Tutorial DIY Diorama: The Grand Hotel Demolition.

Quick overview of my Grand Hotel by Mattel, circa 2001. Here is a pinterest shot from an original Mattel photo. The entire hotel had multiple sound effects, and phones that interacted with over 100 different messages. It came with cute furniture, built-ins and a bunch of fun accents. 

Problems sited at the time were the low ceiling and cramped, tiny rooms, but it has gorgeous windows and real possibilities for play and photographing with some tweaks.

Pieces, furniture and whole hotels on Ebay today are quite pricey. Finding it in original condition runs over $200 plus a $40+ shipping fee.

I found this one at a local thrift store for $9.99. It had been heavily used but still had great bones. The name of this blog is Barbie:Old,New,Green,Redo.  So, I'm saving this really trashed OLD plastic house from a landfill, so that's GREEN and will attempt to REDO it for a new generation.

These are the tools I used for this stage of the project---note the Dremel battery power replaced the electric one I burned out. UPSIDE--the battery tool has less power--is a bit safer to use in tight spaces. It stops if it hits something you probably shouldn't be sawing, and there isn't much kick-back when it does hit something. I definitely feel more in control with the battery powered model. All my old Dremel parts fit this I'm happy with it.

Left to right.

Scissors, basically to cut my tape--and patterns.
Clippers---these are my florist clippers, but they are heavy and will clip anything, was hoping to use these on the rods...but not to be.
Awl---this is just a nail starter, but has a heavy narrow point for prying--also used to pound out hinge rods.
Needle nose--full size---good gripper tips for pulling and holding pieces.
Long small flat screwdriver 
pencil---marking measurements.
scraper---I use this for prying up and cleaning off stickers.
Painters tape---I use for holding things, as well as setting out plans/walls/furniture.
Pliers---these were my grandfather's adjustable pliers--they are thinner than other pliers
Coping saw--I sawed off lots of knobs with this. Good control for cutting hard plastic.
Battery Dremel tool---a real must for miniatures. I used saw blades for removing the floor and grinding off bits of the knobs on the floors.
Square---I have three in various sizes for measuring and squaring off patterns.

My table work surface is 28" wide---so the whole house can sit on it, with a bit to spare. I taped off the foam core walls that will be added, for photo taking and for play. The Grand should have a ball with a beauty parlor, coffee shop, the atrium and the elevator, with two apartments above. 
In the fictitious doll stories, a third level will be added with two more apartments---but we will only see the occupants on these two floors.

As shown in my doll story posts, the ceilings were impossibly low. Dolls' heads scraped the ceiling, and I haven't even tried to put a Ken or a tall doll in there. Lots of pieces were missing or broken in this house, so I'm not destroying anything of great worth and trying to preserve what is still good.

I literally bought the hotel for the walls, minus no doors. The filigree and windows I think are some of the best Mattel has ever produced. and the outside walls are even curved. To solve the inside height problems, I'm going to add a new foundation to the front walls (1 1/2" high) and add height to all the columns to support the new second floor. These will be trimmed sanded and painted like concrete.

Here I have placed a standard Barbie to show how the 'dropped floor' will add to the space. The wood (2x4's) will be trimmed flush with the existing 'floor'. New stairs will be added, inside and out.


First I popped out the blue columns which were in flexible plastic. I sawed----the hinges-rod holders for the hard plastic floor out...with an electric Dremel tool, which I burned out. The rods were rusted badly, and couldn't be removed by pulling out, like I did on the porch of the Victorian mansion. The porch which is safely tucked away and can be reattached in the Victorian. This floor was a goner. Although I may save it for another project. I will trim out the destroyed plastic on the band saw, later.

Each of the niches floor is part of the front of the building---ALL the electrical connectors are rusted beyond use. I will make built-in's over these bumps. Removing the stickers will take patience and lots of Goo-gone. So much of the pink plastic is faded to that awful peach. Painting will have to wait until warmer weather.

The Grand should have a ball with a beauty parlor, coffee shop and atrium and the elevator, with two apartments above. In the fictitious stories, a third level will be added with two more apartments---but we will only see the occupants on the other two floors. I chose to leave both sides open and the whole length is ... The archway to the lower right will be a built-in booth for the bakery/coffee shop. I plan on securing everything with velcro---so removable for storage.

Before making a pattern for the second floor, we had to do some more DEMO.

the tub rim and faucet
the blue railings
the built-in bed and side tables

The floor will be extended to 24" with a central open atrium. New railings and walls will be added, and new doors to the central hallway and elevator---which still works well.

Here is a good example of the pinks' discoloration. I will be using some wallpaper to cover up the embossed 'furniture and accessories, impressed on the walls.

Here I popped with some coaxing the edge of the sunken tub with the scraper and tapping it with a tool to get underneath the trim.

Whoever thought a bathtub next to the electrical parts of the house was a good idea was completely wrong. The built-in floor tub is less than 2 inches away from electrical phone system. What child in the world will give Barbie a bath in 'imaginary' water. LOL.

The raised part on the floor in the niche serviced the electrical. I imagine one water bath and the whole system was dead. In order to put a smooth replacement floor, the sculptured tub edge had to be removed. Luckily, it was the soft rubbery plastic and pried up with a thin scraper with some coaxing.

This shows the second floor lifted up---the construction and why the electronics fried. Channels carried the moisture everywhere.  The sunken tub was hard plastic, so I chose to leave it and simply put a new floor over it. With the added height on the main floor---the dolls can now walk under the tub.

On the otherside---the bed and end tables were heavily glued  and connected via pegs built up from the second floor. Prying up the tables was hard and took patience, lots of tapping and wedging the scraper under neath. I succeeded in removing it without breakage to the pieces other than the knobs.  These were made of hard plastic and cut with a coping saw. I gently ground off the uneven plastic bits with the dremel tool.

You can see were the knobs still hold part of the pegs from the blue bed. Basically these finally snapped.

I sawed the pegs with the flexible blade of the coping saw and then ground off the excess with the dremel tool. 

NEXT---that's a dead spider---when I buy anything, I put it in a plastic bag with bug spray---and seal it up over night. Then it is washed before I start working on it, but this little guy got missed. The photo was taken for the blue railings which are soft plastic and have pegs that insert into the floors.
I pried apart the beige tabs a bit and the pegs released, easily.

Once everything was removed upstairs, I could make a poster board pattern of the new floor with all the niches and cutouts.  Here my Lara doll stands in awe of the added height. Removing the floor and raising the 'foundation' added 1 foot in Barbie scale. 

Upstairs, it took two pieces of poster board to make the pattern for the new floor layout. 

I taped everything to secure the poster board and show how it will be supported by the columns. 

NEXT: A trip to a lumber yard. And, cutting all the foundation pieces, a new main floor and flooring, column supports, and a new second floor when the weather breaks. All our power tools are in the garage and we are expecting below 0 temps for this week, so I will be working on the built-ins, railings and closets in the house.

Please join me on the Grand Hotel DIY/Redo posts, here:

I will try and respond to every comment and answer every question.

All the opinions and photographs in this blog are my own. I have not been paid or reimbursed in anyway for my opinions, posts or any products shown or anywhere I shop.

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Thank you for your cooperation, 
Sandi Magle

1 comment:

  1. lots of great ideas here, Sandi..i'm going to raise the floors on my Barbie coffee shop, it irritates me that the scale is so far off..thanks for the tips


Thanks so much for each and every comment, and I will try and answer any questions you may have.