Let me just say, I love this barn. This is the Breyer Deluxe Wood Barn with Cupola. I love the set-up, I love the size, I love the potential to make it anything you wish it to be! The bones are solid and the layout is fantastic. It lends itself to being customized beautifully, and has the potential to become a dollhouse-level creation. Indeed, I think that this barn is just that: a true 1:9 scale miniature working stable! But let me back up.
In this article, I get a bit... “extra” on detailing, and take it another level with props. If you have a completed stable and are looking to further your work with it, this is an article for you! Or, if you have a stable and simply want to outfit it with some in-scale props, read on. Even if you just need a little inspiration, I hope I can bring you that.
In my previous articles, Raising the Bar(n) - Part I and Raising the Bar(n) - Part II, I outlined the basics for painting and weathering the barn. This article is dedicated to the over-achiever, the interior decorator, and the miniature prop-making designer!
There are so many layers of details that can be applied to your stable to make it your own: color, accessories, weathering, flooring, scatter...
This was my very first time working on a project that was this type of undertaking, and I am not a carpenter! I had a vision of potential changes for the barn and it just exploded. With it already painted, prepped and functional, what could I possibly do to improve? I had a couple of big ideas.
Looking back on my older pictures, there is nothing wrong with what the barn was. It was a perfect stable for photography set-ups and play, even when it was raw and right out of the box. This was a personal challenge to see how far I could go. I have spent a lot of my life in different stables, and wanted to bring that experience to my little barn and recreate it in miniature.
The hardest part was that I had to not only fabricate my vision, but figure out how to do so.
I hope some of my insights can help you with creating your own vision! There were some parts to this project that required some trial and error, like figuring out how to cover the beautiful bent stall wall with “iron,” or how to make real working latches. Even the blanket bars and saddle racks took some mental power to figure out! Many of the things that I have in the barn do not exist, or I couldn't find in 1:9 scale, so I had to make my own and come up with a solution...
And here is how I did it! First, I decided on my changes. I wanted to put bars around the stalls and finish the barn interior.
Part of what made weathering the outside of the barn so wonderful was the texture it created. The barn has wood panel fronts, but it is not consistent throughout the construction. In order to bring this play barn up to serious in-scale miniature, I would need to address it.
The barn, ready to be torn apart and put back together. I began by removing the decorative spheres lining the barn aisle, hay feeders, and eventually the latches, using pliers and a screwdriver.
I had a couple of choices on how I could get wood paneling for the interior. Thin wood planks cut to size and glued was one option. Conversely, wood printed paper would also work. You can find numerous photographs of wood panels online, and simply print them out and cut to fit. Other suggestions for easy-to-find items are anything wood, from coffee stirrers, popsicle sticks and tongue depressors, to cork or even textured wallpaper.
Demolition started. I realized the panels would be an issue when I began weathering the stalls with acrylic paint wash to hide the damage from removing the hay feeders.
I finally came up with dollhouse flooring as a solution. It comes in sheets, it is real wood, and you can find it in all colors, sized and finishes. Bonus - it is sticky-backed, so all you have to do is cut it to size, double-check your measurements, then stick it on! I made stencils of the areas I wanted to cover first to make sure my cuts were correct, and double-checked that each piece fit before I stuck it on.
I found this sticky-backed dollhouse flooring online.
The inside of the stall before fitting the wood
interior. Be sure to "try it on for size"
before sticking the wood down!
The inside after. I made sure to add the wood flooring anything that was not formerly paneled, including stall doors and the inside of the stalls.
I used extra wood to raise the stall windows up a bit so they are now smaller, and trimmed the edges in a faux-iron look - more on that below (because horses are secretly beavers in disguise!) They will get shutters eventually, with latches.
A little note: plank size is important, especially when using them to create something like a wall. This, in hindsight, would have been so much easier to do if I had taken the barn apart. But for my mind to make it work, seeing it all together allowed me to visualize the final product more clearly and find the parts that needed to be addressed, as well as choose what shapes, colors and textures I would want and need.
I used a different color wood that was more weathered on the doors to give them extra definition. (I will end up redoing those handles - getting really tiny things perfectly lined up is super-tricky!) The bars were not glued in at this point - it was mocked up to see how it would look. This helped me visualize what I needed to do, like adding the crossbeams to the door.
Expect a mess!
Due to the timing of my project and the limitations I had to work with, I ended up ordering most of my supplies for the paneling online. While I waited for it to come (it had to be paneled first before gluing in the bars), I used that time to make the bars.
Getting started on the bars to go around both stalls by making supports.
Starting with the supports, I measured carefully, marked my wood, and drilled holes evenly. To make the bars themselves, I used wooden dowels and spray painted them black before cutting them down to size.
Many barns have a feed slot in their stalls, and I wanted one too. Here it is glued and drying with a rubber band holding it together.
The dowels in place, with some wiggle room to make sure everything fits correctly. I did not glue them to the top, allowing myself the flexibility of being able to pull them down to fit snugly onto the railing below. I mocked-up the whole thing before gluing it down to make sure that everything fit together. I also used a Breyer model to continue to check that everything was in-scale.
A view from above.
The second side is always easier then the first! A note about the curved sections of the stalls and windows: to cover the curve, I used black vacuum tubing found in a hardware store. I cut it in half and worked it over the curve part to continue the look of ironwork. Fancy!
Once all the wooden wall panels were installed, I carefully put it all together and glued the bars down to the base where they touch the stall. By doing it that way, I could space them to the best of my ability and secure them there.
But even after all that, I was still missing a couple things... props.
For props, I began thinking in terms of how I would handle this barn with real horses. Availability of embellishments can be varied, and sometimes they can be expensive or just not the right size for Breyer models. Breyer has created a variety of wonderful props over the years - they check almost all the boxes, but there were still a couple things I needed to really make this barn real.
In some instances, I found my additional items available through craft or hobby outlets, but other times it was up to me to create the items I needed! And often the solution was simple and even available in my home. The following are some of the details I considered important to the presentation, and how I made them!
What is a barn without a hose? You can easily make a hose with electrical wire sold by the foot at a hardware store, or small tubing. A copper bead would suffice for a head. The flowing water in this photo was created with a piece of cling wrap.
This hose was purchased online and slightly customized to be more in-scale. I purchased it mostly purchased for the spigot, which actually would have been easy to make using a large gauge wire and a bead. It was mounted in a logical place for a real, working stable.
I could not find blanket bars anywhere, so I made them myself. This is copper welding wire bent and cut to size, then glued onto wood. I could have just as easily used a spare wooden dowel glued to two small pieces of wood.
I used black spray paint to finish the bars. When in doubt, I searched for images on the internet to make sure I was on the right track to making my props looked authentic.
A blanket bar all mounted up on a stall front. I created the working latch as well, using images online to guide the construction. I found this fancy hay bag on Etsy.
How did I make the latch, you ask? It is made of armature wire, bent with jewelry pliers to make the bolt, and small pewter pieces carefully shaped and sanded.
When mounting the latch, I used sticky wax to hold the bolt in place while I glued in the holders. The closing latch was purchased online as a dollhouse drawer pull, I believe. I had also considered using staples, which would also work for both the latch and bolt holders.
My saddle racks were also created using that same armature wire, plus two small scrap pieces of hobby wood glued together. I used miniature eye hooks found at the hardware store and mounted them on the wall as they would be in real life (again, referencing the real thing). I made two of them and placed them where I thought they would be useful in the barn.
My buckets were purchased online as well, and I used lobster claw clasps to attach them to the miniature eye hooks and hang them. A bucket is also included in the Breyer Stable Feed Set.
You can use a netted bag from clementines or small potatoes to create an in-scale haynet. Cut the bag in a circle, then use embroidery floss around the edges. I used acrylic paint to make mine blue.
Grab a button and print out a clock face that will fit inside the recessed area. Cut it out carefully and glue the picture to the button. For extra realism, add a coat of gloss.
Remember, it doesn’t need to be 100% perfect! This clock is not the focus of your barn - it is a prop. I also found pictures of light switches and outlets, and printed them out in-scale to stick to the wall.
My crossties were made out of a jewelry set with different chains - it came with the lobster claw clasps and jump rings. It was one of my favorite purchases for accentuating the stable, and I put almost all the pieces to use!
For stall guards, I used a piece of aquarium tubing and ran a chain through the middle. I covered the clear tubing with electrical tape. You can use any color electrical tape you desire!
I made a cork board out of a printed picture of cork, framed with scraps of wood from the siding. I used pictures stuck on with sticky wax of some of my friends, printed out very, very small. Almost all stables I have been to have a cork board, so I needed one too!
For stall bedding, try using sawdust. Alternatives include shavings for small animals found at pet stores. You can also use straw - I found miniature hay bales at a craft store and simply cut the ties to spread out the straw. The straw was perfectly cut for a 1:9 scale stable.
For hay, you have many options. Some ideas include dried grass clippings, thinly-cut construction paper, craft moss, hobby grass, or even cut and painted bristles from a large paintbrush. Real, cut-up hay or alfalfa also works - just be sure to take out the bigger pieces, and cut it smaller so it looks in-scale.
Hay bales were one thing I did not have enough of. Not satisfied with what I was finding, I decided to make my own! I used sisal twine, timothy hay and straw, all cut very, very small and mixed together. I will describe the process...
Cutting up the finer pieces
A cut-up sanding sponge will be the
Cutting up the mixture is actually what took the longest. I used an old cookie sheet to keep my mess contained. Trust me, this is really messy!
Then, I took a sanding sponge found at the hardware store and cut it into 3 equal pieces. The straw bale I have previously used is shown for scale. It was a little small pass for 1:9 scale, and was the wrong color. It is attention to little details like this that make a presentation more realistic.
I punctured my sponge with a ballpoint pen to use as a handle, then I sprayed it with a spray adhesive. I then rolled it around in my hay mixture of fine-cut timothy hay and sisal. Since the hay rests on the ground, it is fine to have a puncture and an unfinished bottom - you won’t see it.
I sprayed it with adhesive again and repeated the process. Super messy!
I tied them with sisal twine and that’s it: hay bales! You can also use wire to tie up your bales if you'd like, but I prefer the look of the fine sisal.
I did my best to take things from my own experiences and bring them to this barn. I have plans to continue to work on this stable and more big ideas to act upon, but for now, it's done, and anything extra is just that - extra! Customizing your barn is a wonderful hobby to get started on, and creativity a wonderful exercise in thought. I hope this article helps and inspires you to get started or finish what you began! I know I immensely enjoyed the process, and I hope you do too.
Exactly what I wanted: a real, working barn!
Please remember when creating your barn that making something like this takes a lot of time and patience. It was, however, a welcome and wonderful project that I am happy to have done. I now have a realistic stable that is totally unique and personalized to me!
One last note about props is that they are props. The more realistic and in-scale you can make them, the better, but they are not the focal point of your stable. They are enhancements designed to give it more realism and truer feel, and to support the overall look. There is no right or wrong way to do these things. What I outlined here are ways I discovered, but there may be a better or different way to get to the same goal, so have fun with it!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey, and can discover and explore tips and tricks all on your own to create your personalized dream barn! I cannot wait to see what you come up with!