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Greenleaf's Pierce 4: Paper and Paint Before, During, or After Assembly?

 Every dollhouse is different. Each one has its own way of being built. So there are different approaches. The first is to build the house completely and then paint and paper the walls, finish the floors, and turn the house on its roof line to paint the ceilings. A second way is to prepare all the walls before final assembly. Last, a mix of approaches, depending on the type of house.  For example, some people may assemble the house, only decorating the hard to reach spots before assembly then decorating the rest after assembly. It depends on you and the house.

I chose to decorate before assembly. If I build another Pierce, I will choose paint or paper on various walls differently. I abhorred the idea of light shining through the cracks in the wall joints. So during assembly I clamped the walls together so tightly, it created problems later on for the roof assembly.  I think the value of papering two adjacent walls after assembly is that those joint cracks would be covered up. A much better solution to over clamping!

In the photo below, you can see where I have decorated a wall section for all 3 floors. This does take some planning throughout the house before assembly. If you were to decorate after assembly, you can delay those decisions a bit.  Some people say the house speaks to you and tells you what it wants to become while you are assembling it.  Me, I had a vision from the get go, and have followed it all along. To each her own, I guess.

Also in the picture below you can see an open slot on the top left corner of the painted wall. This had to be filled with drywall mud, sanded, and painted after assembly. The tab that filled the slot was on another wall piece. So be mindful of those little details as you assemble the house.

Kitchen, second bedroom, and attic wall all papered.

The next picture shows what is called a dry fit. This is where the pieces are assembled but not glued. They can be held in place with painter's tape or anything you can use to brace up the walls. It is good to dry fit for many reasons. One, you want to check that paper designs or Wainscot are lining up properly. Two, you can make sure you see where walls are going to be glued to walls or to the floor. If possible, you will want to glue bare wood to bare wood for the best hold. So don't paper or paint there!  Three, it helps you to plan your next move.  

Depending on what I was doing, I followed the instruction for assembling certain pieces. I didn't follow the instructions from step one to the end.  Mostly this was because of my choice to decorate before assembly.  For example, I put together the fireplace for the first floor and installed it with glue. The instructions tell you to glue in the fireplace after the wall has been glued in (for good reason, I'll have you know). But I wanted to make sure I did my floor treatments and wainscoting correctly, and was afraid to attempt that with a moving fireplace. The first floor fireplace did go in poorly.  I will show how I solved that in another post.

One draw back to decorating before assembly is that repeated dry fits can cause edges of wallpaper to fray, even if protected with a sealant like Modge Podge. If you look closely in the photo below at the green striped wallpaper, there are 3 different section that have that wallpaper.  Fraying started after the 2nd dry fit! But I planned ahead and noticed the design of that paper made it easy for me to patch over the corners and into a corner without the patch being noticeable.  Unlike the red and cream wallpaper, which required careful lining up of the wall pieces when installing the paper!

Dry fitting.

I will say it is very satisfying to see a house come together. I spent a lot of hours getting to this point. In hindsight, I suggest that you smooth the plywood walls with drywall mud (you can water it down to a point, but not too much; practice on some scrap wood first) and sand before priming. This skim coat will help the paint and the paper go on more smoothly. In my house there are places where you can see the grain of the plywood, despite a primer and two coats of paint.  Also, after I started assembling, I learned the exposed plywood edges look better if you smear wood putty onto them, really press it into the edge, and then sand. The painted edge looks more smooth and finished.

Most walls glued in. Glued and clamped stairwell walls.

I've spent all this time talking about the interior I almost forgot the exterior! I wanted a realistic brick surface.  Some people achieve this by cutting scaled brick pieces from sandpaper and gluing them. Sandpaper comes in different colors, and if you don't find a color you want, you can paint it. Others make brick out of air dried paper clay. Still others buy wall paper that looks like brick. You can buy pre-made bricks as well.  Some make bricks out of corkboard.  Your choices are almost endless. I decided to buy a brick stencil (I have since learned to make stencils on my Cri-cut, which helped me modify the stencil to get the brick into tight spots) and use drywall mud.  I tinted the mud with barn red paint. It came out a mauve color. I was shocked when it dried to an even lighter pink!  

Applying drywall brick to painted surface.

First, I primed the exterior piece. Then I gave it two coats of a cement color paint. I placed the stencil on, starting at the bottom.  I used a paint scraper to smooth the drywall mud over the stencil, scraping away the excess. Then I took a toothbrush and lightly daubed it to give the brick a little bit of a pitted look. Very carefully I removed the stencil. Each section has to dry before adding the next.  The more dry the drywall mud (the paint makes it more wet) the less oozing there is under the stencil. After the whole section is stenciled I daubed on brick red paint over every single brick. While time consuming, this gave the brick a two toned color, reminiscent of chipped brick. The last step was to go over the cement colored mortar with a fine point brush. Despite my best attempts brick red paint would ooze over the edge of the brick when daubing.  Also, if I did have drywall mud that went beyond the stencil shape, I chiseled off the excess mud. Finally, I sprayed a sealant over the wall before assembly. Otherwise the brick might chip off.  I can say I was happy with the result.

Painting each brick with dauber.

Problems to look out for include being aware you will have to brick over tabs after assembly, and making sure to line up separate pieces next to each other when stenciling. This helps when the house is assembled as the brick flows neatly from one piece to another. In fact, it is probably best to start by placing the stencil squarely over two adjoining pieces and apply the drywall mud to both at the same time.  Also, be aware the space between the bay windows will need to be hand painted.  At least I couldn't make a stencil to fit in there. Maybe you'll have better luck or a better solution!

Aligned bricks.

You might think I did an awesome job lining up the brick, especially on the two center pieces in the picture above.  But what I didn't notice until assembly is the piece on the far right goes BETWEEN the two center pieces!  Just one example illustrating that no matter how careful you are and how slow you go, you WILL make mistakes.  But don't let those mistakes keep you from moving forward.  Otherwise you will never grow!
Next up:  Floor Treatments


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