Over the Christmas break I managed to do quite a bit for the parlour, starting with the fireplace. I should let you know that I am a real klutz when it comes to woodworking - I don't have many tools at the moment, and even less confidence, so I usually make my fireplaces out of mount board. Foam-core is just too squashy at the edges, but mount board is fine.
I rough plastered the chimney piece with a mix of plaster and PVA, which is a bit tricky, but does the job. For the stonework of the fireplace I used a paving stone stamp from Malcom's Miniatures on DAS clay. I loved this stamp, it really makes a good impression on the clay and is really easy to use - just roll out the DAS to 1 mm thick, glue on to the board and then start stamping away. This is why I love miniatures, there are so many cross-over crafts that you just never get tired of it! I used the white DAS for this, and acrylic paint.
The trick for painting stonework is to really look hard at some real stonework - it's never just flat grey colour, there are so many different shades and variations. I used grey, brown and some dark blue, followed by lots of washes using watercolour paint. Then, to get the smoke-blackened effect, I rubbed on artist's charcoal. I could have used old charcoal from the BBQ, but it is finally clean and in the garage waiting for next Summer! The charcoal has that wonderful, slightly shiny colour that is very natural and looks good on a mini scale.
The stonework of the fire surround was made of individual stones, I didn't use the paving stamp for that, as it was a little too uniform. I topped it off with a rough cut mantle, and I am quite pleased with the result. I'll finish the hearth as soon as possible!
Here is the finished fireplace with some of my favourite miniatures; a milk jug by Peter Aquisto, a copy of a portrait of Maria Louisa Stuart by de Troy in a Kay Burton Frame, and a small, faded Delft plate that was the first real miniature I ever purchased (at the age of 12!) It is marked on the back 'R A Dunford, 1992' but I have never heard of that artisan since!