Dolls Houses & Miniatures - Features
Featherstone Hall Hotel Part 19 - The Hallways
Julie Jackson of Dee-Daw Designs
To get downstairs to the staff quarters we need to take a look at the staff access ways. Hallways can very often be ignored as just somewhere to put a hall table or grandfather clock and little else. However with a little thought they can become miniature rooms, with stories of their own to tell.
The hallway at the very top of the house between the lowest priced rooms in the hotel - the Thistlemere Room and Margot’s room - is half public, half private. It should really have had another door to access the passage behind Margot’s room, which would open to the luggage store at the end. There should also be another door, completely hidden from view, which would lead to staff and visiting servant’s quarters. However, this was one of those things that got forgotten about and will be added at a later date!
It’s worth noting that this is one of the few rooms which has had no tinkering with its size. However, as we have seen previously with the landing between the Lemon room and Toile room on the floor below, hallways need not restrict your creative use of the space available. As befits the stature of the rooms it serves, the walls are decorated simply in plain white, with white doors and skirting, and the floor is completed with plain, pine boards. The stairwell is edged with black plastic garden fencing to look like cast iron railings.
The hall is furnished with a collection of bits and bobs (apparently left over from the previous house occupants) and is themed with hunting memorabilia. A stag oil painting hangs at the top of the stairs, a huge, stuffed moose head sits over the stairwell and a demi-lune table with bronze stag in a dome completes the accessories. The furnishing is completed with an old hall chair and grandfather clock. To bring some life into the scene a porter is coming up the stairs with luggage and the waiter, Arthur, is poised outside Margot’s room with a tray of refreshments.
The luggage room
Although the luggage store at the end of the hallway behind Margot’s room is the only room without a human in it, there is still life going on. A simple pendant light shines down on a collection of cats, kittens, mice and rats who are battling over possession of the room! In the foreground two kittens have caught a mouse, while in the background a cat peeps over the top of a case to see a large rat staring back at him. Another cat is hanging off the top shelf trying to get a vantage point from which to pounce on the rodents below.
I decided on non-human occupants in this room for two reasons – one to shock my mother, as she hates me adding rats and mice to my dressed pieces and to have a whole room full of them is beyond the pale! And secondly to show that you don’t need to have people in a room to bring it to life.
Again the room is simply decorated in white, with a plain wooden floor and open door (this suggests there is more to the house than the viewer can see and in theory provides access to the occupants!) There are stacks of empty luggage and shelves to hold hat boxes to complete the scene.
The last hallway in the house is in the basement and is the main access point for staff to reach the guest areas. The basement comes as a separate section from the main house, so you need to create the optical illusion of the two pieces being one. (Unless you actually do join the two pieces together at the construction stage and cut a hole through - I kept my basement separate as I knew I would be taking the house to shows and it would be easier to handle that way).
I have already suggested a staircase in the reception, directly above the basement hallway, by boxing under the stairs and adding a door. The hallway directly below then contains the supposed bottom half of the reception staircase.
The whole of the basement has terracotta tiled floors and after marking out the room partitions I tiled all four rooms in one go. As I had no previous experience in applying tiles I jumped in with both feet, applied a thick coat of PVA glue to the floor and positioned the tiles in rows. Contrary to the order these articles have appeared in, I actually started the basement first and worked up floor by floor and so at this point had not yet tiled the reception floor which starts the series!
I did have the foresight to cut some tiles in half with a hacksaw (I know it’s not the right tool but it works!) and so started each row alternating between a solid tile and a half one to make sure that the tiles didn’t align. Once the tiles were applied I used a spatula and grouted them with PVA, making sure that the tile surface was also covered. This gave a nice glazed quarry tile effect, but it looked too new for a Georgian house in the Edwardian period, so I brushed over the surface with a dark wood stain, which put dirt in the floor cracks. When scrubbed, the tiles aged beautifully. shows the plain PVA glaze next to the aged version.
After the floor had dried I painted the walls white (experienced house builders would have done this before doing the floor!) and added the doors to both the kitchen and butlers pantry. These were half glazed units to which I applied some printed acetate to look like stained glass which had ‘Butlers Pantry’ and ‘Kitchen & Laundry’ on them. I also added an exterior door in the back wall, and half papered the walls with an embossed paper. This was my first experience of applying wallpaper to the walls and I hated it! I followed the wallpaper paste instructions to the letter and was horrified at the huge air bubbles which came up after application. I managed to smooth out the worst of them and the ones which were left I decided to hide by placing a table in front of them! Going back to creating a false stair effect, at this point I painted a small section of stairs stone coloured. I also painted and papered a small strip of MDF (taken from my pre-cut room height, strips for false walls) to go in front of the stair section, complete with coving, dado, skirting and newel post for the invisible stair handrail, it was easier to do it as a section and then install than to put my back out contorting myself to work at the far end of the basement! Before gluing the strip in position I fixed a light fitting to the back wall of the house without its shade, so that it would cast a brighter light and suggest that there was an opening at the top of the stairs. The lighting was completed with two, twin lamp, pendant light fittings to light the length of the hall.
Furnishing the hallway
After finishing the skirting, dado, cornices and architraves I added the furniture. As this is meant to portray a working part of the house the furnishings were kept sparse. A dresser with a selection of rarely used serving dishes, with baskets below for storage. A selection of pretty plates on the wall, a pair of chairs outside the butlers pantry (just like a headmasters office!) and a hall table - not only to cover the bumps in the wallpaper, but also to hold any letters, papers and messages (or in this case tea about to be carried upstairs). A large framed print of King Edward Vll hangs on the stair wall, and there are extra lamps on the dresser and table which can be lit at night for unexpected visitors. As is usual in a hallway I included two mirrors – one at the bottom of the stairs so that you could see if anyone was coming down and one over the table with some useful hooks for hats.
Before adding the final items I fixed in position the least seen person in the house. A maid is descending the false stairs with an empty tray of drinks and all you can usually see of her is her hands and the tray (and that’s only if you look for her!)
In the centre of the hall a porter struggles to distribute the mountain of luggage stacked by the door. It was easy enough to glue a suitcase in each hand; the hard part was bending his arm to hold the hat box! I used bought suitcases and created matching hat boxes by painting small wooden boxes in black and brown gloss paint, with chocolate or black narrow ribbon straps and some jewellery findings for brass locks and catches, all finished with some tiny address labels.
The finishing touch is a cat leaning over the seat of a waiting chair to spy on an unsuspecting mouse below!
This feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you like making miniatures, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Or better still take out a subscription so you never miss an issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, or to email, print or comment on the feature, please use the buttons above to share with your friends.
Enjoying the Featherstone series? Sign in to the new Featherstone Hall Hotel visitor’s book, and leave a comment, visit: http://www.dee-dawdesigns.com/page16.htm If you would like to see the project for yourself, Featherstone Hall Hotel will be on display at the Autumn Miniatura show between the Dee-Daw Designs and Dolls House & Miniature Scene stands.