Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Hall

A Little Progress You have already seen the Great Hall of my Castle Dollhouse in various stages of its building. So it will come as no surprise to you that I long ago abandonned the idea of Completing each room on a level of the Castle before moving up to the next level, or even Over to the next room! Whether it is impatience or lack of clear vision, it seems I can't resist starting to work on the "next" room before I complete the first one! I will blame it on my eagerness to get to the more interesting rooms! And chief among those is the Great Hall of the Castle.

In the earliest times, the Great Hall of a Castle was THE room where everybody lived. In the days before chimneys were invented, the fire was in the center of the hall and the smoke rose up to the roof and escaped through slits in the walls. This was where the cooking was done. This was where you slept if you wanted any warmth. This was the central room in the life of the community. My dictionary tells me the word hall is derived from the Middle English word "heall" and thence the Old English word "helan" meaning to cover, or hide. In its simplest form it means a covered, hiding place. The multi-functionality of the room was the same whether it was in a Castle or a Hovel, the chief difference being one of scale. The more wealthy and powerful you were, the larger the Hall you could build. So it was that Castles were built with what we now think of as ENORMOUS Halls!

It was only with the invention of the chimney, allowing for the placement of the hearth along a wall instead of in the center of the room, that the function of the Hall began to change. The room became less smoky, and fires could be built on many levels of the castle. Gradually, separate private rooms were built for the Lords and Ladies, warmed with separate fireplaces, and kitchens were built on separate levels from the Hall, eventually accentuating the division of the classes.

But these changes did not happen all at once. And I still have not decided exactly "when" my Castle dollhouse is set. But it is certainly AFTER the invention of the chimney! "Modern" fireplaces have been built. The kitchen is in a separate room. And the Lord and Lady will have separate chambers! Below you can see the basic structure of the Great Hall with most of the details added, although most of the painting has not yet been done. There is a grand fireplace along the wall and minstrel gallery accessible from the Lord's Rooms along one end. The ceiling will eventually be vaulted and painted, but for now I have only added the main arched ribs. I got very fiddly with the "stone" around all the doors and windows, cutting carefully pieced bits of that wood my brother gave me all those years ago! I hope they will look like stone when I've painted them! But more on that later!

As I was thinking about the Great Hall and what it originally had meant in terms of lifestyle, I was struck by the very different usage we give the term now! The Hall has become a place we pass through on our way to somewhere else. It is the conduit, not the destination! It is often tiny, cramped or even completely lacking! And even when it IS grand and spacious, it is used to impress, but not as a living space. The original usage lingers only partly in the common naming of Concert Halls or Meeting Halls.

But linger it does. All my houses have Halls, no matter how tiny and cramped! Even the Folly has a space which I have decided must be called a Hall! And for those of you who don't remember seeing the photo of the hallway I painted with murals in my former 1:1 scale home, I have included a photo of it here so you will see how it inspired the decoration of the "Hall" in the Folly!

This is the original.

Here you can see the Folly.

And I will admit I did NOT even think about trying to paint that wall mural for real in the Folly stairway! The house had already been assembled and it was hard enough to get the scraps of wallpaper put in place behind that stairway! You will probably recognize the remnants of the Hunting wallpaper from the Lovely Old Dollhouse!

This is another view showing how adding wall paper to it sets apart the passage to the stairs at the far end of the kitchen.

And a closer view.

Even though the pattern doesn't match up well at all, I think it adds a certain rural charm to this corner of the Folly

And of course, the Front Hall in the Lovely Old Dollhouse must not be ignored! In our local custom, these halls are seldom used except as access to the rooms. Most people in New England use their back doors as the way to enter the house, and the Front door is reserved for strangers and occasional ceremonial use.

We pass through on our way up the stairs.

Not even the Hall clock is needed anymore, as timepieces are added to everything!
For most of the time I have had this dollhouse, I have lamented the lack of a dining room and the presence of a spacious Hall instead! I have pondered how I might be able to convert it to a dining room.... but I have always given up on that idea. The Hall IS the Hall! It is beautiful. It is serene. It is part of what makes this house so Old Fashioned. I have come to LOVE it.

And perhaps a part of the reason I am so attracted to the Great Hall in the Castle is that long ago feeling of community gathering in one place for shelter and nourishment and shared living. As impracticable as we find it in our modern world, the lure of that greater family feeling is still strong. Hence the resurgence of the "great room" in modern decorating. We crave that feeling of connection.

So I have been building my own Great Hall!

Before I painted it, it looked like this. I decided that I would not be happy with just a faux-stone painted wall treatment. I wanted texture as well in the Great Hall. So I gathered my courage and tried the "polyfilla" that Nina (of the Medieval Tudor Dollhouse Project) recommended, that worked so well on the floors of the kitchen and stables. (In my country the closest thing is "Bondo".) It takes courage because it dries very quickly and is a pain to mix up and Stinks while it is curing! I had to do it in small batches and work fast! And I had to get it done before the cold weather came and prevented me from opening all my windows and doors to air out! And while I was in the middle of this project, I got phone calls from at least two of my family members and had to put them off! (Sorry!) At first I was NOT at all satisfied with the results of my frenzied Bondo job! But I have gradually come to think it is good enough. The stones are not supposed to all be the same size and exactly even! The rougher parts give it authenticity! (Or so I tell myself!) and once the paint was applied, it began to look more convincing.

Here you can see the first coats of paint have been applied.

And another view with the previously painted fireplace in position.

I will have to make the fireplace a bit rougher to match the walls!

This gives you a better feeling of the scale of the room, looking up to the Minstrels Gallery.

I like the texture, but I still need to add a couple of layers of paint. The colors are too consistent and need to be varied more. And the grouting needs to be emphasized.

But it is definitely starting to feel like the huge old stone Hall I have been imagining.

But it remains to be seen whether it is the central living space of the Castle......

Or just somewhere you pass through on your way to somewhere else.......

The Hall


  1. It's far too grand to be just a "passing place"! You've managed to create such height that it really looks the part in your photographs. It's also high enough that your minstrel's gallery has ample space above it - not all do! It's very impressive and I'm enjoying your progress with this.

  2. This is awesome. The proportions are woderful and I love the minstrels gallery.

  3. eeek - my daughter was signed in on my laptop!

  4. I have a hall that is really used as only a passing place by us. :) But when a group of my friends come over , we still like to huddle around the coffee table and chat till the wee hours. But for the people in the house, our chat sessions are still done in the kitchen or the dining room, not the hall.

    I remember how when we were kids , the hall was such an important space for the family cos that's where the TV was :). It still is the meeting place at mum's. :)

    I think your stone walls are very convincing. And I love your life size murals. Your foundation as a painter has served you well. The minstrel gallery is an outstanding addition. This hall of yours is very impressive. When I was planning my palace, I wanted ceiling height like this for the grand hall but it meant a very high dollhouse because I wanted my palace to have at least 3 floors. :):). Your castle will be an imposing house but I guess you know that already and it is exactly what you wanted :).

  5. I love it, I think it's wonderful and your talent is just amazing! I'm still in awe when I look at your work on the houses it's so inspiring! I hope you get it the way you want it

    Marisa :)

  6. I love your halls, both the miniature ones and the lifesize one and I love your masonry :-)
    And how fabulous you made a minstrels gallery in your hall!
    My husband is a linguist wannabe and have several books about the subject and of course he had to look up hall :-) According to one of his etymology books there are two homonymous germanic roots *hal- one meaning cover, but gave the "modern" word hall, meaning large room, and another meaning mount (the verb), yielding middle-english heall, rock, stone.

  7. Zach was just talking about how all the troubles of the world might be solved if we - not just the family, but a whole village - all got together to eat! (And sleep, etc.) I guess this is how they lived in the castle, and I don't think it really brought people together in brotherly love. Anyway, your castle is gorgeous, and I love the bondo story. Was I one who had to be put off?
    See you SOON!
    Love, Mom

  8. Wow!! Your Hall is definitely not a passing place - it's a place where the main living goes on!
    I love the proportions - the only real medieval castles I've been in were in scandinavia, and the feeling is of height and space, which you've captured so well here!

  9. I love the photo of the Hall with wooden wals and stone fireplace :) And of course I love the painted Hall. The last photo of the stairs seen through the door is just magical :)

  10. The folly is great - I love the painting. It really does have a magical touch.

  11. Wow, your house looks amazing...great work!!
    -Kim :)

  12. Hi Irene! I got carried away with the design stage of this Castle..... the Symmetry of twelve "foot" ceilings for each floor of the Castle just made it easy to measure and cut the pieces! This IS a big dollhouse! LOL! But I am loving having the grand feeling to work with! I'm learning as I go!

  13. Thanks Elizabeth Daisy... Er... Christine! Took me a minute to figure that one out! I am looking forward to having the Minstrels gallery filled with musicians..... !

  14. Hi Sans! My Castle is HUGE! "Ginormous" as they say around here! But I realized that I would not be happy with a skimpy Castle to play with! I tell myself that it is manageable because it is made in sections that can come apart for moving.... if I ever have to move! The bigger issue is that my house is small! LOL! But you are right.... it is what I planned on. I hope when you make your Palace that you find a way to have Grand proportions too!

  15. Thanks Marisa! I will, no doubt, take a long time trying to get it the way I want it to look! But that is the fun of it! I am glad you like it!

  16. Hi Helene! Thanks for your appreciation of my halls!
    Tell your husband I am grateful for his wisdom! I got rid of some of my books when I "downsized" and one of them was my Origins of Words..... it is amazing how you miss those things when they are gone! My current dictionary is brief on the derivations part of the information... but I like it that if you combine BOTH original meanings... you get a Large Stone Room?? Or a Mountainous Cover?? :)I do love to play with words!

  17. Hi Mom! I think you were one of the ones I had to put off! But I called you back I'm sure! We'll see you soon!

  18. Thanks, Glenda! I have never been to Scandanavia... but the Castles I have been to in Europe impressed me with their size! This doll Castle is really NOT to scale... LOL! But I am trying to get some of that GRAND STONE feeling!

  19. Thanks, Ewa! I love that photo too, of the wooden Hall.... it is so interesting to me that each step of the process has a beauty that I must alter in order to accomplish the end result! That "wooden" look is now gone except in my photographs. Maybe someday I will make a large wooden style castle.... like an Elven Rivendell or something.... your words inspire me!

  20. Thanks, Pan! I love to make things magical! I am really glad you think so! It means I am getting it right!

  21. Thanks, Kim! It is a "Great" work! LOL! I will be working on it for a LONG time! As usual, I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started! I appreciate your comments!