Restoration of an Antique German Blue Roof
by Jane Wright
This is more of an update and a huge thank you note to the experienced members of Dolls Houses Past and Present who guided me through the restoration of my first antique dolls house. The house is a lovely old German blue roof circa 1905 by an unknown maker. I received some very help from members on its identification - one passed on information from Swantje Koehler that this range of houses was distributed by the firm of August Hermann Nacht c 1904. No one knows who actually manufactured it, but it wasn't Gottschalk. I am very lucky to have such a dear little house. My husband bought it for my birthday (but I chose it of course!)
The roof was covered in a thick coat of old green gloss paint that had begun to crack revealing the beautiful blue beneath. However, as soon as I tried to remove the paint it became clear that it was not going to 'come quietly'. Unsure what to do I asked your website for help and was very quickly set on the right path by your members. Following advice, I bought a Swann and Morton scalpel with no. 10 blades on Ebay and began picking at the paint. Not having a piece to practice on was a distinct disadvantage, but I soon found the best approach was to hold the scalpel almost horizontal and just use the tip to pick off bits of paint. Twelve scalpel blades, only 2 nicked fingers and several weeks later the beautiful blue colour was revealed in all its glory. I couldn’t believe how bright it was!
Presumably the covering of green paint had served to protect it over the years from fading. Due partly to my inexperience and partly to several areas being particularly stubborn, there were a few small nicks into the wood which, following yet more advice, I touched in with poster paint and then sprayed the whole roof with a light mist of acrylic varnish to seal it.
The papers inside and out are all original as far as I know and in pretty good condition for their age, apart from a small rectangular area in the centre of the back wall in the lower room. I imagine a picture or mirror once hung there. I took a photo of the wall with my Sony camera and downloaded it into the computer. After much trial and error (I’m no computer whizz kid), using Windows Live Photo Gallery, I managed to print off a piece that is almost correct as far as the pattern size goes but I couldn’t get the tone any lighter without losing the colour match. (I’m sure some knowledgeable member will put me straight?). I have a lovely old antique mirror which almost covers it, so I’m hoping it will hardly be noticeable when the house is finished.
Next I turned my attention to the curtains, or rather the lack of them. There was a remnant of deep red cotton type fabric with a lace edge still stuck in one of the pelmets. Again, following advice from a really lovely member of Dolls Houses Past and Present, I found some gorgeous deep red silk on Ebay. Most of the cottons I looked at didn’t have the depth of colour and the silk only needed a little touch of Fray check to stop it fraying out thus avoiding bulky seams. Although the original curtain remnant seemed to be just a straight piece of fabric, I used a 1/24th scale curtain pleater (the windows are not very large), to make some fuller looking curtains, which I prefer. I found some old lace in my local antique shop which looked very similar to the original in pattern but was a dark beige colour. I paid my 50p and decided to experiment. Ten minutes in bleach produced a very pleasing pale cream colour, so I washed and dried it and then glued it to the edge of the curtains with tacky glue. (Tiny stitches are a thing of the past I’m afraid).
There is still green paint around the base of the house but I have decided to leave that as it appears to be particularly resistant and the idea of a nice green lawn surrounding the property is not too far fetched I hope.
There is still a chimney that needs paint removing from it and I shall do that.
In the meantime I have been collecting some very nice old metal items for the dolls house, some in better condition than others. I would love to see them restored to their former glory but am unsure how to go about it. Can you stop the rusty bits getting worse? Should I ‘touch in’ any missing paint? What do other collectors do and is there a right or wrong answer? I also found some dear little lead farmyard animals which really are missing a lot of paint. I would very much appreciate advice, as I don't want to spoil them for whoever has them after me in the future. Perhaps the great members of Dolls Houses Past and Present will come to my rescue again? My thanks again for everyone’s help. Jane