This NEW SPECIAL page documents my efforts to get the Featherstone Hall Hotel project ready to take to the October 2022 MINIATURA show to celebrate its 10th (ish) anniversary.
After deciding to bring Featherstone Hall out of retirement to celebrate its 10th(ish) anniversary, I suddenly realised that there was a lot to do to get it show ready – including finding all the parts to it!
The house has been on display in my dining room since its retirement, but I only have the body of the house and the basement on display. I had to cut the front part of the basement off as it was too sticky out (technical term!) so that missing bit, plus the doors, basement doors and plinth to stand it on, and the six transformers I used to light it up had to tracked down. Good news – I found all the missing parts without much problem, bad news – there was a bit of damage to sort out.
I converted my dining room into a ‘refurbishment suite’ and set to by giving the house a good dust with a small stiff paintbrush and hoovered as I went with the micro tool attachment for my house vacuum.
I then went over the whole house with a damp cloth just to really freshen it up after hoovering.
With the cleaning done, I took stock of what needed doing. I had already decided that as the house is a snapshot in time (it stopped being added to when the book was published) I would not update it, just clean and sympathetically restore it – so that the house on display in 2022 was almost identical to the one on display a decade earlier.
The repair/restore list ran along the lines of:
Door interiors – check battery lights still working, re-attach some broken shelves (Library bar and Duchess bedroom), make a new cigarette for the snooker room chap and repair the lamp stand beside him which was snapped into three pieces (how I have no idea!)
Exterior – the door of doom part 2! The door of doom features in the book (p139) as it had disintegrated to the sum of its parts when I unpacked it to write about the door interiors – and in a case of Deja Vu – once again the porch had snapped off and the columns were off! But not only that, the revolving door had suffered some damage with one of the four interior dividing doors off the central column and the one of the door frame supports broken in two.
Although I decided to leave the house as a snapshot of 10 years ago, I decided to leave a few little reminders of its age, so rather than replace the brick paper on the side of the house which has faded due to direct sunlight – I have left it alone as part of its story.
In the main body of the house: (top down) I had to remove the battery light fittings from the ceiling of the hallway as I couldn’t get batteries for them (the lights were over 10 years old) However after my return from the show I found the box full of batteries to fit those light fittings I had carefully put away for future use – isn’t it always the way!
I replaced the battery in the luggage room light fitting (this replaced the unreliable wired light fitting shown in the book that I changed when first doing the house doors).
Then there was very little else to do apart from give some light bulbs a twist all the way down to the dining room, reception and library bar.
In the dining room. the chandeliers had long been a cause for concern as the last time the house was on display there was a fault in the bulb holders on one causing a small fire and two of the bulb holders to melt. Not only that but the wire seems to have stretched and they were dangling below the ceiling rose they should have been attached to. To be honest I was a bit worried they either wouldn’t light back up, or if they did would they catch fire again?
But being of a positive mind I decided to repair the dangling issue and wait and see what happened when I connected the electric up!
It was a bit tricky to do – I created some extra thick white filler to bridge the gap between to ceiling rose and top gold filigree of the column, then while it was still damp sculpted it into swirl forms to look like part of the rose and once dry brushed it with gold paint to finish the look. (I have to admit to being pretty chuffed with the end result!)
After emerging triumphant from the dining room I had to deal with another tricky issue in the reception. I have to admit to being a bit ‘gung-ho’ when cleaning here and I broke off the hand rail and spindles for the staircase going up from the reception and the set going up to the grand hall.
At the time I wasn’t too concerned about it, however when it came to actually doing the repair it was a total pain! I just could not get it to stick back in and align correctly with the end of the handrail going up to the grand hall. I think the job was more difficult because when it was first done the reception was empty, this time around I had to manoeuvre my hands around the man on the telephone and the round chair with the flower arrangement in the centre!
After several attempts I gave up and removed the man and the chair – but still had to have several goes at sticking the hand rails together!
….And then there was the snooker table lights.
When I first made the library bar in the house the snooker table lights were my pride and joy (only second to the dining room chandeliers). However like some of the other house lights they did not stand the test of time, and had snapped off completely from the ceiling.
This is where my inexperience showed (10 years ago) – as this was my first house I quite merrily put all the wiring for ceiling lights through and into the floor above. This now means that if I want to replace a light fitting I have to lift the floor of the room above! (in this case the Dukes suite).
But in the best tradition of the way I made the house, I came up with a solution to the problem without disturbing the Dukes suite.
I had already done this in the Duchess suite – I had a fabulous piece of fake plaster ceiling paper and I put the wires for the lights through the paper and attached it to the ceiling, pulling the wires through and attaching the light fittings to the paper. The wires then run between the paper and ceiling towards the back wall and the tiny section that shows is virtually invisible.
However when it came to the lights over the snooker table it wasn’t that simple…
For a start, the light fittings were 10 years old and I couldn’t get exact replacements. What I did get was some lights that pointed up not down. My cunning plan was to transfer the green shades from the old lights onto the new, once I had twisted them to point down – I was a bit nervous about this as the bend nipped the cable a bit more than I would like. But I checked before fitting them and the lights still worked. So I went ahead and using another piece of fake ceiling paper (from my box of bits left over from the house – really, I do still have a box of unused bits!) and did the hidden wire trick, then added the green shades from the original fittings.
The last section of the house to repair was the basement. During its ride home from an exhibition in Holland the four hanging kitchen lights detached and the front light in the Butlers Scullery stopped working. I also needed to pay some attention to the sinks in both the Kitchen Scullery and Butlers Scullery.
The sinks were the easiest to resolve so after cleaning the whole basement, I removed the jelly like Deluxe Materials Scenic Water I had used which had discoloured and replaced it with the Deluxe Materials cast resin I now use on my retail kitchen sinks.
The Scullery sink was pretty simple to do but the kitchen scullery was a little more complicated as there is water gushing out of the hand pump over the sink. I removed the contents of the sink and carefully separated the water from the pump lip. I filled the sink with 2/3 of the resin I wanted, let it set, then stood the water column on the surface of the resin up to the tap then coated it with liquid resin to seal it in position and topped up the volume of the sink. The water column was originally made by mixing tiny glass balls with scenic water on a sheet of plastic – then it was peeled off and glued in place (p131/2 in the book).
It was easier just to replace the wires for the light fitting in the Butlers scullery, as the wiring for it runs up through the ceiling and across the basement roof. When the house was first made channels were routed into the top to take the ceiling light wires and were sealed over with gaffa tape. This was easily removed to expose the wires then resealed with wide double sided tape as the backing paper was thickly waxed which would be a better surface to slide the house onto.
The wiring for the four kitchen lights had to be replaced like the Butlers scullery, but I managed to save the original light fittings – by removing the electrical contents and replacing them with separate bulbs in bulb holders on wires.
With that, the last bit to be done was the two basement side doors sections. One was perfectly untouched but the left hand side one had all the ballustrades snapped off and the potted bay tree topiary on the top landing had snapped off.
These were pretty simple repairs to do, and with them done the last job was to connect the six transformers and switch on the lights. (We had tested the basement as there were so many light changes – but still needed to check the main house)
Apart from the replacements due to breakages I’m proud to say that everything worked, there were a few bulbs here and there that needed a twist in the holder, but apart from that they all worked first time!
With everything done I then packed all the rooms of the house with bubblewrap paying particular care to supporting the hanging lights. The clear acrylic sheet went back onto the front of the house followed by a sheet of fibreboard then wrapped in heavy duty cling film.
The doors had pads of foam supporting the interior shelves and their contents, then they were also wrapped in cling film. The basement was wrapped like the house but with the addition of a couple of layers of cardboard on the top to further protect the wiring.
The house was then put in a trailer, with the basement and doors in the back of the car, and off we went to Stoneleigh!
It took us from 2pm to 6.30pm to set up as I also had my Dee-Daw Designs stand to set up next to the house. Unpacking the house was the reverse of packing, then we attached the doors, connected the electrics and double checked everything was still working!
When it was all set up I stood back and felt quite proud of it, and was so pleased to see it on display again.
It went down a storm with visitors – some had bought the book when the house and book were first at Miniatura 10 years ago, then there were those who had bought the book after the house had retired from showing and had never seen it, and then there were people who had never heard of it before – but I’m pleased to say all were equally transfixed by it and kept coming back to it throughout the day.
And I think even better, people still wanted to come up and chat about it, about how I had done things, about how they could do things on their own houses, and I thought then, how great it was that 10 years later, after I had set out to create my first house, people still wanted to talk about it, see it and take inspiration from it.
So thank you to everyone who came to see it, enjoyed it, and got inspiration and ideas for their own projects from it – that’s exactly what it was created for!
There’s more about the house at the show on the LITTLE PROBLEMS page, FEATHERSTONE HALL HOTEL GALLERY of pictures and the October NEWS BLOG (in the INSPIRATION section)