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Lynnwood - An English Georgian Miniature
1960's Style - a Timeless Class Act!
About the Modeler
AN ENGLISH GEORGIAN MINIATURE
America's Most Popular House Style
Over several centuries, for an enormous percentage of the American population, the English Georgian is the nation's most popular architectural style. The orderly, predictable and symmetrical two-story façade with necessary double chimneys and symmetrical central entry predict the interior center passage, two-room deep floor plan. In the design of Lynnwood, hip roof, brick and stone masonry detail and central entry with pillared portico personalize this timeless structure.
Providing a mythical setting for the family owning Lynnwood, the house was built in the late 1930's for an upper-class professional and his family. After their two children were raised and married, with grandchildren on the horizon, the couple chose to remodel, update and redecorate their home in the early sixties. A wall was removed between a small den bay window and the kitchen, and kitchen redone with new cabinets and appliances, providing the now popular family room - kitchen combination. An upstairs library was created for the husband, a combination sewing room - nursery for the wife and a new guest room designed to incorporate their collection of African art. And the single bathroom was redone to provide a more upscale powder room feel. They are pleased to have you as their first guests to enjoy viewing their "new" home!
1960's Style - a Timeless Class Act!
Digressing back in time, the 1960's gave us the most classic, timeless style of the 20th century. To understand why, we must remember the post war years... the late '40s and '50s were the time for fulfilling the consumer dream. World War II had drained the material necessities from the economy for nearly a decade. The population was chomping at the bit to fulfill the dreams of prosperity with their near decade of savings after the '30s depression.
This surge of spending started and did not stop. Anything and everything that was being produced was being purchased. As generally is the case when this process has happened throughout history, these excesses led to extravagance in spending and design... yes, design. Recall that in 18th century France, Louis XV was a fat cat, splurging on Versailles - rococo, ormolu, voluptuous curves in design. The populous had enough, and poor Louis was decapitated in 1793. His successor, Louis XVI, learned from this experience to be conservative and to save one's hide! Straight lines, minimal decoration, conservative dress. Yes, he still spent LOTS of money, but one did not show off.
Back to the '50s, the latter half of the decade became flamboyant in design and showiness. The automobile was the most conspicuous example of this extravagance, taking the generally beautiful designs of 1957 and making them garish for 1958 - the chrome period - and 1959 the culmination of findom. At the same time, however, we went through the 1958 recession, sobering up the populous to their decade of consumerism (remember Louie) and designers reacted by paring down their designs going into the decade of the '60s. My perspective on the 1959 and 1960 automobile model years can be best expressed in an analogy. I compare the 1959 Cadillac to actress Sophie Tucker, but the 1960 Cadillac is pure Grace Kelly... 'nuf said!
Style versus fashion - the best art is marked by discipline, which Webster's dictionary defines, among other things, as an exercise in self control. If you are like me, that is the hard part. You want to include everything you have ever collected on the tabletop! First, you have to know the rules of art and demonstrate the control it takes to follow them. Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, the cute. Fashion is conspicuous consumption... the 1959 Cadillac. Style is unlike fashion; it CANNOT be bought, but it CAN be learned. The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, and sincerity... the 1960 Cadillac. The difference is easy to spot. Fashion, even at its newest, can only repeat. Style, on the other hand, seems constantly and wondrously to invent. This invention, this trick of the spirit, leaves a particular mark on the face of the world. With will and intelligence, you can invent an almost infinite number of attractive and long-wearing styles. Hence, Lynnwood - classic, timeless center hall English Georgian completed with classic, timeless '60s interior design.
Homes, likewise, were not exempt from this garishness. The copycat ranches, ugly "modern" furnishings, horrible color schemes - from kitchen through the bedroom, were the "in" things, not the classics that grandma and grandpa owned. Ironically, these leftover classics are what the baby-boomers now want... another reflection of their roots and warmth of childhood memories.
Designed and built in the seventies, the house was going to be a typical "doll house" project for my young daughter. My former high school wood-shop teacher, Lynn Freeman, had a "dream" workshop in his basement with all the best woodworking equipment (I, on the other hand, had none, so we made this a joint project). I prepared all the necessary blueprints and design specs, and our three month project began. Shortly after completion, and setting up the building in my basement, my daughter confessed she really didn't like dolls or doll houses - she liked horses! Subsequently, with limited do-it-yourself hobby materials available, and no family interest, the house remained covered in plastic until six years ago. With increasing national interest in miniatures, I stumbled across a couple of trade magazines and my interest once again perked, so I decided it was time to "shoot the engineer and go into production."
Both the front and back walls of the house are removable for easy access to and viewing of all rooms, providing a cleaner façade finish than do hinged doors. A one half inch "crawl space" above the ceilings of each floor store the low voltage tape and LED lighting systems, which leave each floor through the chimney to the lighting power source below the table. The rear roof is hinged to lift up, providing the necessary "attic" space for all things not useable in the house! To be able to finish and accessorize the rooms - ceilings, floors and all walls - the house was completely screwed together so it could be easily dismantled and reassembled. Tentative templates of all these surfaces were made with each area partially assembled, and used to make the "drywall" (1/16" thick artists board) panels which were painted, trimmed and accessorized for each and every surface before reinstalling onto the plywood with double-sided carpet tape. As a designer and residential builder, I'm doing the preplanning and sequential planning of homes as a profession, however, doing this in miniature was a totally new ball game! To protect the house from dust and dirt contamination, and little hands, a large, removable Plexiglas box covers the house and yards. The gardens are built on removable plywood panels to be able to remove the front and back walls without damage to the landscaping.
In constructing a four-sided miniature house, the modeler must constantly be thinking how to work from the inside out. It's like a maze - preplanning and more preplanning is mandatory each step of the way. I chose to complete the exterior first as a builder does with a "real" house. The interior finishing is much more delicate and exacting, therefore more easily damaged, and also could not be finished without exterior doors and windows in place. All walls were disassembled and finished in flat position. Then I tackled the landscaping, as this had to be removable on the front and back sides in order to remove the front and back walls of the house. A landscape layout and list of plantings provided the grocery list of what needed to be purchased. Garden beds were edged and mounded, and walks, patio brick and cement work fabricated. Finally, plantings, dirt and grass were installed. With house exterior and landscaping complete, I got the adrenaline boost needed to get going on the interior.
Again no different than with a "real" house, the trades did their work. With no water or HVAC systems, this left just electrical. Scary! However, good friends and electrical engineers Fred and John came to my rescue. They suggested we use LED lighting for the ceiling panels as no heat would build up in the enclosed lighting spaces. With frosted panels and yellow cellophane we created a neutral, soft light filtering down in all the rooms. Floor plans of furnishings were prepared to locate, with measurements, where sconces, chandeliers, table and floor lamps would be located. Then Cir-kit Concepts tape systems were installed for each floor and ceiling, using interior walls only. These were changed to wire systems at one chimney, combined together inside the chimney and run out below the house to three transformers. The largest problem here was making sure the chimney cavity was large enough to hold all the wires - sort of like getting a fat lady into a girdle!! Meanwhile all fixtures were fitted with the appropriate wires, plugs and ceiling/wall mounting adapters. At long last, all lights were put in place and hooked up, house reassembled, and transformers plugged in - all lights worked, proof that proper preplanning and much check and recheck paid off.
On to the interiors. Tagboard weight cardboard stock was used to make accurate templates for ALL floors, ceilings and walls, including window and door openings, electrical outlets, sconces, etc. These were transferred to 1/16" thick artist's board, my "drywall", to within 1/32" tolerances. Tools required were razor knife, self-healing cutting board, square and ruler plus much cellophane tape to hold together all those corrections. I cannot overemphasize the importance of accuracy to get the tight-fit, professional look needed. Sequence of installation is floor and ceiling first, back and front walls next and side walls last. This provides overlap in the right places to minimize exposing fit variances. Now trim (baseboards, door and window casing, crown mold, etc.) can be fit and cut. Please note ALL materials must be sealed before finishing on ALL SIDES to minimize warpage. Removable double-sided tape is great for fitting drywall in place to make sure trim is properly aligned. The drywall can be fit with a small belt sander and Emory boards - great correction tools!
Once final fit is complete, wall elevations must be prepared, with precise dimensions, noting locations of window treatments and wall accessories. These items must be installed before walls are placed permanently with double sided carpet tape. Work from first floor up, installing furnishings on interior spaces (not easily accessible after outside permanent walls installed) as completely as possible. Clear silicon bathtub caulk is easily removable without tearing wallpaper or removing finishes from furniture, with slow drying time - very useable for these installations. Don't forget to hook up lighting fixtures, again working inside out before putting furnishings in the path of these items. Needless to say, but I will anyway, be sure all accessories are fastened to tables, china cabinets, etc. BEFORE placing them in the house. Your hands are much too big and awkward to try to do this once the furniture involved is glued in place in the house.
Networking with the pros was the single most important element in making the proper craftsmanship decisions. I've built models of various types all my life, but this was a completely new challenge. The biggest thanks and appreciation goes to Judee Williamson and Nicole Marble, as these two ladies kept me going from one end of the bridge to the other with much useful help and guidance. Nicole assembled and finished the lovely kitchen and library cabinets and Judee upholstered most of the furniture and fabricated all the beautiful window treatments. Gene Olswold of Cir-kit Concepts held my hand through the electrical wiring process - all I could think of was how embarrassing it would be to find myself in the local paper headlines that read "Miniature House Burns to Ground After Electrical Failure!" Hildegard Popoff, owner of All Small in Frankfort, IL, provided most of the house furnishings, both readymade and custom. Anytime I hit a snag, she was always able to find whatever was needed. Melissa Wolcott, of Melissa's Miniatures in Florida, did a most fantastic job of reproducing several of my personal oil paintings in miniature. Anna Donahue of Grand Rapids hand-decorated several of the case goods, and Ray Whitledge provided some beautifully detailed furnishings as well as much needed advise up to the point when I was "halfway across the bridge." We were discussing the difficulties I was experiencing doing a full house versus room boxes. When asked if he had ever built a complete house, he replied, "no, because of the difficulty!" This coming from an expert to a novice was somewhat unsettling!
About the Modeler
Al Dickerson is a professional industrial engineer, interior and product designer and residential builder. He has received awards for furniture and interior design as well as automotive design and modeling.
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