Tutorial: Grand Hotel floors, walls, tile

These are the Nitty-Gritty posts of the how to---or at least how I do things. First, this Hotel was faded, cracked, and very dirty. All the electrical are fried and corroded. Wet tubs and electrical systems aren't compatible. So I started with the structure itself.

Problem 1: Height of the Grand Hotel.

Seriously---Mattel makes 11 1/2" dolls with shoes and stands---kissing 12 inches. Structures are all low...and barely 12" on their main floors, making overhead lighting and some beams, etc. in the way.

In order to give the 'illusion' of normal ceiling heights, since I will want to do many photos in the Grand Hotel, I decided to drop the floor and make new foundations. This meant removing the plastic fold-up floor, which also supplied the columns for support to the second floor, which was shown in Tutorial:Demolition 

My new floors are made from 1/4 AC plywood. My goal is to be able to dismantle and store the entire building in the smallest area possible. Here is the second floor cut from the poster board pattern I showed in the last post. I only had to do a bit of shaving and fitting from this, which i did with a coping saw.

The base is also the 1/4" plywood, the blocks which are becoming the new foundations are all made from scrap 2x4's...which are actually 1 1/2" x 4".

In the last post---I had penciled the actual edges of the Grand Hotel unto my 2x4's. Hubby trimmed them all for me(it was below 0 in the garage) on his table saw and then a hobby bandsaw we have. I sanded and filed any irregularities. I matched the second floor to the Hotel being open all the way. 

The base is 58"x24" wide. I wanted to add a few extra inches to make a kitchen for the cafe.
All my surfaces that will be painted are sealed with Sanding Sealer---this is an older product which replaced the old fashioned use of shellac. It dries quickly and has little odor, and is a great stain blocker. Perfect for use in the house.

I have a huge plastic table cloth I use for a drop cloth. One coat was plenty. A light sanding with  really fine sandpaper gives you a very smooth surface ready for paint. Make sure to wipe down with a clean damp rag or a tack cloth to remove any dust. 

The squares and small rectangles are bases for my posts and will eventually be attached to the floor. They will be  painted white to match the columns. 

The long 2x4's are all going to be painted gray, and the floors white.

My boards are very long so I had to do the surfaces in shifts. The second floor got two coats on each side of satin white paint/with primer in it.

The gray areas on the base board are sidewalk and where the gray foundations will be set---I textured by simply wiggling the last coat with the brush, and a stippling motion.

Using wood glue (that was too thick to spread) and slathered on with a stick on all the foundations and column holders.

Sometimes, I think there is no point in buying a large jar of glue...because they always seem to dry up. After allowing a full day for the glue to cure, I turned the base upside down and put flat head wood screws into the foundation boards to permanently hold them in place.

Here you can see the foundation lined up with the Hotel Structure--you can see I missed a bit here and there with the gray, which I then touched up. 


The storyline behind this hotel---is it was built in 1892 on the north side of then Chicago for the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World's Fair). Only 22 years after the Chicago Fire...Chicago was an elegant boom town, highly conscious of fire codes.

Because of the blue windows in the Hotel--I think it's best feature, I looked for a tile design that would have been used then. I found this pattern and tweaked the colors, shading, and size. Each of the circles would actually be four 1-foot square tiles in Barbie scale. 1:6 perfect scale for my room. When all the walls are painted should look great. I'm using this tile for all the public spaces.

I printed up panels of 12 Large tiles=to 12-2'x2' tiles, I printed 28 sheets on our Laser printer. Other options for flooring would be stenciling, scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, hardwood, vinyl tiles, marble could choose just about any medium, just be aware of weight if you want to store it flat. The visible white edge on the left will be the removable back walls.

I laid out and fitted the sheets working from the center of the elevator out, just like you would with real flooring.
 I used Modge/Podge matt and heavily applied a coat to the floor for one piece of flooring at a time, apply the paper, then gently brush with a dry rag to set and brush out bubble. Then, immediately thick coat the top surface generously one way and then the other to remove as many bubbles/wrinkle you can.

 Always finish the surface in the same direction with each piece. 

This sets up very quickly--and trying to shift the papers later is impossible, so do your adjusting immediately. 
I worked front center of the Hotel to the back and then to one side, working left all the way to the far end. 
I came back to center and worked right to the other end. I did not try to trim when wet. Wait until it is thoroughly dried, at least overnight.

My tiled panels have a grayed edge to them, which is fine...long as they are lined up.

The next day---almost  all the ripples and irregularities had shrunk out. There were a few scrapes and gaps, etc. I simply cut out one tile and replaced it with a new paper cut one and modge/podged it. 
Too much white that showed between pieces caused by shrinkage,
 I dabbed with grayed paint.
My final finish will be to spray the floor with a satin sealer,
 if we ever get decent weather. 

What's next:---Setting the columns., securing the second floor, and adding the removable sides and backs.
The dolls make the project look easy---but in truth it has a lot of down time and waiting for stuff to dry.


  1. Wow--what a labor of love! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!

    1. It's as bad/good as doing a whole house remodel! Thanks!

  2. WOW! I never thought of removing the floor! I can see now that it would give you more option in the use of the house! I have a few thing Barbie and some Bratz stuff that would be workable if I remove the floor. Also, like you, I need a permanent place to display and photograph. You are giving me idea! Thank you!


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