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Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Quest for Miniature Steampunk Windows

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.

I've spent the last week dithering, trying to make the decision about what I wanted to do with the windows for the front of the Ground Floor of the Manor.  And figuring out how a window should look.  And trying to figure out how to build a window.  And questioning everything I did.  And taking a thousand [mostly unsuccessful!] pictures.  Sound familiar to anyone?

Needless to say, I am somewhat relieved to have arrived at the point that I have some progress to share.  I was able to finally make the decision as to what I wanted, but of course, it's me, so that may very well change!

I thought I would post about the process of getting there, more from the spirit of confession than anything else!  But perhaps there are a few things that can be picked up in the process.

As usual, I had a pretty good idea of the effect I wanted to create, but was not sure how I would get there.  I am drawing heavily on the Art Nouveau aesthetic throughout the design of this manor, and I knew I wanted the windows to align with that look but to still, more importantly, support the Steam Punk theme. 

So I drew out a rectangle that represented the size of the window, and drew in a pattern that I thought approximated what I wanted.  

I drew the pattern only on one half of the drawing, since I wanted the two sides to match exactly.  One trick I have learned over the years is to draw one half of the final design, and to fold the paper evenly in half.

Once drawn and folded, the paper can be cut to the new design.  This provides two exact, and reverse replicas of the design.  

I used the cut pattern to trace the new design onto mountboard.  Please forgive the quality of these pictures! I think they are the worst set of pictures so far, and I am not sure if it is me, or if my camera is just dying. They will have to do though, since several tries have not produced better. 

After cutting the new pattern out of the mount board, I cut rigid acetate at the same size, and added the "frame" out of Foam Core Board as a mock up.  I reviewed my results inside and outside, and for me, they just fell short of what I was going for.  

So back to the drawing board!

Meanwhile, I did decide to take a bit of a side trip, and build the frames I needed for each of the 4 windows I needed that were this size.  I used 3/8 inch strip wood for the outside frame, and 1/8 inch battens for the inside. 

A little trick I picked up off of the Internet I think is worth sharing here.  You will notice above that there is a Foam Core "frame" around the frame in the above picture.  These are 3/8 inch wide lengths of Foam Core measured to fall just outside of the required frame size and glued to a Foam Core background.  I used this "jig" to ensure that all of my windows were exactly the same size.  It worked like a charm!  I always like to pass along those little secrets.  They make life so much easier! 

Here you see the original design I came up with placed in the wood frame.  I thought perhaps I might like it better with a "real" frame, but no cigar.  It still didn't meet my "exacting" standards.  :0) 

So we began the process of altering the plan.  First I tried taking out the center post, opening up the entire window to increase the ability to see through it, and to try another approach to getting "the look".  

Nope.  Still didn't speak to me.  

Third time is a charm, right?  I tried again, using another approach that was a blend of the two above.  I opened the center of the window up, but added two muntins to either side of the window. 

Better, but still no cigar.  

I was playing with the pieces, trying to figure out what to do next, and happened to place one of the cutouts over another, and lo and behold . . .  "THE LOOK".  It spoke to me.  Steam Punk.  Victorian.  Art Nouveau.  THE LOOK.

Yep.  It worked in the windows too.  Other than the fact that when I cut the window openings out months ago, I didn't get them level or straight, either one.  So I corrected that, which of course, leaves a gap to fix later.   But they are now straight and level!  So I can jimmy up something to "fix" the problem later. Enough covering up, and anything can look great, right?

I'm a long ways from completed on these windows, in fact, they are extremely rough at the moment.  I had to re-cut the window openings (and will have to for all four!) because I was just 1/32 of an inch too large for the existing window openings.  Sigh.  

More opportunities, right?  

Overall, however, at this stage, I am quite pleased with the overall effect. Above is a shot of the Scullery, with the new window cutouts in place.  It totally gives me that Steam Punk vibe.   Cleaned up and finished, it will serve well, I think.  Still dithering around on what color I want the window frames to be, but that can wait a while.  My purpose so far has been to determine window sizes and shapes, so that I can move forward on the rest of the kitchen.  

As a blog follower, this has to be a bit frustrating, I am sure!  Always moving on before I finish!  I promise I'll come back and finish it all some day soon! 

I need to determine the basics of any portion of the kitchen that is toward the back, because I plan to enclose a portion of the kitchen soon.  So it was important to work with the windows to determine overall shape and size, so that I could settle other questions I need to work through. 

Here is the Butler's Pantry, with it's new window as well.  I really am pleased by the effect, though it is a bit harder to see, due to the black mount board contrasted with the ivory.  But that is just paint.  The shape works well with the interior, and will fully support the eventual look I am going for on the Exterior of the Manor.  More on that later!

It is exciting to start seeing the windows begin to go in because things start to feel more real!  Someday, after about 5 more years, this is gonna be cool!  :0)

By the way!  I am TOTALLY open to ideas on color for these windows.  I bounce between black, white, ivory, and brown mostly.  Above you see the "stone" that I plan to use on the exterior of the house.  In a mad moment of minor revelation, I will also share that the window boxes will be treated differently, [think metal] and that the windows must set into that backdrop perfectly.  Any suggestions?  :0)

Until next time!

Doug S


  1. First look at the windows and I immediately thought Art Nouveau - and it really works. I like the fluidity of them. As for the colour, I would love to see old and metalic but that's just me. Have fun =0)

    1. Hi Pepper! Glad you like the window shape! There is a sort of fluidity to them, isn't there? That sinuous quality is what I so love about the Art Nouveau movement as a whole.

      Old and metallic, huh? That leaves the color open, but it does get my imagination going! And of course, I will have fun! :0) That is a given, no matter how frustrated I get!

      Thanks Pepper!


  2. Hello Doug,
    The windows are not only perfect for the style, but they are beautiful and very well made. Good work! It really makes the interior of the room look amazing and real. I like the idea of a dark brown for the windows, or perhaps a rust color. I think black might be a bit too strong and take attention away from other amazing details.
    Big hug,

    1. Good Morning Giac,

      I have been leaning toward a deep brown so far, given what I know of how I want to finish the window box exteriors, but there is honestly so much room to play and still get the feel I am looking for. I am glad I asked for suggestions though, I would not immediately have thought rusty, and I kind of like that idea. You might be right on the black, but I think "it depends" :0) Thanks for your thoughts!


  3. Hi Doug! The windows are fantastic work, I like those curves of the Art Nouveau style! A color...? Well, I've read the other comments and I thought the same: metallic and a rust brown color would be suitable, don't you think? Indeed black will be too strong in this situation....
    And again I've learned something new now ;O: I like that picture which shows the exterior of your house, the one with the wooden supports at the outside! Because the foam board I've used for my hen house did warp a bit, now I've seen that I have to make a wood frame, so thank you for that picture ;)!!
    I wish you a nice week.

    1. Well Ilona, it seems to be unanimous! Dark Brown, Rusty and Metallic. Now I have to figure out how to do that. But I did anyway! For other reasons yet to be disclosed! :0)

      I am glad I included that picture of the outside if it helped you solve a problem you were having! I always hesitate to put up those pictures that are unfinished. (I can hear the laughter in the background - ALL of my pictures so far are of unfinished stuff!) I am putting a wood infrastructure around the Foam Core to support everything. Already, without the wood structure (instead of Foam Core) and with only a few of the items approaching complete, the rooms are getting very heavy, and they will need that support to have structural integrity. Wood warps too, so I don't really see the warping as any worse than what you deal with using plywood, but there are warping issues, and I've learned to glue up the Foam Core to the wood supports and then weight them. Its slower, because you have to do each side separately, but it gets a better result.

      Once I get to that stage, all the wood supports will be enclosed. The entire outside of the house will be sheathed first with Mount Board or plywood, and then with whatever exterior treatment is appropriate. Yet to be seen if my "engineering design" will have structural integrity! :0)

      I hope you also have a wonderful week!


  4. Hi Doug! I think that your windows are not only a great shape but they have a lot of character which is perfect for your Manor. As to the color, I shall leave that up to you but I will say this;... The more dominate the colors are, the more attention they will draw. I like to try to keep the focus on the main features rather than on the surroundings although, every detail should all contribute to the overall final fantasy,
    ( which is why I too, am redoing some of my most recent work, you are not the only one fixing crooked windows ) :D

    p.s. I LOVE the opening photo with the sun streaming through the window and warming the stone floor. WOW!!!!

    1. Howdy Elizabeth! I love that picture too. To get that effect, (a total and happy surprise, you must know), I turned on lights on both sides of the room (the real life room!) and turned off the lights over the roombox. It looks surprisingly like sunlight! Happy accident! :0)

      I definitely want to emphasize doors and windows for this house. But you are right, there is a real balance that has to be struck between "too much" and "too little". I tend to think about things for WEEKS before I can make those sorts of decisions. It gets better as there is more to cue off of (the room nears completion) but especially at first, that "blank slate" scares the stuffing out of me, and I have a hard time making decisions. I was thinking today, I am definitely an "artist", not a "craftsman". I do things by feel much more than by rigid planning. There are some really really great things about that. Then there are the others. Which I appreciate more is kind of a day to day thing! Did it go well? I like being the artist then. Did it fall apart? Suddenly I LONG to be a craftsman! :0)

      I look forward to seeing what you are "redoing"! I haven't seen much I don't think was pretty much perfect from you, so cannot imagine what it is! But I totally get the redo it bug. I get it with EVERY project. Sometimes I ignore it (see I am new at this, get to play the newbie card!) but more often, I cannot stand the imperfections I see and have to change them somewhere along the line. My list of "redos" is longer than my list of "to do's" right at the moment I think! :0) I always think I'll redo it . . . later.

      Progress is made one step at a time!! Talk to you soon!


  5. Just an aside to all. I truly don't know why all my replies are "pages" long! I'd apologize, but then I would do it again next time. I am addicted to words! :0) There is an upside, however. You learn a lot about me! ha!

  6. Hey Doug! Don't apologize, remember this is YOUR BLOG , and you can say what you like in as many words as you wish to say it in!! :D

    1. OK.. Next missive, 1000 words! :0)

  7. Oh Doug, the windows are PERFECT for your Manor. I just love their sinuous and graceful lines. When people see our buildings, little do they know the hours spent to getting just the right look :) and the frustrating hours when we just can't get what we want!!! A wonderful post as always. I think an aged look to your windows will fit in well...... but not too rusty I think, you still want to have an air of expensive elegance to them.
    All the best

    1. Boy, you said it Vivian! The actual time "working" on getting the final results is the tiniest fraction of the time spent on working THRU the thinking process! I have a love/hate relationship with the early planning stages of a project. I literally do spend hours thinking about what I want, how to achieve the effects I want, how to actually build the stupid thing once I figure out what I want, then figuring out what on EARTH I will use to add the fru fru that makes everything shine. :0) I hate it. OH I LOVE it! They are both true!

      I agree with you on "not too rusty". After all this wonderful input I am still dithering a bit on how to treat the windows, since I am not quite sure how to achieve the effect we are talking about! Back to that love/hate subject!

      It'll get figured out in its own time. That is one of the very nice things about "miniature" houses, for the most part there is no "must have" date. (yet!)

      Off to figure out how to create a "metallic, slightly rusty look on a brown base"! ( :0) )


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