Stairs and Living Room Design

Dollhouse building took an unexpected turn this past week.  I've made several design changes to the house structure to increase load-bearing support.  Today I'm focusing on the entry/living space progress and looking back at how I came up with the new layout.  I've also got some new laser cut pieces to share.


Originally the plan was for an open-concept entry/living area.  You might remember my original mock-up of the space.  I liked how the entry hall expanded the size of the living room, which would really help when taking photos.
To begin I started designing a fireplace and shelving unit shell for the right wall.  I really liked the idea of having a place to display decorative items.  I printed out my vector design on paper and placed two cardboard window mullions on either side to visualize the scale.  Printing out my project designs on paper first always helps me save on materials in the long run.
I proceeded to laser cut the shell out of 1/8 MDF.
The first design had a couple of issues.  The etching for the shelves extended too far and the depth of the unit wasn't quite right.
I made it again and this time got the shelves to slide in and out.
I also worked on stair designs.  This was quite challenging.  It was important to take into consideration the wall height plus the ceiling thickness to determine the overall height.  The stairs also had to fit within the two archways.  A lot of dollhouse stairs are very steep.  I looked at my Houseworks set and opted to add an extra 2 steps to make the rise a bit more gradual.  I took the overall height and divided by a possible number of steps, making sure to subtract a 3/32" section at the top where my top tread would rest.  To visualize it I digitally drew it out with little-stacked rectangles.
I decided to make the first floor stairs with space for the archway.  I thought this might add some support to both the stairs and the second floor.  The tread design features pre-made holes for square spindles.
(As per usual this took a couple of design trials)

With the fireplace unit and the stairs cut I sat down and really looked at my space.  That's when I realized it just wasn't going to work.  I knew once I cut the stair opening into the second floor there just wouldn't be enough support to hold up the 2nd and 3rd floors properly.  It already had a bit of a sag in the middle and I'd be losing even more anchoring points with the opening.  I'll admit this probably wouldn't have been an issue if I was using thicker MDF.

The image below shows what the space looked like before (although shown with a newer stair design).
And this is what I came up with instead.
A wall now divides the entry and living spaces.  It allows the second floor to be supported even with a stairway opening cut. 

To keep the entry hall from feeling too closed in I've picked a set of stairs that are open underneath.  I think I'll add trim and maybe a bottom piece along the underside. 
The new layout has grown on me.  I really like the side point of view better now.  It's nice to be able to see the fireplace and the hallway leading to the kitchen.
I will need to re-work my fireplace design a bit more now.  The space between the archways is much smaller.  I can either have the fireplace on its own or a fireplace with narrow shelves.
I'm still deciding what to put on the opposite wall where the fireplace was going to originally go.  I could do bookcases or I could do Restoration Hardware style cabinets.
Most of the laser cutting is done for now and I'm going to focus on other areas for a few weeks.  I have a lot of the window trim and plexi cut and ready.  I've also picked where to have my interior doors and have cut the openings.  Summer months mean lots of travelling to the lake so my hope is to spend that time away enjoying the sunshine and learning my new 3D design software.  I've been waiting to watch the online course videos.

I look forward to sharing the rest of my room plans and how I'm assembling my windows soon.  Hope all your mini projects are going well!


18 comments

  1. Kristine, the stairs always seem to take a lot of calculations. And you are right: in most houses they are way too steep to resemble reality. So, yours look great and fit the scene - well done. Fun, isn't it? :-)
    What is the new 3D program you are learning? I work with Live Interior 3D.. but it is a little limited when it comes to customizing objects...

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    1. It's true dollhouse stairs are always super steep. I suppose it's to save space. It will be interesting to make the railing next and figure out the math for that.
      I'm going to try Autodesk's Fusion 360 for the 3D printing. It seems very professional and extensive. If you are interested in the program I can send you more info, they offer licensing options for hobbyists/start-ups at no cost. Tinkercad just wasn't giving me enough options and this one looks promising. Hopefully I can be more precise with my designs and cut down on material costs. It is much more complicated then anything I've used before so I really do mean it when I say I plan to sit and watch all the educational master course videos. I've done part one so far. It will be the perfect thing to work on while I'm away. I'll let you know how it goes!

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  2. It's looking better and better. I love the shelves in the living room.
    Geneviève

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    1. Thank you Genevieve! It was great to be able to share so many pictures and progress this time around :)

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  3. Sarah Richardson - LOOK OUT! ❤️❤️❤️

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    1. HAHA I love her shows! Especially when she includes her side kick Tommy!

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  4. I love you design for the stairs with the archway under them, but I can see how it would make the hall feel too narrow. What you've come up with is wonderful. Are you going to carry the fireplace up through the second and third floors? That would make a very cozy library/office or master suite over the living room.

    I do love the shelves on the original fireplace wall. The give the space interest and if you paint them the same color as your walls with the back of the shelves an accent color they won't make the room feel too dark. That's my only problem with wood stain. It can feel very oppressive after a while. But you also have windows on either side so the light will be lovely coming in, nice and bright!

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    1. Thanks Sheila! I find staining the laser cut pieces challenging because of the burnt edges, so I'll probably paint. You have some good suggestions. I don't know if I'll carry the fireplace up... but it could be a nice idea! :)

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  5. I love the new design with the hallway! I think in some ways the division makes you see the grand proportions even better. I can't wait to see more.

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    1. Thank you Caroline! It's true the split really gives each room it's spot to shine!

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  6. Incredible Kristine! I love the new stair design and how you've managed to successfully redesign to make the structure more solid. The view down the hall with all the arches is magical now, and sure to be even more stunning when completed. Congrats on completing the laser cutting and moving into the next exciting phase! Can't wait to see the next steps in the process!

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    1. Thanks Jodi, it was a great surprise to have that hallway! Wasn't something I had planned on but should be neat to really play up.

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  7. Hi Kristine! I love the new arrangement... I was worried that you would have terrible sag problems with the unsupported second floor wall! It makes so much more sense to have the fireplace wall be a structural support too.... you are already claiming the floor and wall-space for it... make it do the structure work too! Your stairs are awesome and the pre-cut holes for spindles are perfect! I always enjoy the hall/entry space as a separate one anyway.... now you get to make that stand out too! I hope you enjoy your time at the lake and I look forward to learning how your windows will work!!! :)

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    1. Thank you Betsy! Yes I often think of your initial advice when I look at my thin walls... I think I was in denial for so long but when it came time to glue thing up I had to face the facts. You are right though each space now gets the attention it deserves. :)

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  8. What an incredible talented builder you are Kristine! I am completely impressed by your work. An amazing construction!

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    1. Oh thank you Drora! I'm learning as I go! With every new miniature we get better right? It will be great to have the shell of this house complete!

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  9. Hey Kristine! Looks like you're getting your civil engineering degree now 😂! Excellent job!

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    1. haha I'll take that! An undergrad in fine arts and my self taught masters in civil engineering ;)

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