Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Un-box Room Box

My urban patio scene is large.  And given that I'm still chugging away at my mid-century build and some other ideas in the pipeline, space will get short.  I decided that I wasn't going to make the patio a traditional room box, but rather an un-boxed room box.  I'm at a loss for clever words/phrases to describe it!

The 2 walls and the base are not attached, just 3 slabs of wood.  I used a few books and vases to prop the walls up.  Next time I have my table saw out, I plan to cut a wood triangle and put a 90 degree groove in it to essentially keep the two walls together at the top while I use the scene.  The beauty of this design means I can use different backgrounds, or use the walls for other photo shoots.

The Pool

The pool is a trimmed with some scrap baseboard trim I had laying around.  On top of the trim and the "water" area, I applied wall spackle.  Or wall filler.  Or wall patch filler...whatever you call the stuff that fills holes in a drywall or plaster wall.  I then used a simple yellow sponge with a green scrubby top to texture the stucco.

The pool was my first foray into this magical water for model making.  There are a few brands out there, Magic Water and Woodland Scenics.  Both are "pour and done!" No mixing products.  That said, you can only pour 3-4mm thick at a time. In the end I did 3 pours waiting 24 hours between layers as directed.  By chance I watched a YouTube video about the water and it said that it can be cloudy for a few weeks as it slooooooooowly cures, but in the end it will dry clear.  Between pour 2 and 3 it was cloudy.  And it had every changing sections of cloudy for 3 weeks!  It finally cured and is now clear.

Had I not known about the cloudiness being normal, you might have seen that plywood go flying out my front door!

The Stones

I had enough egg cartons for the stones, but the thought of painting and cutting them up was too much.  So I took the $10.99 route.  I went to the art store and found some thick, rough, texture paper for painting and decided that it looked like stone.

The paper was 22 by 30 inches, so I have A LOT of stone available for future projects.  I took a variety of grey, off-white and brown paints and made a mess on the paper.  Then I proceeded to cut it into bricks.  The process was quick and painless, and took much less effort then egg cartons.

Some might take the time to use a ruler and make marks for the herringbone pattern.  I did not.  Sheer laziness.  I did, however, find the center of the board and made a mark there so I had a starting point, but that was it.

Once the tiles were laid, I sealed the bricks with a water based top coat and used the wall spackle as grout.  Then came many washes with brown and grey to dirty it up.  

The Concrete Walls

I have always wanted to try making a concrete effect for a mini project.  I didn't know where to start, never had the right project and was worried it would look like garbage once I had it finished.  Well, on a hope and a prayer, I took the wall spackle and gave it a try!

There are many types of concrete walls.  Do a quick internet search and you'll see there are long panels, square panels, panels with pipes, and panels you can see holes where rebar existed.  Many options, all worthy of re-creation.  I decided to keep this first try simple with just tall panels.

I mixed the spackle with grey paint to lessen the paint needed to finish it at the end.  I then divided the walls into equal sized panels.  I taped off every second panel.  It's a two step process.  Then I applied the spackle and textured with my fancy yellow/green sponge. You definitely need an image of concrete as you texture to get the right smooches and stippling.  

Once the sections started to dry I removed the tape.  The following day, I applied tape to the spackled sections and spackled the unspackled panels.  Valuable lesson: you don't need to intentionally leave a space between the panels for effect.  I moved the tape over too far and left a huge, unnatural gap.  I then re-taped right along the stucco line and it became clear that the adjoining panels were distinct with a line between the spackle.

After everything was dry I sanded with a fine grit sand paper.  This is KEY to getting the concrete look, because it removes any obvious sponge marks or unnatural swirls.

Then its just a few simple coats of medium grey paint and a few well placed dabs of darker grey applied with a sponge.

It's a room box, no its an un-box room box!  And now its sitting in its 3 panel form neatly in my basement not taking up valuable real estate. 

Greetings From The Mini-Miniaturist

Miss Kitty is now 6 and quite the miniaturist.  She sets scenes with all her dolls and Lego on a daily basis.  But when she saw all these mini goodies out, she couldn't resist getting in there with mom!

Using my minis and a huge selection of her own, she made her own patio scenes.  No mini can be left behind, everything gets into her scene no matter the obstacle or lack of space.

I promised her I would post her accomplishments. 


  1. A space-saving scene, what a great idea. I like that you can change the scene at will or store it flat until needed. Thanks for sharing your surface techniques, they look really convincing. I just love Miss Kitty’s scene!

  2. Ooohh... I'm going to need to try that for concrete walls...

    I wonder if I could do something similar for a concrete kitchen counter...that would be really cool for a modern build.

    1. Do it!! It was a very thin finish, so it would work for a counter top. I bet if you added a coat of wax (from the chalk paint area) you could make it look like polished concrete.

  3. You are brave and it has really paid off! I love your entire set, and the fact that it breaks down for storage is brilliant! It looks like Miss Kitty is going to be a little set designer herself! And that she likes to party - college is going to be a blast for her, lol!

    1. Thanks Jodi! Yes, Miss Kitty is a great hostess at party's already, and her propensity for ensuing lots and lots of drinks at her mini parties tells me I will have to work security at her real life parties one day.

  4. Your mini- miniaturist is quite talented and off to a great start, which is not to be surprised at considering she has a Terrific teacher to guide her and encourage her creativity! :)
    The backyard patio scene she has set up is full of Family in Motion, with plenty of food and fun and everyone Happy to be there- Bravo Miss Kitty! :D

    1. Thank you Elizabeth. She had been constantly asking to have her pictures on my blog. Now that she realizes the internet is a "thing" she wants to own it =;)

  5. Thank you for posting about A) the water and B) the concrete. I would have done the same if I saw clouding in the water so you've saved me throwing it away too. Your concrete looks really realistic. I've used an icing spatula with grout and never managed to make it look good. I'll try sanding to get the non-swirl look. Love it!

    1. I attacked it thinking if the concrete failed, it would be fine because I had more wood. But the fact it worked and looked good, told me I just need to think less and just do it! Re: the water, last points, don't put it anywhere near sunlight or warmth because it gets soft! and don't leave anything on top of it, as it will leave an impression loooooong after its dried.