves on the back, truly astonished at our great wisdom.   One cut left, surely we can succeed with this!

What you see in the photo above is my gracious, patient wife beating on the mirror edge to try and get the second cut to separate.  5 minutes of tapping, 10 minutes of tapping. . .  we finally decided we needed to do something different.  The definition of insanity is to continue to repeat what does not work.  Again, we are somewhat wiser than that, so we decided to extend our efforts to include additional methods to persuade the glass to break nicely for us. 

We therefore microwaved a bowl of water to an impossibly hot temperature, and procured an additional bowl of iced water, and we just knew we would succeed using the scientific method.  Hot to cold, everything breaks, right?  I mean, we once had a casserole (the unbreakable kind) we took out of the oven that was hit by a cool draft of wind and shattered into pieces!   Surely this would work. 

Not.  We still could not get the mirror to separate along the scored line.  So we played with that for a few minutes...repeating the process over and over again, microwaving the water, adding more ice, tapping along the scored line.  Still no success!

Finally, the man of the house took over with the smashing (totally smashed!) result of one broken mirror. We got to start over.  Don't you love those moments of manly prowess ladies?   Aren't we impressive?

Now here is the part that is truly genius!  This genius supplied not by myself or my wife, but my son! Wisdom from the mouth of babes!  (Should I share with you that my son is now 30?  Nah, that is irrelevant isn't  it?) 
He asked whether I had some small clamps, which of course I did.  So based upon the sage advice of my progeny, we brought in the big guns!

After I had scored the line, pressing much more firmly than we had before (such a man!), my son (not Dad, not Mom) placed the two clamps on the narrower side of the scored line.  (for the observant among you, the photo above is STAGED, with the clamps applied to the already cut mirror tile! I forgot to take a picture in the heat of the moment!)  We used the clamps to apply pressure along the scored line by forcing the glass (scored side out) as if we were going to fold it along the scored line.  It worked!  Oh the opulent sweetness of success!

After all of the above, here is the two line summary of how to successfully CUT (not BREAK) glass!  Score the line deeply (and only once) along the new edge you want to cut.  Use a couple of small clamps to apply pressure along the scored line, with the scored line AWAY from your face, and behold, you will have a beautifully cut piece of glass.   See how easy!  (It really was, once we figured out what we needed to do!) There, that was the whole process!  In one paragraph.   Aren't you glad you read this whole post?

Having finally succeeded in persuading my mirror tile to cooperate with me, I painted and assembled the mirror.  Two pieces of mount board around the mirror (to equal the thickness of the mirror) and the frame.

Above you see the final result!  Other than the plethora of fingerprints (I thought I cleaned that!!), I am pleased with the final result. 

Aside:  Note that my "feature" (the pen blank) is present in it's new found shape.  This is the OTHER "other stories" that I wanted to share.  I FORGOT that I had lowered the ceiling in the Grand Parlor.  My measurements were therefore too tall, creating a slight problem with placing the newly minted fireplace in the room.  So my "feature" became a (albeit beautiful) piece of wood, and even at that, I may have to remove it. Notice in the first picture on this post.  The top of the over mantel is slightly higher than the crown molding. 

I haven't given up yet.  I am going to TRY to make that make sense by placing a chimney breast behind the fireplace.  We shall soon see. There is however, a risk of my little "feature" becoming a thing of the past, leaving my fireplace "featureless"!  ( I know I run the risk of disappointing Vivian again.  Please forgive me! )


I hope you enjoyed my somewhat tongue in cheek presentation of how to break glass.  

Until next time!

Doug S