Everything but the kitsch-en sink with Danielle Korzeniewski 

Welcome to the sixth installment of Everything But the Kitsch-en Sink. This week American collector Danielle Korzeniewski shows Natasha Francois around her marvellous mid-century abode.
While trawling Instagram one day, I stumbled across the feed of Danielle Korzeniewski and immediately fell head-over-heels for her home which is packed to the rafters with mid-century collectables.
The kitsch-obsessed mother-of-five lives in America’s midwest and hoards everything lemon yellow, aqua and pastel pink and her shelves groan under the weight of her collections which include Pyrex kitchenware, fibreglass lamps, starburst-shaped clocks, whimsical poodle figurines and sought-after anthropomorphic porcelain made by the likes of Lefton and Napco!
Desperate to see more of her home? Step this way!
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Although she wasn’t born until 1980, Korzeniewski has a penchant for everything mid-century and lives the vintage lifestyle to the fullest.

A keen thrift-shopper and stay-home mother, Danielle raises five children [ages 2-20] while hubby takes care of the bills. 

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“I collect a ton of different things from the 1950s and 60s. Lefton is a very favorite of mine! I love Miss Priss, Thumblina etc (cookie jars, tea sets etc) . I collect Napco Miss Cutie Pie, blue birds and anything aqua.
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“However I adore all pink, yellow and aqua from the turn of the century, valuable or not.
“My favorite collection is probably my Lefton/Napco/Enesco /Chase Japan tea-sets, while Pyrex comes second, but really I can’t decide.
“I LOVE LOVE LOVE atomic lamps and have a ton! Yet not enough!”
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Pyrex is her first love and is what started the ball rolling.
“When I bought my first piece of Pyrex I had NO IDEA it was so big or even a “thing” to collect Pyrex and slowly I started wanting to do a retro-style diner style kitchen and bought a lot of reproduction offline,” she says.
Thanks to Instagram, she soon realised how phenomenally popular Pyrex was in the antiques and collectables world.
“Seeing other kitschy homes sparked the fire in me and there’s been no turning back.”
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The first piece to start her collection was a 403 Amish butter print that was half DWD [dishwasher damaged] which she bought blindly off eBay (“and paid way too much for”)
From there, she purchased several other DWD over priced pieces not realizing the difference.
“So til this day I have my DWD overpriced eBay collection that started it all.”
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Danielle finds the bulk of her scores via Facebook, Craigslist and estate sales or eBay.
“Very little do I find at thrift stores as it’s become harder and harder,” she says.
With five kids to run around after, she seldom gets the chance to go treasure-hunting anymore, however she remains passionate about her collections and her goal is to be published in a magazine.
Danielle’s home was recently used by Susanna Vestige as the backdrop for a pinup photo shoot featuring Tami Savoy as the model.
Check out the results below!
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“Vintage brings me so much happiness, it doesn’t have to be pink and aqua. I truly love it all! I love the 70s avocado green and oranges too!”
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I would drive 400 miles and I would drive 400 more, just to be the woman who scored these incredible lamps ….

When it comes to some of her noteworthy scores, her husband recently drove 900 miles in order to pick up a highly collectable pair of Leslie China atomic lamps. He then went on to drive a further 400 miles in order to collect a 1957 atomic boomerang couch and chair in mint condition!

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1957 atomic boomerang couch

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Danielle has always had an affinity with “old things- especially children’s items” but it wasn’t until 2013 that she became more focused on collecting vintage.
“I had my first son at 18 and if you look back at his baby pictures you would notice I would thrift a lot of vintage clothes for him and continued to when I could find them easily for all my kids. I’m not sure what the change was exactly…”
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Since then her taste hasn’t changed much with the exception of “weeding out reproduction in favor of authentic mid-century.”
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“My children have all grown up surrounded by breakable items so they are all used to it and are very good about respecting them. Very little has ever been broken (knock on wood) lol. The one living room set up is just a extra room (we have two other more normal living rooms so the kids freely use those. “

 

 

I don’t see any signs of my kids following in our foot steps yet and that’s totally OK if they don’t. They don’t seem to mind it and all their friends seem to love it!”
What do you think of Danielle’s kitschtastic home? Let me know in the comments!
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The Handmade’s Tale: An interview with CatHouse Modern

In the fifth installment of The Handmade’s Tale, Natasha chats to Kate Smith who creates mid-century modern inspired furniture for the discerning feline.

Ever noticed how fugly most cat furniture is? Every time I go shopping for my precious Puss Puss I find myself recoiling at the sheer hideousness of most cat scratchers and cat beds. Occasionally I find a cute little mouse or a catnip-infused toy which has some aesthetic merit, but this is few and far between.

As a mid-century kitsch fan I have a hankering for atomic symbols and retro styling but until now, have found it nigh on impossible to source anything decent for my beloved fur baby.

That is until I stumbled across the wonderful Kate from CatHouse Modern when she posted in one of my favourite global Facebook groups, Mid-Century Modern Cats (yes, there’s a group for every taste, no matter how niche!)

CatHouse Modern’s raison d’être is to craft one-of-a-kind furniture with a Mid Century Modern bent for you and your favorite cat or kitten.

Made with new and reclaimed materials, her products combine rescued vintage and durable fabrics in colors and patterns which blend in with and accent your retro lifestyle.

She also designs toys and furniture that keep in mind the need for comfort, and the innate curiosity and playfulness of cats.

Kate’s artistic muse is Roy, her 8- year-old silver tabby who has a penchant for 3am wake-up calls, attacking his food bowl, devouring cheese and nestling in the warm lap of his humans.

Read on to find out more about this unique business and how to source some sweet MCM flavoured pieces for your favourite feline!

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CatHouse Modern Logo – That’s not Roy in the photo, but it looks just like him. The ‘H’ in catHouse is a take on a shape you see in some Mid-Century-Modern architecture. 

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CatHouse Modern creator Kate Smith. “Me in Palm Springs – This is me being sassy at the Caliente Tropics Hotel in Palm Springs. The entire hotel is Tiki themed. Being photographed in front of “don’t be doing this” signs is a tradition with me...because I’m a rebel.”

How many cats do you have?

Currently I have one cat, Roy. I guess you would say he’s an American shorthair-type silver tabby. He came from a no-kill shelter five years ago as a kitten, and he’s a real imp.

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Roy & Cat House prototype –made from Bamboo, wool felt, aluminum legs. 

Were you always creative/ crafty as a youngster?

Yes, all my life. I come from a family of creative, artistic people. My sister is an exceptionally talented mosaic artist and other family members include a ceramicist and two professional dancers.

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Roy modeling my Starburst Collar Charm. Laser cut & etched Lucite. 

My mother taught me how to sew at a young age and she and my dad were always big do-it-yourselfers, mostly out of financial necessity but they both had artistic talent. I majored in art in school and eventually got a degree in Commercial Art.

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Starburst Earrings – Same as the collar charm. I plan on doing more of these with different designs. Matching jewelry for the cat and their human companion

How long have you been making things?

I’ve been making things forever. When I had my Etsy shop I did a lot of ‘upcycling’ of vintage pieces that either wouldn’t sell as is or needed a facelift.

If I find a vintage piece that has any chance of being revived, I can’t help but be inspired to give it a new life or purpose.

 The vintage boxes available on catHousemodern.com reflect my artistic vision applied to objects that were popular in the past and have lost their appeal but can still serve a useful purpose. My parents and grandparents were Depression Era folk and their frugality has rubbed off.

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Witco Box: My take on a vintage Witco wall art design. Rescued cedar box. 

How did the idea for your business come about?

The idea started after I remodeled my living room. When it was finished, I just couldn’t live with the cat tower I had. It was all sisal rope and beige carpeting. It didn’t suit the design or color scheme of the room and I realized that I could make a better one with a mid-century vibe.

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Nelson Ball Clock Box – Vinyl graphic based on the iconic ball clock design by George Nelson. 

The design and construction took me out of my comfort zone as I had to learn about metal bending and a bit of engineering, and the best materials and hardware to use. It was a long process, and I knew it would require some capital to make more to sell. In the interim I realized that I already had what I needed to start making pet beds, and that provides the funds I need to produce other pieces.

How long have you been in business?

I started last year, and I launched cathousemodern.com web in 2018.

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Tiki Toys – Felt toys with vinyl graphics, stuffed with catnip and either polyester fiberfill or crackly mylar. 

Do you trial your products on your own cat?

I do. Although Roy is not a big fan of catnip and he’s kind of lazy, he likes the felt toys because he can get his claws in them and really flip them around the way a cat will do with prey. I send sample toys to friends who have cats, so I can get feedback.

Roy loves the prototype cat house, it’s one of his favorite places to sleep and it’s positioned to give him a good view of the backyard.

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Yorktown Lanes – The bowling alley where I grew up. Googie architecture. Believe it or not, the building is still there and still a bowling alley.

Why the fascination with Mid-Century Modern?

 It’s more of an obsession than a fascination! I was born in 1956 and grew up with that style of architecture and design so it’s something I was exposed to and found appealing. 

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Congo Room – Vintage Neon at Caliente Tropics Hotel

There are plenty of examples of Mid Century architecture in Cleveland, OH, where I grew up.

I appreciate the uncluttered, sleek lines, minimal ornamentation and the juxtaposition of traditional and non-traditional materials. The “form follows function” principle (another nod to frugality) which I try to adhere to in my designs.

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Sears Middleburg Hts., OH – This is the Sears department store where I grew up. Classic Mid-Century roof line. Believe it or not, I went to charm school there. I am a VERY charming person.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Organic, no frills, practical, authentic.

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Caliente Tropics: Example of Tiki Art in Palm Springs, CA – Caliente Tropics Hotel 

What are your creative inspirations?

James Herriot said, “Cats are connoisseurs of comfort,” which is a phrase I keep in mind when I’m working on a project.

For capturing the mid mod style, I look to the designers of the period; Charles & Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, George Nelson, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Poulson, Donald Wexler, Hans Wegner to name a few. I’m also inspired by the playfulness of Googie architecture, Tiki style and Witco wall art and other décor pieces from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

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Gift it forward: This vintage Kromex ice bucket is an example of a piece that was a mess when I found it. Not sellable as it was, I took it apart for a clean and polish. The outer surface was scratched so I repainted and added a mod vinyl graphic. It hadn’t sold when I closed my Etsy shop so I decided to give it away as a social media promo. The ‘gift it forward’ part, I had Facebook followers tag a friend they thought would like to have the ice bucket and then did a random drawing to pick the winner. It was fun, and I plan to do another gift it forward promo again soon. 

How has your taste and work evolved over time?

I’ve learned that simple is better. Projects that are abandoned have usually become too complex or they just don’t feel right.

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Googie Cat Toys – These are fairly large (6”) felt toys in a space age/Googie style. Stuffed with either polyester fiberfill or crackly mylar and organic catnip, the graphics are die cut vinyl. (Googie is a form of modern architecture, a subdivision of futurist architecture influenced by car culture, jets, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age. Originated in California, popular from the 1940s to 1960s. )

What’s the first piece you remember making?

If you mean for catHouse, it would be the prototype. One of the first arty objects I ever made was a Valentine’s card box for my daughter when she was in elementary school. It had fabulous 3-dimensional artwork on the box that I made using clip art.

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Kohala Cat Lounger & Roy – This is another rescued piece of vintage furniture. Has a storage area and the fabric is also from Spoonflower. 

Can you talk us through your range of products?

The cat toys are my original designs with retro themes and fun details you don’t find on commercially produced toys. The felt is die-cut and I do the stuffing and sewing myself. Collar charms (kitty bling) are laser etched Lucite I design and are made by a company that’s based in New Zealand.

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Minimalist Fish – Felt & vinyl cat toys based on Mid Century metal wall art. Stuffed with catnip and polyester fiberfill with a little bell between the back fins. 

The cat beds, or loungers as I call them, are a combination of vintage furniture parts and reclaimed wood. I sew the cushion covers using period themed, durable fabrics. Some of the loungers have die-cut vinyl accents that are also my original designs. Another section in my shop offers vintage pieces that I’ve updated to give them a modern appeal.  Currently I have a selection of cedar boxes embellished with vinyl graphics that are fun décor items.

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Tiki Lounger – Reclaimed wood, vintage tapered wood legs, fabric from Spoonflower. 

Are the majority of orders custom made/ one offs?

Yes, one of a kind, apart from the cat toys and collar charms. I’ve been using reclaimed materials and vintage parts for furniture so each one is unique. Future plans are to produce original loungers and towers in small quantities that may have customizable options.

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Tell me about the process involved in making catHouse Modern pieces. What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

The process of designing can take minutes or hours or weeks depending on how inspired I am and what I have to work with. Sometimes designs get put aside because it’s not working for me on an artistic level or there are engineering issues to work out, or I can’t find the exact materials I want to use. When it does work, it takes about a week to make a cat lounger, toys can be produced in a matter of hours.

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Mid Mod Fish Lounger – Not vintage furniture but rescued. Storage under the top, fabric from Spoonflower. The framed art is a real favorite of mine, Roy looks over his shoulder in the exact same way. 

When deciding on materials, I first take into consideration that my products are going to be used by cats. I want to make sure they are durable and non-toxic to felines (or people for that matter). I like to use wood because it has intrinsic beauty and it can be sustainably sourced. Bamboo is a favorite of mine.

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Starburst Collar – Roy modeling my Starburst Collar Charm. Laser cut & etched Lucite. 

I like the color and grain and the durability. As you’ve seen, I am a big fan of Spoonflower fabric products. Their fabric choices are great, and I like supporting the artists who offer their designs on the site because they’re small business owners too. I also like Spoonflower’s option of creating custom fabrics which is part of the grander plan for catHouse modern.

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Gusdorf Cat Lounger – The wood base was previously the bottom of either a stereo or TV stand, made by the Gusdorf Company. I found it at an estate sale (in the garage under a bunch of junk). The Gusdorf logo is really neat so I recreated it in vinyl and put it on the base under the cushion. You can see it on the website. The fabric is from Spoonflower. 

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

As with most of the creative people I know, being ‘in’ the process is a completely happy and satisfying space for me. Finishing a project and loving the results is exhilarating, and positive feedback is great too.

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Star Diamond Box – Rescued cedar box with vinyl graphics and felt lined drawers.

What do you do when you’re not making things?

I handle all the non-creative aspects of the business and do research for my designs.

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Rescued Lane Furniture Co. cedar box with brushed nickel tapered legs and vinyl graphic based on Mid Century starburst clock designs. These boxes were given to graduating high school girls. They are miniature versions of Lane cedar chests. Supposed to inspire the girl to dream about her future as a good wife and homemaker and think about her dowry. I guess the men at Lane didn’t imagine a woman could be something other than a housewife. My sister had one of these, but she’s a feminist! 

Finish this sentence: Handmade is best because………..

It contains the mojo of the person who made it.

Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

Visit my website www.cathousemodern.com

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The Handmade’s Tale: An interview with Maryann Roy

Welcome to part two of our new Handmade’s Tale feature which celebrates crafty and creative women. This week Natasha meets mid-century dream maker Maryann Roy.

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled across the Mad Men set.  Joan Holloway’s apartment is rendered in exquisite mid-century detail– right down to the cigarette embers in the ashtray, the martini cocktail on the table and the barkcloth curtains in the background. But look closer and you’ll see it’s all a mirage. These are miniature dream worlds which have been created in painstaking 1:6 scale by the talented Maryann Roy. 

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Welcome to the dollhouse: Barbie dons a red bouffant and trademark curve-hugging dress to portray Mad Men’s Joan Holloway.

The American-born doll doyenne creates neo-retro intricate furnishings and dioramas  for discerning doll collectors looking for the perfect mid-century set to complement their miniature muses.

A regular contributor to Fashion Doll Quarterly, Mary Ann has been featured in publications including Dolls in Print, Barbie Bazaar, Haute Doll and Miller’s Magazine as well as designing shopfront windows for Gems & Jewels jewellery store in Australia.

Whether she’s crafting tiny Sexton cats,  glorious room dividers or iconic modular furniture, Roy is truly in her element when crafting miniatures.

Despite her penchant for mid century interiors, she says her own home is quite traditional.  She says many of her customers have a nostalgic connection with the style

“Either their homes were this way as they grew up, or a relative’s home.”

“If any are like me, they might not be able to have THEIR homes look MCM, but, at least their dolls can live that way – for now,” she laughs.

Read on to discover why it’s a small world after all!

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What is it about mid-century modern that appeals to your particular aesthetic?

MCM (or mid-century modern) is a term we use that encompasses product development from the 1930s through the 1960s. This includes not only furniture, but architecture, advertising, art, home accessories, right down to the style cars we drove.

When I think about anything mid-century, I tend to see beauty, glamour and even luxury.  This is the look I like to portray in my work. In a way, it’s how I “feel”.

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How did you first get interested in mid-century modernism?

I’ve always been interested in interior design, but there came a time when I was contributing to a doll publication, and I needed props for an article I was writing. The feel of the article was very 1960s and so I did some research to help me decide what furniture pieces would best suite my needs.  I guess you could say that exploring all the possibilities is what led me to mid-century modern.

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How did you come to be making 1:6 doll’s furniture? I understand you started out by restoring vintage Barbie dolls isn’t that right?

Yes, correct! For a time, I did business restoring vintage dolls. However, I am an artist at heart and have had my fingers in many mediums over the years.

I also collect vintage fashion dolls and as mentioned, was contributing to a few doll publications. I wanted my articles to POP and needed an aspect other than writing to do that, so I built and designed my own furniture and props in 1:6 scale to accompany dolls in my articles.

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What is it about miniatures that fascinates you so much?

Gosh, I think almost everyone loves miniatures in some respect.  Whether it’s a miniature scene or miniature couture or a miniature painting. . . For me, I think it’s a mesmerizing aspect. Miniatures can be so engaging as well as entertaining!  Think of animatronic or mechanical toys from as early as the 19th century. Some were miniature interpretations of peoples’ actions, meant to capture hearts and entertain the old as well as the young! You really can get lost, at least for a time, in anything miniature.

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How has your technique evolved over time?

I’ve grown so much since I started crafting with wood (“furniture making” some call it) 🙂 I prefer to think of it as an art, or inspirational furniture design.

Like any craft, practice and trial and error certainly help perfect technique. Any failures are my own learning curve and a chance to try again. I don’t necessarily think of that as a bad thing. It’s a learning experience.  Challenging myself to go further and try different avenues helps my talent evolve and grow.. Even if certain things don’t work out, I like to say: I wanted to do it and so I did.

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Have you always been a doll lover/ collector?

Yes, I’ve loved dolls since I was a little girl, but did not become a collector until adulthood.  And, dolls are a miniatures, are they not? So, in a way, my designing furniture in miniature is not surprising at all.  It’s all connected in a way.

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Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster?

Yes, I’ve always had a creative streak..

I’ve tried just about everything from working with clay, oil and watercolor painting, illustration, cartoon art, and even miniature millinery, to name a few.   I still have a few hidden talents that not many know about. I’m musically inclined, can sing and play a little guitar as well.  I’ve been very blessed in the creative department.

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What are your creative inspirations?

I’m asked this quite often. It really is a whole world of things that inspire me.  Sometimes it’s researching a project or reading about an interior designer. Sometimes it’s a just a piece of fabric or the colors on a package.  For me, it’s seeing the beauty or possibility in almost anything.

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Are all your orders custom made/ one offs?

I’ve found that people really like what I offer at any given time, so I am hoping it’s my style and individuality that attracts people . So, I usually offer sets, or pieces of a collection that I’ve designed and sell through My blog..  Occasionally, I offer OOAK (One Of A Kind) sets for sale. This may be a complete room including walls along with furniture and accessories.

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I don’t often have time for custom made orders, but will consider requests on and one by one basis. If the opportunity arises and the project interests me, I will take on commissions.

In the past, I’ve had the honor of working with several well-known businesses and fellow artists, as well as a popular furniture company. I hope to do more projects along these lines in the near future.

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Tell me about the process involved in making Welcome Home pieces. What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

Once I’ve decided on a piece or pieces as the case may be, I will make a sketch (strictly for myself). If I’ve never made the piece before, I need to draft a pattern. Usually out of cardboard.. This process takes the most time because I need to calculate measurements and size and what angles, width, etc would work best.

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 The pattern is then transferred to wood and cut out using one of several  wood working tools. Then, the piece is assembled.

The finishes are either painted , stained (or both) and then upholstered with fabrics.

The length of time depends on the piece. A collection, for example, may take a couple of weeks to complete, but a single piece may only take a day or two.

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I think what I like the most, is taking a pile of wood, that may look like nothing – just flat boards, and creating something special with it! When I am nearing the completion of a piece and seeing with my eyes what I envisioned in my head, it gives me great joy!

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Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created? 

That’s a tough one.  Any piece might be a favorite at any given time, because I may be loving the way it came out, or loving the way it fits in a space, or loving its’ finishes.

 I do favor making Living Rooms though. I think that’s because when I am envisioning how to create a realistic looking space, that’s where I imagine most people are. I like making sofas and credenzas, so I guess you could say I have favorite “types” of furniture rather than a favorite piece.

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Who are your customers? Are they collectors too?

I have a worldwide customer base. People from all walks of life. Some are doll collectors, some are furniture aficionados, some are companies that utilize miniatures in their line of business and some are collectors of art.

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Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

You can follow along on :

Blog:    

Facebook:   

Instagram: 

I also have a “First To Know List” which provides updates, sales and happenings with Welcome Home.  If you would like to be placed on the list, please send your email address and I will add it to the list.

For inquiries, email:  welcomehome@maryannroy.com

So, what do you think of Maryann’s handiwork? Which is your favourite diamara or piece of furniture? Are you an MCM fan? What would you commission her to make a miniature version of?

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