Gothic Revival Brownstone Matchbox

Six years ago, I participated in a “decorate a matchbox” challenge. When the deadline for the challenge came, I submitted an unfinished piece (bad time management skills, I haz ‘em). That bright gray base? That’s a base coat, not a finish coat. And there was going to be a stair rail on on steps. And there were the dollhouse size (1/12) table legs I was going to attach to the base to give it its own fancy little stand.

I thought when I finally finished the base and the stand, I’d post pics of the project here. I hear you thinking, “it’s been six years, surely you have had time to finish it!?”

Yeppers, I’ve had the time. But there’s one big problem. Six years ago, right after the challenge ended, I was busy with another project. So I put the Brownstone away, planning to return to it.

I made sure to put it in a safe spot. A very safe spot.

I haven’t seen it since. I’m somewhat certain it’s still in the house. Somewhat.

Six years later, I’ve given up on ever finishing it. But I admit that a part of me hopes that in giving up, I’ll find it tomorrow (isn’t that how these things work?).

So maybe I haven’t really given up.

But until I find it, here are the only* surviving remnants: pictures and what I wrote about it way back when..

*Actually, I still have the table legs for the base. Waiting patiently in my supply cabinet and never ever used for another project. *sigh*

Brownstone Matchbox

While the term “brownstone” has come to mean any of the row houses (or, more politely “townhouses”) of the north eastern United States, brownstone is actually a type of sandstone that was used in the construction of some row houses.

I used Charles Lockwood’s book, “Bricks & Brownstone” for inspiration and was delighted to find a 1940 photograph of one of the few Gothic Revival Brownstones remaining in NY — No. 131 Hicks Street of Brooklyn Heights. It was the perfect subject. Large slabs of brownstone scale down much more easily than tiny bricks and I have a fondness for Gothic Revival pieces.

The brownstone exterior of the building is embossed brass. Once the brass was embossed, it was painted (four coats, baked at 325°F between each coat) and openings for the windows and doors were cut out. [Note: I don't mention it in my notes, but I believe the window "glass" was acetate with the panes printed on it.] The brass was eventually glued to the exterior of the matchbox.

The brass does extend beyond the size of the matchbox (at the bottom) to give the illusion of a basement or underground level.

The stairs, window trim, cornice, and door are stained and/or painted basswood. [Note: cutting those window frames was the inspiration for the Paper Mitre Box.] In faithfulness to the design of the original house, the floors are not one uniform height.

Matchbox Brownstone Interior

The interior of the brownstone is built in the “slide box” of the matchbox and exposes only the above ground floors (the underground level was beyond the length of a standard matchbox). The slide box is placed in the brownstone exterior with furnished side facing the windows, providing a view of the interior before opening the box.

After spending hours trying to design a scale staircase that would allow room for actual living space, I finally decided that the new owners were quite wealthy, had an invalid aunt, and upgraded to an elevator.

Matchbox Brownstone Interior

All of the furniture pieces are my own designs and are scratch built from basswood. Accessories were built from a cache of watch parts, micro beads, floral foam, silk, bits of styrene, and a hacked apart N-scale figurine (the bust in the second floor office).

Brownstone Matches

As a bit of a lark, I decided to keep the original function of the matchbox. The open elevator doors on the third floor reveal a cache of matches that are accessible when the box is opened. The odd looking panel on the exterior of the base of the brownstone is actually the strike plate — so matches may be lit.

[Note: And until I find it, that is all there is of my brownstone.]