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The Loft

One thing about dollshouses as a hobby; although space eventually becomes a problem, the challenge of creating new settings means that either you somehow stretch the space available or you recycle, putting one setting away and use the house or roombox for a new setting.

I've never been interested in doing settings in the ubiquitous Tudor to Edwardian era - all my settings are either earlier than Tudor or (relatively) modern. And where some people do a dollshouse based on a family home (either their present one, the one they lived in as a child, or one their grandparents lived in), I found myself more interested in doing settings based on some of the television programmes I enjoy.

One of these programmes, one in which I write fanfiction, is The Sentinel. I was first introduced to it some years before it was shown on the Sci-fi Channel in the UK, thanks to a friend who had the episodes on video, and shortly thereafter got a set of tapes myself from a friendly American. Several years ago, I decided I wanted to do a setting based on 'the loft', where Jim and Blair, the two main characters, live.

Because of the open-plan design of the loft, it had to be a roombox. I found a web page with plans for the loft, and using that as a guide, drew up a plan for a roombox. I took this to my local shop (about a hundred miles away, but who's measuring?) and they said that yes, they could get it made.

Two years later, I was still waiting for it - and the owner of the shop retired. He hadn't been able to find someone to make it.

Later that year, at Miniatura in Glasgow, I spoke to a stallholder from Perthshire who made houses, and asked if he could make this roombox for me. He said he could, and sure enough, not long after that he contacted me; it was ready, and I collected it. It's about eight times the size of an ordinary roombox, and because of the design of the loft there's a lot of wasted space. And although I took the dimensions from a plan, it immediately became clear to me that when scenes were shot in the loft, they had to have fiddled some of these dimensions quite considerably. It would have been better if I'd made the bedrooms (for example) some three inches longer.

A lot of the furniture had to be an approximation. In the show, there are two sofas in the living room area; I had to settle for one. It's not quite the right shape - the back is too high - and I'm still looking for a better one. There's a yellowish armchair in the show; I had to settle for red, though again I'm still looking for one that's a better colour. (I don't have the skills required to try re-upholstering it myself.) I had to reduce the number of kitchen units. The bathroom has had to disappear behind a false door.

I got it made with one wall of the downstairs bedroom transparent and removeable, otherwise it would be difficult to get anything into it and its contents would be invisible. It's so small it can only hold a bed and a bookcase; so I had to put a chest of drawers and a desk and chair for it just outside it. The upstairs bedroom holds a bed, wardrobe and a bedside table - again it should have at least a chest of drawers. (We never saw very much of the bedrooms in the series, but there are photos on the web that visitors to the sets took.)

I scanned the covers of some magazines and printed miniature versions of them (Blair is an anthropologist). I recycled into the setting some native American miniatures that I'd bought in the past. I'd a flint spear blade I'd bought with my stone age cave in mind; I recycled this to be one of Blair's collection of artifacts, and slivers of flint salvaged from a workshop on flint knapping I attended a year or two ago provide three more. A friend made me one or two masks and a couple of candlesticks that can be seen in the background, as well as sending me one or two other things for the setting (thanks, Marion!). I also do some cross-stitch, and I did an ethnic-style rug for it. And I commissioned two dolls from Cassandra, who has made several dolls for me over the years. The likenesses aren't brilliant, but all she had to work from was a photo I sent her; she'd never seen the show.

I managed to get a lot of books and a bookshelf (I think I bought all the books several stallholders had at the 2005 Miniatura in Glasgow) and that has filled up a big gap against the back wall, making the setting look less empty. A second bookshelf is only partly filled; I'm keeping it for Blair's artifacts.
The setting still has some way to go before it's finished - but then settings rarely *are* ever completely finished. There's always something else that just fits, even when something is 99% complete, which this one isn't, yet. If possible, I need to get some more artifacts for Blair and a gun for Jim to have just finished cleaning. Meanwhile, the two of them are sitting watching television, coffee mugs on the table in front of them as well as a pizza just waiting to be eaten..