Restoration of a C.E. Turnbull Dolls House
by Wendy Stephen
I had decided that I was going to stop buying Dolls Houses for a while, something I do quite freqently to try and monitor and control my Dolls House and Miniature collecting hobby. I hasten to add that it never works - as soon as I make this decision along will come a "must have" house!
I was looking on the Dolls House section on ebay and a house really caught my eye, it looked very old and tired, it had been heavily overpainted. This added paint had clearly been brushed on a long time ago.
I could see there were traces of blue paint showing through where added paint had started chipping off. The house had a distinctive smaller sized window to the upper middle section, I knew there were other commercially made houses built in this style but didn't have the time at that point to research to identify the house. I decided to buy the house and managed to win it at auction.
The house looked very sad and as if it hadn't been bothered with for quite a few years. There were woodworm holes mainly to one of the main opening front doors (this became more apparent once I started stripping off the added paint). The woodworm holes were clearly very old and there were no wood shavings when I held the door upside down and tapped it but I always think it's best to treat houses and miniatures if ever there are any visible holes. My first job was to treat the whole house for woodworm and other parasites, I coated the whole house twice following the instructions given.
I had to leave the house for quite a few weeks after the woodworm treatment to let the house dry out. During this time I received an email from my friend who confirmed that the house was a C.E Turnbull house.
Rebecca Green wrote an article for Issue 1 (May 2009) of the Dolls Houses Past & Present magazine explaining the history of this Company, so please refer to the article for more information.
I started chipping away at the overcoated layer of paint, it was very slow and laborious. I could see the original paper underneath, the brick on the top half of the house and the stone block work on the lower level. Please see the pictures for work in progress.
Once I had finished chipping off the added paint I was left with what was remaining of the original. I took one of the main opening doors to my local paint stockist shop, so we could get the nearest colours for the matching in where papers were missing and bare wood was showing. I was in the shop for a couple of hours going through all of the colour charts, I knew I would have to water down the paint so as not to get the "newly added paint effect". I came home with many sample pots, the majority being Farrow & Ball paints.
I mixed up watery colours to match the missing paint colours and set to work on touching in on the missing areas of wood. The arch shaped paper above the upstairs windows was very patchy but I have left it with just what was remaining of the original.
Once this had been done I needed to start work on the inside of the house, there was some wallpaper remaining but there was blue paint underneath so I knew the paper although very old was not the original in the house when made.
I repapered the upstairs left handside bedroom/hall and the inside of the main opening doors in old French vintage papers. Then I used antique/vintage fabric material to use as wall coverings in the two rooms on the right handside. I did not remove the wallpaper that was on the house when I bought it, they are under the new wall coverings.
I bought replacement glass for the windows that had missing panes and put this into place. My next job then was to furnish and dress the windows.
The house has taken a long time to restore but I absolutely love it and it has pride of place in my lounge.