A little festive cheer at the Herengracht canal house.

Some sparkling lights in the year's last days.

Something lovely to feed the senses.

Perhaps even a little gift...

Speaking of gifts:  the wonderful Christmas stocking was a little handmade gift from my friend Janne from Norway.  Thank you Janne, I love it!

 I promised you photos of the roombox filled with the beautiful 17th and 18th century miniature silver pieces, so here they are!  The roombox is centered around the little silver bed, a rare silver miniature.  
A few centuries ago scale was not strictly adhered to, so the bed is quite small in relation to some of the other pieces.  I think it makes the whole scene even more charming.  

The silver pieces all come from A.Aardewerk Antiquair Juwelier in The Hague. 
The bedroom roombox was exhibited at the TEFAF New York this past October.  

All photos copyright A.Aardewerk Antiquair Juwelier.

During the summer months I have been busy making another roombox to display 17th and 18th century silver miniatures.  The inspiration for the 17th century interior of the roombox came from several paintings by Pieter de Hooch and Emanuel de Witte. 

I made the floor from paper which I painted to look like marble.  The tiles in the hearth are also paper.    I turned the columns of the fireplace from pear wood on my lathe and then marbled them.  
The beams on the ceiling are oak, as is the mantle on the fireplace.  The walls are plastered, painted grey and then aged.    

On the walls hangs 'gold leather',  embossed and gilded leather panels.  In this case the panels aren't real leather, but a type of foil, printed especially for me by my nephew who specializes in art printing.  
I mounted the foil on panels, just like the real gold leather. Even though the printed panels already looked good, I still used several layers of paint, archival varnish and wax on the panels and emphasized the golden embossed raised areas with gold wax.  

Depending on where the light hits the panels, the gold has more (or less) shine.  

The two windows have glass window panes with a kiln fired leaded pattern on them.  
The curtains are silk.  

It was a beautiful summer's day when I took these photos, so the light streaming through the windows was wonderful.  Of course I had to play with some of the pieces from my own collection and take a couple of extra photos.  

Enough of my playing.  The roombox was made for a collection of antique silver miniatures, which gives it a very different atmosphere.  Next weekend I will show you some beautiful photos of the room with the miniature silver in it.  

At the beginning of this year I asked Dutch miniaturist Elly Ypma to paint a miniature version of Breitner's 'The red kimono'.   

George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) was a Dutch painter and photographer who was known for his realistic style in his paintings of street scenes and harbours.  Breitner, a member of the Amsterdam Impressionism movement, often used photography as reference materials for his paintings.

I visited the Rijksmuseum in May, where the original painting was part of the 
'Breitner: Girl in a kimono' exhibition.  

The model for the painting was Geesje Kwak, a girl who posed for Breitner between the ages of 16 and 18.  From the time of his stay in Paris in 1884, where Japonism dominated the fashion scene, Breitner became fascinated by Japanese art. Geesje Kwak was the subject of a series of seven paintings and studies by Breitner of a girl dressed in a red or white kimono.  

Geesje Kwak. Photo by Breitner.

Geesje Kwak.  Study for 'The red kimono', 1893.  Photo by Breitner. 

Sketch for 'The red kimono', Breitner.

'The red kimono'  by Breitner, 1896.  Exhibited at the Rijksmuseum 2016 (with unknown gentleman). 

'The red kimono', (detail) Breitner 1896.  

Elly sent me her wonderful miniature version of the painting in April 2016.  She had made a thin frame for it, but I wanted the frame to look more like the one I had seen in the museum, so I ordered a frame from John Hodgson which had the right look.  It fitted perfectly around the original frame!  

I aged both frames with some acrylic paint to tone down some of the golden shine.  Although not entirely the same as the original frame, I do really like it.  

The painting is bigger (well, in twelfth scale anyway) than the original, but I asked for that as I wanted it to fill the space above the fireplace mantel.  

The room is not finished yet,  but in time I will find or make everything to pull it all together.  One thing I do want to get is a picture light to make it stand out in the room a bit more.  

Elly did a fantastic job on this painting.  I always like how she doesn't make the painting exactly the same as the original, but uses a bit of her own style in it.  

Below is a short video I found on YouTube with some more information on Breitner and his kimono paintings:


Three years ago I wrote a this post in which I showed two cookie boards (cookie molds) on which St. Nicholas is depicted.  If you are a regular reader of my blog you will probably know by now that the feast of St. Nicholas is a Dutch tradition, celebrated on December 5th.

There are many traditions associated with the feast of St. Nicholas, one of them is eating 'speculaas', a  spiced cookie which is molded on wooden cookie boards.  

Speculaas is not exclusive to St. Nicholas.  In 17th century Holland,  young men would buy and decorate a speculaas cookie in the shape of a man called 'the lover', to give to a girl they wanted to court.  After a date, the girl would give the cookie back to the young man.  If she had eaten the head of the cookie, it meant she liked the young man.  If she had eaten the legs, it meant he'd better take a hike.  

My collection of speculaas boards has grown lately.  These were a gift from Arjen Spinhoven as a thank you for a favour which led to a nice commission for him.  These speculaas boards were made with laser on wood, which is what Arjen specializes in.  He has a large collection of wonderful furniture and accessories,  houses and building elements for many dolls house scales.

As it happens, I was in a local museum yesterday where I saw a huge collection of speculaas boards.  Beautiful carvings in wood.  Some of them specifically for St. Nicholas.  It immediately made me want to carve them myself in wood.  So who knows, by the next St. Nicholas feast I may have an even bigger collection...;-)  

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

The last room in the attic of my canal house 'Singel 224' has long stood empty until I finally decided it would be a children's room.   I am using an oak floor which was left over from a previous project. 

 Under the sloping roof I am building a closet-bed. I will share more about the bed another time, because as I was testing the fit of the unfinished bed, a little bedtime story just...happened.  

Two bears
'A bedtime story'

It has become somewhat of a tradition...Every year I take at least one class with Jens Torp and one with Cocky Wildschut.  This year was no exception. 

 Half a year...What can I say?  It has been a busy summer.  

But a good fair helps to get me working on my houses again.   Last weekend at the fair in Ulft, the Netherlands, I bought these chairs from Alison Davies.  She scales down photographs of full sized antique chairs using AutoCad (I believe), then casts are made from a master copy, making the final pieces quite affordable.  

The style of the chairs fits very well in my Blue and Yellow Salon, but the colour of the upholstery does not.  The sage green is the perfect colour for my first Canal House, but that's not where they will go, so...

I decided to gild one of the chairs, just to see how it would look.  I really like it, but it took a lot of gold leaf, leaving me not enough to finish the other three chairs.  I tried several fabrics but loved this vibrant raspberry coloured silk.  Even though the chair on the right looks wider, the chairs are all exactly the same size.   It is probably the angle of the photo which makes it look bigger.  

I love the pop of colour in the Blue Salon.  It is not quite finished yet as I still want to add 'springs and webbing'  to the underside of the chair and I may still add fabric to the armrests.  

The little Queen Anne tea table was made by Elga Koster and is awaiting my attempt to chart and embroider a table top. Not sure when that is going to happen ;-)

For the Yellow Salon I think the original colour of the chair works better.  I tried yellow, golden, patterned and cream fabrics, but again chose the raspberry silk for the pop of colour.  Plus I like to have some sort of continuity in colour and materials from room to room.  

The little wall table (above) is also by Alison Davies.  I haven't made any changes to it.  Yet.  I think I will paint it.  Or gild it.  And marble the top.  Probably.  ;-)

The story of my Amsterdam Canal House Singel 224 is fictional. In fact,  there is no number 224 on the real Singel as the numbers on the canal jump from 214 to 236.  Apparently there once was a house at that address, I found a photo of it in the Amsterdam archives 12 years ago.  I have not found out why the address no longer exists. 

Even though the address doesn't actually exist, I do like to use real historical elements to create a background story.   So, lately I have been researching some of the history of the area around Singel 224 through paintings, old maps and photos.  This is a long post and I'm afraid not very interesting for many of you…

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The Singel Canal was dug in 1428 and 1450.  For more than 150 years the canal formed the western border of the city.In the 17th century the country experienced enormous growth in trade, science and art, and  Amsterdam started expanding hugely.  The animation below shows just how much it grew.

The story of my Canal House Singel 224 starts when it was built in 1638.  It is located very near the city centre and close to where all the main trading is taking place in the city.  Not much is known about the house and its owner at that time, but it is safe to assume that it was built for and owned by a wealthy tradesman.  The location on the canal would make it easy to transport goods from the harbor to the house and vice versa. 

Ten years after the canal house was built,  work was started on the new City Hall of Amsterdam. It was to be a magnificent building, showing the wealth and importance of the city.  The new City Hall is only a stone's throw away from Singel 224.

Building the new City Hall on the Dam in Amsterdam.  The building in the foreground is the Weigh House, where trade goods were weighed to ensure honest trade and proper taxation. Painting by Jacob van der Ulft, 1636-1667 (collection of the Amsterdam Museum).

Goods were transported by boat on the river and the canals.  The Weigh House opposite the City Hall was an important trade center.  Singel 224 is only a few minutes' walk away from this busy market square. Painting by Jan van Kessel.
source: http://www.amsterdam.info

The City Hall seen from the Dam Square with the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) to its right.  Brisk trading is going on in the foreground.  Painting by Gerrit  Berckheyde in 1673.

The City Hall seen from the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal.  It looks like there is a plant sale or flower market on the left bank.  Painting by Gerrit Berckheyde, 1686.

Dutch artist Elly Ypma painted this miniature version of John William Waterhouse's 'Ophelia' (1894) for me.  I had wanted this painting for the hall of my first dolls house for a long time, but only last month I decided to ask her to paint it for me.  Isn't it wonderful?
Two days ago I was writing a new blog post when I started wondering how long I had been blogging for.  My first blog was a Dutch weblog which was part of my website.  When my website and blog grew, and more of my readers were non-Dutch, I changed my blog to a dual language one, and finally, just my English blog here on blogger.

I had to search for my first weblog, I could't even remember what is was called! But as it is still online, it didn't take me long to find it.  From there of course it was easy to find my very first blog post.  The date?  February 13, 2006.

Which means... today is my 10 year blogging anniversary!
It was fun to read some of my old blogs again, they are such a great documentation of my miniature explorations.  Thank you for your support and all of your wonderful comments all this time!
I made a very small photo selection from some of my posts of the last ten years:

28 December 2006:   Building the back wall of the bedroom.  Toile de Jouy wallpaper.

In the collection of the Rijksmuseum is this ' flessenkelder', a beautiful chest with porcelain bottles and silver mounts.  The Japanese porcelain bottles contained highly desired and precious fragrant oils.   The chest dates to 1680-1700 and was used as a diplomatic gift by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) to give to Asian monarchs.

Several years ago I sent photos of the chest to Jens Torp, thinking it would look fabulous in miniature.  Jens liked the idea and joined forces with Geoffrey Wonnacott (wooden chest) and Terry Curran (porcelain bottles) to make the miniature version.  

On my last trip to the Rijksmuseum I brought my miniature 'flessenkelder' with me so I could see the pieces side by side.  I must say it was quite special!

I have thought of adding another name to the three who have worked on this chest, my own!  I would really like to ad the velvet lining to the lid, as the original has.  Would I dare to do that?  Yes, I think I would.  But only if I can find a suitable fabric.

More photos of the chest in my post here.


When I started building my first dollshouse thirteen years ago, I used any material I had available which I thought would be suitable for the job at hand.   I used things like fruit crates, bits of wrapping and packaging material such as card stock and plastics, and the foam which was used to protect grapes from bruising.

I also printed some of my own fabrics and wallpapers.  It was at that time when I started to think about the materials I was using and what would happen to them over time.  Most of us know that materials can deteriorate through the influence of environmental factors .  Light, moisture, dust, bugs,  chemicals, or a combination of these, all can contribute to a slow decline of the state of the dollhouse.   (Lets not forget rodents...just look at what those little critters did to my kitchen gloves! ;-) )

'Ontbijtje'  (Breakfast') by Willem Claesz Heda (1594-1680)

But sometimes it is the materials used by the artist which cause the problems.  I was reminded of that when I saw this painting (above) by Willem Claesz Heda at the Rijksmuseum a few weeks ago.   The scene of a breakfast of fish and poultry shows the painter was a master at depicting different textures and surfaces.   

It may not seem immediately obvious, but the painting is missing some colour.   The Chinese porcelain bowl and jugs should be blue and white.  A good quality blue pigment was very expensive at the time and as the painter did not have the funds for good quality pigment, he used a cheaper and lesser quality pigment for this work.  Over time the poor quality blue colour faded badly.  

Photoshopped blue added 'Ontbijtje by Willem Claesz Heda.  
Just for fun I did a bit of quick photoshopping and painted in the missing blue of the porcelain.  It probably isn't the right blue colour and the blue in the rest of the painting has faded away as well so the balance isn't quite right, but it still gives an idea of what the painting should look like.  

The moral of this story obviously is to use the best quality materials you can find or afford.  Of course I don't presume my dollshouse will still be around in 350 years , but I would like it to last for quite some time yet.  Especially the paper and printed miniatures I have made for my dollhouse have started to show signs of fading and wear.  

So, although I am no expert at this,  I do now try to use materials which will probably last longer or have less of a chance of reacting badly to light, moisture, oxygen, chemicals etc., like acid free papers, archival varnishes, paints with good quality pigments, not using glue on fabrics etc. 

'Ontbijtje' by Willem Clasz Heda (detail with blue added).
In my dining room I would like to use a version of this scene, either on a side board or on the dining table.  I think it would look fantastic!  I do still have some more collecting to do though.  And possibly make one or two pieces myself.  Who knows.  

I leave you with this short clip of Jens Torp at work in his workshop, from the KDF documentary 1:12 about the charming world of dollhouse makers and the festival.  Watch the full 20 minute documentary (and more!) on the KDF website here: