Thursday, November 13, 2014


I love playing with smaller scales. I'm still deep in storage mode, so I am hesitant to start taking out furnishings and doing setups. So, this was as close as I got tonight.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Storage Saga

I'm a storage machine. Can't stop. For the past few months (!), I've been working toward a more sane collecting existence. This has extended to my real home as well. We have decluttered and pared down, so I have been reluctant to add new miniatures to my collection. This has meant selling one of my houses (a Brio "Chalet" from 1963) and pushing myself to take stock of everything I have collected since 2008.

I'm probably about 3/4 of the way there. The biggest step was buying a ton of storage boxes from Michaels, which I managed to get on clearance, and filling then systematically. We bought a label maker, and I put it to use!

The next milestone will be arranging to get an old refrigerator and freezer hauled out from the basement. This will free up some needed space for another work table.

All of this is a bit of an excuse why I haven't been posting. The Horrorstor book cover had me occupied until April, and then I jumped into storage mode.

Let's hope I get out...!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Boxed In

I've been exercising some serious willpower and have not bought any new miniatures (and certainly not houses!) in quite some time, primarily motivated by the mess of my collection these days. I bought storage boxes from Michaels and have been boxing up furnishings bit by bit to try to get more organized. I actually went through them pretty quickly, so I will have to get more to continue. Progress is happening, just slowly...

I couldn't help but to arrange a super quick scene in my Bodensee with some boxed pieces.

Within the next few weeks I hope to free up some additional space in our laundry room so that we can move things around and maximize space. There are so many little projects I'd like to get to!

Credits: Couch, lamp, side table, and chairs are vintage German; coffee table is Brio; sculpture is Bozart; rug is minimodernistas. Accessories are Re-ment and assorted dollhouse finds.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

ARC Dollhouse

It is always exciting to see new modern dollhouses come to the market. Back in the spring, I was so happy to hear about 3 Star Studio and their new ARC Dollhouse, and subsequent to that, their BUTTERFLY Dollhouse. 3 Star is clearly passionate about modern design and it is great to see them apply their skills to a small scale.

The ARC is a 1:16 scale house that requires simple assembly. Made of plywood and hardwood, the owner has a blank canvas of a house that they can paint or paper. While I was excited about the prospect of decorating my ARC, I knew it would be difficult to choose the decor (so many choices!). So, I let spontaneity be my guide for the most part. I did not have a particular color scheme in mind, but I did have some tubs of sample Valspar paint from Lowes that I bought some months ago because I liked the colors. So this is how butter yellow (nursery), dove grey (bedroom), and forest green teal (exterior) came into play.

The wallpapers in the bedroom and dining area were chosen intentionally for this house. I went to the Paper Source to find papers with a small scale pattern and loved these two. The other wallpapers in silver and creme are trusted designs from my collection, purchased at Kate's Paperie a few years ago.

The flooring on the ground floor is a placemat, and the bedroom upstairs has a delicate pattern from the Paper Source. I used a red patterned scrapbook paper for the nursery floor, but there was a previous iteration that didn't quite work out. I had a circle stencil and used the butter yellow paint to create a circular pattern, but I didn't care for the result. I think I should have done less circles...oh well.

The furniture was a bit trickier...the scale is closest to 1:16, but the curved floor and wall space made it challenging to coordinate pieces together. The bed and light fixture in the nursery are from the walnut furniture set sold by 3 Star Studio, and the rest of the pieces are from my collection. You'll see a mix of vintage Lundby (roof set and coffee table in living room), Strombecker (living room couch and chair and dining chairs), and Fisher Price (dining egg chairs).

I decided not to use the roof embellishments for now. I was thinking that I might use the railing as trim in the front; not sure yet. I like the roof bare for furnishings :)

All in all, this was an entirely fun and enjoyable experience. I also had the pleasure of hearing directly from Krista back in April about the house and what inspires her and her husband Zak at 3 Star Studio.

What was your main inspiration for the ARC Dollhouse?
It was a convergence of two things that led to us making the ARC Dollhouse. # 1 - Having a kid and  #2 - Finding a lovely, little, wooden folding dollhouse at our local used kids-stuff shop for her to play with. 

It literally came to me in a vision. One night, while nursing our little one to sleep, I was keeping my mind occupied by thinking what kind of space I 'wished' she had to play with, and the shapes and layout simply appeared. I saw the interior/exterior space, the arc shapes and curved edges, and I wrote it down. The next day Zak and I started talking about sizes, pieces, lines, shapes, measurements, etc, until we figured it all out. Then we made some test models until we had it right.

How did you approach the design and layout of the house? Can you discuss the choice of materials and the 1:16 scale?
It needed to be very playable for a two year old. The house would need soft, round edges, open and accessible areas and be slightly smaller than a 1:12 scale house. 1:12 houses tend to be big and cumbersome, and not movable for a young players. We decided the modest size of the completed house first, and then found the right scale in miniature to fit that space, which was 3/4 (1:16) scale. Once we saw the size of objects and furniture in that scale, we really liked it and found it is a great scale for little hands. 

The size also lends itself to modest material use, which is an important part of any decision we make, in life and business. We use wonderful, natural hardwoods and plywood from a sustainable family farm in WI. 

What has been the reaction to the house?
We were able to bring the ARC Dollhouse to a craft fair this weekend and show it to miniature fans of all ages. What was most enjoyable was hearing how many people asked how this could be a full-sized space. They immediately wanted to see this space in a life-sized version as they began to play with the small one and imagine themselves inside.  One of the main delights of miniatures is that all ages play with it, young and old love it. Somehow miniatures make it easy to play and enjoy.

What is next for you?
We are so excited to announce our next house - The BUTTERFLY Dollhouse
and the furniture to fit - 

This is a 1:24 (1/2) scale house, and is also very playable for young hands. It's a little more detailed, but still sturdy. And we've made miniature models of each of these - 

We are also currently working on two more dollhouse designs: a cabin and a row house. 
And a little bit about our ideas:
We hope to promote modest, beautiful, graceful, playful, sustainable living for all ages. We love smaller spaces, mid century design, modest living, indoor/outdoor home areas, DIY projects, thoughtful use of resources and - most importantly - intense beauty, cultivating the imagination and great comfort in life! We want meaningful, not excessive, living. We'd love for these ideas to take flight in playtime and family time so that it seamlessly fits into a way to see the world.  In these spaces, we hope that young and old try out all the ideas and colors and patterns and materials they may be hesitant to use in their own 'big' space.  Let's ALL play!  Perhaps this can translate into our 'big' life, too!
Thanks so much to Krista and Zak for sharing their work -- best of luck on future things, and keep those designs coming!

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!