Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Cupboard House

Brownstone Beginnings

It has always seemed to me as though the Cupboard was ideally suited to become an Urban Rowhouse. The facade would be filled with windows and the elegant entryway. The rooms would have no windows on the sides or the back. The house would open at the front, unlike most modern American dollhouses which are open on the back. The Cupboard, after all, is already built with solid sides and back and lovely doors that open on the front! And while Rowhouses are a very common feature of European Cities where housing was crowded and real estate was in high demand, here in the Young years of the American Nation, the towns and small cities for the most part still had plenty of room for single freestanding houses. But there were a few cities where the housing growth was exceeding the available space and Row Houses were springing up at a great rate. Boston and New York were two such cities and both can now boast large neighborhoods of grand old Rowhouses built in the Victorian years. These houses are known as "Brownstones" because they were built with the distinctive local sandstone which is a Lovely red-brown chocolate-y color. So you can hardly be surprised that when I think of a Row House I think of a Brownstone!
But before we can get to the Brownstone, we need to start the conversion of the old Cupboard!
Here you can see it with the windows laid out for spacing. The cupboard was originally part of a kitchen built in the early part of the Twentieth century... so the construction was solid and sturdy.

Once I had measured and drawn all the window openings, I began the LONG Awaited process of cutting all those openings in the doors.
The panels are a Solid one inch thick!

It took HOURS to cut all the openings!

But at last they were all cut and I test fitted the windows and door into the openings..........
It really is going to look quite elegant I think!

Of course, the next step is to TRY to duplicate the color of "Brownstone"!
I have started by painting it a darker and redder shade..... some of the local Sandstone is actually this color...... but I think it is too red to be a Brownstone!

Next I have overpainted the red with a Stippled drybrush technique using a lighter and more cocoa-colored paint. You can see the contrast where the first color has not been covered....

The lighting was not good with these pictures, so it is difficult to tell the color...... but I think it is SOMEWHAT like Brownstone..... and for now I am going to leave it as is. I am probably going to add some architectural details to the front of the cupboard... so I will make adjustments after that.

The interior of the cupboard has not yet been painted... it still has the original mint-green paint!

Here I am testing the look of the windows and door with the Brownstone........

I think it is VERY handsome!
The ONLY problem being that with the Brownstones that were built in the Victorian era.... the window and door surrounds were carved from the Brownstone.... NOT from wood!!! I can't make myself (at least not YET) Paint ALL the Windows to simulate Brownstone! So for now, I am pretending there were some houses that used wooden window surrounds!

And I'm moving on to the interior of the building... because there is SO MUCH to do!
I have a lovely curved staircase.... made from a Houseworks kit...... I am planning on making the wall on one side curve to match it rather than have two sides with railings........ It is SO Elegant... and very like one in that Old Vermont Houses book I have mentioned before.....

I have cut the interior wall sections and painted the interior of the Cupboard a pure white..... not because it will stay white, but so that the colors I use will look right! This Victorian House will probably have NO white except for the linens on the beds!

I have started to paint the kitchen in ocher color. I am afraid that this cupboard is not very big so the rooms are going to be quite small! But I didn't want to leave out the stairways.... or the kitchen.... or the Dining Room..... so they are going to be small but Elegant!

Here you can see the beginnings of the layout of the second floor where the Parlor and the Library will be....... I have those lovely double doors from the Houseworks kits...... and I have been staining and staining and staining ALL DAY LONG........!

Another view of the rooms as they are so far..... nothing is attached yet..... this is all just to get the layout figured out.......

But I have a charming little old iron stove for the Kitchen....... these were the NEWEST technology at the time! I think it looks beautiful.... I will build a brick hearth behind it.......

And another view...... with the ocher walls and dark wood trim it will be SOOO Victorian!

And the entryway will have dark wainscoting perhaps? And Certainly some rich and elegant wallpaper.... or maybe a mural? The door at the back is an illusion... hinting at more rooms but there are none.......

And seen from the doorway........

And with a few of the windows temporarily placed......
to give you a sense of what it will look like...
the beginnings of a Victorian Brownstone Rowhouse......

The Cupboard House!


  1. First of all, look here if you are interested to find the sister Mrs.Charlotte:

    Your work on this cupboard is beautiful: clean and elegant.
    You are in line with a long tradition and the result is very fine.
    I love the color of the frames.
    I can not wait to see the progress :-)
    Mini hugs, my friend,

  2. is a great work!! I love stairs!

  3. I love what you did so far to this cupboard and am very happy that I just signed in as a new follower to your blog. Best regards from Israel, Drora

  4. Shall I be able to write a comment now? seemingly the blogger curse stroke on me today.
    I love your house ; it keeps up a long tradition of cupboard houses and I think it's brilliant and going to be splendid. You are right about the stairways, they must be there, they add a lovely touch.
    keep us informed, Rosanna

  5. I love following a project from the very start and can't wait to see more progress on this. You've certainly done a lot so far and I like what I see very much!

    Tall thin houses exist in Scotland called Tenements. The stairs inside the building lead to individual 4/5 roomed flats and 6 - 8 families would reside there depending on the height of the building. Me? I'm a Tenement kid :-)

  6. What a wonderful way to use an old cupboard! This looks to be a very interesting project and I am eagar to see how it evolves.

  7. What a wonderful project! Watching your progress will be great fun, thank you for sharing. Your choices are very elegant.

  8. Oh Wow Betsy! This is going to be Grand. I love the curved stair case.


  9. Brilliant idea Betsy! I LOVE how this is looking so far and will eagerly await your progress!

  10. He he,I only read now Charlotte story and I loved it to bits.
    I agree with Flora about Clarence but I suppose that although he doesn't look very smart ,he must have the sweetest temperament with his wife and kids and that's something which not all women might ask for those far gone days. And even nowadays.
    It's nice to have a story fitted for the house, or viceversa, it makes the building come alive and helps adding details.
    I'll eagerly wait for the next story.
    Have a nice day, Rosanna

  11. What a great idea ;-) and it will be a beautiful house.Like to watch the next steps! Jeannette

  12. Oh Betsy! This is so cool! Love this house already - which made me thinking if there is at least one of your dollhouses I don't love? Nah, none! ;D The curved stairs are so elegant and so is and will be the front of this house. Can't wait for more!!

  13. Danke für das Zeigen der Entstehung deines tollen Hauses. Das die Fenster nicht aus Holz sind, sieht man auf dem Foto nicht. Toll gemacht. Bin gespannt wie es weitergeht. Liebe Grüße Craftland

  14. How wonderful your cupboard house looks! Good on you persevering cutting the inch thick (!!!) wood. I love your staircase, it is so elegant and a curved wall would really set it off well.

  15. La idea de este precioso proyecto con el armario es genial. No me perderé los avances que hagas en él. Un saludo, Eva

  16. A spiral staircase! My favorite real life house in Rockport MA has one, and I used to sit on it just because I loved the idea of it. To see one in your brownstone is dreamy. It's all looking marvelous so far-I'm still amazed by your house building from scratch.

    I had a family friend who owned a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York-it was quite a home-very tall and very solid. Hie artist's studio was at the very top, the only floor with lower ceilings, but it had an attic feel, the brains of the house. They had one room painted black, and one room for the owner's paintings, floor to ceiling. I love how your post took me back there.

  17. Have I been gone so long? A new house????!!!! Your 4th or is it 5th? Betsy darling, are you suuuuuuuuure??? teehee :)

    I remember telling you I love the big old house but after seeing this cupboard house, I think this may very well be my favourte Betsy house. Fabuulous job already, my dear!

  18. Thank you, Carmen! I would love to think I started the idea... but I am copying the antique Cupboard Houses.... and I'm looking forward to having a house that can be closed with doors! I've always wanted that!

  19. Hi Flora! Thank you for the link with Charlotte's Sister... I went and looked and they are very alike! I am trying VERY hard not to buy any more dolls for a while.... they just end up needing Houses.... and I already am running out of room! LOL! This new (Old) House is taking all my attention at the moment... I find that I want to make progress quickly... I must watch out to not be too rushed and cut corners on the details... But I am enjoying it!

  20. Thank you Paky! I think the stairs are VERY Beautiful myself.... and I can't wait to get started on painting the walls....!

  21. Thank you Drora! and Welcome to my blog! I am behind on my visiting blogs... but I will come visit you soon! I am glad you like my Cupboard House.... I am enjoying it very much!

  22. Hi Rosanna! I am glad you agree with me about the stairs! My logical mind just doesn't like to leave them out.... and in this case they are so Beautiful! I have always wanted a dollhouse that you could close... like a cupboard... so I am enjoying this one very much!

  23. Hi Irene! For some reason I am wanting to make quick progress on this dollhouse... perhaps because I have been dreaming for so long....!
    We have tenements over here too.. but they are usually not Row houses... and more often built of wood... but being Victorian they often had some of the nice details like fancy woodwork and elegant stairways. I love architecture!

  24. Hi Tabitha! I have waited YEARS to put the windows into the front of this old Cupboard! It is Amazingly satisfying to finally start!

  25. Thank you Patty! I wish I could claim the Idea! I think it is going to be VERY satisfying!

  26. Hi Again, Rosanna! I agree with you about Clarence... but sometimes we just Can't be too picky... and he IS very kind! I think they manage quite well! I like having the Story be a part of it... it helps me decide what is needed!

  27. Hi Jeanette! I'm glad you like it! Thanks for commenting!

  28. Hi Ewa! Thank you!I am so glad you like all my (incomplete) houses! I will have to make myself finish one at least....! I am enjoying this one and find myself wanting to make quick progress.... so you will be seeing more soon!

  29. Thank you, Craftland! Welcome to my blog!

  30. Thank you, Christine! I was a bit apprehensive about cutting into those thick doors... but it went very well! I am enjoying Finally making this Cupboard into a House!

  31. Thank you, Eva! Welcome to my blog! I am glad you like it!

  32. Hi Amy! I am Happy to take you back to pleasant memories! That Artist's Loft sounds fascinating..... (I think I have Studio in Miniature SOMEWHERE in my future...)
    You know, I don't ever remember actually being on a spiral stairway.... corner turns yes, but not a sweeping curve.... I am looking forward to painting the walls..... and meanwhile I am trying to get SOME of the details of real Brownstones onto this cupboard!

  33. Thank you Sans! (I have missed you..... you WERE gone a while!)
    I think you will like this house because of the Time period it is set in... only a little more Modern then the Maharaja's era... so many of the designs will have that similar old fashioned feel.... But anyway, I am glad you will like it!