Monday, October 28, 2013

Building for Barbie on a Budget

Every year, Brent and I try to make a gift for the kids.  Probably for a few reasons - homemade gifts are more special to us than a gift from the mall, we get a chance to make something we haven't made before, and it's fun to see what we can create for a minimal amount of money (which usually means a ton of labor!).

***Update***  Detailed photos of the furniture we built for this house can be found here!

Growing up, my sister and I were excited to receive a Barbie house from our dad that he had built.  It was wonderful!  We spent hours and hours playing with that house and had it for many years.  Unfortunately - it had one fatal flaw.  The doorways to get from room to room were only about 4 inches tall.  Dad, Barbies are 12 inches tall.  It remains a mystery to this day why he made those doorways so short.

That's me on the left in blue and my sister, Anne, on the right.  I wonder why we are dressed like Laura and Mary from Little House on the Prairie?  Most kids sleep in floor length flannel gowns trimmed in lace, right?

For Christmas 2011, Brent and I decided to build Emma a Barbie house.  She was just about to turn 5 so it seemed like a perfect time to do it.  Building this dollhouse was easy on the budget, maybe $50 worth of materials, but extremely labor intensive.  It literally took us 2 months to complete.

Let me take you on a little house tour:

For the entire back of the house, we used a piece of plywood cut to size and I painted the entire thing pink.

I made the kids stand next to it so you have a point of reference for it's size.

We'll begin with the master bedroom.  Brent built the bed and wooden dresser.  The mattress is a piece of foam covered in a scrap of an old swaddling blanket and hot clued underneath to keep it tight.  The comforter is another swaddling blanket from Emma's infant days.  I just hemmed up the edges with my sewing machine so it wouldn't fray.  Pillows are made of scrap fabric and stuffed with stuffing.

The walls are wallpapered with scrapbook paper.  That turned out to be a ton more work than I was expecting.  Next time I would just paint them.  It was impossible to match up the seams and now that it's been a few years, the adhesive is beginning to fail so the seams are becoming more noticeable.

The wall art are Christmas ornaments I found at Hobby Lobby.  Don't forget to notice the crown moulding, wainscoting and chair rail!

Looks like these two are getting pretty comfortable!  Should we tell GI Joe that he can take off his combat boots and helmet?  Maybe they're role playing.

The pink shaggy carpet is some sweet fabric I found at the fabric store, cut to size and used spray adhesive to lay it down.  No tack strip or pad needed here!

There is also a little mirror I hung on the wall, you can sort of see it on the right.  Next to the master bedroom is the bathroom.  Looks like we've got a peeping Tom!

Prince Charming is prepping for a shave.  That bathroom countertop is made of real Corian - fancy, huh!  I cut up some towels to make tiny Barbie size towels to put under the vanity.

Here you can see Barbie relaxing in the tub, which is actually a $3 plastic organizer from Bed Bath and Beyond.  Did you know pink Barbie bathtubs you buy in the store are over $20?  That's cray!!  Nice tights, Charming.

The flooring is special linoleum they make just for doll houses.  You may have noticed there is no toilet.  My question to you would be, did you ever have Barbie use the toilet when you were growing up?  Barbie just doesn't do THAT.  

Finishing out the 2nd floor is the bedroom for the baby twins.  Brent made these adorable little cribs and then we made mattresses out of foam and little blankets to go on top.  We used spray paint to finish all of the furniture, there was no way to get a brush in all those nooks and crannies.

Moving to the lower level, we have a living room.  And a Christmas tree, with a monkey hanging off the back.  OWEN!!!!  Miniature gifts used to be under that tree.  Owen thought they were real so he opened them all when no one was looking, he was confused to find a cube of styrofoam inside.

Brent, of course, built the sofa and coffee table.  I happened to have that blue fabric laying around which worked great for the cushions.  It should be noted that when Brent was building all of this furniture, it was important to build it to scale.  So frequently, I would see dolls laying around in his shop that he was using to test furniture sizes with.  To a visitor, that may have looked incredibly awkward.

Prince Charming finally showed up with that drink Rapunzel was waiting for!  If you're me, you looked right past Prince Charming and at those doorway moldings - seriously folks, those look better than most of our real houses!

I wish this coffee table was life size - it's really cute.

Next to the living room is the dining room.  I felt like Brent really outdid himself on this dining room set.  We wanted to build our own furniture because as I could recall from my childhood, plastic Barbie furniture was always so flimsy that it would tip over when you put your Barbie in it.  Plus, it is really expensive and it breaks!

The chandelier is another Christmas ornament and the "rug" is a scrap from some of Owen's bedroom curtains.

And of course we have hardwood floors in the dining room! Looks like it could use a little cleaning.

Through the dining room is the kitchen.  The gathering space of any home.  We've got wood cabinets and real laminate counter tops.  The flooring is linoleum as well.

And finally to the attic.  Those bunk beds will also fit a full size Barbie.  Notice the two skylights on the ceiling.  I know, hard to look at the skylights when you can't see past those little girls' hair - why does doll hair always get so crazy?

The roof suffered some damage from Hurricane Owen in 2012.  Insurance wouldn't cover it so we have yet to get it repaired.

I love that Barbie cars only come in pink.  How do you think these two feel, cruising around in a pink convertible?

I almost forgot - Brent also built a hot tub that actually holds water!  It weighs about 20 lbs though, so I am usually the one that has to lug it outside for the kids to play with.

Would we ever build one of these again?  Heck no!!  Well, maybe we would, if we didn't have to wall paper it.  I also would have figured out a way to put some lighting in it so it wasn't as dark towards the back.  It was way too much work, but we had a good time putting it together and we know Emma loves it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Done Da Duh Da....DONE!!!

Our last step to prep our workshop for winter was to hang the front doors.  You'll remember how we got a great deal on them here but they needed to be painted to protect them from rain and snow.

Before painting anything that has a finish on it, you must give it a good sanding to rough up the surface so the primer has something to stick to.  We used a palm sander and Brent's muscles.

Zinsser 123 Primer is what I usually use for my priming needs.  Before we primed, we wiped any excess dust residue off of the doors.

To paint doors, we paint the inside profile first.

Even though these were solid core doors with a veneer on them, when Brent had to trim them down to fit the heighth for our opening we were left with the exposed particle board.  You can't just prime that particle board and expect everything to magically turn out ok.  It will suck up moisture like a sponge.  So Brent cut an additional couple of inches off the bottom and replaced the particle board with a strip of solid wood to prevent moisture problems down the road.  Once the doors are all painted, you won't be able to tell where he filled in a new piece.

Back to painting...then the recessed panel...

Then the outside frame.  With primer, you want a very thin coat.  Since the stain was so dark, we opted to do 2 coats of primer.  After the priming step, we applied 2 coats of exterior white paint.  If you look closely at our finished doors, we actually should have done a third coat - but who's looking that close?! Honestly, I was so sick of painting these doors toward the end, I just plain didn't care anymore.  The insides of them still need another coat, but it's just going to have to wait until Spring.  Heidi sicky of painty.

The moment we've been waiting for since last summer...IT'S DONE!!

Here's a quick and easy way to hang French doors - pay Brent to do it.  Seriously, I have more respect for this guy the more I get to know him.  He makes everything look incredible easy.  How I tricked him into marrying me is still a question that passes through my brain.

You have no idea how tricky it is to mount these doors and end up with them meeting together in the middle!  He also put a handle and lock set on the doors for a little security.

Both doors open and swing out, so at some point when we are working with 4'x8' sheets of plywood, we should have no trouble getting them in and out.

My mom and I planted some mums and grasses along the side.  There are also some black eyed susans, but you can't see them because the rabbits already ate them (frowny face).

And this last picture is the one that takes my breath away.  I think it turned out even better than we originally planned.  Everyday while doing the dishes in the kitchen, I get to look out the window and stare at it, and it makes my cold little heart sing.  Gone are the days where we assemble projects at our kitchen table, tracking sawdust through the kitchen to get to our miter saw.  Yep...once we get electricity out there next Spring, life is going to get just a tiny bit sweeter.

How much did all of this cost, you wonder?  Here's a quick breakdown of what we roughly spent to put this little babe in our backyard:

Concrete foundation:  $437
Roof:  $850
Windows:  $70
Doors:  $85
Siding:  $330
Paint:  $100
Landscaping:  $100
Miscellaneous lumber/hardware:  $400

Which is a grand total of $2,372.00.  

I honestly didn't know how much to budget in advance for our I just ball parked at $2,000 and saved up that amount before we got started.  Next spring we will need to add electricity and a workbench and some countertops, gutters and lights so we still have some saving to do.  Construction projects always seem to cost about 50% more than you plan for, so I guess this one will be right on track to meet that.  Still not a bad price for what we got.

On to new adventures now that the workshop is complete!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Amazin' Glazin'

My other title was going to be "Amazing Glaze" the song "Amazing Grace" but I wasn't sure anyone would get that.

It should be no surprise that my hobbies differ than most gals.  Shopping does not appeal to me (ask anyone that truly knows me), getting my hair done is close to torture - my hairstylist friend can confirm that with the one haircut I get every 8 months, and getting my nails done is completely out of the question unless I happen to be getting married.

So what does get me excited?  More than budgeting, more than going for coffee and certainly more than organizing...glazing wood.  If I have a project that has reached the glazing phase, I become positively giddy.  Adding just a touch of glaze to a plain old painted project just makes it feel a little more "worn in".  Plus, it is super easy and it's impossible to screw up because if you don't like it, just wipe it off!

Here are just a few of the things in our house that I've already attacked.  No piece of wood is safe in our house.  

I'll walk you through this simple process.  Begin by prepping the piece you will be working with.  This is a box I built.  One coat of primer and two coats of antique white later, this is what it looked like.  

Here's an important tip: Glaze can look a little harsh over plain white paint.  Since glaze is usually brown, it just translates better on top of a cream colored base.  This is especially important to know if you have white kitchen cabinets.  Glazed kitchen cabinets are usually an off white of some sort.  When we did ours, we chose a very dark ivory.  For this particular project, I didn't have any cream colored paint, so I mixed some light brown with some white until I achieved the tone I was looking for.  The white needed to be dulled down just a little bit.

If you want your piece to look a little "worn", it is best to sand it before applying glaze.  Using a sanding sponge, rub as much of the existing paint off as you prefer.  Don't worry if you sand too much, you can always repaint it and start over.

Now that we've sanded a little off, it's time to add a little glaze to age it a bit.  Glaze simply extends the drying time of paint, giving you time to work with it before it dries.  I bought this gallon of clear glaze a few years ago for about $20 bucks and have used it on a bajillion projects (that is not an overestimate).

You simply mix a little of this glaze with any color of paint and stir it together.  The ratio of paint to glaze really depends on what you prefer.  Mess around with it in different strengths until you get the look you are going for.  I had some really dark chocolate brown for my son's room and have found that if I mix that with the glaze, it makes a perfect antiquing color over almost any base coat color.

So I took my mix of chocolate brown paint and glaze and spread it all over the top of my piece.  Doesn't have to look good, just slop it on.

As soon as you've got a section covered, in this case the whole piece, immediately wipe it off with a dry paper towel or cloth.  Keep wiping it off until you get the finish/color you are happy with.  I ALWAYS have a wet paper towel on hand so if it doesn't look good, the wet paper towel will remove all of the glaze.

Here is what it looks like after the excess glaze has been removed.  The glaze dries very quickly so if you just wait a couple minutes, you can flip it over and do the other side.

Much like my mind and sense of humor, I wanted this piece to be a little "dirtier".  I grabbed my trustee sidekick, Martha Stewart Coffee Glaze to put in the little divots and cracks to make them pop out even more.

This one dries super quick and is really dark, so I usually end up using my damp paper towel to wipe some of the excess off.

The next two photos are a nice example of this coffee glaze.  The first one just has my chocolate brown glaze, the second one has the additional coat of Martha Stewart Coffee Glaze applied.  See how it picks up the imperfections a little bit better?

Just for fun, I gave it a quick sand after finishing all the glazing to make it look a little more imperfect.  And the finished product:

If you stain the piece a dark color first, then paint it with your color of choice, skipping the primer step, you will get an effect called a "rub though" which looks amazing.



As a side note - this glazing, especially for smaller pieces, is fast and easy.  I did this entire thing in less than 15 minutes in my business attire that I wore to work.