Thursday, July 1, 2010

Castles In The Ether

I Think This One Must Be For Nina

I have been a medievalist for as long as I can remember. The earliest pictures I remember drawing were of castles. I was five. My parents gave us large pads of newsprint drawing paper and crayons for Christmas and I can still clearly remember the huge black castle I drew. It had crenellated towers on each end and a peaked central hall with a large stained glass window and a drawbridge for entrance. How I knew what a castle should look like at that early age is a mystery to me. I also seem to have been born wanting to illuminate manuscripts. I now own more than forty books of medieval illuminated manuscript reproductions. I can't remember ever seeing a real medieval illuminated manuscript or even a printed replica before I was in my twenties. But when I made a book in a crafts class in Junior High School, I found myself painting the borders just as if I already knew how to illuminate a manuscript! And of course, the pictures I painted included castles and dragons and typical medieval images. (I think I must have been a monk in another lifetime!)

Here is a picture of a portion of one of those illuminated borders I painted when I was sixteen. And here is another page in that same book, painted when I was fifteen. Note the castles.

So It should surprise no-one that I would daydream of maybe "someday" building a dollhouse castle. But it was certainly way down on the list past re-building the Lovely Old Dollhouse. After all, castles were just fantasy life while the Lovely Old Dollhouse was very real and waiting for my attention. As you all know by now, I was well under way re-building the Lovely Old Dollhouse when I accidentally fell into the internet land of Blogdom! And what a wonderful surprise that was! (My life will never be the same again!) One blog led to another and then another and so on.....without end! I discovered gorgeously built dollhouses and fabulously creative builders making everything from hobbit houses to fairy cottages, from Victorian to Modern, from mice to witches and wizards! I already knew about Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle (I have a book on it!) and I knew about Queen Mary's Dollhouse, and had seen some pictures of Titania's Palace, but I was amazed to see The Hogwarts Castles being created by miniature enthusiasts. The more I saw of other people's creations, the more I wanted to make one for myself! Occasionally I even started sketches and made lists of the rooms my castle would need to have. But I was already very busy with the Lovely Old Dollhouse. And my house itself is NOT very big. I thought the castle would have to wait.

But then one day I stumbled on the Tudor and Medieval Castle Dollhouse Blog. I was google-ing pictures of medieval castle great halls.....just to have a look at what was out there.......and when I clicked on one of the pictures it brought me to this DIVINE little (grand!) dollhouse version of a medieval great hall. I was ENCHANTED! I read every post from beginning to end and returned to it day after day looking for updates.......and then something just clicked in my mind, like a switch going on. I just HAD to build MY castle dollhouse! I thought if everybody else was doing it, why couldn't I? I was completely captivated by the tiny medieval style floor tiles she had made for her tower, and just knew I had to start my own! And her plan was so simple and straightforward.......and very similar to the sketches I had been idly was a SIGN!

So, with amazing alacrity (for me) I drew up the plans, bought the plywood and constructed the shells for my castle dollhouse. I shamelessly "borrowed" from Nina's plans. I argued with myself about the dimensions for about a day and a half... but the larger size won. My rationale was that it would stand next to my Lovely Old Dollhouse - which is NOT small - and it would need to look like a castle next to that.......

So here you can see the shell of one of the towers....I start with the dungeon on the lowest level, then there is the chapel, above that will be the solar and at the top the lady's chamber. The other tower (not shown here) will have the stables on the lowest level, the main entrance guard room above that, then the Lord's library and at the top, the Lord's chamber. (Actually, at the very top will be an extension to house the wizard's chamber - not yet built)

And here is a view of the great hall section of the castle. Below the great hall are the kitchens and the storage rooms - the buttry and the pannetry.

Ken is checking out the new Real Estate - planning to take out an extended lease....

Here you can see the beginnings of the stairway from the dungeon/kitchen level up to the main hall level. I have painted faux stone walls rather than try to make a more three-dimensional textured wall surface. I'm still not sure if I will regret this short-cut - but I was having trouble imagining collecting enough egg-cartons to make ALL the walls stone textured.......let alone attach them all.....

Here is a view of the stairs to the hall with the floor of the chapel removed so you see down to the dungeon level. I made the floor level staggered so the dungeon has a ceiling height of 10 inches while the chapel ceiling is 14 inches high.

In the back corner of the dungeon level is the hidden Postern door - it goes up through a trap door in the floor of the Monk's cell off of the Chapel - so there is a hidden escape route......

Here is a view in through the Postern door - before the door was attached - you can see the spiral stone stairs.........

Here you can see the dungeon wall in place - the inner dungeon cell through the door on the back wall (the postern door is concealed from this view). You can see the door into the stairway in place, but not yet painted. Also, here you can see the beginnings of the arched ribbing for the vaulted ceiling I am building on all the lowest levels.

Here you can see the corrugated cardboard inserted between the ribbing to simulate stone vaulting. It looks a whole lot more convincing once I have it painted......but I leave that for another post. Having VAULTED precipitously into the world of building a dollhouse castle, I have gradually become aware of how HUGE this project is! It only makes me all the more awed by the speed and clarity of Nina's progress on her own Castle. So Thank you Nina, for providing the inspiration for this well as giving so many fine instructional tutorials...many of which I will be trying out here on MY castle. Of course, I am still having trouble deciding just exactly what era I am making it.....possibly older and more rustic than the Tudor period......very Very VERY Medieval! ( I have all those old books of illuminations for inspiration after all.......)

There ARE Castles In The Ether!


  1. What an amazing project to embark upon, and how much fun! I love Medieval castles, with all the secret passages, dungeons etc. And you have thought of every detail.
    I love what you 've done so far, the stone walls look very realistic.

  2. Oh my goodness! My dear, I'm speechless. It's SO beautiful! My heavens, you've done so much work! Your faux stone walls look amazing -- really well done. I had to chuckle when you mentioned that collecting enough egg cartons would take a really long time :) Yeah! Your vaulted ceiling is a work of genius, and I love that you're putting in a chapel.

    I'm also really moved that my blog was any kind of inspiration for your project. It means a lot to me, actually. Isn't blogging amazing? Now we can inspire each other!

    I must make something for your castle ... hmmm ....


  3. Thank you Ewa! I am striving for the gloomy old stone look! Like your potions room, only maybe not quite so dark! :)

  4. Thank you Marta! It is being a huge amount of fun to re-connect with childhood castle fantasies.....only in 1:12 scale!

  5. Seriously, Nina, I am not stretching things even a little bit when I say your blog inspired me to get building my own castle! Of course, it is inevitable that our castles will end up very different from each other. But since you are so far ahead of me, I get to benefit from so much of your research and suggestions and tutorials. I actually started building it in February....but wasn't a blogger myself until there is a lot of building I have done that I am trying to "catch up on" with my posts. And I can get stuck in the deciding phase which slows things down a bit. The castle might still not de be "done" years from now! And meanwhile I will continue to eagerly await YOUR posts!

  6. I think palaces and castles are like in almost every dollhouse lovers' list. I started my blog in Dec 2008 not knowing anything about miniatures or even working with my hands and crafting? lol. Never crafted in my life before that. And I started with thinking I want to build a Maharajah's palace :). And 1 1/2 years later, it is still not built..haha! I have a feeling I will finally build it only after I put in 10k hours on miniatures.

    You know till recently, I never thought of building it from scratch? I am always in awe of people like you and Nina who is building your dream houses floor by floor.

    I like illumination too but maybe not as much as you. 40 books?? and drawing like that at 15-16? Have you read "My Name Is Red" by Orhan Pamuk? It is about a group of Persian miniaturists (illumination not dollhouses :)) I highly recommend this book.

    Dearie, I wish I can see the details better for some of your photographs but they are a tat too dark?

  7. Hi Sans! Thank you for noticing that eerie dark photo effect...! lol :) I took those photos late at night in winter long before I thought I might share them on a blog....The flash attachment is not automatic on my camera in the close-up mode and I just haven't taken the time to figure a way around it......I PROMISE only clearly lit photos in the future! Actually I take tons of photos and you will see more shots of the castle soon!
    As for starting your own dollhouse from scratch reading YOUR blog is what made ME think everybody else in the world was building their dream dollhouse palace/castle except me! You have such energy and you jump right in! I have NO DOUBT you will be building your maharajah's palace from "scratch" sooner than you think! Doing it in sections - which was Nina's genius idea, not mine, makes it manageable. I know you can do it because I see what you have done with the tiny "box" of the no-longer-Victorian dollhouse you are working on!
    Here's what you need: Plywood (lots - but you don't have to buy all at once), drill, glue, screws, straight-edge ruler, coping saw or hand held jig saw......someone to cut the BIG cuts down to your dimensions....(I have mastered this because I have been building things all my life!)
    I know you can do it!:)
    As for the Persian miniatures....I have not read that book, and will go look for it. I have only about ten books on the Persian miniatures.....but only because they are harder to find over here(and I am poorer:(...!)I ADORE Persian miniatures! The COLORS! The Creatures! The landscapes......*sigh*....I even painted my whole bedroom in my former house inspired from Persian miniatures.....but I had to leave that behind.
    I leave you now so I can search my photo cache for the not-so eerily dark ones! :)