The Tudor Cottage

Materials, tools & supplies
  • #9308 The Buttercup Cottage Dollhouse      by Corona
  • #9205 3/8"W Strip Wood
  • #9146 1/4" Strip Wood
  • 5 - 1/2" wood strips
  • 2' x 2' 3/8" plywood sheet
  • 1/8" x 3" Balsa Wood Sheet
  • #7045 Corner Moulding
  • #0018 Fieldstone Sheets
  • #0016 Rough Brick Sheet
  • #7319 Flagtone Tile Sheet
  • #0039 Black Asphalt Shingle Sheets
  • #7122 Red Oak Random Flooring
  • #59020 Dollhouse Stucco
  • #2076 Mortar Mix
  • TEC Premixed Patch 'n Repair Adhesive
  • Grout for Ceramic Tile
  • CelluClay
  • #1250 Weldbond
  • #16001 Lt. Duty Craft Knife
  • #41001 Miter-Rite
  • Liquid Nails
  • Jig-saw
  • Iso Tip Minidrill
  • Dremel Wire Brush
  • 1-1/2" Putty Knife
  • Fine Cellulose Sponge
  • Natural Sea Sponge
  • Craft Paint Brush
  • Disposable Foam Brush
  • Sand Paper or Emery Board
  • Scissors
  • 2 - small pins
  • Wire Cutter
  • Wooden Modeling Tool or Orange Stick
  • #2217 Electrical Wire
  • #2202 Single Receptacle
  • #8065 9" Turntable
  • #1720 Wood Chips/Mulch
  • #1110 Door Pull
  • #964 Evergreen Bush
  • Birch Tree
  • Natural Bush Roots & Twigs
  • Red Rose Vine
  • Green Mix
  • Autumn Grass

  • Additional supplies
  • 1/2 Pint Minwax Stain
  • Oil based Stain
  • Craft Paint
           Raw Umber
           Coffee Bean
           Country Tan
           Dark Grey"
           Satin Black
  • Kilz Oil-based Sealer
  • Model Masters' "Panzer Grey" Spray Paint
  • Krylon's "Make It Suede" Spray Paint
  • 60# Card Stock
  • Plain Paper
  • Inkjet Transparency Film
  • Rigid Foam Insulation Sheet
  • Black Fine-Tipped Pen
  • Bowl of Water
  • Clothes Pins
  • Computer with Color Ink Jet Printer
  • Glue Gun
  • Masking Tape
  • Paper Towels
  • Soft Pencil
  • Toothpicks

  • Click here for a downloadable instructions.

    Kit "Bashing"
    To transform any dollhouse kit into a Tudor-style house, it needs to have the appearance of being a post and beam, wattle and daub structure. The framework of small Tudor houses was built with thick oak posts and braced with oak beams. Between the posts and beams, they used "wattles" which were loose screens woven from thin, split lengths of oak between upright staves. Then, they would plaster both sides of the wattles with "daub." Daub is basically mud -- a mixture of clay, straw and animal dung. They also added copious amounts of lime as a disinfectant. Throughout the British Isles, daubed houses have different colors depending on the color of the local soil and the amount of lime that was added.

    I "bashed" the Buttercup kit; meaning I altered it to serve my purpose. As it is, the Buttercup makes a lovely little shop because of all of its windows. Tudor houses, without central heating, didn't have very many windows and I wanted at least one solid wall where I could put a Welsh Cupboard. I also wanted one wall to be dominated by a large fireplace. So on the left side of the house, where it would be built into the rocky outcrop, I didn't punch out the front window. On the left side wall, I used a jig-saw to cut out an opening for the fireplace. On the front entry wall, I didn't punch out the windows on either side of the door. Above the door, I cut out the brace so that instead of a door and a window above, I had a taller, arched doorway. I also cut out the brace on the window opening on the right side wall.

    Posts & Beams
    I began work on the focal walls of the house -- the front entry wall and the window seat wall -- before assembling the whole structure. Because of the smaller size of the Buttercup, I simulated the posts and beams out of 1/8" x 3/8" strip wood instead of using 1/2" which would be more historically accurate. I used 3/8" corner moulding to wrap around the corners and look like posts. I used many of the trim pieces provided with the kit. But, using a craft knife, I sliced V-grooves where I wanted joins in the wood so they look like they are built out of separate pieces of wood instead of being one die-cut piece. This is a good technique to use on any die-cut house and adds depth and realism to the pieces.

    Basswood strip wood is very smooth which is normally a good thing but I wanted the posts and beams to look rough-hewn. To "rough up" the strip wood, I used a Dremel stainless steel wire brush attachment in a variable speed minidrill. I set the drill on a medium speed and simply moved the wire brush back and forth along the length of the strip of wood and then wiped off the saw dust. The luan plywood trim pieces from the kit are rough enough and don't need any distressing.

    I used "Colonial Maple" stain. Because the wood strips were roughed up, the stain was absorbed in different strengths and created a very realistic effect. I applied the stain with a disposable foam brush and immediately wiped off the excess with a paper towel.

    To cut the wood strips, I used a Dobson Miter-Rite and made some of the angle cuts with a craft knife. One of the many enjoyable aspects of this project is that everything doesn't have to be perfect. (Tudor houses weren't built by professionals.) Instead of cutting precise joins for my posts and beams, I did many of the angles free-hand. I glued them down with Weldbond. Trimming and altering die-cut pieces is easy to do with a craft knife -- just remember to replace your blade often so it is always sharp.

    Making the Door
    To make the door, I glued, side by side, five 1/2" wood strips with one 1/4" strip, all 1/8" thick and 7" long (available at craft and hobby stores). I then laid the front entry wall on top of them and used the door opening as a template to cut a round top onto the plank door. I roughed up the wood, front and back, with the wire wheel. Then glued three 1/2" cross beams across the back of the door and roughed them up. After the stain dried, I simulated the iron nails in the front of the door with a fine tipped black Uni-ball pen. I cut the "leather strap" hinges out of cardboard, painted them satin black, and glued them onto the front of the door and over the edge of the side of the door. After positioning the door inside of the wall, I glued the "straps" to the inside of the wall. They are covered by the interior trim.

    For the arched trim around the door, and for the windows where interior trim wasn't provided, I had to cut new pieces. I used one 1/8" thick by 3" wide sheet of balsa wood (available at craft and hobby stores). Balsa wood is extremely easy to cut with a craft knife. After lightly drawing my shapes with a pencil, I cut them out free-hand and then sanded any rough or uneven spots from the edges. The balsa wood, like the luan plywood, doesn't need to be roughed up before staining.

    After completing the faux posts and beams on the exterior focal walls, I assembled the main house walls but did not put in the second floor, attach the window seat, or any of the roof pieces. I then added faux posts and beams not only to the rest of the exterior walls but also on the interior walls. By adding 1/8" thick strip wood to both sides of the luan plywood shell, the walls ended up being almost 1/2" thick. This added to the structural integrity of the house and gives the right thickness. Some real Tudor cottages have walls almost one foot thick!

    For daub, there are a variety of mud-like substances available: You could use Dollhouse Stucco and mix it with less water to make it thick enough. You could use joint compound. To both of these, you need to add white paint to get a lime-washed grey color. The disadvantage to both of these is the drying time. You should leave each wall laying flat overnight or longer until they are completely dry. As they dry, cracks may form and some of these may need to be patched and allowed to dry again.

    I used TEC brand Premixed Patch 'n Repair Adhesive and Grout for Ceramic Tile (from Lowe's). It comes in a white color so I added tan craft paint to muddy it up. It's main advantage is that it sets up in 20-30 minutes. It takes 24 hours to dry completely but after 30 minutes it is solid enough to turn the house over on its left or right side and keep working. The next day, some small cracks appeared but not as many as you get with joint compound. Simply sanding over the cracks filled in most of them. Some I left because they looked so perfectly natural.

    I worked on one small area at a time. To protect the faux posts and beams, I covered them with masking tape. I laid on the grout with a 1-1/2" plastic putty knife and pressed it between the wood strips and trims and roughly smoothed it on. This grout has the consistency of very thick cake icing so as you apply it, it forms peaks and ridges and some air holes. But, after ten minutes, you can flatten out the imperfections by patting them down with your fingertips. This gave the "daub" an uneven surface that looks very authentic. After fifteen minutes, I removed the masking tape and patted down the edges of the grout so that it would be flush with the wood strips and trims. By this process, I moved from area to area, until I had "daubed" the exterior walls on the right side of the house and the first floor interior walls. Keep plenty of damp paper towels handy to clean your fingers and the putty knife.

    Fieldstone Walls
    For the fieldstone walls of the cottage, I used simulated Fieldstone plastic sheeting. With plastic sheets, it's easier to work on a flat surface when you're going for effects. When you cut them out to glue them on, you may have to do some touching up but that's a lot easier than trying to do these techniques on an upright surface.
    I squeezed a bottle of Folk Arts' "Dark Grey" paint over the surface of the sheet and smeared the paint around with a foam brush, pressing it into all the mortar lines. With a dry paper towel, I wiped the surface only, exposing the tan plastic but leaving a thick layer of dark grey in the mortar lines and in the creases of the stones. Then, I randomly applied dabs of Folk Arts' "Raw Umber", "Coffee Bean", and "Country Tan" paints to the surface of the stones only. I then blotted with the same paper towel I used to wipe off the excess dark grey -- which laid down a texture of dark grey mixed with the other colors. This creates a very natural look and it's so much fun and easy to do! I applied the Fieldstone sheeting with Liquid Nails. The raised area on the sheets are 6-1/2" high. The wall surface of the Buttercup is 7-3/4" high. To make up the difference, I used scissors to cut out individual stones, glued them on and then filled in the gaps and covered the cut edges with dark grey paint.

    Brick Infill
    For the brick infill, I used the "Rough Brick" plastic sheet which is a tan color. I spray painted it with Krylon's "Make It Suede" in a "Brushed Sienna" color and it's wonderful stuff for brick. Usually on plastic brick sheets, I do a lot of sponging on different colors to create texture. But, this stuff puts the texture on in one light coat. Some of the tan shows through and gives the right pinkish tones in some places. After letting the paint dry for a couple of hours, I smeared Mortar Mix over the sheet and then wiped away with a damp paper towel leaving the mortar only in the cracks between the bricks. The look is quite old and weathered.
    Most of the places where I used the brick sheet were small and irregularly shaped. To make a template, I laid a piece of paper over the gap between the posts and beams where the bricks would go and used my fingernail to press the paper into the space. This embosses the paper and gives you a perfect tracing of the area. Lay the paper template over the brick sheet and cut it out with scissors. This cuts the pieces so much more accurately than measuring that when I put them in to see if they fit I couldn't get them out! Who needs glue?!

    "Stained Glass"
    I created the "stained glass" and diamond pane windows for the cottage on my computer and printed them on inkjet transparency film (available from office supply and computer stores). You don't need fancy graphics software to re-create the designs I used. You can use the Paint program that comes with Windows. To find Paint, click on "Start", highlight "Programs" and then "Accessories." Paint will be toward the bottom of the list; click on it and it will open. From the toolbar on the left, select the "A" tool. Click in the painting area and a skinny window will open that says, "Fonts." From the drop down menu, select "Wingdings." In the field beside it type, "150." Click back into the paint area and you'll see the dashed outline of a box. Grab one of the corner points of this box and drag it upwards and outwards until the box is big enough for you to see a blinking black bar inside the left edge of it. Hold down the Shift key and type a "{" symbol and to your amazement you will see the black outline of the Tudor Rose I used for the round windows. To make a smaller one, type a number less than 150 into the font size field. To make a larger one, increase the font size. Print it out and experiment until you get the right dimensions.

    To color the Tudor Rose, select the tool that looks like a spilling paint can. Pick one of the red squares at the bottom of the program window. Move the paint can over the petals of the flower and click; it will fill with red. Pick one of the yellow squares, click over the center of the flower and it will fill with yellow. Pick a blue square and click on the background and it will turn blue.

    If you would like to do a different design, you can see all the other possibilities by using the Character Map that comes with Windows. You will find it under Programs/Accessories/System Tools. Select "Wingdings" and it will show you all of the lovely little flowers, stars and widgets that are available in that font. Click and hold on one of them and it will enlarge enough for you to see if you like it. Down in the bottom right of the window it will tell you which keystroke will produce it.

    If you don't have a computer, you can draw your windows with markers and take your drawings to a copy center where they can make color copies on transparency film for you. They can also enlarge or reduce your drawings to fit the window sizes you need. If you feel that you can't draw well enough, Dover publications has a book entitled, "Stained Glass Windows for Dollhouses." It is copyright free so you'll have no problems getting the copy center to make transparencies from the designs in the book.

    To make the windows for the cottage, I stained 1/4" wide by 1/16" thick strip wood, cut it to fit, and glued it to both sides of the diamond pane window transparency. Then, I cut the transparency even with the wood frame. The windows open outward because that's the way Tudor-style windows were. I used small straight pins with their heads cut off at the top and bottom of the windows to install them. But I could have, and may still, make cardboard hinges like I did for the door.

    On each of the window sills, inside and out, I needed the look of slate tiles; flat on the inside and slightly sloping downward on the outside. I painted some 60 wt. smooth card stock with Dark Grey and then sponged on some Satin Black. After it dried, I laid it along the edge of the table with 1/16" hanging over and bent it downward with my thumbnail. To get the slope on the outside, I glued a piece 1/16" square strip wood up against the window. Then glued the "slate" with the bent edge down, flush with the window on top of the strip. On the inside, I glued the "slate" flat on the sill.

    Flagstone Floor
    For the first floor, I started out with our new Flagstone Tile plastic sheet. I sprayed the whole sheet with Model Masters' "Panzer Grey" (available at railroad and hobby stores) and let that dry overnight. I made a template of the first floor by taping together various strips and squares of cardboard around the perimeter of the room. Using that template, I cut out the shape of the room from the tile sheet. I made sure that it fit in the house and then removed it. Next, I made a thin mix of Dollhouse Stucco and spread it over the tiles, pressing it into the grooves around the "flagstones." Wait about 30 minutes and then, very gently wipe the excess stucco off of the plastic sheet with dripping wet paper towels. Use many towels. 

The difficulty here is to remove the excess stucco without scratching the painted surface too much. Don't try to remove it all in one pass. Let it dry again and then wipe again. Repeat -- and this may take as many as ten times -- to get the stucco residue off of the faces of the "flagstones." Finally, you will have some scratches that need to be touched up. The extra paint will create a new texture on top of the smooth spray painting so I used a lighter grey and did a lot of touching up on the individual stones until I was satisfied with the look. 

    2nd Floor Loft
    I decided to make the second floor into a loft to solve the how-do-they-get-to-the second-floor dilemma. I cut the second floor back, almost even with the entry hall, so that it is open at the fireplace end. I also removed the tabs from the sides of the second floor. Since the floor is supported on four sides by beams, I didn't need the tabs to hold the floor in place. I used Red Oak Random Flooring to cover both the ceiling and the floor of the second floor. Then, I put in faux 3/8" square beams (stripwood available from railroad and hobby stores) on the ceiling before I installed it. After gluing it in, I added a post and some braces to support the loft.
    At this point, I haven't chosen any light fixtures. So for the first floor, I ran round wiring through the faux beams in the ceiling and left a wire dangling -- waiting for the future fixture. I placed an outlet on the second floor -- again, for future development. With a wattle and daub, post and beam construction, tape wiring is out of the question -- only round wire will work. The wire on the first floor's ceiling is embedded in one of the beams. On the second floor, the wire running along the floor to the back of the house got plastered over. I ran both wires down the edge of the (from the back) left hand wall edge and surrounded them with faux posts.

    After installing the second floor, I added faux posts and beams to the second floor interior and "daubed" them. Most Tudor cottages do not have baseboard moulding, so I laid my ceramic grout down on top of the floor. I protected the floor with masking tape laid even with the faces of the posts. The outlet on the second floor is barely noticeable embedded in the plaster. I placed the outlet to the back so it will be hidden by bedding in the future.

    To finish the interior roofs and simulate planking, I used the same Red Oak Random Flooring I used on the floor. This is a wonderful way to finish an attic space in any style house. Using Corner Moulding (#7045) around the gable opening and 3/8" square strip wood, I put in faux beams upstairs to complete the total post and beam look.

    So far, my cottage was done in warm red wood tones and brownish daub and I felt that the sudden blackness of a slate tile roof would spoil the delicacy of the color scheme. When the old thatch rotted, the average medieval homeowner had two choices for a more permanent replacement: slate and clay tiles. Slate was more expensive, so poor cottage dwellers choose clay tiles. I used the Black Asphalt Shingle plastic sheet and spray painted it with the "Make It Suede" terra cotta color. I glued it down with Liquid Nails.

    For the roof peaks, I cut out dozens of individual roof "shingles", bent them in half and held them bent over with clothes pins. I tried every glue I have to hold them down and finally used a hot glue gun. I have them overlapping so the roof line looks sort of jaggery like a dragon's back.

    Landscape Base
    To create the landscape in which the cottage is embedded, I used Rigid Foam Insulation which is available at your local home improvement center. Some states have 2" foam, others may only have 1/2". Some of it is blue and some pink. It comes in 4' x 8' sheets and costs between $7 and $15 depending on the thickness. I got 1/2" thick pink stuff for $7 and the guys at Home Depot cheerfully sliced it into 2' x 2' squares (at no charge) so I could get it in my car. 

Foam insulation is like the finest Styrofoam you can imagine. The consistency is so dense and yet so light that a craft knife slices through it like butter and sand paper smooths the edges in a heart beat. I started by situating my cottage on top of a 2' x 2' sheet. I then did some landscape planning by drawing lines on the foam with a pencil. Don't bare down too hard or you'll cut it! I put another piece of insulation under the first and just started slicing away until I had the kind of organic shape I wanted on the first two layers. 

I eventually put the whole assembly onto a 9" turntable and doubted whether the foam insulation would support all the weight of the project. So using the bottom layer as a template, I cut 3/8" plywood with a jig-saw. I painted it with Kilz top, bottom and edges. Using Liquid Nails, I glued the bottom layer of foam insulation to the plywood.
    I glued the second layer of insulation onto the first one and held it in place with toothpicks to keep it from sliding while I continued to add layers of foam. I continued to carve and stack pieces of foam around the left side of the house until I was satisfied with the base structure of what would be my rocky outcrop. There are no mistakes with this medium; cut too close, no problem; just glue on some more with Liquid Nails and cut again. The whole assembly will be covered so the bare bones don't matter. The important thing to realize is that I didn't have a plan. I didn't make templates of each layer. I just did it on-the-fly. At one point, I got a book off my shelf -- a guide to the United Kingdom -- and just looked at the pictures of rocky outcrops that were scattered through the book. I found, as I drove around Atlanta, that I kept looking for bare rocks to study how they laid. I knew I could put slopes in later. What I wanted was the basic shapes and irregularities that occur in Nature. 

    Landscape Rock
    To create the rocky surface, I used CelluClay (available at craft and hobby stores). CelluClay is superfine powdered paper with dry glue. Mix it with water and it becomes like modeling clay. I kept a bowl of water handy for dipping my fingers and lots of paper towels. Basically, I smeared the CelluClay onto the foam insulation layers with my fingertips. Then, after wetting my fingers, spread the clay more evenly. I used a wooden clay shaping tool, dipped in water, to refine and shape what I had laid down until the only pink insulation showing would become dirt and grass. I think an ordinary orange stick would also do the job.

    When the CelluClay dries it looks very much like granite. As it dries, it shrinks and some cracks may form. Simply fill them in with more CelluClay. To define the rock shapes, I applied a thin wash of brown paint to the nooks and crannies and immediately wiped it off with a damp sponge. CelluClay is extremely porous and a little color goes a long way.

    Tree Roots
    As I worked my way around the "property", I came to the corner where I used the Birch Tree. I glued the tree down with Liquid Nails and built the CelluClay up around it and over its base. I found the roots for the tree by pulling up a boxwood sapling in my backyard. I sliced the tops of the roots to fit against the tree, glued them on with Weldbond, and formed more CelluClay around them. When that had dried, I lightly painted the roots to blend with the colors in the tree's trunk.

    For one of the Evergreen Bushes in the front yard, I fashioned a trunk and roots from dried twigs found in the woods near my home. To attach the bush to its trunk, I cut openings in its bottom and glued the twigs to the sponge.

    Also, for the Red Rose Vine that grows up the left side of the cottage, I used larger twigs to support it and pose as its trunk. To attach the bush and vine to the landscape, I stabbed the point of my craft knife into the CelluClay and twisted it around until I had made a large enough hole in which to glue the twigs.

    Dirt, Grass & Weeds
    Wherever I wanted dirt, I used Wood Chips/Mulch; for grass, Autumn Grass; and for weeds, Green Mix. These materials are made of sponge. The mulch and grass are very finely chopped while the Green Mix is a variety of textures and sizes. Spread the glue with a craft brush very smoothly and evenly over the area you wish to cover. Then, pour out the sponge bits over the area in a thick layer and pat it down with your fingertips. Wait about an hour for the glue to dry and then carefully brush away the excess with a dry craft brush.

    For random vegetation, I dipped bits of Green mix in a puddle of glue and then pressed them down where I wanted them to be.

    Autumn Grass, as well as Spring Grass (#1706), are great for transforming items like the Hedge which is merely a dark green colored strip of foam. I spread glue over a piece of wax paper and then rolled the foam strip in it until it was covered. Then, I sprinkled the Autumn Grass over it and pressed it into the foam with my fingertips. I promptly stood the hedge into position in my landscape because once the glue dries it loses flexibility. This same technique can be used with Evergreen Bushes to change their color. At railroad hobby shops, this kind of foam is available in floral colors as well.

    Final Thoughts
    My Tudor Cottage is still a work in progress. I plan on electrifying the fireplace and then finishing the rocky outcrop on that side. After that comes the fun of furnishing and adding accessories -- some of which I've already added to the fireplace below. The final point I want to emphasize is how much fun this project is and it's easy!