Updated: Mar 5
I kinda sorta stumbled into a new hobby. It combined my love for wee tiny things and books.
This is the Sam’s Study kit I picked up on etsy. I was looking to do a book nook for my mom and fell into the rabbit hole of miniatures and whatnot and that’s how I found that.
I'd like to go on record as saying I was looking for a way to recreate the alley next to Shakespeare & Co. bookshop in Paris. It's across the street and adjacent to Notre Dame, and the street (St. Julien Le Pauvre) is the home of the oldest tree in Paris. (That's my mom with the turquoise bag below) That's how I ended up here.
Anyway, I saw this one and it intrigued me, so I figured it would be a fun and low key hobby.
Narrator: The writer of this column has never been low key in her life and is unfamiliar with the concept. It’s cute how she tries though.
Here is a detailed list of all the alterations I made to the original kit in order to fulfill my vision for what my mother has lovingly dubbed ‘Wednesday Addams’ Reading Room’. Included are links and pix when applicable to make it easier to find things and to shout out those whose assistance I value immensely.
Changed the floor overlay in both style and color. I wanted the floor to be a parquet that matches what’s in my house. The color was just because it was awesome and I saw something similar on etsy, so I made it myself instead. I used Gimp GNU to overlay a layer of bright purple over the image of the parquet that I desaturated and adjusted the contrast to get the black bits to stand out extra well-defined, the mode was ‘multiply’. Duplicated that layer, made the second layer darker by adjusting the color curves, and then used mode ‘grain merge’ to get it to print out the color I wanted. I laid the floor on the paper and traced/cut out the shape. Then I applied Elmer’s spray glue to the floor piece, carefully laid the paper on it (watch for air bubbles! Going slow here is best) and allowed it to dry. Then I sprayed it with high gloss acrylic in ‘clear’. I did that 3 separate times and it came out well. Let the acrylic dry completely between each spraying.
Walls are fabric on top, glitter cardstock for the wainscoting (and whew, do I love purple glitter, but man was it hard to cut for some reason). The cardstock came from the scrapbooking section of Michael’s. My hubby picked it out to match the fabric. I applied both to the walls via Elmer’s spray glue. This should go without saying but you know, make sure if you do the wainscoting route, you make sure they are even on both walls so they line up correctly when you go to assemble the room.
Added (and by added I mean purchased on etsy, mitred, painted and sprayed with acrylic) the crown moulding, chair rail, and baseboards. The chair rail was made from the top part of an extra piece of the baseboard material. Since only a tiny portion of it would be showing, I didn’t run it around the whole room, just to the edges of the shelves. I cut the baseboards, then I used the miter box to line up a straight cut to separate the top section of the leftover bit from the rest. Once that was done, I sanded the top flat and painted them before hitting them with high gloss acrylic 3x.
Exchanged all the pictures for either ones I took myself (the pictures of Paris, Venice, Florence, Ravenna, Pompeii, etc) or of art I love (Rossetti, Artemisia Gentileschi, Waterhouse). The fanart take on Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes is called Harleyfernes and is made by Pineapplebreads (and used with their permission).
I replaced several of the covers on the little individual books with wrap covers from my own novels, or those of my friends (writer benefits). This took a lot of trial and error on my part because the measurements for the book wraps on the papers are not uniform or standard sizes, so dealing with that took some work. In addition to my books and my friend’s books, I also used covers from my favorite novels (here, here, and here). They’re scattered all over the room
I changed the upholstery of the chair because the red clashed in every substantive way with my vision. The chair was a pain to deal with and I had to reupholster it twice, but I made it happen and it turned out well. I watched youtube videos a lot to figure out exactly how to follow the written directions. I also changed out the feet with some cabrioles I picked up from etsy (I went with the .8” cabrioles in 1:12 size). I had to saw off the top bits to make them flat so they’d match up to the chair, sanded a bit too, but once that happened, I just glued them. I also colored them with a gold paint pen for that weathered look.
I was on the fence about making a throw pillow for the chair because I feel like breaking out the sewing machine is a bridge too far (she said as she details every single other alteration she made).
Fortunately I was able to find a youtube vid on making them without busting out the Singer, so I made two of them, one in the chair and one extra in the basket with the skirt that matches the tablecloth.
I got the little rug under the chair on etsy. I might have gone with bigger but I got it before the kit arrived in the mail, so there we are
Got the purple afghan off etsy as a custom piece because I crochet afghans and in a room like this in real life, I’d absolutely have one. I got the multicolor spare in the basket because it was very cool and reminded me of my grandmothers
I changed the ‘tablecloth’ covering on the stool to fabric that matched both the walls and the basket.
Changed the cloth skirt on the basket because that green and white gingham was ugly af (imo)
The lights were a right bear. I mean, I had my engineer husband come and help me because I was not getting the job done. I got a different hanging light that was sufficiently goth, yet refused to remain attached to the ceiling, so I went with a much brighter floor lamp I got from etsy and it really gave the room a kind of warmth and hominess to it.
I gave serious thought to repainting all of the shelves and cabinets, but in the end kept them as they are because I liked how whimsical it made the room feel.
If you’re going to add stuff to the room, I would generally suggest 1:24 as the size. There are some places that say 1:24 explicitly (the kit doesn't specify) but a lot of things I got (crown moulding, baseboards, light, plants, chair legs, etc) were in 1:12 and worked out fine. If you want to add more books, 1:12 is the size you want. There are a ton of miniature books available if you want to do more realistic books and fewer paper boxes.
WATCH THE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE! I cannot overstate how helpful these were to me when the instructions were less than forthcoming.
Get extra glue. I got a glue stick I used to stick the book covers to the wee tiny pieces of wood and I got a bottle of Elmer’s white craft glue in addition to the glue provided in the kit
If you’re going to make alterations, the wee tiny mitre saw on Amazon is the way to go. That got way more use than anticipated and I love how straight my cuts are and how flawless the look turned out overall. Suggestion: the dollhouse tool kit ($40 on Amazon, comes with the saw, clamps, and a ruler)
If you’re not going the way of the saw, I still recommend getting a modeler basic tool kit. It should come with a ruler, an exacto knife of some sort, some nail file-type files as well as some metal ones, and the one I got also came with a cutting surface that was so very helpful and a battery-operated rotary tool that I used a fair amount too. It should have a couple different sets of tweezers in there, because the ones that come with the kit are shite.
I had a set of jewelry-making tools already, including a set of miniature needle-nose pliers. You may wish to invest in a pair of those as well to deal with the bends for the drawer handles.
Clamps! Get some, you’ll thank me later. You’ll want model clamps (though I used some fairly forgiving chip clips) because it works a lot better than trying to search for said chip clips or trying to tape the pieces into place to hold while the glue dries
In that vein, get a packet of mini binder clips. I found them to be most helpful when dealing with the books. You can pinch the covers on while the glue dries, also, you can compel the folded books to keep their form.
Get a plastic bag (like a gallon-sized freezer bag) to put the wooden framework you get in the box that you pop all the book bits out of. They fall out of the framework quickly and can get lost just as quickly. It makes it a helluva lot easier to keep track of them.
I used discrete plastic bags to house each shelf’s pieces so they were all in one place.
Get a little plastic tub for all the little folded books. Not just the little wooden ones but the paper box ones as well. Keeps them from getting accidentally smushed. In the great midwestern tradition, I used an old manteca container that had been washed out.
Gloves aren’t mandatory by any means, but the glue provided in the kit gets frickin everywhere and was difficult as heck to remove from my fingertips. The Elmer’s was much more forgiving
Be prepared to devote a LOT of time to cutting things out. I spent the majority of this build with scissors in my hand and a dubious look on my dog’s face. The tiny paper bits get everywhere, too.
The pictures of this were shot with my Samsung S9 phone, 12.2MP, f/1.5, 4.30mm, ISO400, no flash
I put the model inside a cardboard box to isolate it from exterior light, and I covered the walls in the fabric from the chairs and baskets, in other words, I made sure that if you looked out the roof, you’d see a sky full of stars.
The sole source of light in the picture was the battery operated mini floor lamp in the diorama. That’s it. It turned out way brighter in the pictures than expected and gave it an awesome, warm, homey quality that having the flash on just didn’t touch. I got the idea for it from my friend and pro-photog friend from childhood, Liam (you can check out his work here). Additional phtography help came from Tammy Sherman who is in a DIY Miniatures Facebook group.
The song used in the video is a segment of ‘The Aquarium’ from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns.
This was a lot of fun to plan and put together, and I’m glad I did it. I’m looking at Paris Midnight as my next endeavor, but I haven’t settled on that one yet. There’s also a cute apartment one with a balcony that I might do as well. I may not get to my traditional book nook, but these are very entertaining.