Making a Tompte House

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The germ of an idea for a 'tompte house" started years ago. Jude has often sent Lou/Bill photos of tiny building dioramas that people all over the world have created, for artistic fun.

Then in 2012 Day traveled through Scandinavia and came home with a gift: one of a series of books popular with Swedish children about a farmer and his talking cat.

Tompte may choose to be visible to children, but not to adults. The stories caught the imagination of Juniper (5) and Romina (3), seen here with Grandma Pat (Culotti, nee Smith) at the Madison Children's Museum.

The stories includes tompte ("TOOMP-tah', both singular and plural) — small, relatively benign (if well-treated) but occasionally mischievous beings comparable to brownies or gnomes found in other cultures.

In mid-2019 Lou/Bill began to finally complete the stair hall of his house by installing trim and finished risers and cork treads, an intermittent project that stretched into the COVID lockdown months of 2020.

Tompte House Fabrication

The acute corners of two stair winders (see the red circle at left) turned out to be the perfect size for a tompte dwelling to nestle into.

The layout — with kitchen and dining room on a lower step and a living room with stairs on an upper step, with interior doors leading to…elsewhere — conveys the notion that tompte also live within the walls of the house, as in the books.

Constructing the Rooms

Photoshopped patterns from the internet serve for wallpaper, wainscoting and flooring.

Some of the furniture, food and household items are purchsed dollhouse miniatures. Everything else is made of scraps of wood and hardware oddments left over from various projects.

Creating the kitchen appliances, butcher block island and shelving.

The finished rooms include some 20 LEDs, mostly repurposed from a string of Christmas lights, and incorporated in various places: as light fixtures, a sputtering candle and a working fire in a wood stove, and daylit windows. Hidden switches allow for creating various daytime and nighttime lighting schemes.

The kids began leaving love notes and gifts of sweets outside the doors. Now they correspond with the tompte via letters exchanged in a tiny mailbox. They notice that between their visits furniture and plants have been moved, dishware and food vary, and the interor scenes reflect the seasonal changes of the outer world.

This short clip of the tompte house shows some of the lighting variations…
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