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Guest blogger is creative competition winner!

January 2nd, 2012

Emma Metcalfe won the 2011 Dolls House Emporium Creative Competition with her re-creation of a Welsh cottage from days gone by for her ‘Snowdonia 1890 montage’.

We knew she was a novice house-builder so asked her to spill the beans on how her project took shape.

Emma Metcalfe's creative competition winner

Here’s what she said:

When I visited my brother in Belgium for Christmas 2009, he was busy making a wooden dolls’ house for his girlfriend – he was training as a carpenter so was practising on a slightly smaller scale.

The dolls’ house was lovely and she had collected some children’s furniture for it and was enjoying using scraps of paper and furniture to decorate it with.

Being a primary school teacher, and used to making things from scraps, I was immediately inspired to try and make my own.

I searched the internet for a cheap basic model which I could use. I was looking to make a small model as my first attempt but couldn’t find a suitable wooden kit anywhere.

Having been born and grown up in North Wales I wanted to build a model based on the local Victorian smallholders’ cottages.

Not wanting to give up, I used an old cardboard box as a basic box room kitchen – and experimented with creating boulder texture on the walls using rolled up newspaper and modroc.

The next challenge was creating realistic cottage style windows that would fit into the thick walls – the usual clip on type used on kit models wouldn’t fit so I had to make window frames out of scraps of balsa and use polyfilla to stick them in just like real windows. I used slate style paper cut into tiles.

Next was the fun bit – choosing furniture! I ordered a few pieces from various websites, including the Dolls House Emporium, and made other pieces like a kitchen table – the style had now changed to a modern holiday cottage in the hills.

When I was happy with the kitchen, I decided to move on to the rest of the cottage – a much bigger cardboard box was needed but it wasn’t very strong and fitting the roof and ceiling would be difficult out of cardboard.

I was just about to start thinking of buying some MDF to make a frame when the Dolls House Emporium’s monthly catalogue came through the letterbox… I couldn’t believe it! The annual competition was about to start and the kit was just what I had been looking for! I had already planned and designed my cottage by the time the kit came through the post so I was able to start work straight away.

In order to create my cottage, I needed to make some alterations to the basic kit.

I used the garden base as a new gable end and changed the size of the front door – a porch would make the front appear different. I used leftover pieces to create the chimney and roof over the gable end. Because the chimney was attached to the gable end, I made the roof so that it could be slid into position.
I developed the modroc technique for the walls and used foam pieces which were much easier to use. The most challenging part was the windows. Traditionally they would have been flared on the inside to let in more light so I had to cut pieces of wood to create the thick walls and then add modroc. A partition was made from thin MDF and covered in plastic wood-effect plastic and then painted. The slate floor was made from a rescued roof slate and filled with filler.

Altogether, the project took me the whole six months – I’d learnt a lot as this was my first project. I really enjoyed doing the historical research and looking at real cottages in the mountains for inspiration.

There are also many museums that have recreated this style cottage. I would like to develop this cottage and turn it into a smugglers’ inn. I would create a thatched roof and take out the dividing wall to create one room. I’ve already bought some bottles and fish to decorate. I’ll change the garden and make a seashore with small boat and lobster pots.

With the prize for the competition, I’d like to create some Victorian Farmhouses – with a large kitchen and parlour and possibly using real materials on the outside of the building. I’d like to experiment with using slate for the roof and stones for the walls so I’ll need to visit Saint Fagan’s a few time to do my research!

Emma Metcalfe with her creative competition winner

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