sea house pavilion: tiny charming cottage

tiny charming cottage dry fit

tiny charming cottage dry fit

To illustrate how the pavilion adds outdoor living space, I made a 1:144 scale model of the Charming Cottage in an early dry fit, with a tiny roll of masking tape, the instruction sheet, and my notebook (with rounded corners :) open to some of my initial sketches. And plenty of back issues of dwell, for inspiration and research.

tiny tiny Charming Cottages

tiny tiny Charming Cottages

Since then, I’ve built a few more to refine the pattern and improve my skill. The first were cut from 1/16-inch basswood; this one is from 1/32-inch. I doubt I have the patience to paint or to make 1:144 furniture, but I guess I should make a model of the pavilion itself, just for that recursive view thing.

If you’d like to make one, let me know and I’ll send you my pattern.

new build: old brick walls and rock painting


tiny old brick wall building

My original concept has been steadily downsized as I build. Seems like it could easily fill four of my self-imposed-sized bases to maintain the scale, so there’s been quite a bit of re-thinking and simplifying.


tiny painted boulders

Air dry clay takes days to dry, but I started painting the boulders on day 2 with thin acrylic washes. So much fun! I think I’ll add one or two more stipplings once they’re in place in the landscape, and I see how much more they change with drying.

new build: base sculpting and paving

new paving design

new paving design

Had to scrap my first paving design as the new build reveals itself. These are quarter-inch (0.635 cm) modern egg carton pavers, and will have some sort of greenery growing between them.

Some of us conceive an idea, make extensive plans and work out a lot of details before beginning to build, and some of us mostly make it up as we go along. This is my fourth structure, and I’ve learned a thing or two, starting with base size and weight, especially after crating and moving the other three across the country, and to a much smaller house and studio. I now limit the base to a 20 x 26-inch (51 x 66 cm) birch drawing board. They’re lightweight, stable and have nicely finished edges — a good place to start.

My Quest for True Scale Fidelity is now tempered with weight considerations as well. I used real stones and rocks landscaping my first two builds, and they are beautiful but heavy. This time, I’m using air-dry clay to sculpt both the gentle grade and boulders. I’ve never used it before — it’s kind of like a cross between marshmallow and Silly Putty. (Brian says it shrinks like crazy, so we shall see how it turns out). And how mad are my painting skillz.

using air-dry modeling compound as a landscaping base

using air-dry modeling compound as a landscaping base

I’m also terrible at waiting for glue to dry.

new build: main structure

main deck nearing completion

main deck nearing first round of completion

The timbers and planks for the outdoor room are salvage from the Sea House Pleasure Pier when it closed in the early ‘60s, when that kind of pleasure was no longer popular nor profitable. They had been stored in a warehouse with other artifacts, apparently forgotten until they were rediscovered by two of the Sea House heirs and put up for auction in July, 2007.

the builder considers the view from the newly completed main deck

the builder considers the view from the newly completed main deck, and contemplates landscaping, cheese, if time is more like a wave or a spiral, and the stories old wood can tell

The builder swears the wood smells like sea air and pink popcorn, and when cut, you can sometimes hear the sound of waves from under the pier.

new build: first looks

Pretty sure Buckminster Fuller used egg cartons in the Usonian House

Pretty sure Frank Lloyd Wright used egg cartons in Usonian Houses

Also it kind of looks like the Death Star, but of course it’s really just a floor, and will mostly be covered up. I love egg cartons. They are one of the most versatile, suggestive and satisfying materials I’ve worked with. Although they dull X-Acto blades surprisingly fast, still totally worth the effort of begging cartons.

experimenting with palm leaf shapes cut from fabric flower foliage

experimenting with palm leaf shapes cut from fabric flower foliage

Exploratory phase, hand cut, with an eye toward being able to make lots of plausible landscaping without letting the plants tyrannize and crush me. Next photo I’ll leave the hundreds millions of tiny snippets cut from the shapes. Possibly the worst part is having to go into the kind of stores that sell fabric flowers.

the roof interior and color scheme inspiration

the roof interior and color scheme and location inspiration

The roof, which is pretty much the only — and the most distinctive — part of the kit I’m using (other than the floor and rafters), will be clad in corrugated steel. Actually it’s plastic but it will be painted to look like metal and suitably aged and weathered. You will want to believe it’s perfect tiny corrugated steel, and the obvious choice for an outdoor room in a North Coast city lot.