Saturday, June 14, 2014

Horrorstör Book Cover

As I hinted in this post, I have been working on a unique and exciting book cover project since the winter. I can finally share it and am thrilled with the results!


Published by Quirk Books and due out in September 2014, Horrorstör is a murder mystery set in ORSK, an IKEA-like store. I styled and photographed the front and back covers and it was an exciting journey to bring the project to completion. I learned a lot along the way, and am proud of the outcome.

The author, Grady Hendrix, is a writer and former film critic who is one of the founders of the Asian Film Festival. He has written fiction and non-fiction, and Horrorstör is a sharp, spooky ghost tale with a sense of humor.

Intrigued? It gets better.

The book is sized and packaged like a retail catalog, including illustrations of ready-to-assemble furnishings. (I cannot reveal the interior at this point, but the publisher will soon.) The catalog approach was the key inspiration for the cover design, and of course was driven by the story line. I worked with Andie Reid, one of Quirk's very talented designers, and she provided the overall creative direction: the front cover should be a closeup of a showroom-type interior, be well-lit and modern, and employ a blue and yellow accents; the back would be a creepy interior counterpart.

As with my last cover, Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell, the cover came together after a series of months collaborating with the publisher. While the vision was clear from the beginning, Andie and I both contributed new ideas along the way to produce the best possible results. I tried new techniques and tools with this job -- I bought an external flash and macro lens, which greatly improved the quality of the photographs, and I also utilized Olioboard to help visualize the space and exchange ideas with Andie.

After choosing my trusty Citadel dollhouse as the location, a big part of my job at the beginning was sourcing all the furnishings for the project, which took a number of weeks. The starting concept included a dining scene for the back cover, inspired by actual IKEA products. We gravitated toward these furnishings:

Stockholm Table

Sigurd Chair
Foto Pendant Lamp
I worked with Patie of Minisx2 on Etsy, and she was wonderful in producing such close matches! We initially incorporated some spooky elements like knives and tipped over chairs:

Unfortunately, none of these pieces were used, since it was decided to do a version of the living room scene on the back instead.

The living room scene was really fun to put together, and the unique shelving unit by Patie nicely tied it all together. It's a great modular piece and so well made. Patie also made the boomerang tables. The Tootsie Roll sofa by minimodernistas was already in my collection and it ended up being a great fit. I chose a few different minimodernistas pillows and the arrow one worked was my way of pointing to the spooky back cover. :)

The frames are from Paris Renfroe, who also provided an arm chair and gorgeous black console, but they got edited out in the process. The plant is AG Minis and the rug is IKEA (of course!). The flooring is Contact paper and worked quite well. I used bright white craft paper for the walls, held up with binder clips. Here is a picture of the work space, which also shows a Lundby hanging fixture, also not used:

For the back cover, I shot the same living room scene, but stripped it of many of the accessories. Andie then did her magic with PhotoShop and transformed it into a mirror image of the front. It's an utterly dark and murky scene, with all new details by Andie on the floor, walls, and inside Patie's shelving unit. So clever!

I hope you enjoyed this cover reveal and I am happy to be finally in a position to share the news. The book is available for pre-order now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and is also available on Kindle, Nook, and eBooks. Also, the Book Smugglers site  is doing a giveaway -- go enter now!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Kaleidoscope Art

It was fun to pop into the Kaleidoscope House for a quick scene this weekend. It is one of my favorite houses, mainly because of the colorful shadows and light, which can inspire but also challenge interior decorating.

This scene was primarily motivated by the very cool "painting" by Jaime Derringer hanging on the upper level. I've admired Jaime's work for a while, and have one of her (1:1 scale) drawings. Jaime is the founder of the highly influential blog Design Milk, and also creates colorful abstracts and sketches actively.

My "painting" is actually a work entitled From Above it Looks Like a Giant Mess that Jaime posted on her Instagram feed. I immediately loved the color scheme and energy; I printed it out, edged it with some washi tape, and it was good to go!

What's been motivating you lately???

Credits: Couch is minimodernistas; boomerang table is by Patie of minisX2 on Etsy; side table is; chair is by the amazing Pepper of MitchyMoo Miniatures; bookshelf is by Lene of Dragondee; plant is AG Minis; rug is IKEA; lamp is by Maryann Roy. Accessories are Bozart, AG Minis, Re-ment, Jazams, Dragondee, and minimodernistas.

The time it took me: 40 minutes

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Acquisitions: Adrian Cooke and Kitty Puppenmobel

I know, quite a combination of acquisitions here...but I like the unexpected nature of this, and it speaks to my inclinations as a collector.

This soft metal chair set was made by Adrian Cooke of the USA in the late 1800s. I've seen these chairs before in reference books and on other blogs so they caught my interest when they popped up on eBay; my best offer price of $30.99 was accepted. I challenged myself to use the chairs in one of my midcentury houses, which was fun.

The Kitty Puppenmobel pieces came in their original box, very cool. Also bought on eBay, the set, which dates from the early 1960s, was a best offer purchase of $18.99. These pieces were not as difficult to use in one of my houses, but the light blue and yellow colors were a bit of a challenge.

Any new "opposite acquisitions" lately? Do you like to collect like this too?

Credits: Adrian Cooke scene: table by PRD Miniatures; globe lamp by minimodernistas; cabinet is vintage German. Accessories are Dragondee, Re-ment, Michaels, minimodernistas, The Shopping Sherpa, and Lilu Shop on Etsy. Puppenmobel scene: table is Ryan's Room; arc lamp is an eBay find; initial pillows by Dale's Dreams; side table by Patie of minisx2. Accessories are K. Delaney, Ray Storey, and dollhouse show finds.

The time it took me: 45 minutes combined

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A New Midcentury Dollhouse

Whee! A new midcentury style dollhouse has made its debut! The 1:16 scale laser cut ARC Dollhouse, designed by Krista Peel of Three Star Studio, is intended to be a simple and sustainable canvas for dollhouse play. I was thrilled when I received an email from Krista announcing the new house, and eagerly await it so that I can share it with you.

It comes flat-packed and looks quite easy to assemble. The house also comes with either baltic birch or walnut furnishings, and there are many possibilities for customization. The house retails for $65 on Etsy, the baltic birch furniture is $35, and the walnut/plexi set is $50.

The house has already created some buzz in the 1:1 design world -- Design Milk wrote about it this week. Hopefully that means that there is more to come!

I intend to share more soon.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Toy Fair 2014

The new Paul Frank line from Tynies
A highlight of my winter is the opportunity to attend NY NOW and the Toy Fair, which occur at the Javits Center in New York City in late January and mid-February, respectively. I've attended both over the past few years, and always have a great time learning and looking at the latest products from toy, gift, and lifestyle manufacturers around the world.

Weather got in the way for me this year, however, and I unfortunately could not make it into the city for the NY NOW show :( I really did try to make it work, but we've been hit by loads and loads of stubborn snow, ice, rain -- you name it -- and there was no way I could go. There is the summer show in August to attend, though!

SO. I was intent on getting to the Toy Fair. As you may know, these events are enormous...hundreds of vendors, aisles and aisles of booths, and crowds of people. I've developed a bit of a system over the years that works pretty well for me.

First, I attend as press, so I am able to strategize on my visit in the press center, with access to the show catalogue and a place to sit and store my coat and extraneous stuff (very important -- you don't want to be carrying lots of stuff around).

Then, I look through the catalogue to determine which vendors I want to see. I know many in advance, but then there are always new ones to discover. The vendors are organized by "Product Zones" (Action Figures, Board Games, Dolls, Youth Electronics, etc) and are grouped according to these categories. The row numbers range from 100 to 6400, and increase by 100 from row to row. That is A LOT to see. To focus my visit, I create a written list of vendors and numbers and then put them in numerical order. Sometimes I make appointments in advance, but this time I did not.

Then, I head on my way and usually spend 4-5 hours total going to my planned booths and others that I see by browsing . This year, I brought my camera, which worked much better than my phone!

Here are the highlights!

Safari Ltd

Safari Ltd makes very high-quality and realistic plastic replicas and it was great to see some new pieces from the Good Luck Minis and TOOB lines.

For a Southwest-inspired interior, perhaps??

I am in love with the American President busts!


I did not make it in to the Playmobil booth last year, but managed to visit it this time around and it was great. The booth is organized by month and displays new products appearing in those given months. One of the showcase pieces was a shopping mall, with a variety of stores and innovative accessories and people. Did you know that three years ago, the company decided to make the bodies more realistic? You can see this especially in the head and feet.

A wedding cake!

Look at the boxed mini Playmobil!

Check out the mini house!

Cool tents and accessories

All in all, some really terrific stuff coming this year.


The Maisto booth was fun. I've used Maisto products in the past -- they are a die-cast toy company that makes extremely high-quality cars, bikes, and other vehicles in a variety of scales, including 1:12. 

They were showing a new line of Harley Davidson and "Sons of Anarchy" 1:12 scale motorcycles. Fabulously detailed. Very cool.


I had to stop in at one of my favorite booths -- the very creative bunch over at AREAWARE. They were showing some new Cubebots: Ninjas! I saw Owner Noel Wiggins, and he commented that they really needed the bots in black and white, and Ninjas seemed the most appropriate nomenclature. I agree! They come in sizes Micro and Small.

Noel also showed me a new product, Blockitecture, which was designed by the student winner of Rochester Institute of Technology's annual design competition. You create constructions by balancing the colorful blocks at challenging, cantilevered angles. Clever!

Lille Huset

Alyson Beaton, the whiz behind the paperboard dollhouses of Lille Huset, was showing for the first time at Toy Fair. It was great to see her there with some new offerings, including a graphically awesome barn and some new furniture and people, part of the new "Brooklyn" set.

I look forward to seeing what's next for her!

Urban Canvas

I popped over to Urban Canvas next, a relatively new company started by interior designer Maria Chee that aims to encourage creative, expressive play with paperboard dollhouses and structures. It was nice to see a few new pieces in her collection, namely a modular set of shops and a bistro.

The walls can be configured and colored according to one's imagination, and then be packed away!


Roominate, started by two female engineers with a Kickstarter campaign, was developed to encourage young girls in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). The dollhouse sets are modular and wired, so you can build a range of structures that are powered by motion or light.

The product has experienced a great deal of success in a short time, and is continuing to expand its offerings.


Tynies are simply awesome. They are very detailed glass figurines that come in a variety of designs. I use them in my scenes a lot, and luckily my local toy store carries them. The collection just expanded with a new Paul Frank line, as well as some very yummy looking desserts.

Their packaging is changing, for the better I think. Currently, the pieces come in small plastic boxes that can be tricky to open (see above picture); the new packaging is a snap sealed plastic shell that stacks. A definite improvement!

MiWorld by JAKKS Pacific

The last stop of the day was at the JAKKS Pacific room, where I wanted to have a quick look at the MiWorld play sets (see my review here).

I was told that a new set is forthcoming -- cannot say which one, but definitely a high-profile brand. Look forward to that.

Whew! That does it for this year's review. Hope you managed to stick with me through this lengthy post. I'll leave you with a final few pictures from a sweet line of cloth dolls called Pocketopia. The creator, Rita Ross, has put together a lovely collection with personality and care and was showing for the first time at Toy Fair.

Keep creating, people!