Petite Chateau – Part 1

When I finally start to work on this big house (Petite Chateau by Suzanne and Andrew’s Minis), I cleared the deck and go it underway.

I considered many things when I started this house:

  • Do I want to change the way the house is laid out? Change colors? (No, on the colors as I already had wallpaper. But then… more later.)
  • What sort of container will house it? (a big one is all I decided)
  • Where to put lighting? How many? I ordered mine from Evan Designs 
  • Do I add a basement? (Saw where someone else did that and it was an ‘ah ha’ moment for me – so yes. )

I really tried initially to follow the steps exactly, but then I didn’t have the color paint for the wood floors. But I did have a stain pen. I was not happy with the results so decided to purchase color for the floor after all. I am glad I did. I also had no problem just painting over the stain after I sanded it of course. When I went to purchase a few items like paint, I couldn’t find the exact colors but I found something I could be happy with. If one wants to use the exact colors, it is best to purchase around the same time as the kit is purchased. Otherwise the color might be discontinued. Or in my case, no longer carried by my local hobby stores. I bought spray paint in black and off white. This paint was for the plastic windows and doors, plus other trim. The black was fine but the off white didn’t matter as I had to paint over it anyway to match the actual off white I was using elsewhere. Also there were a few of the plastic trim that was to be painted blue and I could have just painted those directly.  Oh and the spray paint I bought was the small cans. I don’t do much spray painting so felt the small ones were worth the cost. Also they will be easier to store.

Drop ceiling for lighting

I start assembling the house and right away I decided to deviate from the instructions. I am adding lighting so I have to some anyway. In most of the houses I have built before, the floors have been two parts. A ceiling and then a floor above it, which allows the lighting wires to be sandwiched between. This house has a solid wood floor/ceiling. And they are wood. Did I mention that already? Meaning cutting isn’t easy as say matt board. I decide I will add a drop ceiling for the lighting. I’ve done drop ceiling in other projects using chip lights that are super tiny and thin. Also those were more whimsical so an uneven ceiling is not so obvious. I am using through the whole house warm white mega led’s which are thick in comparison. I will need to add a way to allow for the depth of the lights across the whole ceiling. Before the led’s were installed I did a test to see how much light they might show across half the floor.

Warm led vs no light Note that bright spot in the center on the wallpaper is due to flash and not seen otherwise.

Initially, I was scared by how yellow they seemed. But in real life I prefer the warm white over bright white, so I decided I was good. This test also proved that lighting was needed and that it covered the area well.

Drop ceiling method 1

Looking through my wood supply I come across 1/16 inch cove moulding, some angle ( like an L) and some channel ( like a U only). The last one I didn’t have much of so I decided I would use the angle at the front to allow a paper drop ceiling. The cove moulding for ‘faux crown’ where the ceiling paper meets the wallpaper. This ceiling paper is like thin card (heavier weight than copy paper). All this meant that only one point of the angle wood was glued to the floor so was kind of tricky to keep it from folding towards the inside. It was also tricky gluing the cove moulding in place as I didn’t want to press too hard and have the ceiling warped.

Drop ceiling created using angle and cove moulding

In this picture can see the angle has been glued so the opening is to the house and then all painted to blend with floor. Cove moulding added on the left side so far. The light was glued to the paper and I used a 1/8 inch hole punch for the led to shine through. Unfortunately the hole punch was not a ‘long reach’ version so I needed to cut the paper to get to the proper position. I then glued the slit as neatly as I could to a beam I added – not shown.

Second floor problems

When I added the first floor ceiling/second floor I wasn’t paying attention about making sure it was level front to back. I only noticed this after the ceiling had been added. I decided to deal with the gaps this problem caused, by covering with trim (even though I knew better). I continued on papering the second floor and adding the bathroom wall. 

Oops! The floor isn’t level. Gap at top of the door wall

Looking at this pic I can plainly see the gap at the back. This inserted wall should be square with the outer wall and the floor. I decided to have the gap below so I could use the baseboard trim to hide. I had to sand the bottom of the wall so I could somewhat fix it.

Wallpapering tip – paint wood

Notice that the walls are painted. I find this to be better for wallpapering instead of applying to the wood. I am using regular tacky glue to apply the wall paper. I apply glue to the wood rather than the paper (as suggested by the instructions) and spread thinly using a cut up old credit card. I tend to apply too much glue, but the card just wipes it away. Then carefully placing the wallpaper (tacky is not as forgiving on positioning like the yes glue that was recommended in the instructions, but I don’t have any). Then I used the credit card to smooth the paper to even out any glue humps. I don’t really consider bubbling as don’t normally have that issue with such with paper. I also use something called a bone folder for smoothing. It is good, but doesn’t always fit inside a miniature, so cut up credit cards are great.

Drop ceiling method 2

With the bathroom, I decided to change my construction method of the drop ceiling. The ceiling wood piece (per instructions) will fit above the interior wall but inside the house side walls. So my drop ceiling will go below it and I decided to build it using square wood I had on hand instead of the prior method. 

Drop ceiling using square wood instead.

This shows the wood frame and how I glued the led to the paper. This looked great both from top and the underneath. The hole punch is slightly smaller than the mega led light.

Looks great…. except for the gap

Look at that ceiling with the cove moulding. Fabulous. But notice the gap below. OK, easy to cover with the baseboard.

To tear out or not tear out the wallpaper

I installed the baseboard (quilling paper). But as I thought about it later, I couldn’t stand the thought of the crooked floor. Furniture and so on would potentially make it very noticeable. It just wasn’t sitting well with me. One of the reasons I hadn’t tore out the floor before I started with the paper on the second floor, was that I had glued the drop ceiling and cove moulding to the wallpaper. Taking all that out was going to potentially ruin the paper. I just didn’t have the patience to try to pull it out and not tear the paper. Which was likely to happen anyway. So I had continued on and there it was, haunting me with nightmares of the floor that was too high in the back. I kept thinking of that movie ‘The Money Pit’. 

Changing colors?

Finally, I ordered more wallpaper. This is when the thoughts of changing colors was again brought to my mind. The wallpaper was made by The Betterley’s. As I was looking for the papers I needed I found that the same patterns were available in a rose color. That would match to other things I have already bought. It was a serious dilemma for a while. It would be easy to order a different color but the amount I needed to buy and whether I really wanted a pink interior won out (no, I didn’t).  
Meanwhile as I was waiting on the order to arrive, I tore out the wallpaper using a craft knife and isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle. This wet the paper and glue which made it much easier to remove. 

wallpaper gone

I was also correct in that when I took the floor out, it took out the wallpaper below. Although I wasn’t really trying to save it anyway.

Drop ceiling method 3

After my earlier experiments with the drop ceiling assemblies, I decided the frame was the better way to go. For the first floor ceiling I used 1/16th square wood but the same method on the holes. Only this time I glued the trim to the floor and also some support beam for the places I cut the slits in. The beams gave the light a place to hold against.

The ceiling here is shown from the inside before it gets flips over to be glued around on the 1/16th square wood.

Drop ceiling method 4

I had been able to repaper the first floor as I had additional paper for the back side of the house (this house is cabinet type with front and back section). However, I didn’t have enough for the second floor. So I started dealing with the decision around the second floor ceiling. To insert between walls and use the ceiling that comes with the kit, or make the drop ceiling deeper and have it be the only ceiling. Since the kit will have a floor added above for the tower I choose the latter option (making my own ceiling). This drop ceiling will basically stand alone and not get glued to a floor above it when installing. I did need to find or order more of the square wood. I was able to find it at my local hobby shop. I bought the smallest and two other sizes. Now sold in packs of 5 pieces. Pretty good idea so that no longer have the sticker on the wood. Here is the beginning of this frame.

1/8 inch square wood for framing

The frame of 1/8 inch square wood fits inside the walls and has a brace for the wall. But I later added an additional brace for both the lights as well.

This is the final result

replaced provided ceiling with drop ceiling to allow for lights

Other Wiring Considerations

Notice the wires are going out beside the Bay side walls. I thought I glued these extra walls too early, but checking the instructions, I wasn’t ahead. I did it because of wallpaper wings and also they helped me determine where the wires went best for each floor so far.

wings on outside of house and house is right side up

 It is hard to see exactly how the wires are coming out so here it is another way:

house upside down – wires from each floor come out to outside of wings and then go toward the bottom (top of this pic)

can see the wires come out and go to the bottom for now(shown as top in pic). 

I used my small exacto hand saw to cut narrow grooves in the wood for the wires. I did this whenever I felt the wire might be pinched. The first floor wires come out along the bay side at each floor. But this won’t be seen once the house is assembled as the opening to the bay area is shorter. 

The wires seen at the very top of the pic above are for the basement I will add. All the wires are taped under the bottom for now to keep them from getting in the way (and avoid attracting cats who might happen by).

Floor thickness

different floors are thicker

Couple of things I noticed when I took this picture – the second floor is only slightly thicker than the other two. Although the first floor will be thicker once I add the drop ceiling for the basement lighting. But I will use the thinner 1/16 inch square wood like I did for the first floor. For the second floor ceiling I used 1/8 inch square.The other thing I notice is that the support for the first floor was left off since I am adding that basement.

Finishing floor by floor – can I do it?

I was trying to finish an entire floor including furnishings (like my mini friend Paula) but I just can’t quite go that far. So I have just added all the trim, including the windows.

the house is shown upside down to show the trim at the ceilings

I show this to note the neat first floor (top) versus the not as neat second floor (bottom). I think I used too much glue. 

Clamping

I really want to have some of those pistol grip type clamps. But so far I haven’t sprung for them as they cost too much. I’ve used a variety of methods for holding/clamping for different parts. I have a 12 x 12 inch metal tray with magnets that I use. But even it isn’t perfect for each step. I have had to re-do a couple of spots. I have some blue plastic hobby clamps that the larger ones barely fit over the house so far. Then I have also used spring type clothespins in several sizes including both wood and plastic. In a pinch I even used a rubber band which turned out to be the perfect size I needed at the time.

Back issues (not me, the house back)

I have started assembling the back. To assure alignment between front and back, I laid the front on its side and then marked where the floors were. Then I flipped the front to its other side and rotated the back so I could mark the other side. I then use my triangle to mark along the inside and across the back. This was needed for the floor level and then also for where to wallpaper to.

the back is not as deep

The second floor line is still visible here. I didn’t worry about painting to the exact line as wallpaper and trim cover it.

I did have one kit piece missing (or probably misplaced) and that is the second wall that would support this first floor stair wall. Since it wasn’t going to be seen, I used braces instead.

See to the left inside the wall I added two braces

Alignment – house front to back

Here are the front and back side by side. I think I have done a good job of alignment with the floors so far. (My table – an old tv table – isn’t totally level but close enough for here.)

This picture well illustrates to me why I didn’t need to change paper colors. I already had to order more to replace the ones I messed up, but was also buying for the basement. If I had decided to change colors, well, that meant I was buying even more paper. 

This stairwell was the single reason I didn’t switch the house around – especially the back. The lower stairs (stairs came in two parts) were for this angle and even flipping this wall wouldn’t have been enough. Sometimes when assembling a kit it just isn’t worth the hassle to change each thing so sticking with the plan is best.

The back shows the second floor added, but it isn’t glued yet. But note how the faux (no lights) drop ceiling is thinner than the one that will be used for the top. This matches to the thickness I used for the first floor ceiling on the front. 
Actually for the top floor on the back, I can use the intended ceiling instead of a faux drop ceiling since I am not adding lights on the back side.

Part 2 – Attic Building