Thursday, June 27, 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. 

Sunday, June 02, 2019

A Summer Day - A Modern Urban Patio Scene with

Welcome to summer!  Working with Hobby Builders Supply (HBS) and, I was asked to put together a summer scene using an assortment of products from  Given the lack of sunshine in my area at present, how could I say no to the prospect of making some mini summer sunshine?!

I didn't have a modern urban patio backdrop available, so I decided to start from scratch.  I made my own tile flooring and lay it in a herringbone pattern.  I then made concrete walls using wall spackle and paint.  And no summer is complete without a pool, so I made one of those too!  I will post in the near future about how I built this set.

I hope this inspires you to see what just a few items can look like if you want to make your own outdoor scene.  I made just a few modifications (paint, scissors and glue!) and created a few items to round out the scene.

If you're in the mood for even more summer outdoor fun, visit Kristine at Paper Doll Miniatures, who is also working with  Her stunning Backyard Patio Retreat is gorgeous and a inspirational.  We've both had a long, cold, snowy winter, so making our summer retreats has been a lot of fun.

The Lounger

I can imagine a movie star lounging high above the city on this Wicker Lounger away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi.  The "Rattan" Table/Stool would be the ideal place for a wine spritzer (gotta watch the carbs!).

I sewed the linen pillows and the towels are made from baby wash clothes.

Behold the beautiful hedge!  I was so impressed with the "Squeeze Me" Evergreen Hedge 3" x 24" that I built a concrete-effect planter box and a trellis set to showcase it.  It provides lots of privacy.  And yes, since its foam based you can squeeze it kind of like a stress ball!

The Dining Table

The 5 pc Wicker High-Top Dining Set looks and feels like wicker, though its resin.  I went and added some linen cushions to make it softer to sit on.

No table awaiting a BBQ is without condiments!  I took elements from several sets and set my table (see the shopping list below).

The Fireplace

I know you've all seen the fireplace before!  I posted about how I transformed the plain MDF Outdoor Brick Fireplace into a painted brick and concrete beauty.  If you jump over to my Instagram page you can check out the flickering fire video using Battery Operated Flickering Fireplace LED Set.  

Sitting on the ledge of the fireplace are the packaged "Supermarket" Steaks waiting to go onto the Charcoal Grill and its "Start the Grill!" Set.  On the other side is the White Floral Watering Can that I painted gloss black.

The Bar

It ain't a party unless you have chilled drinks for all of your guests!  The bar features the Modern Ice Bucket and the Classic Cocktail Shaker.  Chilling, is some milk for the kids and some soda for the adults.

I added my own touches with the planters, the bar and the art.

The Landscape

I took one of the 6" Large Evergreen Tree and trimmed it!  Yup, just shaved it down with some scissors to make it a bit more narrow.  The great thing about these foam based trees and shrubs is that its green all the way through, so trimming doesn't result in bare, non-green spots!

I used some of the Autumn Foliage Mat to make the little yellow/orange flowers peeking out in my pot.  The mat can be used as a good sized sheet or cut down to meet your needs.

The pool is no more then 4mm of Magic Water.  I simply painted the base of the pool blue and poured 2 coats of Magic Water over top.  The result is a glossy water-like finish.

There you have it!  A fun, modern urban patio scene perched high above the city.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to work with Hobby Builders Supply and to place some of their beautiful pieces in my mini scenes and make them shine.  And if modern isn't your thing, they have lots of more traditional options for your patio or porch.

Your Shopping List

Patio Items



This post received support from Hobby Builders Supply and

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Outdoor Brick Fireplace Tutorial

Image from

My mini scene in collaboration with Hobby Builders Supply and is still in the works.  I think I'm closer to completion on my scene then mother nature is to giving me a warm day (at least here in Ontario!).

One item I purchased from was their Outdoor Brick Fireplace and their Battery Operated Flickering Fireplace LED Set.  This fireplace is 8"Wx8"Hx2 3/4"D and made entirely of MDF.  It's a solid piece that feels substantial when you lift it.  I wanted an outdoor fireplace for my scene, and was pleased to find this one that lived up to the Pinterest images I was looking at.  

You do not need to worry about any warping with paint on this piece because its etched MDF, meaning, the bricks are part of the wall and nothing will curl up!


I used paint that I already had in my every growing craft paint bin.  The colours were Americana "Desert Sand," Martha Stewart chalkboard finish "Gray," Americana 'Raw Umber," and Liquitex "Neutral Gray."

You'll also need a basic black paint and a clear water based acrylic clear coat in a satin or matte finish.

From the non-mini making shelf in my basement, I grabbed a tub of wall spackle and a putty knife.  Wall spackle, if you're unfamiliar, is the product you use on your walls to fill holes.  You could also use wood filler if you wanted!

The Paint 

I began painting "Desert Sand," "Gray," and "Neutral Gray" on to the bricks in a random pattern.  If you finish and decide your don't like an area of bricks (say, you have too many dark bricks in one area), then just repaint those bricks.  I painted the bricks then came back to it a few hours later to see it with fresh eyes.  

After your bricks are dry, you need to age them.  This task is a little more time consuming.  On the bricks painted "Desert Sand" use "Raw Umber" to age; on the bricks painted "Gray" use "Neutral Gray" to age; and on the bricks painted "Neutral Gray" use "Gray" to age them. 

The aging technique is dry brushing.  Put a little paint on your brush, then blot the brush on a paper towel until most of it is removed.  Then blot or stipple on the brick.  If you get a little too enthusiastic with your aging paint, simply dab on a bit of the base colour to fix it.  Or, if you get some on a neighborliness brick, don't worry, bricks are imperfect.

I will age for soot later, once grouting is complete, because I want soot on my grout lines.

The Grout

In my opinion, even miniature bricks need grout.  If this step terrifies you, you can skip it, but do consider giving it a try!

After all your paint has thoroughly dried, apply your acrylic craft paint sealer with a paint brush.  I used a matte finish because that's what I had handy.  Once this has dried (and I mean really, really dried!) and you've ensured that you don't have any damp sealer in the grout lines, you can move on to grouting.

The sealer allows you to put the spackle on without damaging the paint with the putty knife or having the spackle discolour the painted areas.

I opted to tint my spackle using "Neutral Gray" by transferring a few large globs of spackle and a good tablespoon of paint into a separate dish and mixing.  Otherwise, you will have very white grout lines, unless that's what you want or want to add paint detail to them.

I put the spackle on a bit thick, using the putty knife to press it into the grout lines.  Then I carefully use the putty knife to scrape away the excess.

Once you can again see brick through the spackle, get a damp (not wet) paper towel and wipe the surface.  This might take a few wipes and use a clean slide of the towel with each pass.  I work small areas to ensure I can get the bricks clean before it dries.  When wiped, I then give one pass with dry paper towel to ensure no moisture is left sitting on the brick surface.

Keep going with the process until all your bricks are grouted.  Then let dry according to the manufacturers directions.

The Ledges

I initially painted the fireplace ledge, the top cap and the arch around the opening with "Neutral Gray."  If just painting is fine with you, then skip this step.  But, I had to keep going with the spackle.

I wanted a concrete/stone appearance to the areas that were not brick.  Using the putty knife I slowly and carefully applied a thins coat of spackle to all these surfaces.  The spackle was again tinted with "Neutral Gray."

When the spackle was dry, I gently sanded the areas with a 320 grit sand paper to get rid on some of swirls and awkward spots and get it to the appearance I wanted.  I then applied another coat of "Neutral Gray" to finish it.

Voila!  Two different surfaces (concrete and brick) using the same products!

The Fire

Before I completed the soot and detailed work with the black paint, I went to install the LED fireplace lighting.  The Battery Operated Flickering Fireplace LED Set consists of 3 lights (red and orange flashing lights and one solid orange.  All you need to do is drill a hole through the base of the fireplace (from underneath) and feed the wires through.  A feed the shrink tube over your wire, and a few wire twists to connect them and then pull the shrink tube over the connection.  A blast of heat from a hair dryer shrinks the tubing and your light is now connected to its battery and switch.  

One good hole and one boo-boo hole!

Hole at the back and in the middle

Once the hole is in place, you can paint the inside of the fireplace with black paint and dry brush a bit of "Neutral Gray" for soot effect.

I raided my lilac bush for delicate branches to use for my fire.  I prefer fresh, delicate branches over larger ones because they look realistic and are to scale.  They also let more light peek through.

I start by glue a few branches to the base of the fire and let them dry thoroughly.  This gives you a good foundation to work with.  Then I lay in my other branches and play around a bit (no glue yet!!) to see what works and what doesn't.  

Before gluing down the bulk of the branches, you need to secure your 3 fire lights.  Add a dab of tacky glue at the hole (both ends) and let dry to ensure your wires don't move.  Then glue down your branches.

I also dry brushed black paint on my branches after the glue dried and added a few tiny decorate grey vase filler stones to look like embers.

Back To Paint

Now that everything is in place, you need to dirty up this outdoor fireplace!  A good dime size glob of raw umber and a few table spoons of water in a dish make a wonderful aging wash.  It catches all the grout and sits on top of the bricks.  

If you don't do the wash, even the tinted spackle grout looks incredibly bright and the bricks look very bold and vibrant.  I admit I was a little panicked by the brightness!  The wash, applied with a paint brush, and blotted off in areas tones it down.  I did 2 coats of wash in total.

No fireplace is complete without soot.  I again dry brushed black paint along the opening of the fireplace and onto the bricks and grout.  I added soot to the very top of the fireplace vent too.

The Grand Reveal

Front View - Fire Glowing

Top of Fireplace

Fire with Embers

Rear view

Close-up of Bricks

I hope you enjoyed the fireplace process.  If you have any questions regarding the steps or products just ask me in the comments!

Images courtesy of  This post received support from Hobby Builders Supply and