Creating an "authentic" Period Kitchen

By Carol (okus) on March 17, 2010

Creating something that is right for the period and looks good, without breaking the bank on the way, isn't as difficult as it might seem! If I can do it - anyone can do it - so I have been asked to give you a brief description of how I did it.

     When you buy your base doll house kit, you probably have a vague idea of what you are going to do with it, but if you haven't then take a look at the building itself. It will never feel authentic if you try to put a Tudor Kitchen into a modern house, but it could work the other way round. Many old homes have been kept the way they were outside, yet they were brought bang up to date on the inside, particularly in areas like the kitchen and bathroom. Once you have decided on the period that is right for your home its time to do some serious research. The local library is a good place to start and if you are lucky enough to have historic homes of the correct period nearby that you can visit, that is an added bonus.

     When I bought my Manor House I decided it was to be a Stuart Period home. That would put it in the period around English Civil War, but  the house itself might be an older Tudor, in its origins. Why the mix? Well I wanted to be able to use some later styles in the "posh" part of the house but set the kitchens and lesser rooms in a slightly earlier period. Most homes even today have bits that are left overs from the previous generation. I find it helps to have built a story around the home so that its occupants have a personality which you can reflect in the design. My story goes like this:

     Lady Elizabeth is the widow of Sir Henry Barnsdale, who built the Manor. Their son Charles is now the owner but he is away at court, in London, much of the time so Lady Elizabeth continues to manage the household. She likes the manor to appear smart and fashionable to Charles' visitors but isn't too concerned about convenience for the servants. This means the Salon and Guest quarters are really up to the moment but the kitchen and dining hall are less so.

     I started by painting the blank walls and ceiling of my room in magnolia so it would look used white when done and the floor in a slate grey. This means that odd chinks that show through/round the fitments and the tiles later won't look odd. From this point I started designing the kitchen, the key feature of which is its cooking facilities. Running water was not a feature of the Tudor kitchen so there was no need for a sink. Actually there might have been a scullery and wash-house somewhere else possibly with a pump, but the water in the kitchen would have been carried in in wooden pails. Cooking was done with open fires and meat would be spit roasted probably with a poor lad turning the handle to keep it cooking evenly. There would have been a bread oven with a fire underneath and in more important homes an arrangement of hot plates, basically holes built into a brick bench and covered with a trivet. There would be a charcoal fire under the 'bench' which would have been built into a second fireplace.

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    The key feature of the design was therefore the fireplaces, so I drew the shape and size I wanted onto a sheet of paper and cut it out. This meant I could use it as a template, and all my fireplaces would be the same shape exactly. Next I carefully measured the room and cut a plain piece of thin card to the exact size of the back wall, and a second for the side wall to the length I wanted the chimney brest to cover, I placed my template on it, drew round it and cut out the shapes. I made a similar shape for the bread oven and did the same with that in order to produce sufficient depth for the fires I needed to mount these 1.5 ins in front of the real walls To do this, I made a balsa wood frame and stuck the false walls to it. This meant my set up was free standing and I could work on it outside the house, but it pays to check before you go any further that it will fit in place!!

     So having now got the fronts sorted out I created a second smaller frame to hold the back wall of each of the openings and the 'brick' bench.  I covered the back and side walls of this frame with cardboard brick 'slips' using darker ones behind the centre of the fires to create a smokey effect and created a hearth for the open fire from old slate scraps stuck to a piece of thick cardboard. Then I lined the inside of the fire pit openings with the orange cellophane wrapper from a couple of toffees. At this point I joined the back wall set ups to the front. The bread oven door was made of balsa wood cut to shape.

     Now you are ready to paint your false walls to match the main walls and add the stone framework around the fire openings. I made these 'stones' by cutting up an old cereal packet into suitable sizes and painting them with a mixture of powdered grey stone, water and pva glue. This also gives a stone texture to them as well as colour. Once painted I stuck them in place with more pva glue. The stone dust I bought mail order from  'miniaturebtickbargains' on ebay, a little really does go a long, long way.

   2010-03-17/okus/d60835  If you are planning on using electricity to light your house and give a real fire glow, then this would be the point to think about it. Once all the false walls are fixed in place you won't be able to get in behind to run the wires, so do it now! I mounted a candle bracket on the front of one of my false walls but didnt pre-wire it, even though I did do the fires. It was a nightmare to do later, so think ahead!! Once wired in you can fix your framework in place, hopefully it still fits! I also built and stained the shelves and log store at this point to fit in the empty space at the front of the side wall chimney brest. The logs are prunings from my apple tree cut into little pieces.     

  Now on to the floor, once you get to this point it starts to feel 'real'! I made a template of the remaining floor space on very thin card and cut a whole pile of 'slates' from my cereal boxes - I hope your family eats loads of breakfast cereal, your going to need tons of those empty boxes to finish the house!! I used the same stone dust/PVA mix as before to paint my slates but added a little black paint as well to darken the colour. Paint before you glue them down or you may end up with cardboard coloured edges showing. I glued them in a fairly random pattern and once down, repainted some areas in a slightly different colour mix to try and make them look old and worn. Slide it into place, add the final touches to your hearth and put the trivets in place - I bought the spit and trivets for mine.

     To make it look more Tudor, and to mask any gaps between the false walls and the ceiling add some 'oak' beams. I cut mine from strips of balsa wood which I roughed up a bit with a craft knife and stained with an ordinary dark oak wood stain. You could also use a product called Briwax which is a stain in a wax base - less messy to apply but more expensive. Briwax is good for surfaces that you want to look polished though as you can buff it up to a really nice shine. The beams are fixed in place with PVA again, but before you do make sure you have done everything that needs to be done to the false wall assembly. Once the beams are in it is going to be permanently anchored in place!2010-03-17/okus/107c1e     

 

   I also put beams  on the third wall and around the window on the opening wall, which of course you can't see when its attached to the room, but it makes me feel better to know its done.

     Now the room is built and all you need to do is furnish it. Plain cheap, white wood tables stained are as good as anything fancy you can buy. Food is also important as are the containers they are in. Barrels of ale, sacks of flour, baskets of fruit, veg and eggs but no potatoes, they were only discovered with America and so not available to the Tudor household. By the Stuart era they would have been, but they were rare and expensive. Pots and pans are black metal and pottery jugs would be greyish and plain. Salt would have been in a pot to be grabbed in handfuls.  Cupboards were not in common use in kitchens till later, racks and shelves were used for storage and meat and poultry hung from hooks in the ceiling beams. Tableware intended for use in the dining room would be pewter and forks were not used until much later. It was fingers, knives and spoons at this time. You can make your own accessories or buy them, but have a go at making a basket of apples just for fun. Of course you will need a cook, and maybe a spit-boy too before you are done.

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A great book with some excellent, practical and relatively simple guides to building a Tudor Miniature  Home is "The Authentic Tudor & Stuart Dolls' House by Brian Long and I gained a lot of helpful ideas from it.

Related articles:
Authentic, Dolls House, Kitchen, Miniature, Period, Tudor

About Carol

Carol is from the UK but has roots going back all over the globe. She has always loved history and historic homes, would love to live in a real one but can't afford it, nor decide quite what period it should be, so is now busy trying to create them all in miniature.
Other interests are dogs; she has bred, exhibited and judged Golden Retrievers for many years; Genealogical research, check out the Ancestry Cubit; Collecting antiques and last but not least Gardening.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Great Article!! 1AnjL Mar 29, 2010 4:06 PM 7
Untitled Dea Mar 20, 2010 5:45 PM 5
Fascinating valleylynn Mar 19, 2010 4:09 PM 1

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