There are no Useless Details

Lesson Learned:

There are no useless details.

When I started building the dollhouse, I knew I wanted to incorporate as many details as possible. When I’m working on a painting, or print or web material, I frequently find that I have to dial it back a bit when it comes to adding stuff to the design. With dollhouses, I have found the opposite to be true.

I think it’s because looking at a dollhouse is like looking at a fractal, you should be able to look more closely and find something interesting at each level. I’m sure that it’s possible to over-do it with details when it comes to a dollhouse, but I haven’t found that limit, (probably because I haven’t had enough time yet.)

As an example, here’s a shot of the front door.

Front door closeup
I’m very proud of this door, and I’m not the kind of person who is often proud of things I create.

There are a few things to note here:

  1. Mitered corners
  2. Bevelled edges on framing
  3. Channels carved into framing
  4. Wood grain carved into door panels (ok, that might have been unnecessary.)
  5. Doorknob
  6. Keyplate
  7. Key hole
  8. That thing on top of the door (whatever you call it.)
  9. Those things underneath that look like they are holding up the thing on the top of the door.

I’m really proud of the front door on this house, and I’m sure it’s because of the details that went into building it. Sure, I would do some things differently the next time (the pointed parts on the middle frames look weird, and I would have liked to put some dividers in the window), but overall I’m really happy with it.

In case you are curious about how I built the door, here’s a little graphic.

step by step example of door construction
How I built my door

After I cut all the pieces, I glued all the bits together with carpenter’s glue. (If it isn’t metal, I used carpenter’s glue.) For the hinge, I stuck two flat-headed pins through the top and bottom of the door jamb, into the door. I didn’t think that would end up being sturdy enough, but it turns out to work really well. (And there’s no extra-credit for doing things the hard way).

The doorknob itself is a dressmaker’s pin. I let it stick out a bit on the back and cut the rest of the pin off. Then I super glued the head of another pin to that side.

I wanted to add glass to the window, but I decided I would add that detail if I had time. It turns out, I didn’t have time because of the number of windows on this house, so the windows are all just open holes. (I’ve heard you can use that transparent clam shell packaging that everything seems to come in these days for windows. I guess you just cut windows from the flat parts and super glue them to the wood. I think I’ll try that on the next one.)

At the bottom of the door, I added a thin piece of wood to the front, i’ll call it a kick plate. That little sliver of wood keeps the door from opening outward, and adds a nice chunky sound when the door is shut.

Above the door jamb, I cut and glued a triangle thing (pediment?) And here’s where I think the details really shine. Once the (yeah, let’s call it a pediment) was done, I cut out little squares and glued them into place under the pediment. That little detail only took me a few minutes, but it really adds some realism to the whole structure. After that, the pediment felt too heavy – as if in real life it would fall off without more support, so I added the details under the pediment, on the left and right. These made it feel balanced, and at that point I decided to just move on.

With my door fully assembled, I cut the front of the house to accommodate the door. Then, a few beads of glue on the door frame, and I slid it into place from the bottom, up. Once the glue dried, I had a fully functional, and pretty attractive front door.

I’m really proud of how it turned out. And, I think it’s a great example of the fact that (in general) if you think of a detail you can add, go ahead and add it.

What others have to say:

Here are a few other places where you can read about paying attention to the details, or find inspiration for your own DIY details:

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