The best compliment I get on my photos on Instagram (@mini.adventures.co) is that the person can't tell if something is real or miniature. I know I've done my job well if a room looks like it could be the real life version. That's why I think it's so important to make furniture and decor as realistic as possible. When it comes to bricks and stones, you can find awesome scrapbook papers, but it just doesn't have that authentic texture that the real thing has. It takes a lot more effort (like, a whole lot more) to do it my way, but it's so worth it in the end.
I recently fixed up an IKEA dollhouse to use for staging the products I sell, and I wanted to make a removable stone wall to go above the fireplace (you can purchase the fireplace here). To start, you need to know the measurements of what you'll be bricking or stoning. Since I wanted mine to be removable, I just cut a thin sheet of wood to size, which you can see in the picture above.
Trace the area or measure out the area on the back of the cork. For bricks, you can just cut small rectangles and round the edges (I told you it's time consuming but the rounded edges make the bricks look much more realistic). I'm not going into detail on the bricks because Cath at The Square to Spare has an amazing YouTube tutorial on cork bricks, which you can view here.
Use your pencil to draw the stones. This part is great because it doesn't need to be perfect; just randomly draw lines to form your stones.
Once you've drawn all your stones, it's time to start cutting them out and applying them to your surface. Because you want the mortar to show, you don't want to cut perfectly on the lines. You actually need to cut slightly inside the lines so that when all the stones are applied, there is a little bit of a gap between the stones where you'll apply the "mortar." The great thing about real stonework is that the mortar can be uneven so you don't need to be perfect with your cutting here.
To ensure you don't lose track of how this puzzle fits back together, make sure you're attaching the "stones" to the surface as you cut them out. You can see in the photo above how there is a bit of a gap between the stones and that the gaps can be uneven (that makes it look even more realistic).
Check to make sure the "stone" fits correctly before removing the paper backing and exposing the sticky part. On quite a few of mine, I had to cut off extra to make sure to leave room for the mortar.
Keep adding stones until your surface is covered. Next up is the mortar.
I use this spackling paste as mortar for my bricks and stones. It's super easy to apply, easy to clean off your fingers, and dries quickly.
Scoop out a dollop with your finger and start smearing it into the lines. You'll also be spreading a bit onto the stones, but you can't really get around that. I just try to keep the spackling paste as light as possible on the stones and wipe off as much excess as possible. Keep adding the paste until all the lines are filled in to your liking.
You can see the very light layer of paste on the stones and the heavier lines of the mortar. Allow it to dry for a couple hours. You can leave it like this or paint it to look more like stones. For bricks, I often stop here because I like the look of the tan bricks with the white mortar. You could even use the paste to create a German schemer look.
I wanted my stones to match the color of the stones on my fireplaces so I started by painting the whole thing white. I did 2 coats of white paint.
Keep your paint layers as thin as possible; that's really important because too much paint will fill in the nooks and crannies of the cork. The whole reason why you're doing this time consuming and labor intensive process is for realistic bricks and stones. If you oversaturate the cork with paint, you'll be losing the authentic texture you're trying to achieve. Allow the white paint to dry for at least 30 minutes.
To create a stone look, you'll need a second paint color. Depending on the look you're going for, you might want to layer in multiple colors. I wanted a warm gray stone look, so I just used a light gray acrylic paint that had warm undertones.
Squirt out just a few drops of paint (a little bit goes a long way) onto a paper plate. Fold a paper towel into a small square and then dab it into the paint. Dab the paper towel several times onto a dry area of your plate so that there is hardly any paint left on the paper towel.
Very lightly press the paper towel onto your stone surface. You want to press lightly because that prevents the gray paint from getting on your white mortar lines and because you can always add more paint. Start with a little and add more until you get the look you're going for. Once you run out of paint on the paper towel, repeat the process of getting a little paint on the paper towel and then dabbing most of it off on the paper plate.
Keep going until you've covered your surface with the dabbed on gray paint. The texture from the paper towel also add to the realistic look of the stones. This part dries very quickly. If you don't like the way it came out, you can always paint over it with the white paint and start all over.
Now you have a super realistic stone feature wall for your dollhouse. I do the same technique for bricks; they just take a lot longer since you have to round each corner of the brick. If you try out this technique, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below or you can tag me on Instagram @mini.adventures.co.