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My Collection




My collection currently numbers thirteen nine dolls' houses - I used to have over forty houses but have been steadily streamlining the collection and in over the last eight years I have sold off all my commerical antique and vintage houses but two. My primary focus is now restricted to artisan dollhouse miniatures with a few exceptions here and there.

Many of my houses are displayed in one room where I painted a Rufus Porter-style mural around three sides of the room. One wall is copied from the mural that appears in the Tynietoy mansion while the other walls feature scenes from the Delaware Valley landscape, where I live with my husband and troublesome cat on the north side of the Musconetcong Mountain.

Other houses are located throughout my house with the largest ones restricted to the ground floor because big houses do not fit up the narrow stairways of a 200 year old farmhouse!

Older material from this page may be retrieved by clicking the link at the bottom of this page.

A Sentimental Journey

I was presented with an unusual opportunity around Thanksgiving 2016 when out of the blue, I received an email from the son of the late Gretchen Deans. If you are a newer collector, you may not know that Gretchen was one of the three founders of the original Nutshell News magazine back in 1971 and served as the East Coast editor for some years. She was a collector from her childhood and accumulated an amazing collection of artisan furniture, the highlight of which was her outstanding collection of handcrafted furniture by Eric Pearson. She also crafted 1/144 scale "dollhouses for dollhouses" that she sold through Eileen Godfrey's shop and she produced some lovely paintings for her own collection.

Gretchen's son found me on the Internet when he read my comments on this site recounting my introduction to Gretchen's inspiring collection back in 1976. I had corresponded with Gretchen during the last years of her life and I knew she had parted with most of her collection, but I was surprised to learn from her son that she had kept one house and it had been gathering dust in his basement since her death in 2011. Five years later, he thought he was ready to part with it and he wanted it to go to someone who had known and liked her, rather than offer it for sale to strangers. I wasn't sure which house it was when he first described it, but I suspected it was the one I had seen in her kitchen so many years ago.

The day after Christmas, my husband and I drove up to Sturbridge, Massachusetts for dinner at the Publick House and the next day we journeyed on to her son's house outside Worcester. The house was still completely furnished but had been much jostled since its move from Gretchen's last home in New Canaan, CT. The house was in his basement and it was indeed the dollhouse from Gretchen's kitchen: a substantial mock-Tudor suburban house that replicated Gretchen's childhood home in Pittsburgh and still populated by the miniature mouse family Gretchen had dressed herself. Although her family did not know who built it, I eventually recalled it had been constructed by Joen Ellen Kanze of White Plains, NY. Mrs Kanze built one-of-a-kind dollhouses and because she was a good friend of Molly Brody's, she always got the booth right inside the doors at Molly's semi-annual miniatures show in Darien. Mrs. Kanze was cheerful woman with a good sense of humor and she made the house to Gretchen's specifications. She built the shell with the architectural details while Gretchen added the wallpapers and lace curtains and filled with house with a mix of artisan and commercial furniture and accessories. She often added her own embellishments to the commercial items.

Gretchen had sold all her other houses by the early 2000's (I knew her Howard Hartmann colonial house had been sold to Jane Haskell) but Gretchen kept this one because it was so deeply personal. I made it clear to her son that I intended to respect Gretchen's memory and honor her personal qualities when the house came home with me. He understood that I would redecorate it to my own taste and might part with some of the furnishings, but that I would always treasure it as Gretchen's house. In an eerie coincidence, the day it became mine was both my wedding anniversary, the also the anniversary of Gretchen's death five years earlier, so the day was colored by some emotion on both sides. Her son said he thought she would have been glad I got the house and I like to think so as well. It seemed like it was meant to be.

I won't upset you with a description of the way we brought the house home to New Jersey with everything still in it! It was both a first and a last for me, I can assure you. In any case, it arrived safe and sound along with a large container filled with vintage building materials and all sorts of odds and ends from Gretchen's stash, including some components I used in the renovations to the house. Her son also gave me her set of photographs and slides of her collection - they brought back an avalanche of warm memories for me! 

But the first job when we got it home was removing the contents and giving the house a comprehensive cleaning that was rather desperately needed. While in storage, the house had accommodated some squatters of the rodent variety and they had left ample evidence of their capers throughout the entire house. Some furnishings had to be tossed away, some things were cleaned and kept, and the entire house was scrubbed and cleaned with disinfectant - more than once. Another issue stemmed from Gretchen's smoking habit. All the acetate windows and the lace curtains were brown from exposure to smoke. The loosening of several window shutters demonstrated the degree to which the exterior painted surfaces had been yellowed. It was rather remarkable...

This is how the house looked when it first came home with me:

The house is three stories tall and it sat on a large base with a four inch high foundation where bulky wiring terminated. The foundation plantings were made from over-scaled plastic faux greenery hot-glued into the base. The ground floor masonry was molded from plaster and then painted while the upper floors feature applied half-timbering and textured paint that started out as white and had turned yellow over time.

The missing shutter shows how much the walls became discolored over time.

The interior is as interesting and richly detailed as the exterior. I never took a photo of the house as it was originally furnished because so many things were damaged and so dirty I wasn't comfortable handling them, so I never set them up, but I do have old photos of how it looked with Gretchen's furnishings. It took me the better part of a week to clean the interior and the furnishings that could be saved. In the meanwhile, I spent a lot of time just studying the layout and the details of the house before deciding what I would retain and what I would change to make the house more to my taste. For example, the ground floor's staircase was very compressed and steep to fit in a small space, and the kitchen's Victorian wainscot was coated with blu-tac adhesive blobs that would never come out... The floors were made from oak veneer strips over plywood. With time, some pieces had split and lifted a little on the edges but that just made them look more realistically old and gave the house even more character. The kitchen floor was covered with a small-patterned vinyl terra cotta tile that I also decided to keep. So I kept the layout pretty much the same but decided to remove the original staircase and add a fireplace with stairs winding up behind it.

The first task after cleaning was to remove the intrusive Christmas tree lighting and the heavy wooden "valances" that hid those lights and their thick wires. Back in the late 1960's and early '70's, a lot of nice houses were lighted this way. When Illinois Hobbycraft introduced miniature lighting fixtures and wiring components in the 70's, it pretty much revolutionized the way miniaturists illuminated their dollhouses.

Removing the valances visually opened up the rooms in a dramatic fashion. I also decided to reduce the height of the foundation from four inches to just 3/4 of an inch which eliminated the landscaped area with the plastic shrubbery and the damaged front steps. This made the total depth of the house and its base more shallow and now I can move the house up and down my narrow staircase more easily.

I deliberated a while before I decided to remove the wallpapers. Throughout the house, the original papers were 1970's Joe Hermes single-color patterns that had been sold in Molly Brody's shop at that time. They were nicely scaled and evoked a lot of nostalgic charm, but they had been ruined by the liberal use of blu-tac and sticky wax on every surface. In one room, Gretchen had even splurged on the matching fabric when she made curtains but they were as stained and soiled as the walls so I decided to remove ALL the papers. To create a brighter interior, I chose to paint all the walls cream after adding texture to the bare plywood with modeling paste, and then I lightly antiqued the painted surfaces to highlight the textured effects. I had to patch in some areas of woodwork where the valances had been integrally attached and I didn't mind the patchwork effect that resulted. What a difference it made to paint the walls. I feel it really allows the windows and other trim to really stand out so people can appreciate all that detail.

After I removed the wallpaper, I closed in the wall where the entrance door was located. Since I do not care for dollhouses with an open back exposed to dust and curious cats, I decided to make a new "front" facade for this open back wall and, to give myself more options for placing furniture, I blocked over the doorway. I plan to keep the door feature on the exterior as a faux doorway to retain the original appearance of that side of the house. The other significant changes included adding new recessed panelling under the second floor bay window and I made the dormer smaller in the bathroom so I would have more wall space for a nicer sink. I also decided to fill in the lower part of the bay window in the kitchen to look more like a traditional English bow window.

After playing with the furnishings I planned to use, I determined where to place lamps and fluorettes on the first two floors. I chose to leave the attic rooms without electrification because it would have required installing false walls and beams where space was already too spare.

The most dramatic change I made to the interior was to reconfigure the spacious parlor into a more clearly defined sitting room and dining room. Because this room had been shown in the now out-of-print This Side of Yesterday, I knew the space has been decorated as a casual sitting room with an eclectic mixture of vintage and artisan furnishings. I wanted to decorate this area in a more formal and less cluttered traditional style with a prominent fireplace. So after I removed the awkwardly steep staircase (not easy!), I constructed a substantial fireplace with a more realistically proportioned staircase winding around the back of the room and still opening up into the same space in the upstairs hallway.

The wallpaper that Gretchen had used in the parlor was a charming Victorian pattern that gave the room a quaint and homey flavor appropriate for the furnishings she chose. There was a Mell Prescott spinet beside the door and an elaborate David Sweet wall unit against the opposite wall that combined a vintage Schweizer soft metal stove, a bookcase and a built-in desk. She also had a vintage Lynnfield sofa and a Thonet-style rocker by James Sweet. The walls were covered with small framed photos and knickknacks. It was more busy and chaotic than I preferred and I really wanted the house and all its architectural details to be the centerpiece, so I made a substantial change to this space.

I constructed the fireplace around a lovely painted plaster and metal fireplace insert by Sue Cook that features wonderful porcelain tiles by Henny Staring-Egberts. I also used some of the mahogany moldings left over from the Kaliski Mansion and a pair of porch brackets from the same source to support the mantel. The raised panels on the chimney breast came from the box of building supplies Gretchen's son gave me with the house. It was important to me to incorporate things from Gretchen's materials.

I placed the fireplace wall at an angle to make the room more interesting and to keep the space as open as I could. It is a cozy room with vintage upholstered furniture by Robert Bernhard and an interesting rocker that came with the house. The David Williams watercolor over the fireplace depicts Hanbury Hall, a National Trust property that was just a few miles from my home when I lived in Worcestershire. The vases are by Christopher Whitford and the embroidery in the stairwell was stitched by Jean Strup. The fireplace wall also conceals the wires that run from the light fixtures on the floor above to the shallow base where I attached the wiring strips - the last ones I could find during the final days of Radio Shack...The ceiling was a bit rough when I got the house. I think it might have been papered before and perhaps some glue residue had been left there. I just painted over it to leave it a little rough and patchy-looking like ceilings sometimes are in very old houses.

I ordered the little girl from Irina Martin, an artist in Germany, and the mother was made from a Bonnie Sanford kit purchased many years ago. She is holding a Yorkie by Kristin Castenholds that I purchased specifically for this house. My daughter named him Tobias. The sage green draperies are made from silk I purchased at Liberty's in London almost 20 years ago and the Delft charger is by Henny. Ginger Wyatt painted the lamp and the sweet painting of a young girl with her kittens was painted by Barbara Wilson. The table in the corner is a wonderfully carved piece by David Hurley and the cocktail table in the foreground is by Eric Pearson, Gretchen's favorite miniaturist.

The renovations in this space allowed me to create a more defined area for the traditional dining room. It is small so I had to make a mahogany table that was a little narrow to fit the space.

The new stairs make a small incursion in an upper corner of the room but I still had space to hang a painting by Patty Guckes on that wall. The blue in her gown is echoed by the blue accent color in the rug that came out of Jackie Andrews' Wilton dollhouse. The commercial Queen Anne chairs were made around the time I first saw Gretchen's collection in 1976. They are made of walnut and featured simple lines and nicely scaled upholstered seats. I had admired them when they were first sold in Molly Brody's shop while I was working there and I remember they cost $8.50 for the side chairs and $9.50 for the carver. I think they were made by the same company that became Reminiscence.

I originally placed a different walnut Welsh dresser here but then found a Reminiscence dresser that was made as part of the Thorne Rooms collection that I like even better. I've incorporated a number of pieces from that manufacturer throughout the house because they were made around the time Gretchen was still furnishing the house originally. The blue Staffordshire porcelain is from a lovely dinnerware set by Jean Yingling and the pink lustre umbrella stand filled with gladioli was made by Elizabeth Chambers. Vintage sterling silver items on top of the dresser are by Cini, Harry Smith and Chestnut Hill. The treasured silver tankard is Obadiah Fisher's work.

The kitchen was the room that presented the most challenges to me. Gretchen had originally furnished it was an assortment of repainted old cast iron fixtures, a Handworks Hoosier cupboard and all sorts of wall shelving either waxed or glued to the walls. Stripped of its contents, it looked dark and shabby.

The wainscot was made from Northeastern tiny scale molded siding and blu-tac residue was all over the place. This time, it was an easy decision to go back to the plywood walls and brighten the space with paint.

I decided to make a large open hearth area for the placement of the AGA range and some cabinetry and added beams to conceal fluorette lighting. I crafted brick side walls and made the wall on the left larger to accommodate electrical wiring, and provide depth for cabinets on adjacent walls. I also filled in the lower part of the bay window because the original windows reaching all the way down to the floor looked wrong for a period English kitchen and I think it immediately felt more cozy with the enclosure. I kept the vinyl tile floor after removing a lot of wax and blu-tac.

The new window ledge provides a nice sunny spot for potted flowers, including some vintage Vienna bronze tulips. Terry Curran made the wonderful tiles I used behind the AGA and Bonni Backe's tea towel and place mats are the most recent additions to this room. Brian Long crafted the Georgian high chair in the foreground. The wonderful chairs from Scotland are by David Edwards and I treasure them. I made the table using some vintage turnings by Robert Dankenics and antique pine wood my husband cut down for me from an old wall stud in our 1780's farmhouse.

I won the Jane Newman sink cupboard and dish rack units on ebay and filled them with vintage Debbie McKnight blue and white china. The open shelving displays them so nicely, but I did add a ruffled skirt under the sink to hide the plumbing. I made the "hooked" rug with French knots and I selected the other colors throughout the room to complement the rug. It tickles me that the same tiles on the sink's backsplash are used in the sitting room's fireplace insert. I also reused the little copper bell that was in this room when it was Gretchen's house. I hope she would find this room as cozy and inviting as I do.

Moving upstairs, the first room I tackled was bedroom with the bay window. It already had some simple vertical plank panelling under the large window, but I added another layer of recessed paneling over it to add more detail and to create a deeper window ledge. This was the room that had been papered with matching fabric window valances. It was one of my least favorite papers in the house and I decided quickly when it came time to remove it.

I did rescue all the lace curtains throughout the house and gently laundered them but I wanted these particular windows to be more visible so I used simple toile panels on all the windows in this room. I also reused the fine brass curtain rods that Gretchen had used originally. I installed one wall sconce towards the back of the room and a table lamp near the door.

The deeper window ledge allowed me to place a number of accessories along the back wall, and I'm pleased you can now see the detail of the windows. The hand-carved table in the foreground is unsigned and was purchased at an auction in Canada.

I made the bed a few years ago after I ordered two unfinished bedposts from Masters Miniatures in England and I had enough toile fabric to make the draperies and also reupholster two chairs from the same set I used for the dining room. Debbie McKnight made most of the blue and white porcelain displayed in this room.

The house did not have any interior doors so I added them to the bedrooms and bath. The petit point in progress was an inexpensive ebay purchase I attached to a frame made from an Anglesey kit. I imagine this peaceful setting as a guest room where the mistress of the manor sometimes slips away to work on her needlepoint.

The overstuffed sewing box covered with blue toile paper just had to go in this room. I also added upholstery to an antique Chinese rosewood stand that had been my grandfather's. He used it for his collection of antique snuff bottles. I inherited two of the bottles but thought the stand made a somewhat precarious perch, so over the years I've often used this piece as a footstool in one house or another and it seems perfect right here.

The upstairs hall had a plywood staircase with a plain square newel post and no balusters. Some treads had already come loose so I lifted all of them off and refinished them before adding a more interesting newel post recycled from the Kaliski mansion. I also added a wall sconce towards the back of the hall. All the sconces in the house came from The Lighting Bug. The two-drawer stand is another Reminiscence piece from the Thorne collection. Melissa Wolcott painted the equestrian scene on ivorine.

Across the hall is another good-sized room designated as the master bedroom. The blue floral wallpaper by Joe Hermes was very familiar to me and had been a popular seller at Molly's store. It was an easy task to remove the wallpaper, paint and redecorate this room. But like most of the rooms in the house, the generous number and size of the windows provided some challenges when it came to placing furniture. That's how the chest of drawers ended up in front of a window.

There was quite a lot of wax staining on the wallpaper and the small window in the corner seemed a little awkward. It's tempting to suppose that in Gretchen's real childhood home, there was a bathroom where the window was so small.

The pretty bed is from the Thorne Collection while the blanket chest was assembled from an Anglesey kit. The two chests of drawers are by Escutcheon and Betty Valentine made the chair with blue velvet upholstery in the early days of her career as a miniaturist. The piece between the chairs is Warren Dick's spice cabinet. Robert Bernhard made the chair in the 1970's but I reupholstered it to match the bed and then made the draperies. The fabric came from Liberty and I'm just about out of it now, alas...

Before I upholstered the bed, I refinished it to reflect more age and I did the same to Warren Dick's cabinet. The fine petit point wall tapestry was fashioned by Lucy Iducovich and I made the books on the blanket chest.

Gretchen's original bathroom featured real mosaic tiles glued down and grouted with mastic. They were over-scaled with deep crevices where the grout had been applied, and the grout was stained and quite grubby. This might have been the mice's favorite room. I chiseled out the tiles before stripping the paper and adding the new knee walls. You can see the old wiring tucked along the side of the wall. The room had originally been furnished with a set of Shackman bathroom fixtures but I had a nicer set to install in their place.

I had dreaded the work involved in removing the tiles but I think that the passing of forty years made the grout and adhesive quite brittle, so the tiles came off with minimal effort. After chipping and sanding the larger blobs of leftover grout, I constructed the new knee walls, textured and painted the plywood walls and then laid a wooden floor made from antique wood strips. I made a smaller alcove by the low window for the toilet area and, as I did throughout the attic rooms, I added roof joists for interest.

The stained glass panel in the window came with the house and had been waxed in place over one of the bedroom windows a floor below. Since I had enjoyed a stained glass window in the bathroom of my old apartment in Brooklyn, I re-hung this panel in the bathroom. As you can see, the new walls allowed me just enough space for the sink. The toilet came with a high tank that would never fit in this room, so I adopted the English practice of "hiding" the tank inside the wall behind the toilet with a simple flushing handle attached to the wall.

The other new wall provided a space for this sweet painted tin laundry hamper decorated by Victoria Fasken. It was originally designed as a grain bin but the instant I saw it in Karon Cunningham's booth at the Guild show, it said "hamper" to me. The small Victorian shelf above it came with the house. Towels are stashed in the wicker stand by Uncle Ciggie's. Since this photo was taken, I have added a braced plank door. 

At the other end of the attic level is the small bedroom for a little girl. The original Joe Hermes wallpaper was very sweet and I hesitated to remove it, but the waxy stains persuaded me to let it go. I have a supply of this same paper in a pretty pink on cream color scheme and figured that if I didn't like the room after it was stripped and painted, I could always re-paper it with that paper.

This was one of the rooms encumbered with a surplus of blue adhesive on the floors, walls and within the window seat. And the room has been quite popular with the previous tenants - I really had to scrub and scrub to get it clean. Once the room was painted, it appeared much more bright and appealing.

Normally, I would have removed the baseboard and other pieces of trim before painting, but Mrs Kanze had actually nailed all the trim pieces in place when she built the house and I did not want to risk damaging them so I had to carefully paint the walls right up to the trim pieces. It was tricky and took a long time throughout the house. The bed that came with the house was too large for this room so I made a smaller child's bed using some of the Gothic trim left over from my renovation of Mary Kaliski's house.

I gave the bed a lightly distressed painted finish and made the coverlet with matching curtains and window seat cushion. The fine batiste sheet and pillow case were handmade by Tynietoy. The bedside table with hand-carved legs came with the house and is signed M. Garbus 1979. The lamp is a vintage piece from the Miniature Mart and the burled chest is by Tony Jones. I left the wall of this and all the other rooms plain and un-papered so they blend together better. I often feel that too many wallpapered rooms make a house look somewhat chaotic when viewed as a whole and painted walls make the space look more peaceful and serene. But antique houses are another matter...

The last room on the attic level had been designed by Gretchen to serve as a boy's bedroom and it was furnished with vastly under-scaled bunk beds and the walls had balsa wood shelving filled with toys. Because the space was rather awkward in its layout to accommodate a bed of any size, I chose instead to redecorate it as an art studio, as an homage to Gretchen. In addition to her work as a miniaturist, Gretchen was also a painted of full-sized paintings, and a musician, so I wanted this space to be Gretchen's room and reflect her other talents.

I was happy to see the removal of the gingham checked wallpapers in this room. Due to the placement of the staircase, this room has the least realistic layout of the whole house - one would have to bend at the waste to exit the stairs and move towards the bath or the little bedroom. The large dormer window is the best feature in the whole room, and one I think would appeal to any artist.

How much brighter and spacious the room appears after removing the valance and painting the walls white. I kept the low balustrade and added a refinished table by Warren Dick with a Queen Anne chair by Wesley Faurot for Willoughby's 18th century. The other chair is from a set of four by Eric Pearson and the leather has aged and cracked with age - so appropriate for an attic space. Pearson also made the violin and case. All the Pearson items in this room are custom and one-of-kind. The marine painting in the background is by Paul Saltarelli.

Another vintage piece from Reminiscence is tucked under the eaves. Gretchen painted the view of Venice on the far left and also the still life on the window seat. I placed a vintage shopping bag with Molly Brody's logo on the floor beside the Pearson chair.

The artist's table in the background is a wonderful custom piece by Eric Pearson that I purchased at auction. Pearson also made the watercolor landscape on the adjustable easel part of the table. There are tiny watercolor paints in the open drawer. The chair is by John Ferguson and Jane Woodham made the paint box on the Warren Dick table below.

I love all the rooms in this house but this one has the most meaning to me as I endeavored to share some of Gretchen's personal passions in this space. I can only hint at how much it means to me to own this wonderful house. Every time I look at it, I'm transported to my own past and the times my life intersected with Gretchen's over the years. Seeing her collection for the very first time was an event that truly shaped my lifelong passion for artisan miniatures and I really do feel blessed and honored to have this memorable house in my own collection today.

Now that the interior is finished, I'm at work on fixing up the outside and creating a new facade where the open back was. When that is completed, then I will feel like the house is truly mine - but it will always have the nicest connections to not just Gretchen, but also to the other miniaturists of that period. Many are gone now but their work still delights me as much now as it did then.  [24 April 2017]


A Folk Art Roombox

Like many of you, I have a lot of great miniatures that are currently "homeless" and awaiting a new house to display their charms. Sad to say, a lot of my "stock" is tucked away in boxes, but I also have two cabinets filled with things that I like to be able to view regularly. When I made this little roombox, it was going to be offered for sale, but then I furnished it from one of my cabinets and now it looks like I will be keeping it for a while.

When I made my Swedish house in 2016, I created the shell by re-purposing some of the structural elements of Mary Kaliski's Victorian Mansion (see that story below) and I had a lot of leftover pieces. I sold enough of that excess on ebay to actually make a profit over what I paid for the house, and I also kept some pieces for future projects. That was the source for the floor of this roombox. It was formerly a section of a large veranda and the walnut planks were firmly glued to their plywood base. The wood had been left rather rough and unvarnished, so I sanded it down but left the slightly irregular edges just as they were. The lttle gaps and irregularities reminded me of the floor boards in antique farmhouses so this floor section became the literal foundation for this small roombox. The plywood shell was built using the handsome cabinet-grade plywood that my shipping company had used when I transported my Tynietoy Colonial Mansion from California to New Jersey. It was painfully expensive so I wasn't about to let that nice plywood go to waste!

I already had a simple fireplace shell sitting in my storeroom. I had made it for an antique English box-back dollhouse I restored a few years ago and when I altered my design a little, I tucked it away for the future. So when I decided to build this roombox, I grabbed it and constructed the built-in shelves and the plank door around it. The raised panels were among the building materials I was given when I purchased Gretchen Deans' dollhouse in December 2016, so they were recycled as well! And most of the trim pieces came from my seemingly endless supply of aged wood scraps from that insane auction purchase made by husband back in 2001 when he bought an entire barnload of wood planks and moldings at a farm auction - for $1. It took him days to transport it home and I doubt it will ever run out!

The size of the usable section of flooring determined the dimensions of the room to an extent, but I actually trimmed it down even more to create a more intimate setting. Some of the nice people who emailed me have commented that some of my rooms and houses look like places they would like to walk into and that is very much the type of impression I want to make when I create a setting. I seldom make anything with the intent of selling it, but I do realize that one day someone else will own the houses and roomboxes I build, so I make things that are pleasing to me but that I also hope will appeal to others. In this case, I wanted to create a smaller, more intimate space than the sort of boxes made by the acknowledged super-stars of the miniature world. I love a Whitledge roombox as much as the next person and I marvel at the prefectly scaled details and the decorator finishes. But I would never feel completely comfortable is such refined spaces myself so I aim for something a little homey and comfortable, and as someone who lives in an 18th century farmhouse, that's the origin of my aesthetic. For example, here is a view of the parlor in my real house:


Pretty clear where I derive my inspiration, isn't it?

Yes, I chose a familar palette and I wanted to assemble some of my favorite things into this setting so it was important to include some built-in shelving for displaying some favorite small things like painted boxes by Mary Grady O'Brien and Phyllis Hawkes. The colors of Jane Graber's Moravian pottery seemed more appropriate here than her blue-decorated stoneware and I can't resist her covered casseroles pots with those tiny molded birds on the lids! Phyllis also painted the double portrait - it was a submission for her IGMA Fellow status, and I painted the cat in her class.

Pierre Wallack made the handsome banister-back chair, Mark Murphy made the cricket table and the vinegar-grained blanket chest is an unsigned auction purchase. I recently completed the French knot rug and it echoes many of the colors that appear throughout the room. I have to thank Pat Hartman again for teaching me how to do tiny French knots - it is my latest passion and fits in so perfectly with the way I like to decorate.

The other banister-back chair is by Gerald Crawford and the stunning painted cupboard was made by Mark Murphy. A friend of mine bought it for me during the preview at Philadelphia Miniaturia when I was unable to attend in person and when he described it to me over the telephone I was happy to say "buy it" sight unseen. No regrets! Annelle Ferguson made the pretty sampler over the mantel and Mary Grady O'Brien painted the tole box as well as the bride's box on the chair and the apple tray. The cast iron stove was an ebay purchase.James Hastrich made the mirror and the cupboard is filled with more pottery by Jane Graber.

My experience working within the auction world has taught me that because really large dollhouses are difficult to sell at auction, they don't attract many eager buyers, but roomboxes are easy for people to transport and ship. And as many collectors of my generation will attest, it's far easier to make room for one more roombox than for one more dollhouse. So while I still have plans for more houses, I expect that I will be constructing more roomboxes to provide settings for my homeless miniatures. Here is another small box I made in 2015. I used a small wooden packing box and had fun refinishing and re-upholstering some commercial pieces that I liked. I don't often buy Bespaq but I sometimes end up with some items in an auction box lot and this is a pleasant way to use them in a decidedly Gallic setting.

I used a pretty toile wallpaper from my stock and a textured paper on the ceiling. The floorboards were cut from some antique wood left over from a remodeling project in our real house (I seldom throw away old wood) and I had framed the pictures years ago. The bombe' chest is walnut and I painted it to make it look a little more rustic. I made the French knot rug on the floor - hey, the knots are FRENCH, oui? Simple and sweet. (3.11.17)

Renovating  a Tudor House Relict

When I was involved in preparing the catalogue for the Bertoia auction of Gloria Hinkel's Delaware Dollhouse and Toy Museum some years ago, one of the houses she planned to sell was a rather large 8-room suburban Tudor style home built by the late Robert Bernhard. Most likely built sometime in the 1980's or 90's, it was crafted from the same gypsum board Bob used to make his roomboxes, with some plywood used for the base and second floor. Consequently, it wasn't terribly heavy and I later learned that it came apart into two halves for easier transport. I admired the pretty polished floors, the graceful proportions of the rooms and the cleverness of the removable front facade. Gloria offered to sell it to me before the auction, with its furniture, but I hoped to get it for less at the sale so I passed on it. Later, on the day of the auction, I was busy helping buyers collect their items from the showcases and missed out on the house with some regret. A similar house had been offered a few years earlier at Alderfer's but I did not bid on it because I had already won a Christian Hacker house and knew I did not have room in my car for two houses. I was sad when it sold for only $50 that day.

While working on the catalogue for Eileen Rhoads's September 2016 auction, I encountered a much smaller structure that I instantly recognized as the work of Robert Bernhard, but it wasn't until I bought it at the auction and carried it home that I realized it was the right hand side of a Tudor house exactly like the one from the Delaware Museum. What I wound up with was the dining room, kitchen, smaller bedroom and bath that made up the right-hand side of the original house and somewhere else must be the grand staircase hall, parlor, and master bedroom that comprised the left-hand side of the house. After the auction, I tried to locate the rest of the house by sharing emails with the consignor but they couldn't locate it. So I set about making this half-house into a self-contained little cottage than I named Midsomer Parva - Little Midsomer, inspired by the many picturesque cottages featured in the British television series.

Bob liked to use gypsum board for his structures because it was lightweight and easy to cut into walls while providing a textured surface for the exteriors. I appreciate the lighter weight, but am not a fan of the dimpled surfaces, so when I made my modifications to this cottage, I coated the interior walls with modelling paste to look like plaster, and filled the spaces between the half-timbered decorative trim with either wall patching compound or faux brickwork for a more realistic effect. The interior rooms were already papered with dated dollhouse and full-sized wallpaper that was stained from adhesive wax and blu-tac so I felt no remorse when removing or plastering over those papers. Since the staircase was missing along with the other half of the house, I needed to add one and I also wanted fireplaces in the newly designated parlor and bedroom. I kept the polished wooden floors just as they were and debated painting over the slightly over-scaled kitchen floor tiles before deciding to also leave them as I found them.

Bob used a commercial wire screen material to imitate leaded glass mullions in the windows. The effect is not all that convincing and I debated replacing them but again opted for a more conservative approach to my remodeling project out of respect for someone I liked very much when he was alive. I like the little details about the house that still speak of Bob's aesthetics. He was distinctive!

As I usually do, I kept the house on my work table for a while to inspect, consider and plan my renovations. My goal was to make it feel homey and historic at the same time with some modern conveniences while doing what I could to impart some rustic character. I created a modern cottage kitchen, added several walls of panelling and pretty massive exposed beams while keeping the parlor a little formal but still cozy. I still had lots of material left over from my down-sizing of Mary Kaliski's house (see the story below) so I had an ample supply of mahogany for heavy beams and joists while relying on my now dwindling supply of weathered old wood trims from that auction so many years ago when my husband bought the contents of an old barn for $1. All the door and window trim came from that supply as well as the additional half-timbering I glued to the exterior before I did the brickwork and plastering. Bob's design for those details had a distinctly contemporary feel and my goal was to make the building look much older by adding a lot of antiqued brickwork. Also, the front facade was not its best feature so after removing the cheap-looking landscaping, I added a front door (the missing half of the house had the only front door) and covered entry porch inspired by examples I saw near my old home in Worcestershire - I still had the photos I took of them back then. What a difference those details made!

Here is how the house looked when I first brought it home:

The oddly angled roof angle the left is where the gabled front of the other half of the original house tucked into this section. The roof is hinged and lifts up all way to rest on the back roof while the facade simply slides away. It's really quite clever and I'm sure I will do something similar in future houses. The little covered porch on the right features a side door into the kitchen. The somewhat crude landscaping was glued to the base with blobs of white glue. The house showed noticeable wear on the exterior but all I saw was potential.

In this view, one can see the doorways that led into the two-story staircase hall in the half of the house that was missing. I closed up the bottom door entirely and upstairs, I closed up the lower part of the door and created a window after I cut the odd overhang off the roof. I considered putting an addition onto the house myself for the stairs but decided to keep the cottage smaller and incorporate a staircase inside. Small houses have proven easier for me to transport and I know from experience that they sell more easily at auction than big houses do when the time comes.

This was the formal dining room when the house was bigger. Bob papered the walls with snippets of real-size scenic paper in a blue-green color scheme meant to look like a mural, over a painted wainscot. Frankly, nothing about it looked English so I plastered and painted over it. But look at the lovely polished floors! What a lot of time I saved leaving them just as they were after cleaning up an excess of wax blobs everywhere. And one of the first things I did was remove the intrusive and crude lighting throughout the house. Anyone familiar with Bob's work recognizes the way he wired his houses and roomboxes with out-of-scale wiring, usually shielded with flat wooden bracket panels in the front corners of the rooms. Bob used the same method when he electrified antique houses for Gloria Hinkel and Carolyn Sunstein.

The kitchen needed a lot of work. The back wall was covered with brick paper and Bob made the kitchen range with hood from cardboard. There was no sink when it came to auction and the floor was covered with blobs of wax that you can see in the photo. The other walls were papered with full-size wallpaper featuring a spattered dot pattern. I sealed and painted over the wallpaper on the walls, but I pulled out everything in the kitchen hearth and stripped the two side pieces before re-installing them, texturing and painting them. I also replaced the mantel over the range area and added a shelf over the alcove entry area. Sometimes I re-used the wood strips Bob had glued around the doors and windows, but I did replace some of them with mahogany.

The second floor had the same nice floors as the ground floor but I removed all the door and window trim because I wanted to use stained wood instead. With some effort, I cut an opening in the floor towards the back of the bedroom for the new staircase, and I added a small wall in the other room so a tiny bathroom would fit and I could have something like a dressing room or sewing room as well. It also helped provide a screened area for new wiring. In this photo you can see the way Bob tried to hide his lighting.

The Kitchen

The first room I tackled was the kitchen with its small dining nook to the right - the nook is somewhat inaccessible so all I did in there was paint the walls I could reach. After removing the mantel and Bob's built-ins, I textured and painted the walls. Next, I decided where to install lighting and added ceiling beams to hide the wiring.

I already had an AGA stove I'd purchased at auction some years ago, so I made a fireplace area with a new mantel for it and made wooden cabinets to fit on each side. I ordered a Belfast sink from England and waited until it arrived to make a run of cabinets on the left with the sink inserted. I often try out different pieces of furniture while I am working on a house to help me figure out where to place lighting and any additional walls. The rocker was made by Colin Bird and the chair in the foreground is by retired Scottish artist David Edwards. The plate rack from England was purchase on ebay.

I ordered some cannisters from Stokesayware for Jane Newman's Welsh dresser in the alcove and placed a strip of old vinyl tiles behind the stove until I decided to use some small Minton tiles I had tucked away. I was dissatisfied with the kitchen cupboard on the right and made a new one after this photo was taken, and extended the chimney pipe up under the mantel. The wood for the mantel came from Mary Kaliski's leftover lumber.

The finished kitchen includes a small table I made in the middle to serve as an island. When I got the house, there were no interior doors so I made them and used hardware from Olde Harmony Forge. I used fluorettes for lighting over the stove and tucked behind a beam near the sink.

The blue transferware plates on the top shelf came from Stokesayware and I found the others at the Philadelphia show. The silver toast rack was purchased years ago at The Singing Tree in London. Ron Stetkowicz made the horse brasses.

The sink came with brass taps and I used old mahogany to make the backsplash where they are mounted. The countertops are also mahogany. Tony Knott made the candlesticks on the mantel and the clear goblets are by Jim Irish.

The Bath and Dressing Room


The dollhouse wallpaper in the bathroom was bubbled and lifting in many places so it was fairly easy to remove it before I textured the walls and added a partitioning wall to create a dressing room. I initially thought I would put a Dennis Jenvey armoire in that room was it seemed to overwhelm the space so I decided to make it a sewing room with a Tarbena chest of drawers.

The settle is a vintage commercial replica of one from the Thorne Rooms made by Reminiscence that I refinished and for which I made cushions. The little cottage above it is embroidered and the carpet is a fine gauge petitpoint. The watercolor of an English chapel is by Ken Bird and the little wheelback chair was made by Wallace Auger.

Some of my favorite needlework is displayed in this room and these pieces were all made by Annelle Ferguson. The framed Boston School fishing lady petitpoint was a private commission and I was so delighted when I got it. The dressing table is vintage Warren Dick  and I lightly refinished it.

A few years ago I bought some Ann Shepley bathroom furniture at auction. Since most of this room is hidden from view, the fact that I am missing the matching toilet is no problem - we just pretend it is further back in the bathroom.

The Bedroom

I felt the proportions of the bedroom were generous enough that I could steal some space in the very back for the staircase and conceal it with a panelled wall that would give me wall space for a formal Tudor bed and fireplace without feeling cramped. So before I did any work, I tested the room layout with a freestanding fireplace and tried out several pieces of furniture before proceeding.

This is a critical part of my process as I fiddled a bit with the size of the wall partition before deciding on this configuration. Then I ordered a fireplace surround from Sue Cook in England. While waiting, I worked on the walls. First I filled in the open doorway to nowhere on the left with a window. Once the fireplace surround arrived, I made a hearth and firebox to fit neatly into the corner. I hid the wiring for the logs behind the baseboard running along the back wall.

After removing the trim around the room, I used modeling paste to texture the walls and painted them a plain cream color, and then added exposed beams and studs where appropriate. The panelled wall was a piece of thin mahogany veneered plywood from my stock to which I added strips of mahogany and cove moldings. It was quite a satisfying transformation after I added lighting and installed the fireplace.

I experimented with the placement of various pieces of furniture from my collection until I chose these things. I knew I would always use this particular bed. The chair in front of the bed is by Betty Valentine while the other chair is by Colin Bird. The dressing table under the window is Tarbena's and I bought the rug at an auction some years ago.

Pat Richards made the shoes and the petitpoint picture on the wall. I bought the little box with a tapestry lid on the dressing table the last time I attended the Kensington show. Tricia Street made the figurine over the fireplace.

The bed was an inexpensive purchase on ebay. When I saw it, it was painted black and upholstered with a shiny orange fabric trimmed with black lace for Halloween. As soon I removed that, I easily refinished the bed and added new upholstery and bedding. I had enough fabric to make the curtains and cushions in the upstairs rooms to match. The aumbry is by David Usher, the embroidered casket was made by Karen Garfen and Annelle Ferguson did the framed petitpoint.

The Parlor

This room underwent a pretty major transformation because I had to install a staircase. Again, I first experimented with the positions for the fireplace and stairs before I made any decisions. Installing the stairs entailed cutting an opening in the ceiling using a useful little tool that resembles an electric pizza cutter that I also used when I trimmed off the awkward roof projection on the exterior. Then I created a panelled wall to enclose the chimney breast and installed the fireplace in the corner. I also filled in the door that once lead to an entrance hall. After I wired the lighting for the fireplace, I installed the staircase enclosed with a panelled wall similar to the one of the bedroom. It hid a lot of wiring.


I also didn't want to keep the white window surround so I just covered it with mahogany panels before I installed curtains. I was very pleased with the way the stain colors seemed to blend so nicely together. 

Additional fluorette lighting was installed behind the new ceiling joists and I added some exposed studs to the left wall. The wonderful Gothic Revival bookcase by Mark Murphy was purchased at the Guild Show. The carpet is from Jackie Andrews' collection and the table in the foreground is by Patrick Puttock.The chairs are vintage pieces from the Miniature Mart.

Mark Murphy also made the elegant Queen Anne tea table and the fire screen is from Lucy Iducovich. I purchased the camelback sofa and matching armchair at auction. They are in this house because they were made by Robert Bernhard. They came from the collection of Claudia Estes where they used to furnish a Pam Throop Tudor house. The watercolor is the work of Dave Williams and the Charles II sterling candlesticks were a gift from Carolyn Sunstein. They are by Obadiah Fisher.

The lovely carved wall shelf was a lucky find at the Guild show. It is by Michael Walton and it was a steal for only $25! Jim Irish made the stemware and the sterling tray is by Guglielmo Cini. The hand-carved chest was purchased unfinished in an auction box lot. I wish I knew the artist because I think it is wonderful.

Finishing the Exterior

If you've read other parts of my website, you know that finishing the exterior is my least favorite task, but when it came to this house, I actually looked forward to giving it a more authentic character. Since the size was quite manageable, I didn't feel like it would be a terribly long and onerous task, and this time, I actually enjoyed it. I planned to add some brickwork to the lower floors but ended up doing more than I expected because I was so pleased with the progress I made.

The first task I attempted was the small covered porch off the kitchen. It seemed like a good place to try out the technique I would use for applying faux brickwork and I actually worked on it while I was still renovating the interior. I made individual bricks from a supply of old craft sticks and cut them to length on my Proxxon saw. Then I used modeling paste to fill in the grout areas and add texture to the brick faces before painting each individual brick. Some bricks were painted over several times to add depth of color before I sealed them with matte varnish and then wiped them over with thinned burnt umber oil paint.

I like breaking up the patterns to incorporate some herringbone designs and gluing each brick individually makes it look a little more handmade as though there has been some settling over time. Then I proceeded to the removable front facade. I added additional timbers to augment the more modern look that Bob had created. Then I used the same method I used on the kitchen porch.

Before I started the brickwork, I made a front door (it is false) and also modified the half wall below the upper middle window. When I paint the bricks, I first do a coat of a light taupe over all the brickwork. Then when I paint each brick, the mortar color is already there. If I color outside the lines, so to speak, I can always go back and touch up the mortar lines. After I finished the facade, I completed the two exterior sides.

You can see where I filled in the useless doorways, and then used scrap wood to add new timbers to what had previously been plain interior walls. I also added some commercial trim along the gables to hide the exposed gypsum board where I had cut off the overhanging roof.

Here is the completed brickwork before I used patching compound to fill in the upper walls between the timbers. I had planned to do only the first floor but then decided to go a little further.

The final touches included adding a front porch and a chimney stack in the back. The chimney is removable so I can fit the house under the sloping roof in my bedroom if necessary. I also added half-timbering on the sides of the dormer windows. The porch is glued to the facade and I added the cobblestone border to the flower beds in front.

I enjoyed installing the flower beds more than I expected. I used some rose bushes I had bought years ago from Debbie Noland and some hollyhocks given to me by Gloria Hinkel. I waxed the plants in place then pressed in some florist's clay around them to even out the "soil". Then I brushed on PVC glue and sprinkled railroad landscaping material on top for mulch. There is a little Austrian bronze rabbit on the right and a pretty painted watering can left on the kitchen porch. I plan to make a small potting table for that porch. I also re-painted the stonework on that porch when it looked too dark for the rest of the stones I made from carved wood.


And here is the current tenant of Midsomer Parva, a doll I have had since the 1970's that I re-wigged and redressed in an old-fashioned floral print dress with lace collar and a serviceable handknit cardigan from ebay. Her name is Caroline. 

The challenge of renovating someone else's project is a tempting one for me. I recently purchased the last dollhouse left from the estate of the late Gretchen Deans. It was constructed in the 1970s and Gretchen commissioned it as a replica of her childhood home, a suburban Tudor Revival house in Pittsburgh. It was stored in her son's basement for a number of years until he recently contacted me and we reached an agreement for me to purchase it with its contents. It brings back a lot of memories for me and will be my next renovation project, so check back in a few months and see how it is coming along! (2.2.2017)


From Neglected Mansion to Swedish Farmhouse - Part One

When the personal dollhouse and miniatures collection of the late Mary Kaliski was consigned to auction by her heirs, the auctioneer was unsure about the prospects for the enormous unfinished Victorian mansion that Mary's family said she commissioned from Richard Kempson for a reported $20,000. Over five feet tall and wide, it was one of the largest dollhouses to ever come through the doors of the auction hall and it arrived in pieces - literally hundreds of pieces. The shell came apart in several sections, but the house was also accompanied by numerous boxes of doors, windows, staircases, and countless pieces of gingerbread trim for the elaborate exterior. It had been delivered to Mary a dozen years earlier in a somewhat unfinished state and Mary never completed it. The hand-laid wooden, brick and tile floors were roughly finished and the exterior was covered with grooved pine clapboard siding and individually hand-cut walnut shingles. Some of the elaborately trimmed hand-made mahogany doors and windows were held in place with blue painter's tape while others had been carelessly installed with a dripping hot glue gun. It was dirty, damaged and littered with mouse droppings and was way too big for most collectors to give it more than a passing glance at the preview. And as the auctioneer suspected, it went unsold on the day of the sale.

What happens to unsold dollhouses after an auction? Sometimes they go back to consignors who hope for a better day, but often they are virtually abandoned to the auctioneer because the consignors dont want to pay for return shipping or heirs just want to settle estates and move on. It is not unusual for an auctioneer to negotiate a private sale with an interested buyer after the auction.

During the preview, a few prospective bidders considered purchasing the mansion just for its elaborately detailed architectural components but it was still too large for most to transport. So it remained at the auction hall while the auctioneer tried to find a home for it. I had admired the detailed exterior but was unexcited about the awkward interior and NO WAY did I have room for it. Yet two weeks later, my husband and I drove back to the auction hall with our little open trailer and took this monstrous dollhouse off the auctioneers hands for a mere $200. As soon as we got it home, Peter took the entire house apart in our driveway and stacked the pieces on the porch for my inspection. I chose the pieces I wanted to keep to construct a smaller dollhouse and then divided the remaining materials into components I would either re-sell on eBay or discard entirely. I was loathe to chuck out any of it, but quite truthfully, some parts were rather crudely constructed, suffered damage at some point, or were just too heavy to sell and ship on eBay. Meanwhile, I easily sold all the fancy staircases and many of the excess doors and windows on-line. I made enough profit on my investment to cover the cost of all the chandeliers and lamps I purchased for the new house that basically cost me nothing but my labor. And while it was a money-loser for Mary and her heirs, Im sure she would be pleased with thtee finished house I made from her neglected mansion.

I had wanted to build a Swedish dollhouse for a several years. I had Swedish great-grandparents and I had been collecting and crafting some Swedish style miniatures and putting them away for a house to be constructed someday. When I saw the details of the Kaliski house exterior, the decision to rework it for my own purposes seemed an easy one. One of the features that initially attracted my interest was the carved walnut decorations mounted on the gable ends of the house. They reminded me of the fanciful decoration one sometimes observes on folky northern European houses and I imagined ways to incorporate them into the design of a simple six-room farmhouse or parstuga. It was tricky deciding how to cut up already finished walls and floors to build a smaller house, much like figuring out a puzzle, but the challenge made it far more interesting than building a new house from scratch.

The depth of the house was pre-determined by the dimensions of the original house's gabled ends but the rest of the design was fairly flexible. I erected rooms upon sections of finished floors from various rooms of the original house and once I cut them down to the sizes I wanted, the rest of the house fell into place. The visible exterior sections were cut down from much larger sections and since the house opens from the front, the back was allowed to be a little patchwork as I used left-over sections to piece together the back. I ended up with a dollhouse very similar to designs I had sketched out a year earlier for a scratch-built house.

I first built a base for the ground floor, then attached the floors using the narrow strip flooring in the parlor and kitchen, and the parquet floor from the original house's entrance hall for my centrally located dining room. All the floors were somewhat rough and uneven with coats of thickly applied varnish marred by lumps of sawdust or splinters, so they needed to be seriously sanded down before I used them. The parquet flooring was composed of disparately colored dark and light wood strips in a random pattern I found unattractive. So after sanding it smooth, I painted it in a marbled gray and white checkerboard pattern and then sanded the painted finish to look worn from years of wear. I wanted the house to look like it had been home to generations of families so when pieces weren't cut perfectly straight, I made only minor adjustments and let the house look like it had settled unevenly over time. That is also why most of the painted walls were antiqued after I painted them. Door frames are sometimes a little crooked, and I left visible scratches and wear on some of the wood I used for doors and cabinetry. It does not look like a new house, nor a perfect one, but has the sort of character I always envisioned for this project.

Once the ground floor was prepared, I painted the interior wall sections before assembly. With the exception of the kitchen and bath, I painted borders and other finishes on the walls basing my designs on photographs of real rooms in old Swedish farmhouses. This was probably my favorite part of the project. I assembled the parlor first and since the staircases from the original house were very large and grand, I did not use them and instead constructed my own modest stairway leading from the parlor up to an enlarged landing area used as a sitting room, with doors leading off to two bedrooms and a bath. I completed all the ground floor rooms before building the upper floors. Since the roofline of the original house was so steep, I ended up with narrow but tall attic spaces over the bedrooms that are too small for rooms but since they are still visible when the roof is opened to expose the bedrooms, I finished them off with beams and small leftover sections of flooring.

Throughout the entire project I used materials either recycled from the Kaliski house, or from my sizeable stock of wood scraps and old components from other recycled dollhouses. Some of the wood came from a collection of old wooden cigar boxes and trim lumber my husband bought at a farm auction fifteen years ago. The only things I bought new were light fixtures and some unusual drawer knobs that were custom made years ago when the Dankenics owned the Dollhouse Factory. I also ordered a brand new AGA cooking range from Karon Cunningham in England when I decided I didnt like the color of the one I already had. I re-used the distinctive mahogany newel posts from the Kaliski house as well as parts of a balustrade, and found several uses for the decorative brackets and corbels that had been part of the imposing porch. It was very satisfying finding new uses for materials that had taken so much time to construct originally.

After the sections for the basic shell of the house were selected, I salvaged all the architectural components I could and even removed some of the siding from discarded exterior walls to use as baseboards in several rooms. I had plenty of individually shaped walnut shingles for patching the damaged roof sections but everything I salvaged needed a lot of sanding. The original builder must have gone through a dozen bottles of PVA glue, and someone later used great blobs of yellow hot glue to make crude repairs and attach windows. More than once I wondered how such an expensive dollhouse could have been subjected to such careless treatment, but in a way, the extent of thoughtlessness and damage left me with a clear conscience about doing something so drastic to it. Now that it has a new life I can promise it will never be neglected but will be treasured for years to come.

The original house was five stories tall and built into a base over six feet in length. I found the proportions of the floor spacing somewhat odd but I appreciated the detailed architectural features that really stood out on the exterior. All the darker wood is mahogany or walnut.

For such a large house, the room layout was surprisingly plain and the interior was dominated by the massive staircase halls. It seemed like a terrible waste of space to me and the remaining rooms are similarly over-scaled, so when I made my rooms, I used only a portion of the floor sections of each room.

The first pieces I used to determine the basic shape of the farmhouse were the decorated gable ends from the mansion, cut down from four stories to just two with a small attic space. Each side featured windows with elaborate gingerbread trim and these unusual carved walnut decorative features. As you can imagine, painting these detailed facades was a time-consuming challenge since they were already firmly assembled with glue. I considered myself lucky when windows were loose in the walls so I could more easily paint them before re-installing.

This is just a portion of the loose piece and architectural components that came with the house. The massive chimneys in the background were made from individually cut and glued wooden bricks. I still don't understand why so much time and labor went into details like this but then were left rough and unfinished. Many of the stair components seen here were made of walnut and other hardwoods.

Each of the ground floor exterior panels was cut down from larger sections of the original mansion, and the dormered roof is somewhat irregular because it had to be pieced from different parts of the mansion. I painted the roof shingles to emulate the color of terracotta tiles and picked out the door and window details with white paint and gray trim on the doors and window sashes. The yellow color was chosen because it is a typical Swedish color scheme for larger, more formal farmhouses. 

What I envisioned as a small cottage ended up somewhat bigger and more formal-looking than I originally intended. By building out the rooms one by one, I was able to experiment with furniture arrangements to determine the placement of doors and stairs and I came to realize I had a lot of furniture to pack into a little cottage. Thus the concept evolved into a comfortable farmhouse with exposed ceiling joists, decoratively painted walls and quaint features like a built-in box bed, hooded kitchen hearth and lots of exposed wood.

Before assembling the parlor, I painted the wall decorations and window trim. I ended up experimenting with several colors before going neutral with cream. The painted borders are based on an example from a book about Swedish houses.

After painting all the wall panels, the parlor was assembled and staircase built into the corner. Having the floor already built saved me days of work, I am sure, not to mentioned that hand-made windows from the original house.

The newel post came from the original house, but I sanded, stained and antiqued it before placing it in the farmhouse. Chair rails and baseboards were made from siding pried off the parts of the house's exterior I did not need, then shaped and painted. The screen is by Linda Wexler and the carpet came from Jackie Andrews famous mansion, Wilton.

Before I built the dining room, I created an elegant pantry using porch brackets from the original house for shelf brackets. Old cigar box wood was painted to simulate marble and the room was paneled with wainscot made from coffee stirrers. Since I saved so much time using pre-made floors, I felt I could indulge in extra time for things like the wainscot. Once the wall and doorway were in place, many of these details can no longer be seen but I still know they are there.

Again, it was easier to paint the panels on the dining room's walls before installation, and this design was inspired by the cover of another book about Swedish decorating. The blue looks a little intense here, but I sanded it lightly and antiqued it before installing the walls in the house.

All the walls were painted before assembly, as was the parquet floor. I planned to create a small cupboard under the stairs until I realized there wasn't enough space for a good result, so I enclosed that area instead.

The pantry was closed off with a hinged glazed door recycled from a dollhouse I built back in the 1980's, and the staircase is completely enclosed. I painted a faux-marble effect on the baseboard and door trim and added posts and beams made from old wood. I like the juxtaposition of rustic and refined elements in this space. The furniture is Bespaq furniture that I purchased unfinished and then I painted and upholstered for this house. The doll is by Jill Bennett.


After installing a partition for the larder cupboard in the kitchen, I made cabinets out of old cigar boxes, leaving the wood unfinished with a naturally aged patina. The counter tops were painted to look like marble. What would I do without clamps?

Once the cabinets were in place, I created a large chimney hood with a mantel made from an old picture frame that displays a wonderfully aged original blue painted finish. I made the farmhouse sink myself since Stokesay was not making any at the time, and placed a second-hand AGA stove as a place-holder while I awaited the shipment of a nice blue one from England. The Delft tiles are by Marie Friedman and the woven rug is by Bonni Backe.

A simpler border was painted for the master bedroom, featuring a shell pink band and then a coral-colored rose vine. The rear wall was brought forward slightly to allow for more head-room and also created space to run wiring for the bedside lamps.

The addition of ceiling joists and exposed wall studs adds a rustic and cozy feeling to the bedroom. It was an added bonus that the floorboards from the original house had been glued to plywood that was grooved underneath to accommodate wiring and also lessen the weight the floors. When sanded and painted, they created the appearance of ceiling planks in all the rooms of the house, again saving me so much time and labor. The delicate chandelier is from the Dollhouse Factory.

Before I attached the rear roof section, I painted and assembled the nursery, the sitting room on the stair landing, and the bathroom just over the pantry. The vertical paneling on the right is where I constructed a classic Swedish box bed.

One of my favorite projects was constructing the box bed in the nursery. I constructed the box from cigar box wood and used the same old picture frame molding to make the cornice for this bed and painted a reverse of the border I painted on the walls. The interior is paneled and I used porch brackets from the original house to frame the bed. All the original windows in the mansion featured very prominent, over scaled sills almost an inch deep that I removed and trimmed down before painting.

The box bed is completed with a mattress and roll pillows, and a set of painted steps for little feet. The needlepoint carpet is from the Dollhouse Factory. This completes Part One, the reconstrcution of the dollhouse. Now, a sidebar with tips on reconstructing a dollhouse yourself:

Tips for recycling dollhouses

There are no rules for reconstructing a dollhouse. I have re-worked other dollhouses and each posed unique challenges. I suggest that if you want to try to reconstruct a dollhouse, you first give the original house a little time to speak to you by noting the things that already give it character and consider ways to incorporate them within your own vision. Try to appreciate the hand-made details that may give it personality you won't find in any other house. Forgive some of its quirks if the rooms seem too small, the ceilings too low. Just as in real houses, you can replace windows with ones you prefer, you can refinish unattractive floors and do many things to make a house look very different. Unless you are starting out with something that is a true museum piece, trust your instincts, be creative, and go for it. Sometimes you don't have to disassemble a house entirely before you start. I once sawed a foot off a house that was too big to fit up my stairs, cutting right through the roof and two floors with a long sabre-saw, and then re-used components from the leftover section. It was a little extreme but the house became more accessible in an instant. Just take your time when disassembling a house so you don't damage the parts you want to keep. Bob Vila was right: measure twice, cut once!

If you have the space, don't discard anything right away. I stored extra walls and floors in closets and under tables until I knew for sure I would not need them. More than once I went back to this "stock" when I made a mistake and needed another piece of mahogany trim or broke a finial off the ridgeline of a dormer window.

Auctions are an excellent source for dollhouses ripe for renovation. In this case, Mary Kaliski had over a dozen dollhouses in her estate sale and almost all of them featured far more exterior detail than finished interiors -  the sort of work I greatly appreciate but have so little patience for myself. I looked at this neglected mansion as a huge shortcut to a house with more detail than I would have ever lavished on it myself - on the outside, at least. It saved me weeks - if not months - of work to have finished siding and roofing already done as soon as I cut, glued, nailed and screwed the pieces together and I would do it all again to get such gratifying results. Such speedy results are great for someone like me with numerous unfinished projects. I may never build a house from scratch again!

From Neglected Mansion to Swedish Farmhouse - Part Two

In Part One, I described the process of converting the late Mary Kaliski's Victorian Mansion into a smaller Swedish Farmhouse. The second part of this story is where the fun really starts as the house is finished and furnishings are installed. When I purchased the Mansion, I already had two shoeboxes filled with furniture and some accessories intended for a Swedish house. I first started thinking about this project when I purchased some unfinished Bespaq furniture from The Dollhouse Factory and painted some of the pieces in a Gustavian style. It was easy to paint delicate French Rococo and Louis XVI chairs in a typical white or cream color and then re-upholstered them with simple pastel checks, but the really fun part was adding folky painted details to cupboards and chests.

My most prized items are several pieces by South African artist Janet Reyburn. I bought her gorgeous Mora clock a few years ago after I was a very disappointed under-bidder for a similar clock at an auction. I emailed her a photo of the clock from the auction and asked her if she could make another and several months later it arrived and cost me a fraction of the hammer price for the one at the auction. Good things do indeed come to those who wait. I can honestly say I built the house for the clock.

Other purchased items included fine blue and white porcelain from Henny Staring-Egberts, The China Closet, Debbie McKnight, and vintage Chestnut Hill pieces. I also had some colorful plates and vases by Jim Clark and vintage transferware pieces for my corner cupboard that I had collected back in the 1970s. I've decided to use some colorful painted items by Mark Murphy and Mary Grady OBrien that are in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition because they blend nicely with traditional Scandinavian motifs. And then I made some things myself, especially for the kitchen.

Traditional Swedish country furniture can sometimes look a little uncomfortable; especially seating that is not upholstered, so to make my parlor as warm and inviting as possible, I chose an over-stuffed camel-back sofa by Nellie Belt and a pair of comfy armchairs by Nancy Summers. Since classic Swedish ceramic stoves by Charlotte Hunt are so pricey and not easy to come by, I decided to make my own. I was tempted to create formal window treatments for this somewhat formal room, but simple lightweight curtains are far more typical for Swedish houses because daylight is so limited in wintertime.

The dining room is furnished almost entirely with Bespaq furniture that I painted and upholstered. Some things were unfinished but the dining chairs were purchased in difference colors and fabrics and had to be refinished and re-upholstered to match. The corner cupboard was one of the first unfinished pieces I painted several years ago and that palette determined the colors I chose when constructing the dining room. I kept the dining table neutral but went all out on the Chinese sideboard, choosing a deeper blue for the background color and painting the top with a faux marble effect. The smaller cupboard was an inexpensive piece that was originally painted with a Chinese black lacquer designed and I repainted it. This room is a little more elegant than my taste normally encompasses, but I felt I could go a little outside my comfort zone once I had painted all the doorway trim to look like marble.

The kitchen offered the most opportunity to furnish a room with my own creations. I used old wood to make furnishings throughout the room in keeping with the base cabinets, but the greatest satisfaction came from making the open china cupboard. I used the old cigar box wood to make it while improvising the bulbous feet from leftover roof finials from the mansion. The stylized floral decoration was inspired by a real Swedish cupboard and I painted the entire exterior gray before I painted over that with a rich blue so that when I sanded it a little to convey wear, the first color shows through at the edges.

I wanted the kitchen to have a rustic character so I made a classic trestle table with a scrubbed top and painted base. I bought some distinctive unfinished continental style chairs from an Italian dealer at Philadelphia Miniaturia for only $7 a piece and painted them to blend with the blue and white theme of my kitchen and am very pleased with them. Eschewing upper cabinets, I made open shelves and plate racks from old wood and more of those ubiquitous decorative brackets recycled from the old house.

I looked forward to decorating the bedrooms in a way that would look cozy and inviting. When I completed the master bedroom, I took some time to think about the sort of bed I wanted in there. I already had a delightful little painted commode by Janet Reyburn and decided that an ornately painted bed was a little too much for a room that also had painted walls, so I made a simple white bed incorporating pieces of trim from the original house. The feet on the bed were made from broken stair balusters and the headboard and footboard were made from pieces of porch trim. A small coronet and canopy were fashioned from antique lace and delicate trim, and then fastened to the ceiling to add a touch of balanced elegance to such a rustic-looking room. One of my favorite things, a lacemaker's stand and chair by Taller Targioni, has finally found a home in this bedroom, as has a painted dome-lid trunk I bought at auction a few years ago. It is signed ASB but the artist is unknown to me.

The nursery is dominated by the box bed in the corner that is illuminated by an easily replaced fluorette concealed behind the bed's cornice. A Mahantango Valley chest of drawers painted by Mary Grady OBrien just fits in the alcove created by the bed. I made sure to have a couple of small Swedish Dala horses in the nursery along with an assortment of dolls and other toys. I plan to make a Swedish dollhouse for this room.

The stair landing is spacious enough to accommodate a sitting room. I have plans to make a painted Swedish secretary for this room but for now it holds a Bespaq settee I re-upholstered, an assortment of painted boxes and a great little country table by George Hoffman. The bathroom is behind the rear wall and features a dormer window. I already had a marble-topped sink cabinet that just fit in this small room and I painted the base white.

I was engaged in decorating the interior even as I was painting the exterior. While it was tempting to retain the striking contrast of the difference woods used for the siding and ornamentation of the original mansion, some of the windows, doors and siding had been damaged by glue and careless handling and repairs could not be disguised. I considered yellow and Falun red for paint colors and a little research indicated that Falun red was used in more rural areas on simpler houses and that yellow was more likely to be chosen for more formal houses. Everything required two or more coats of paint, so likely spent more time painting this house than I spent actually constructing it! In the end, I was pleased with the results and cant wait to find another big house to bring down to size!

The interior looks deceptively large because of the finished attics that are too shallow to function as rooms. I had not originally intended to have the attics visible, the but the extreme height of the dormer windows meant the roof hinges had to be located well up the roof, so I did trim them out with exposed beams, and hid the exposed electrical wiring with thin rugs.

In many dollhouses, this wall would feature an open fireplace but since this is a Swedish house, it had to have a tiled stove. I made the stove from two blocks of wood that I carved to simulate ceramic tiles. The feet on the stove were cut down from stair balusters. Nancy Summers' plumply upholstered French chairs feature a gilt finish. The green chair in the corner is a vintage piece by Mell Prescott.

I made the stove from two blocks of wood, scored and painted to look like tiles, and cut pieces off some broken stair balusters to form the feet. I love re-purposing bits and pieces and since I do not own a lathe, pieces of turned wood are often very useful. The "hinges" are improvised from orbate brass doorknob plates.

This is the clock that launched the dollhouse, made by Janet Reyburn. The Chinese screen was painted by Linda Wexler back in the 1980's and the sofa is an auction purchase by Nellie Belt.

Janet Reyburn also made this magnificent harpsichord for the parlor. The underside of the lid has been hand-painted with a scene of 18th century Stockholm, at my request.

This corner of the parlor encompasses all the things I love about Swedish decorating. The combination of rustic beams, hand-painted wall decoration and fine furniture ticks all the boxes for me. The console is another treasured piece by Janet Reyburn.

A finely hand-painted bowl by The China Closet takes pride of place in the center of the dining table while Delft vases by Henny Staring-Egberts surmount the small cabinet on the left. Amanda Skinner's soup tureen rests on the table to the right. All the painted furniture in this room was customized by the author over the past several years. The doll is by Jill Nix  - several of the dolls in this house speak with an English accent!

The left side of the kitchen features a custom dish drying rack over the farmhouse sink, and open shelves for glassware and everyday china. The tablecloth and dish towel were made by Bonni Backe and pottery by Jim Clark is displayed atop the painted mantel. The blue AGA is a colorful accent.

The right side of the kitchen provides wall space for my open china cupboard and the rustic kitchen table. The cupboard is furnished with cream Quimperware as well as painted containers by Mary Grady OBrien and Al Chandronnait. The ladies are having tea with Debbie McKnight's porcelain painted by Priscilla Lance. The hooked rug in the foreground was made with French knots by Dolores Kott thirty years ago and is unique.

I made the china cupboard specifically for this kitchen and left the upper cabinet open to display Lynne Collins' delicate Quimperware. The folk decoration is copied from a full-size Swedish cupboard. I re-purposed four roof finials from the mansion to use as bun feet for the cupboard.

The kitchen chairs were purchased in an unfinished state at Philadelphia Miniaturia and struck me as quite unusual. After painting them I sanded the seats and edges to indicate considerable wear.

I didn't want to an elaborate bed to dominate this room and I feel the delicate canopy and simple lines of this bed strike the right balance. Antique lace was used for the curtains as well as the canopy. The fabric I used to re-upholster the chair at the desk came from the last scrap of a dress my grandmother made for my aunt in the 1920s. A small chandelier from The Dollhouse Factory provides a little more elegance.

The lacemaker's table and chair are from Taller Targione and were purchased at the Philadelphia show. The basket on the floor holds extra bobbins.

A beautifully painted two-drawer stand by Janet Reyburn is used as a bedside table in the master bedroom. Cameo portraits are also painted on each side.

The sitting room located at the top of the stairs is furnished with a settee by Bespaq that I painted and re-upholstered with faded old fabric from the back of old draperies to look like unbleached linen. A chair by Nancy Summers on the other wall makes this a cozy conversation area. The country table is a vintage piece by George Hoffman and the painted wall clock is by Janet Reyburn. All the panelled doors upstairs were made from my supply of old cigar box wood.

The paneled box bed dominates the spacious nursery while antique eyelet trim was used for window curtains. The pine blanket chest under the window came from the Robert Callahan collection. I painted the continental commode and a vintage etching by Jane Conneen hangs above it. An assortment of toys includes an elaborately painted rocking horse, tin toys by Lawrence St. Leger and several things from David Krupick. The little girl in a pinafore is by Jill Bennett and the jolly undressed child in the bed is by Blanche Turner.

I hope you enjoy this visit to Svenska Hus, my Swedish dollhouse. I'm truly sorry that I won't be able to share it with more people through the pages of Miniature Collector. I am concerned about the future of that magazine if they continue to shun the sort of interesting and informative articles that used to have a home there, and instead rely on unremunerated and inaccurate show and tell pictures of poor quality from their readers. They could be such a valuable resource to collectors if they chose to. (3.24.2016)


Back in December 2013, a friend of mine in Connecticut sent me a link for a regional auction house on Cape Cod that had some miniatures heading for auction and after viewing the lots on line, I called the auction house, asked some questions and arranged to bid over the phone for several of the lots. I won three lots and after the sale, they informed me that one lot had been damaged during preview and while it had been announced at the sale, no one had informed me and they were kind enough to give me the option of cancelling my bid - pretty classy in my book and not something that every auction house does, sad to say. Anyway, the weather made things take a while to get them collected by a local shipper and packed up and sent to me. By the time they arrived in January, I'd almost forgotten what I was getting!

The lots I won contained painted country furniture including numerous pieces by Janet Bailey, David White and other vintage artists from the late 1970's and early 1980's such as Warren Dick, Robert Bernhard, Oldham Studio and several whose names were unfamiliar to me and whom I assume were regional artists. I sold many things on ebay but kept the ones that were special for myself and recovered 100% of my costs. This sweet panelled corner cupboard is signed "Leidner" - anyone know who this is?

I also kept this Robert Bernhard stylized Charles II armchair. I need to replace the missing leg brace, but I have already re-upholstered it with a Liberty print and will show how that turned out after I replace the leg brace.

Then last month, I won this nicely made banister-back armchair on ebay. It is signed "RYAN" and came from a West Coast collection - another unfamiliar name to me. Any help identifying the artist would be appreciated.

I just missed out on a matching chair the seller offered the following week - darn! (3.12.2014)


2013 Guild Show

This year the show was moved to August after there had been some concern previously expressed about the show being scheduled too close to Philadelphia when it was held in the fall. I think it was good idea to move it, but I don't know if that change helped with attendance. It still seems like a quiet show to me, which is nice for buyers and not so much for vendors. I missed a few artisans who did not come this year and while I understand the reasons why the Show Committee allots tables to a few dealers who sell Bespaq and other affordable commercial furniture, it disappoints me that the show's dealer list is no longer restricted to true artisans the way it was years ago. I attended the show in the 1980's when it was so popular among exhibitors that they had to institute a rotation schedule and I wish that were the case today.

Also, the debate continues about the location for this show. A number of people wish it was still being held in Manhattan but one has to be realistic about the incredible expense associated with doing so, not just for the venue itself, but the cost of hotel stays for vendors and related issues. It's a tough decision. NJ is not an easy destination for the folks driving from Long Island, and not that much better for those from CT and the rest of New England and maybe that is part of the reason that attendance remains a concern. Other issues still figure in, such as the economy and an aging population of collectors. I did see some younger collectors at this show, and that's always a hopeful sign.

I was scheduled to give an informal talk about "Managing Your Miniatures Collection" and address issues about inventory and estate planning, but about a month before the show, I was diagnosed with :Lyme Disease. I had experienced symptoms for a few months and four weeks ago it was so bad I finally went to the doctor and was prescribed antibiotics. They've helped immensely but because I had been unable to focus my thoughts very well for some time, I didn't feel I could prepare adequately for the Friday evening "Gathering of the Guild" so I bowed out. Next year!

Meanwhile, I felt well enough to write some checks during the one hour preview (hello, not long enough!!!) and my purchases reflect my obsession with chairs. Curiously, I bought no accessories this time because I have come to realize I already have so many at home I don't think I may ever use them all. That said, I am always in the market for lovely paintings and porcelains, and nice needlework will always find its way into my acquisitve heart... While I saw nice artwork at the show, the subject matter of the paintings did not really fit the houses I am currently focussing upon. Plus, I know some really fabulous artwork is coming to auction this fall, so I can wait....

My first purchases were made from Annelle Ferguson and I snapped up the things I wanted within the first two minutes after the doors opened and didn't even stay long enough to complete the transaction before I rushed to Janet Reyburn's booth. Janet was not present but had sent a nice assortment of things and her booth was manned by two IGMA members for her. Literally less than five minutes after the show started, two ladies had swept up over half the items into piles on each end of her table, leaiving only a few things for "latecomers"! Janet's beautifully hand-painted furniture was extremely well priced, so I can't say I was surprised, but I still have mixed feelings about people who clean out someone's booth like that! I'm ever so happy for the artist, but feel sad that other collectors did not have that much to choose from.

This mahogany armchair was made by David booth and upholstered by Annelle Ferguson. She had one other upholstered chair there, made by Mark Murphy, but it was twice the price of this one!

David Booth also made this firescreen and Annelle told me she only finished the embroidery the week before the show! What a treasure! There was another lady selling some petitpoint at the show, featuring things like pictures of animals, lighthouses and more contemporary subjects and I did not find the quality to be anywhere nearly as good as the other needleworkers present. It did not appear to me that much of her things sold the day I was there and I think they just were not sophisticated enough for collectors.

Mark Murphy was featured in the show brochure but was not present as he was in the process of moving house. I did find a pair of nice country Queen Anne chairs made by him in one of the display cases in Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel's booth and I waited an uncomfortably long time to buy them as I was third in line and LeeAnn was having trouble with her calculator/card reader. But they were worth the wait and I can't get over the incredible delicacy of the turnings. Lee-Ann's beautiful pottery pieces seemed to be limited to Arts & Crafts tiles and  Italianate portraits and platters, none of which match my shopping preferences, but I was still happy to write her a check for the chairs (and helped her figure out the sales tax). 

From there, I purchased some woven wicker pieces for the terrace of my Nicholson house from Uncle Ciggie's Miniatures and after knocking over almost an entire display stand at her table, I bought a charming little doll from Sherri Colvin. She had some amazing dolls replicating characters from Downton Abbey and now I'm sorry I did not buy the Dowager Countess - she looked exactly like Maggie Smith and I wish I had taken photos. Once again, I found myself shaking my head over the abundance of fantasy character dolls at this show. They are so specifically tailored to a small number of collectors that I don't see how they attract more than smiles from the typical collector.

And that was all I bought. I was outbid for Annelle's needlework at the auction that evening. Conducted by Ron and Eileen Rhoads, the auction featured a number of items donated by the late Mary Kaliski and strong results were realized. Now I have to save up for Eileen's sale in October, the weekend before the Philly show!

And I want to make a special mention of the IGMA exhibit tables. One table was dedicated exclusively to needlework projects by Guild members and they were all exquisite. Other tables featured the items made by students in Guild classes over the years and they were all just gorgeous and made me wish they would repeat a few of those classes. The hotel lighting did not do justice to these exhibits which deserved their own museum settings! (8.6.2013)


Eileen Rhoads Auction June 2013

I made some nice purchases at the Eileen Rhoads auction in June. Some of them came from the collection of Bill and Pat Fifer who have been very active members and officers of the IGMA and had sollected some of my favorite artisans back in the 1980's. They were regular attendees of the Guild School in Castine and one of the pieces I bought was made by Bill at the school - I love owning things with some story behind them. (6.28.2013)

I really like the early American chairs by Pierre Wallack. His finish is subdued without showing excessive wear and the proportions always seem to work for me. Chairs in particular are favorite of mine and I like the way early Colonial chairs can be used in houses of later periods up to the present day. The artist is no longer producing furniture so I do try to grab them when I see them. This bannister-back armchair matches a side chair I already own. His chair seats are distinctive in that they are made from scored wood and not really woven. As a matter of personal taste, the deception does not bother me because it means the chair components are not subject to the same stresses as, say, a Hoffman Shaker chair. I sometimes see older artisan chairs that have twisted a little over time and I attribute that to the tension of the woven seats. I also love the soft finish on Wallack's chairs - they do not look as shiny and new as some others.

Another Pierre Wallack chair I purchased that day features an unusual fiddle-shaped splat in the design of this comb-back Windsor chair. I don't remember ever seeing this form before and it is not shown in his brochure, so it may have been a custom order. In any case, I like the form and finish.

I wasn't planning to buy dolls at the auction, but I ended up bring home three antique dolls and four artisan dolls when the prices seemed very reasonable. The antiques were from a different consignor and I loved the early style of costume on this gentleman, even though the silk was shredding. And his hairstyle is very romantic...

I was also a consignor at the last Rhoads auction and I sold this roombox I made. I made the box ten years ago from plywood left over when I was building my Tynietoy Nantucket cottage and before the auction, I added the moldings, a vintage detailed fireplace from the Miniature Mart, and I painted the mural. I added some miscellaneous commercial furniture to make it look a little cozier for the auction photos but I am sure the buyer will redecorate it. It's good to de-clutter and collect a little spending money at the same time. (6.28.2013)
A recent acquisition is a mahogany liquor cabinet in the form of a Georgian baby house, manufactured in the 1990's by designer furniture-maker Maitland-Smith. There was one auctioned off by Brunk's last fall for $1500 and I got mine locally in the Spring of 2013 for less than half that. I may use it with open shelves for a while, but it is very likely I will eventually finish off the interior as a proper dolls' house. This thing weighs a ton! Fortunately, the house lifts off the table but still, it will be a job getting it upstairs. I'd love to hear from anyone else who has this house! (4.23.13)


Some purchases from Rhoads in 2013:

I purchased this handsome chest with burled walnut veneers and handsome bale handles when I thought it was selling very reasonably. Only today did I realized the handles are excatly the same as those on the embroidered casket shown in more detail below:

This small needlework casket is embroidered to appear like Jacobean stumpwork. It is unsigned but I later learned from the artist that it was made by Caren Garfen! When I first saw this after it was unpacked at the auction hall, I was instantly enchanted and pretty determined from right then and there that it had to come home with me and it did, for even less than I expected, but for more than my husband wanted me to spend!

This was the other "must have" on my list for this auction and I bid one increment over my max to take it home. I love the finish on Tarbena's furniture and this handsome desk is a perfect companion to their bookcase I purchased at Eileen's last auction! I know some of the other artisan pieces were hotly contested and now heading for museums, but I came home Saturday night with the sense that the best things were finding a home in MY collection. (2.27.2013)

Further Updates on the Nicholson House


The guest room of the Nicholson house was papered with remnants I found in a closet of my church's parsonage after a previous minister moved away. It is a nice small scale but was too dark, particularly for the dark furniture I used to furnish it.

Please excuse the dust that accumulated while I was working on other rooms of the house. The canopy bed is a unique vintage piece handcarved by a man living in New York City in the 1950's, whose name I have now lost, alas. I made the quilt some years ago from antique fabric. The chair in the foreground is by Betty Valentine and the doll was purchased at the Kensington show.

After removing the old wallpaper, I added panelling to the walls. This time, I used old mahogany that was ripped into thin slices by a friend of mine at my last corporate job. It was just a bit too dark to leave unpainted. After a coat of warm tan paint, I papered the walls with the last fragments of a delicate paper I bought fifteen years ago in an Oxfam thrift shop in England. It is one of my favorites, combining pink blossoms with tan and darker brown stems.

The Victorian furniture shows up a bit better now. The dresser and a bureau behind the bed are by Robert Gray while the desk in the corner and the chair to the right are delicate Carl Forslund pieces. The little lacquered wastebasket was painted by Rosemarie Torre and the chair along the back wall was upholstered by Annelle Ferguson.

And a door has been added to this room at last. I found that adding the panelling with a chair rail has made the room perceptibly smaller, so I did edit out a few things from this room when returning the furnishings. How cozy is this room reserved for guests? (1.27.2013)


Below is the third incarnation of this bedroom. After I dispensed with the Lynnfield Queen Anne furniture that furnished this room originally, I made it into a girl's room using a set of Hillhouse stenciled furniture I bought at auction. But I found the wallpaper pattern too busy and cluttered looking with the colorful furniture, so I stripped it off, added some horizontal wallpanelling made from the same wood I used for the floors, and then I used some of an ever-shrinking roll of wallpaper I bought at a car boot sale in England 12 years ago. The result is a little more architectural and calmer than it was before, yet still warm and cozy.


So here is how it looked before, a little over-furnished and more than a little dusty. Ooops.


And empty of furniture. Clean floors look nice. I do love this wallpaper that was so generously given to me. So cozy!


I added horizontal panelling made from the same 200-year-old wood as the floors (which is why they are a little irregular) and tried five different paint colors before finally going with my first choice, a salmon-pink shade. The door was recycled from a project I made over 30 years ago and I added a box-lock with doorknob, like the bathroom below. The door knob itself is actually an old brass Tynietoy knob. The wallpaper is English and similar to stenciling. I really do like the irregularities of the wood strips on the wall and floors.


The completed bedroom, furnished with a stenciled bedroom suite by Jim and Shirley Hillhouse, also a Paris cutter made by them and a small version of Aloysius hiding under the bed. The carpet is re-used from when the Lynnfield furniture was in here. It was taken from a faux needlepoint handbag I found at a flea market for $10.


The candlescreen was made by Roger Gutheil and finished by Annelle Ferguson and the Shaker pantry box by Renee' Bowen. I think the peg wooden is by Eric Horne and I need to make or find a smaller mirror as the Hillhouse mirror does not fit over the washstand.


I made the faux-grained blanket chest and the bedspread is cut from a weaving sampler I made about thirty years ago - it is called Swedish spot lace and looks like a knotted bedspread. I think this lighter wallpaper allows one to better appreciate the Shirley Hillhouse's artistry. The loose pillows were made from an embroidered handkerchiet. I'd love to wake up in this room! (1.23.2013).


Now the bathroom has replaced fixtures and a door for privacy! I still like this wallpaper with its tiny pattern, originally purchased in the scrapbooking section at a crafts store, so I kept it. I had to replace some wainscot areas that had been omitted when the Strombecker bathtub was fit so snugly in the same space. The bath suite was purchased in England in 1998, before Reutter exported them to the USA. I painted the small Bespaq commode beside the Reutter tub before realizing it would be a nice addition to this room. The hooked rug is a vintage Chestnut Hill item, and the amethyst glass perfume bottle on the shelf is by Francis Whittemore. The back wall still lifts up out of the way to get to the hallway which finally has a pair of bannisters on either side of the staircase. Next: the front bedrooms... (1.17.13)

I'm just finishing up with the pantry. It had previously served as the breakfast nook for the Lynnfield table and benches, but I divested myself of that set a while ago and now use this little room as a place for a refrigerator and ample storage shelves for foodstuff, cookware and miscellany. I removed the wallpaper but reused the tall wainscot.


From this view, you can see that I have changed the chairs in the kitchen to nice Windsors by Wallace Auger and Robert Henglein. The left wall of the pantry features a needlepoint sampler I made while living in England and a wooden wall cupboard I made about 20 years ago for the little Victorian kit house I sahred with my daughter. Painted toleware trays line the plate rail on two sides of the room. The basket of checkered cloths is by Janet Rankin.

I lined the right wall of the pantry with built-in cupboards and open shelves for preserves, cookware, recipe books, etc. The sprigged soup tureen is by Debbie McKnight and was formerly housed in Jackie Andrews' Wilton - it is so lovely. Elizabeth Chambers' Dedhamware pottery is in the foreground with matching plates in the shelves above. I will be looking for a set of matching glass stemware to add to the shelves. And I should mention that I used plywood scraps recycled from parts of this original house to make the base cabinet, and a piece of antique wood from my own house for the polished countertop. It has a wonderful patina.

Back in the shadows of the narrow room, I placed a custom refrigerator inspired by a Sub-Zero example featuring a glass door - I like being able to see some of the goodies tucked into there. I initially tried to make this with shiny aluminum tape for a contemporary look, but was not pleased with the effect, so went with white paint and panels. It is only steps from the Aga stove so I don't mind tucking it into the pantry where other foodstuffs are stored. I wish I had a nice pantry like this in my own house!

Now that the rear rooms of the house have been remodeled, I will be turning my attention to some enhancements to the front rooms before moving onto the next project. Stay tuned!  (1.15.13) Oh, and here is the Irish larder I made just for this kitchen. I made it from old wood which I left unfinished inside. The first coat of paint was green so when I sanded it down, there was a little edge of green paint showing next to the exposed wood areas - exactly the effect I wanted.

I have enjoyed working on the Nicholson house over the holidays and just finished remodeling the kitchen. I plan to make a painted larder cupboard for this room but for now I am using a farmhouse cupboard I made some years ago. I had the Aga and the Stokesayware Belfast sink for a few years, and just needed the right place for them. I used materials salvaged from the remnants of the original dollhouse including old plywood for the cabinets and I cut the ceiling beams from the wood I saved from the floor of the porch that used to be on this house. The panelled doors and details around the stove surround are made from coffee stirrers. The faux tiles were also saved a long time and just fit over the Aga. I was going to do a lighter pine finish on the cabinets but then decided to try to make the cabinetry look like it was made from recycled barn siding, as is sometimes done in old farmhouses and I feel the results were quite satisfactory. I made the "granite" countertops and backsplash from thinner plywood painted with a stippled technique and finished with multiple coats of gloss varnish. I decided to add the ceiling beams when I was unable to cut off a protruding screw in the ceiling - one of the beams covers it now.

Some great artisan pieces from my storage boxes have found a home in the remodeled kitchen including the Hillhouse chair on the right, a pair of George Hoffman country Chippendale chairs and a sweet little butterfly table by George Henglein. Most of the blue and white dinnerware is by Debbie McKnight.

This view shows the Stokesayware sink set into the cabinetry. I used round English knobs I purchased at the London Dollshouse Festival ten years ago. There is a small cutlery tray by Cindy Malon next to the sink and on the table, an apple basket painted by Therese Bahl that I recently purchased at auction. The tea kettle is sterling, and tucked into the rear wall cupboard is a set of nursery china by Christoper Whitford.

From a different angle, one can see my cupboard furnished with a Debbie McKnight punch bowl, a pantry box and a painted cutlery tray. The naive sampler is a framed print. This view also offers a peek into the adjacent room which currently houses an assortment of country furnishings, but I plan to remodel it into a pantry and/or laundry room. The Windsor chairs in there are by Wallace Auger and George Henglein. The red painted cupboard is one I made about twenty years ago and is filled with pottery by Jane Graber and Carolyn Curran. The painted trays along the plate rail are by Therese Bahl.

A typical pose by Aloysius on top of the Nicholson house. The kitchen is in the lower right hand corner of the house.


Not long ago, I was contacted by the family of Ray and Barbara Nicholson, who built my Nicholson dollhouse thirty-six years ago. Ray passed away but Jane is still living and through this website, was pleased to find my story about what has become of the house she and her husband first built in 1976. From her, I learned that the Normandy Inn was a tea room located on Rte 35 in Normandy Beach, New Jersey and the replica was commissioned by one of their customers, a lady in New York City. As I suspected, it was not intended to be an architectural model and it was indeed displayed at the establishment for a time. There was a falling out between friends and the house was returned to the New York lady. Where it was between then and when I saw it at auction a few years ago, one can only speculate.

I have been working on finishing the exterior of the modified house and felt a renewed urgency to do so when I discovered my small cat, Aloysius, peering out at me from one of the parlor windows one day. I needed to make the interior inaccessible to him (he still likes to climb on top and perch there to look out the window of my studio) so I have finally replaced the missing rear wall and replaced most of the missing roof shingles. I've painted the exterior and bult up a fieldstone veneer for the foundation walls made from individually cut and shaped "stones" from scrap wood. I still have some finish work to do such as building the chimney and steps for the front and back doors, and I plan to make a fieldstone patio with a pergola off the dining room's French doors, but I am sharing a few photos now because I have had several inquiries.

The front facade has been temporarily fitted with some removable steps. Behind them, under the door, I have included a panel that tells a little bit about the house. The slanted roof has now been attached with hinges. A portion of the roof area had never been shingled because there was an attached porch there originally so I had to fill in the missing area with shingles saved from pieces that I had removed from the larger structure. Each shingle had to be sanded to remove old glue residue and then I had to lift some remaining shingles to slide the new ones underneath - it was a job! The original shingling job had been done in a relaxed way that gives the house a folk-y character and I left them as I found them. The same for the awkwardly scaled French doors.

Now you can see the new rear facade I made to enclose the open back of the house. The plank door opens into the kitchen and the large window encloses the music room. Another small plaque with information about the house in sited under the doorway. I re-used one of the orginal windows for the upstairs and made the new windows very much the same as the originals, using muntins from other original windows that were too large for my design, and the acrylic glass as well. The back door was made from antique wood salvaged from my real house.

This shows the back panel in progress and demonstrates how much of the original siding was re-used. Some of the old pieces had imperfections which I like to include to give the house an antique character. I even flipped over one piece of siding when the back was in better shape than the front. My husband cut out the openings for the windows when tendonitis flared up in my shoulder and the large window's opening is clearly crooked but rather than shim it and square it, I left it that way as though to indicate the house is old and settling. I did make new pieces for some longer sections and I did not have enough old pieces to complete the project - I used every piece of original siding I had! Also, the original windows did not have any window caps and all over the house, I added those using old wood.

Here is how the back wall looks finished and painted.

And the last side of the house. What a great feeling it is to have this house closed up, painted and ready for the final touches. I still have to finish the insides of the new walls and make more curtains, and I really want to change the kitchen before I feel it is finished, but I can live with this for now. (11.20.2012)


 New Additions to My Collection

I was able to purchase some lovely things at Eileen Rhoads' auction in May 2012. A few things eluded me but I did get the one piece that I really really wanted: John Hodgson's kneehole desk. According to some paperwork that came from the consignor, this desk was a limited edition of only ten pieces. Mine is marked on the bottom with a B, but not numbered, and is signed on the back. I find it so exquisite in the selection of the grained woods, the fine finish and the perfect proportions. I had coveted ths desk ever since I saw it in Pam Throop's Bromfield featured in Miniature Collector Magazine back in the 1990's. I hope it motivates me to get going on Grimshaw Hall. I finished up some old projects this spring and have a few more to do before I feel ready to embark another, major project like Grimshaw Hall. I bought other items at the sale for this project including a David Hurley table, a Johannes Landman painting and some other accessories. I regret I did not bid more for the George Passwaters chair. Here is my beautiful desk.

I also bid on the the lowboy and clock, but they got away from me. The clock was hammered down for $3750 plus the 15% buyer's premium! I know the person who got it and I'm glad it went to him but holy cow! It was one of a limited edition of 25. By the time the David Hurley furniture came up, I had already spent so much on this desk I couldn't go higher on the carved Hurley pieces I wanted, but I did get a fairly simple table of his and perhaps someday I can buy that amazing chair and chest from him directly... Here is the table.

When I attend the Philadelphia show, Johannes Landman's paintings are almost always sold out before I can get anywhere near his table. And, from my experience, they are the most expensive fine miniature oil paintings around. I like Christopher Whitford and Mike Sparrow's work and find them a little more affordable while still not inexpensive. This portrait was one of three paintings by the artist offered in the auction and the one I felt was most appropriate for Grimshaw Hall. I do not know what the original price was for it but it wouldn't surprise me if it approached four figures, so I was pretty happy to get it for just over $400. I am so pleased to have an example of his work in my collection. The resolution on my laptop does not convey the fine details  of this portrait.

I am sorry to admit that I am just not that big a fan of Kupjack silver. Most of the Kupjack silver things that I encounter at auctions are not sterling and I think the texture and finish leave something to be desired. Put a piece next to something by Obadiah Fisher or Pete Acquisto and you can't miss the difference. Prices have been slipping for Kupjack silver over the past few years while more recent artisans have seen the value of their things only increase. The limited edition Faberge enamels that once sold for three or four hundred dollars each did not do as well as expected in this sale - I think collectors have moved on. And I understand that Hank Kupjack has quite a stockpile of fully furnished roomboxes that may come to auction one of these days and I wonder if the allure of those has now diminished as well. Still, it is nice to have a piece by someone who was once considered something of an icon in the field and I purchased this heavy Baroque chandelier with Grimshaw Hall in mind.

I already owned one of these delightful hand-painted firescreens from the Netherlands that I had purchased the first time I attended the Kensington Dolls' House Festival back in 1998. I can't remember if it is by Henny Staring-Egberts or Hannah Roet - help? When this similar example drew little attention at the auction, I jumped in and bought it along with some high quality brass fireplace tools and a copper bedwarmer. The fine quality of the painted landscape has to be appreciated in person.

It was a wonderful auction and eventually, I will get over the ones that got away. Meanwhile, I know there are some wonderful things "in the pipeline" for the autumn sale and I'm pretty excited about that! (5.26.12)


Revisiting the Nicholson House

While I am dragging out the renovation of the exterior of the Nicholson House (see earlier story below), I've realized that I have entirely too many great artisan pieces sitting in boxes. Last year I decided to sell off most of the Lynnfield furniture I had used to furnish the house, and redecorated it with artisan pieces instead. I still have the Lynnfield furniture in the nursery but just about everything else is history. Using nicer furniture for this house helped motivate me to work on those missing window treatments and herewith, I share photos of the rooms I have redecorated so far.

Although the layout is pretty much the same as before, I've replaced the furniture. The carpet is a hand-knotted silk Persian rug from Classic Carpets that I purchased from the last Carolyn Sunstein auction and it dictated the new color scheme. I used an elegant Betty Valentine Chippendale sofa and wing chair I purchased a couple of years ago in Philadelphia and added throw pillows made from the same floral cotton that I used to make the pleated window draperies. The lowboy is by Joe Andrews, the coffee table is a lovely Gerald Crawford piece with delicate carved fretwork gallery, and the secretary is vintage Chestnut Hill. The finely carved ribbonback chair in the foreground is an earlier piece by Richard Mann and the tripod table beside it is a vintage piece by John Hodgson.

Another view of the redecorated parlor shows the handsome Harry Cooke Chippendale armchair I recently purchased from the collection of Jackie Andrews, the seat replaced by one upholstered with the drapery fabric. I did the same thing to the Betty Valentine side chair by the secretary and I kept a small Lynnfield table by the far side of the fireplace. I find this new decorating scheme looks a little warmer and more comfortable than the previous decor. The throw pillows help soften the room a bit.

I knew that mounting draperies in front of the French doors would mark a dramatic improvement in my effort to make the dining room look more realistic. I debated whether I should use green or blue silk for the draperies and chair seats and decided the blue would not only complement the petitpoint carpet but would also help make the Blue Willow porcelain pieces stand out more. The silk came from a tattered blouse that belonged to one of my mother's elderly cousins who died almost twenty years ago. Her daughter mailed me a whole box of wonderful old textiles that Betsey had saved for decades and this silk probably dates to the 1920's. It is very fine and easily torn, but I loved the texture and I am so pleased to have this pretty blue silk in my dollhouse as a keepsake of a cherished relative who was a remarkable woman. The demilune card table on the right is a Chestnut Hill piece. That and the tray table in front of the French doors are from Jackie Andrews' collection. The Queen Anne chairs and the muffineer are by Betty Valentine.

This view shows the exquisite Richard Mann Rhode Island sideboard I recently purchased when Jackie Andrews' Wilton dollhouse was sold at auction. I didn't win the breakfront cabinet that went with it, but this piece and a Richard Mann harpsichord were the two items from Wilton that I was determined to win that day and I am so pleased to own them now. The corner cupboard is another Richard Mann piece from the collection of Gloria Hinkel, and I kept the Lynnfield mirror over the sideboard because I have owned it since I was a teenager. On the rear wall is a marble-topped demilune table I purchased last year from Michael Walton. This elegant yet welcoming room is admittedly one of my favorites out of my entire collection, perhaps because I feel I have achieved such a satisfying level of realism within it.

I'm continuing to work on this house and hope to share additional photos shortly. This is the year I finish this house, I promise you AND myself! (3.22.11)

From My Scrapbooks

Last yera I scanned a lot of old 35mm photos of dollhouses that used to be part of my collection, both antique and more recent examples. I sincerely apologise for the poor quality of some of these pictures, many taken when I was in college or shortly afterwards. Photography has been a challenge for me going back a looong time. I reviewed and purged my collection repeatedly in the past ten years, so a number of items have been passed along to other collectors, but I enjoying looking back at the photos of them, and thought my viewers might enjoy them too.

This was another project I built while in college. It was inspired by the artist's loft featured in Mme. Helena Rubinstein's Collection in TelAviv. As an urban dweller in those days, I first envisioned it as a sort of loft apartment in the city and I included a skylight window in the upper left hand corner, as well as a large casement window overlooking the stairs on the right. I am SO sorry the focus is so bad! This effort precluded my time with Molly, so I had no access to commercially manufactured balusters and ended up hand-carving all the ones along the sleeping loft railing. Upstairs is the hand-soldered "brass" bed I made in college, a mahogany armoire shown open, a worktable and a floor lamp I made from a brass rod with the shade made from a handpainted ping-pong ball, following the instructions in Virgina Merrill's book. Below the loft is typical studio kitchen (shown in the darker close-up) based very much on the real one in my first Greenwich Village apartment in 1975 - I even used a piece of green linoleum for the countertop. I was very proud of the small gas stove with knobs made of flat-head sheet screws, and the gas burners made from toothpick pieces glued to washers, then painted black. I made virtually all the furniture including a Parsons table with another ping-pong ball lamp, a pair of hand-carved Eastlake chairs, a tuxedo sofa and a blanket chest doubling as a coffee table made from real cedar wood with a lift-out tray. The lower level floor was laboriously crafted from coffee stirrers laid out in a herringbone parquet effect, and then I tucked a small bathroom with shower stall under the loft through the door on the left. There was also a built-in fireplace with hand-scored bricks on the far left wall with bookcases at each side. It was just the sort of cozy but sunny apartment I would have liked for myself in those days. Years later, I finished the outside with board&batten panels to make it look like a barn conversion, but I always thought of it as "The Loft".


I built this 1:8 scale kitchen roombox the winter after I was laid off from my last corporate job way back in 2001. It definitely helped keep me sane during a time when both my husband and I were unemployed - he was back in the corporate world the following year but I never followed him - and barely ever looked back. This kitchen was inspired by the first version of Tasha Tudor's New England farmhouse dollhouse which was in 1:4 scale. I chose this scale because I wanted a room where I could pose my old "rescued" Alexander Cissettes dressed in period frocks, but I ended up leaving it unpopulated. It was convenient way to use some of the larger scale things I had collected over the years and some of the things are actually 2" scale, including many pieces of Jane Graber crockery. I had a wonderful time crafting this room and built the fireplace to accomodate a miniature Vermont Castings woodstove I found at a flea market. The exposed beams and floorboards are made from antique wood salvaged from my own house, but this scene is a relaxed mix of antiques and modern miniatures. I electrified some vintage perfume bottle lamps to hang from the ceiling and to illuminate the sink corner and scattered vintage Grenfell-style rugs throughout the room. The doughbox in the rear to the left of the fireplace is a vintage PA Dutch commercial example, as is the rocker. I used to have lots of that stuff but these are my last pieces. The chair tucked under the table is a hand-made piece more in the folk-art vein. I was especially pleased at how the fancy painted mantel clock turned out. An antique commode on the right is filled with vintage Brittaniaware and the Delftware vase is filled with waxy lilies from Liberty's. The wall shelf just above those things was contrived from old cigar box wood and displays more Britannia. On the other side of the room, I made a British-style dresser to hold antique white ironstone and a German canister set. The tin of blueberry muffins on the table was a Christmas ornament! Yes, it is a terrible dust catcher, I admit...

I collected the materials for this garage workshop cum greenhouse for several years before actually designing and building it. The rustic siding is comprised of weathered pickets from one of those inexpensive garden fence sections about a foot high. I left them outside for a year to get weathered. The little window with window box was picked up at a craft store for $1 and the slate walkway was made from pieces of real slate that fell off my roof - yikes! I designed this small structure to house the collection of tools I had assembled for several years, and also to fulfill a fantasy that I did not achieve in real life: to build a greenhouse next to my own garage. The actual construction of the garage and greenhouse took about a week - the time I had off work between Christmas and New Year's Day.

The workshop features some spring-wound power tools made by Tomy, and the pegboard atop the workbench was contrived from a piece of green plastic circuitboard. I eventually added many more tools and supplies to this room. Miniature versions of my Dremel tools were housed in the bench to the right. Many of the tools came from Vix. The terracotta tiles that form the floor of the greenhouse were saved for many eyars after I worked for Molly Brody. I especially enjoyed making the flats of seedlings with tiny wooden markers. I ended up selling this structure for very little money at my full-size house auction before I moved to England because I was afraid the greenhouse was too delicate to transport safely with the rest of my dollhouses. It's one of the few things I regret parting with that day. (1.1.11)

They came in the mail!

The last time I attended the Kensington Dolls' House Festival, I saw some things I liked at Colin Bird's table. They were already sold and so I ordered them with delivery expected before the Birmingham show in October, but they did not show up until about six months later. While I waited so very patiently, I sold some things on ebay to build up my paypal account so that when the email finally arrived telling me that my things were ready, I was able to pay right away from my paypal, and they arrived about a week later. The box was smashed a bit on one end (I've heard there's been quite a lot of that happening with the Royal Mail lately) but since the contents were double-boxed, they still arrived safely.

This Gothic armchair has a seat hand-carved from burled walnut and the most incrediblely intricate fretwork splats that I just love. Yes, reserved for Grimshaw Hall. He also makes a version of this design as a two-seater settee.
I find this Pembroke table so elegant and refined, like something out of a Jane Austen novel. I wouldn't mind having one of these in full size!

And I forgot to include a photo of this James Hastrich folk-painted thumb-back Windsor chair that I purchased at the Allentown Antique Toy Show. The legs and the spokes of the chair back are so delicate, and I love the New England harborside scene painted along the crest rail. It looks perfectly at home next to the pair of chairs I bought from Mary Grady O'Brien at the IGMA show.

Allentown Antique Toy Show

This show almost always takes place the same weekend that I attend the miniatures show in Philadelphia, so I haven't attended it for a couple of years. This year, I came home directly from the Philly Preview Friday night and had enough energy to drive out to Allentown the next mornng, arriving about an hour after the doors opened. I wasn't really looking for any antique miniatures as I am no longer collecting them with same fervor, but I particularly wanted to see Les and Joanne Payne, dealers from the Syracuse area and lovely people whom I'd not seen for several years, and I ended up buying some vintage miniatures from them out of their personal collection. I walked briskly through the rest of the show and also bought two rugs from Anne Meehan, one a vintage needlepoint piece and the other, a fine silk oriental rug by Barry Dawson's Classic Carpets.

I have mixed feelings about these beautiful little rugs imported from abroad. It's been my understanding that they were originally made by young girls in eastern Europe and later production was moved to the far East. I am sure the young women who make them are paid a pittance for their time and craftsmanship, yet their small income may make a huge difference to their families, so who am I to deny them an opportunity to make an income? I have also heard that the young girls who make the carpets often sustain permanent eye damage from the fineness of the work and only survive at their labors for a few short years before they can no longer work. I don't know the truth of these stories of girls rendered legally blind, but I have heard it repeated often enough that it makes me uncomfortable. The rugs are indisputably beautiful, but the price may simply be too high. If someone has more definitive information about this, I would really like to hear from you. I would really like to know it's not the case.

I try to avoid buying other minature products coming from China because I want to support American craftsmen and help feed American families. It bothers me a little when I see so much Bespaq offered for sale at a quality miniatures show. Why pay an admission fee to see Chinese imports you can get at your nearest dollhouse shop? I feel the same way about that stuff marketed as being from Australia. Advertised as designed and finished in Australia, they don't tell you it's crafted in China, just like Bespaq. And the last time I looked, they were not marked with their country of origin, which is a violation of US Customs and Trade regulations. So I don't buy that stuff either. Others are free to shop with their own consciences; this is just my personal choice.

Speaking of consciences, or lack thereof, I saw more questionable Tynietoy at the Allentown show than the last time I was there, from the same dealer. Without going into great detail, let me just say that when I see bright gold "paint" that looks llike it came out of the end of a gold marking pen and not the oxidized thick paint you find on authentic pieces, I walk the other way. 'Nuff said?

I am delighted with the Warren Dick furniture I bought from the Paynes. Someone I spoke with at Philly had seen it the previous day and been put off by the asking price, and when I saw it, I also thought they were priced a bit high for the market. I had a good idea what Les had paid for the pieces originally when he ordered them from the Miniature Mart in the early 1980's, so we were able to negotiate a deal that worked for both of us. I'm especially happy to own something that was in their personal collection for thirty years.


The spice chest on the left opens to reveal an assortment of small drawers with ebony knobs and has really pretty carving on each side panel. It is smaller than it may appear hear beside the court cupboard. The cupboard is a wonderfully heavy piece with elaborate details. I've lon admired these particluar pieces, not so much for the finish, which is minimal, but for the crisply rendered details in the carved areas and applied half-turnings. I'm a little tempted to refinish them to look a bit darker and more authentic, but it's not likely at this point. I'm sure I will have no trouble finding a place for them in Grimshaw Hall.


Here are some items I purchased at the Philadelphia show in 2010.

I admired this Carol Hardy gateleg table when I first saw it at the Guild Show in September in Eileen Godfrey's well-stocked booth and I went back and forth looking at it several times that day. I kept thinking about it when I came home and decided that if I saw it again at the Philly show, I would purchase it. It took me a few moments to locate it and then I grabbed it quickly and purchased two Pierre Wallack chairs with it. The bellpull made from antique petitpoint came from Lucy Iducovich's table. Both reserved for Grimshaw Hall...
These 18th century splat-back chairs were purchased for a little less than the retail price shown on Pierre Wallack's flyer and I was delighted to find them since he has not been to the Philly show for some years now. I like how nicely scaled his chairs are and the slightly "dry" finish he used. I'm not as keen on the carved seats made to look like rushwork. I own several of his pieces, but I think the reason I do not have more is because his usual choice of wood is a little on the light side and I prefer comparatively heavier pieces made of hardwood. But I'm happy to relax my prefernces to own these little beauties.

These items were purchased at the 2010 Guild Show.

This vintage captain's chair was made in 1985 by George Henglein, an artist with whom I am not very familiar. When I first saw the initials GH underneath the seat, I thought it might be by George Hoffman. The quality is similar, it has a soft and mellow finish. The nice way the chair "sits" also reminds me of Betty Valentine's chairs. He was probably more of a west coast artist as this and another of his pieces I got were from the collection of the late Pam Throop.
This sweet little butterfly table is also by George Henglein and has the same subtle finish I like so much on the chair. The legs feature fairly simple turnings compared to those on a similar Tynietoy table and that difference really appealed to me. I snatched up both these items within the first five minutes after I went through the door.

I can't believe I was able to purchase this lovely Michael Walton hanging shelf for only $25. No joke. When I turned it over and saw the price sticker on it, I thought I wasn't seeing it correctly and perhaps it was supposed to be $125 since I had purchased the same item from Michael in Philadelphia two years ago for $110. It is also from Pam Throop's collection and was my best bargain on Friday evening.
I went back to Mary Grady O'Brien's booth about three times before deciding these chairs had to come home with me. They were crafted by Mark Murphy, who was in the booth with her, and beautifully painted by Mary. She always has such lovely things it really is hard to choose. Since the evening was so quiet, we had the chance to speak at length and I was able to tell her how buying one of her tole document boxes at Molly Brody's show in the 1970's was such a major purchase for me them and how much I have treasured it over the years. She confided that she had been terribly nervous at her first shows, afraid she would be compared unfavorably with people like Ted Norton and Betty Valentine just a few tables away from her in Darien. My jaw dropped in disbelief when she said that! In my opinion, she has always been right up there in the top tier. 

This room-size petitpoint rug was made some years ago by English artisan Patricia Berwick of Guernsey and is also from Pam Throop's collection. I feel this was another wonderful bargain at $110 and I did not buy it until well into Saturday morning. I can't understand why someone else did not grab it before I made up my mind to do so. The colors are lovely and the design is a Victorian pattern dating to1840 that will look wonderful with my Roger Gutheil Empire dining room furniture. The rug came with an original certificate signed by Patricia and when I got it home, I found the original price tag of $650 inside the packaging. That's right.

In addition to these items, I also purchased a vintage oil painting by Paul Saltarelli depicting a view of Mt. Vernon, another item that had belonged to Pam Throop. I would share it here but I kept getting too much glare from my flash to get a good photo - it is exquisite. Two vintage ceramics by Debbie McKnight and Jean Tag completed my purchases and now I need to save up for the upcoming Philadelphia show! (9.26.10)


Kensington Dolls' House Festival May 14-16, 2010

I've attended this dazzling miniatures show several times in the past, but it had been a few years since I was last there. My husband and I scheduled a full week in England to coincide with the show and the other big highlight of our visit was a personal tour of the grounds of Grimshaw Hall. This fabulous Tudor half-timbered manor house is the inspiration for my next major project (more about this later) and many of my purchases at the show were made with a miniature Grimshaw Hall in mind. The house was built in 1560, and I am planning to depict the house as it might have appeared in the late Georgian period when Grimshaws were still living there. This way, I can include furnishings from Tudor, Stuart and Georgian eras.

We attended the day the show opened and stood in line a while with other excited ticket-holders. The hall was quite warm and crowded (I don't know if they continue to limit the number of Friday tickets as they used to in the past) and some craftsmen I'd hoped to see did not attend, including Tricia Street and Carol Lodder. I found all the British craftsmen quite happy to see American collectors there. Several did mention that sales had been slow in the recent economy and that many of their American customers were not coming this time, so they were very accomodating about taking foreign checks and holding things for later pick-up. I just wish I'd had more pounds to spend there! So here are some of the things I brought home:

Tarbena's Georgian wall-mounted corner cupboard with glazed door and three shelves inside. They also offer this without the door, but I really like the criss-cross mullions and tiny brass door pull. Love the patina on this piece.
Trevor Jiggins of Dovetail Miniatures made this four-drawer chest in mahogany with yew-wood banding and brass drawer pulls. The finish is just a little too shiny for my taste and I may dull it a little with some tinted furniture wax. The glass vase of pink roses is from The Flower Lady, Jan Southerton. By the time I found her, there were a great many empty spots in her display and I would have purchased more things from her had there been more selections available.

This small sewing casket is Swedish, features an antique needlpoint pincushion top and has a feeling of age to it. It is hinged and was made by Cilla Hallbert - she had many lovely things and I also bought an oval painting from her.
One of two pieces I bought from Master Miniatures, this Tudor style bed was very reasonably priced and I plan to make some changes to it by giving it a better finish and covering the top and side panels with appropriate upholstery. I like the turned footposts, but may add some carving to them. Otherwise perfect for the future Grimshaw Hall!

This cupboard from Masters Miniatures is called an ambry or aumbry and was originally used in medieval churches to store things like chalices but later proved helpful for storing linens and other household items in the home. Again, the finish is not great, but the price was quite good and it will look better after some refinishing.
I thought I would include a few photos of some of my favorite acquisitions from previous London Dolls' House Festivals, when Caroline Hamilton was running the show.
This exquisite English Windsor chair was my very first purchase from Colin Bird at the first LDF I attended in 1998. I have since bought tables and chairs from him which are housed in the large half-timbered dollhouse I am still working on. I can't think of any other chair I like as well as this one.

A sweet Jill Bennett doll from the Regency period. I love the natural expressions on her dolls and the delicate details of the clothing.

These dolls by Jill Nix were purchased at a small dollhouse show outside  Leamington Spa when I lived in England. I need to host a party for these formally dressed dolls. I pretend they are related to the family living in my big English house - photos coming one of these days. These dolls were so reasonable in price, I think they were only about 20 pounds a piece while similar ones she sold through the Singing Tree (sigh) were four times much, as I recall...






Period Roomboxes at the Red Mill Museum Village - Spring and Summer 2010 - Clinton, New Jersey

 I constructed a set of four roomboxes for a seasonal exhibit at the Red Mill Museum Village located in historic Clinton, New Jersey. The boxes accompanied an exhibit on antique light fixtures and the rooms were commissioned to show the different levels of light as it would have looked in a home in this area in 1720, 1780, 1840 and 1950. I furnished the three earliest boxes with things from my personal collection and museum curator Melissa Mohlman furnished the 1950 room with things from her own childhood dollhouse of that period. The 1720 room is lit only by the fire in the fireplace and displays additional light sources such as betty lamps and rushlights - it's pretty dark! I enjoyed building that room using some lumber salvaged from the oldest part of my own 18th century house (we had a little fire in a closet a year ago and some sections of old beams had to be removed and replaced, but I salvaged some usable scraps for possible future use). I also used some of this wood for the 1780 roombox that features brass candlesticks and a fully panelled fireplace wall. This room is probably my favorite. It has a winding staircase beside the fireplace, just like my own house, and it's a perfect setting for some of my favorite artisan pieces by Ted Norton, Eric Pearson, Betty Valentine and Debbie McKnight. The 1840 room is furnished with several pieces from Roger Gutheil, a Ted Norton desk and features a hand-painted mural that depicts the rolling hills of Hunterdon County and includes a scene of the Red Mill itself with the waterfall beside it. I should mention the dolls are all English, either purchased during visits there or by mail order. I love my Jill Bennett dolls and it's nice to have a chance to share them. Miniature Collector published an article about the exhibit in their August 2010 issue, and the photos are nice and big. I sold all these roomboxes at Eileen Rhoads' auction in October 2012. (11.12.12)



Rose Cottage

This little building has undergone several incarnations. While a college student, I had wanted to make a dollhouse similar to the Bliss Seaside Cottage and I purchased 1/2" thick white pine boards at a lumberyard and cut out the pieces at my boyfriend's house. After I brought them back to school, they started to warp. I tried soaking them in the bathtub and then clamping them, but I was not able to straighten out all the pieces to make the house I originally envisioned so I ended up with a one-room structure with attic for storage. There was a fireplace built into the center of the room and large windows on each side and I furnished the building as a quilting shop with ladder for access to the attic. The floor and the roof were covered with tongue depressors and the wallpaper was a geometric gift wrapping paper. It wasn't what I really wanted and some 20 years later, I remodeled it into a guest cottage with a small garden at the doorstep. The remodel included completely changing the exterior and inside I removed the fireplace and added a dividing wall for a VERY small bathroom and enclosed staircase winding up to the bedroom above. There is a closet under the stairs and I finshed the walls with painted Bristol board. It was very labor intensive but I ended up with a small cottage with a rose theme in the garden, the choice of bedroom wallpaper and furnishings. I sold it at Eileen Rhoads' November 2010 auction.

The garden is filled with rose bushes, foxgloves and hollyhocks made by Debbie Noland of Debbie's Garden Path. She's moved around a bit and I haven't seen her at the Philly Show in several years, which is a shame as I'd like to buy more plants from her! I made the fence from saved popsicle sticks and the lantern is electrified. You can't see it but the door has a really pretty etched glass panel and I made the door to fit it.

The bricks are from a bag of bricks I had carried around for decades - each was individually made and hand-painted. The lower-growing plants are commercial examples I purchased at the Dollhouse Factory. The arbor was inspired by ones in my real garden.

A better view of the brickwork and showing the tiny forget-me-nots to the left of the door.

Enough pictures of the garden?

I wish I had a "before" photo for comparison. The rooms are tiny and reflect a country cottage attitude. Most of the furniture is painted and I remember working on them on a day when it was so cold outside that my car would not start and my workplace did not open for business. The dry sink in the background was copied from one that I saw in an old issue of Country Living, the settee with rosey upholstery is Bespaq and I made the doll from a kit by Virginia Rae Orenyo. The bathroom is barely 4" wide so I custom-built the tub to go with the Chrysnbon bath fixtures.

Sorry for the dust - I keep meaning to make a plastic cover for the side. The basket on the table has a bag of Hershey Kisses in it, a favorite family treat. The books are miniature versions of some of my favorite quilting books by Ellie Sienkiewicz. Pottery by Jane Graber finds a home here.

In this view you can see the closet door - the steps are recessed to the right of that door. Small framed samplers decorate the plain walls and small paperback books scattered about are mostly about gardening.

I do love the snug little bathroom. I used some old Hermes wallpaper in this room, a paper I had saved from Molly Brody's shop back in the 1970's. I made the tub from wood and then used spackling compound to round the corners followed by multiple coats of gloss varnish. The wooden brackets that help outline the bath area were also items I saved a long time before finally using them.

The bedroom tucked under the eaves was a challenge when it came to everything: papering, electrifying and furnishing. I made the bed to fit snugly inside the gable window and painted the chest and mirror to match. The rose wallpaper has faded quite badly and I would not use it again.

The red chest at the foot of the bed is copied from a toy chest that was made for my grandmother by one of her older brothers when she was little - I suppose the original is 100 years old now. For many years it was in a bedroom at my grandmother's house that had a similar gable window, and we played with the old toys that were in it. There was a set of very heavy rubber Disney Seven Dwarfs in that box and one time my youngest brother dropped one over the staircase railing and it hit my grandmother on the head - the ONLY time in my entire life that I ever heard my grandmother swear!

The small cupboard I built to fit against the knee wall in this room echoes the pink and green color theme I used throughout the house. I framed a tiny heart-in-hand painting to hang over it. The ladderback chair is from the Old Sturbridge Village series from the Hoffman Collection dated 1979. Thanks for visiting my little Rose Cottage and not judging the poor housekeeping - I have my spring cleaning yet to do! (4.9.10)


Philadelphia Miniaturia 2009

I bought this pair of exquisite Gerald Crawford Queen Anne chairs with Annelle Ferguson's pretty seats. The blue background color of the seats was my grandmother's favorite color and so the chairs proved irresistable.

Annelle Ferguson added the sampler to this embroidery stand by Don Cnossen from 2002. I've placed it in the master bedroom of the Nicholson house. The Martha Washington sewing stand in that room is also Don's work.

Another item from Annelle's booth was this camel-back loveseat that she was selling from the estate of Pam Throop. I love the raspberry pink color of the upholstery.

It's safe to say that I have a "thing" for embroidery stands and I bought this one from Lucy Iducovich - I don't know who made the frame so if anyone recognizes it, please let me know!

This may have been my most satisfying purchase at the show: a vintage settee by Betty Valentine with a delicious small pattern embroidered on a coral pink satin. When I worked for Molly Brody in the 1970's, she had a shelf in one of the cases in her shop where she displayed items from her personal collection. She had an example of this same settee with a black on white print upholstery and I really coveted it. Some time after she died, I saw the settee for sale in her shop in its later location in South Norwalk, CT for $600 and it was just too steep for me. I didn't pay nearly that much for this example and I like this upholstery fabric even more!




A Vintage English Suburban Villa

(This house appears in my auction article in the Feb 2010 issue of Miniature Collector Magazine)

The first time I saw this homemade English dollhouse was in the finished attic of a friend of mine in suburban Philadelphia. I had come over to help her identify and lot a good-sized assortment of antique and vintage dollhouse furniture she was sending to auction and she had not yet made up her mind about this house. I did not give her an estimate, but I did feel there would be interest in it, even though it had a section of the back wall missing where I believe there had once been an attached conservatory. After I returned home that day, I kept thinking about the little house and how it would be a nice setting for my few, treasured pieces of Westacre furniture, and some other smaller-scale furnishings for which I had no suitable house. I thought about calling her and asking her to sell it to me before the auction, but I didn't want to take advantage of her friendship by possibly denying her the opportunity to get the best price for it. As it turned out, I won it at the sale for much less than what I was prepared to offer privately. The house is in the Stockbroker Tudor style that was popular between the wars and retains its original wallpapers, floorpapers and interesting architectural moldings inside and out. My friend had never furnished it and it took a while to remove the spider eggs and accumulated grime from the inside and out, but the effort was rewarded as I was able to appreciate the original chintz curtains in the dining room and the distinctive period papers throughout the house. Restoration involved building a pair of French doors where the conservatory had been, and installing a window and lower wall where the kitchen once had an exterior door that was missing. Otherwise, it was a short time before I had curtains on the rest of the windows and moved in enough funriture to fully furnish the house.

The house opens in an unusual way: The gabled roof lifts off and frees the front facade to lift away from the garden. The center hallway features a very steep angled stairway. A tiny kitchen is accessed under the stairs, with a doorway leading to the dining room. Upstairs, an equally tiny bathroom provides access to the master bedroom, while the other rooms have doors leading directly to the hallway. Each room has a window or French doors to the rear of the house, and I have the house situated in front of a window in my guest room, so I have nice natural sunlight illuminating the otherwise small and dark interiors in the mornings.

The parlor features a pleasant apple green patterned wallpaper and an interesting cast molding used for a picture rail. In front of the French doors, I hung a net curtain and used some vintage fabric to make floral draperies and also re-upholstered a Petite Princess armchair that had stains on its original gold satin fabric - it has a nice 1930's feeling and was surprising easy to recover using the original fabric as a template. The sofa is an antique German settee I bought in London about ten years ago - this dollhouse family likes to mix antiques and more modern pieces for a sort of Bloomsbury look. I also used the same fabric to cushion the German chair by the desk, and for some pillows for the sofa. An old felt tobacco rug repeats the blue and faded red flowers in the fabric. This room also displays the lovely Westacre Village standing lamp and Chinese lacquered table I wrote about in Miniature Collector in 2008. The floorpaper in all the rooms is an imitation parquet pattern which appears to have been coated with shellac or varnish and has a mellow patina I quite like. The hallway features an antique bone or ivory curio cabinet with tiny turned cups and plates.

Although quite dark, I've very fond of the dining room in this house. It still has its original floral chintz curtains - I know the pattern looks out of scale but I like that quirkiness. An old German table and three side chairs are placed just under the window and a vintage German sideboard is on the left, displaying a collection of molded pitchers and a plaster loaf of Hovis bread. The tea cart is not old and came in a box lot at an auction. The little pink cake was sent to me by an English friend. The pine dresser is new, purchased in an unfinished state at my local dollhouse shop for $5. I brought it home, stained and antiqued it a bit and filled it with an assortment of vintage and more recent pottery. The orange and red patterned wallpaper is very period and I don't find it that attractive on its own, but mixed with other patterns and colors it seems to be okay. It's too dark to make out the details, but the narrow fireplace mantel displays a cast metal clock and an assortment of vintage beer steins.

The master bedroom is furnished almost exclusively with vintage German furniture, including the four-poster bed, chest on the right and a hanging cupboard in the back corner. I have a Triang four-poster bed, but it is too wide to fit in the dollhouse and is currently stored in the attic. I like the sprigged wallpaper in this room. All the fireplaces in this house have wooden fenders nailed to the floors and it does make it a little awkward to place much furniture in the rooms. There is a tiny print of the Scottish poet Robert Burns on top of the chest and a Gottschalk potted plant on the floor beside it.

The nursery has a colorful wallpaper and in this room you can appreciate the unusual design of the picture molding. The furniture consists of an assortment of vintage furniture from various sources, some of which I have painted to coordinate. The bed is actually a Schoenhut bed, the corner cupboard is Kage and the chest of drawers is new - the vintage German dresser I wanted to put here was just a little too big. The small-scale chairs are all old, like the Erzgebirge sailboat in the foreground and the toys on top of the chest. The German bisque doll in the background is an older girl in an original dress.

Although it is a bit small and cramped, I found this little vintage house quite satisfying to fix up and furnish. I keep meaning too cull my collection to focus more specifically on top quality vintage and contemporary artisan pieces, but something keeps tugging at me when I see these older playthings, even though they may be a bit rough and shabby,,, and I know I'm not alone in that attraction! (2.10.09)


The 1976 Nicholson House (A Work in Progress)

I first encountered this dollhouse in its original state when it was offered at a household auction in my town. It was a rainy spring Saturday morning when we previewed the sale and the house interested me because it had many exterior details such as individually applied clapboard siding and roof shingles. The overall quality was a little crude, access to the interior was very awkward and I didn't feel like waiting around in the rain for several hours to bid on it, so I passed it by. Some months later, my friends at the Dollhouse Factory told me they had been contacted by someone who had bought a homemade dollhouse and then decided it was too big for their 5-year old daughter to play with it, and they had contacted the Dollhouse Factory about selling it. Chuck and Bill weren't interested in it and gave me the owner's contact information. I called and arranged to see it and when the owner told me he'd bought it at an auction in my town, I suspected it was the same house - and it was. I call it the Nicholson House because it was originally built in the mid-1970's by Ray and Barbara Nicholson who signed it under the base. I originally used it primarily to display my Lynnfield collection.

Originally constructed more as an architectural model than a dollhouse,  the structure was considerably larger than it is now. It was attached to a large base measuring close to 5' x 5' and there was a long ell stretching out the back. I believe the dollhouse was built as a replica of a real colonial era house that had been expanded over time into a restaurant called the Normandie Inn (it was labelled that under the base). I searched the internet for information about a Normandie Inn, but found nothing that resembled this structure, so I suppose that it represents a restaurant that is no longer in business. Anyway, when we got it home, my husband pried it off its bulky base and at my request, he sliced off about a foot from the rear ell. I tore off the enclosed porch that obscured the front of the house and with some difficulty, removed the front of the house to access the interior, which was basically an empty shell.

Then the fun really started. Just like remodeling a real house, I imagined different ways to lay out the rooms and provide access to the second floor - the inconsistent roof angles were a real challenge. Because the house was signed and dated in 1976, I decided to design the interior to accomodate my collection of vintage Lynnfield and Block House dollhouse furniture, with some other vintage artisan pieces added. I wanted the house to have a mid-20th century feeling so I could incorporate my Lynnfield kitchen furniture and creating a breakfast room for the painted dinette set was a priority.

The house appears to have been built entirely from scratch-built components, and that gives it a somewhat naive charm. The original facade featured a doorway located way off to one side of the front and I wanted a center hallway and entry, so I built a new front facade incorporating the window units original to the front facade. It's still a work in progress, as is the removable facade for the rear of the house. The house had several dormers and when I removed a section from the rear of the house, I had to remove the dormers to reduce their size as well (also in progress).

I always rush to play with the interiors, but I also wanted to place the furniture before finalizing the floor plan - this allowed me to position the walls and doorways in a way that allowed me to use the pieces I wanted to include in this house. I'm really pleased with the results. Most of the walls downstairs are painted but I used some vintage wallpapers upstairs, including some that were sent to me by someone who visits this website, and some leftover scraps I found in a closet in my church's parsonage when I was part of a team preparing the house for a new minister. I also used some scrapbooking paper, and some Laura Ashley paper left over from a real-size decorating project. In many ways, I wanted this house to be an example of recycled materials - I saved all the parts I removed from the larger house and re-used plywood, shingles and flooring,  as well as window units. I didn't go out and buy any of the papers, I just used what I already had and most of the light fixtures were also salvaged from another project, but I did buy the chandelier and sconces in the dining room specifically for this house. 

Like many of my projects, this one has experienced periods of intense activity and other times I just let it sit while I thought about what I wanted to do, or worked on other things. Now that I've pretty much figured out what furniture is going in the house, I'll be finishing up the window treatments and the exterior details.

After I first posted this house, several viewers asked to see overall photos of the house to get a better idea of the layout. So with the understanding that this is UNFINISHED I'm adding photos of the exterior.

This is the front of the house showing the original roof with gable, and the new facade which I am building for it, re-using the double windows but installing a new doorway with sidelights. My daughter is holding the roof on because I haven't attached the hinges yet. The reason there are so many shingles missing on the roof is because there was an enclosed porch stretching across most of the front of the house. The base of the house had rough plaster smeared all over it and much of it had cracked and fallen off so I plan to apply a fieldstone veneer to the base all around the house.

This side shows the rather crude French doors leading from the dining room where I plan to build a raised patio. When I got the house, there were crude over-sized shutters glued along these door and the windows, all painted a bright Kelly green over an earlier blue. I plan to make raised panel shutters for the windows.

The open front of the house shows the relation of the most complete rooms to one another. The staircase leads to an enclosed hallway upstairs that provides access to all the rooms above. The bathroom set is painted wood and I got it on ebay. The person who sold me the toilet put a little note inside the bowl for me! Most of the electrical wiring for the ground floor ceiling and wall fixtures and the floor lamps on the upper floor has been run in grooves I carved into the plywood and then covered with the pine floorboards. My very least favorite part of the job, but another reason that I played around with furniture layouts before completing the construction of the interior walls and floors.

From this angle, one can appreciate the way the doorway locations allow the rooms to flow together quite naturally. The cornice moldings used throughout the ground floor are made from stock trim I purchased at Lowe's - it's a bit heavier than using the expected Houseworks cornice seen in so many dollhouses. I made the simple chair rails from scrap wood and patterned them after the ones in my own house. I did break down and use commercial baseboard moldings because they are so easy to cut with a miter grip.

The rear ell of the house was much longer than what you see here. I sometimes regret that I removed so much, but had I not, I don't think I could have maneuvered it through the door of my studio! As you can see, this is the area that requires the most work.

This photo shows just how rough the exterior of the house really is and also retains a piece of molding with the garish green paint that was used for all the shutters... I might add that when I first got the house, the front was fixed in place and access to the interior was achieved by unscrewing the gabled wall of the parlor, which is now fixed in place. It really wasn't a house made for playing. I imagine that perhaps it simply sat empty in a corner of the restaurant it replicated.

The front entry way showcases some favorite pieces of rare Carl Forslund furniture.  Their diminutive scale is perfect for this small entrance hall. The raised panels that line the lower portion of the walls had been stored away for years and I had just enough to use it here. I believe the floral carpet was cut from a small tapestry purse. The mahogany newel post was given to me by the fellows at the Dollhouse Factory and may be a one-of-a-kind example turned by the former shop owner, Robert Dankenics. The staircase is steep and narrow but helps create a cozy first impression.

The formal parlor is furnished mostly with easily recognised Lynnfield furniture but there is a small Forslund chest beside the fireplace and the butler's tray table is a vintage unsigned artisan piece that I prefer to the more modern lines of a Lynnfield coffee table. The secretary's chair was upholstered with old petitpoint when I found it at a flea market. Most of the sterling silver accessories in this room are by Peter Acquisto. When I acquired this house, the ground floor was sheathed in planks made of a soft pinkish wood that I think might be redwood. Before I could finish the walls, I sanded and varnished the floors and ended up with fine pink dust all over my studio - I still find it in some places. I didn't need to stain the fllors - this rich color is the result of simply varnishing the sanded floor.

This view shows the small Forslund chest beside the Lynnfield fireplace (now glued in place). I boxed in the area behind the front entry to indicate the interior chimney for the fireplace, and also to provide access for the electrical wiring to get from the upper floor to the base where everything is soldered together.

The dining room has been very satisfying to decorate.  I enjoyed painting the Rufus Porter style mural on the walls and look forward to the day when I make the window treatments to cover the crude French doors. The blue and white porcelain includes pieces by Chestnut Hill, Stokesayware, and Debbie McKnight, with silver by Acquisto and Harry Smith. I was so pleased when I found the Chinese needlepoint rug in Annelle Ferguson's booth at Philadelphia Miniaturia, formerly in the collection of her friend, Betty Valentine. The warm formality of this room reminds me so much of my grandmother's house and her treasured mahogany dining room furniture.

This cozy bedroom features a set of mahogany furniture I bought on ebay a few years ago. It has stickers from Marshall Field on the bottoms and I thought it resembled Lynnfield furniture, but it is noticeably heavier, it is very well constructed and it has a real 1950's feeling. Since I bought this furniture I have encountered a couple other pieces probably from the same manufacturer, but there are never any identifying marks. The pale pink linens came with the beds so I chose this vintage wallpaper (from the parsonage closet) to coordinate. There were no walls or flooring on the second floor when the house came to me and it took me a while to position the walls to accomodate the furniture in this room and the others. In the evening, I like to turn on the lights of this house in my darkened studio and appreciate the warm glow of the lamps shining in the window of this room. The girl in the knitted dress and hat was purchased at the London Dolls' House Festival in 2001 and I'm glad she finally has a home.

This other front bedroom has been furnished as a guest room and features wallpaper that was sent to me by a visitor to this website. I put it in this room because it went so well with the early upholstered Lynnfield wing chair. A generous friend gave me the rare Queen Anne Lynnfield bed that I have covered with a swatch of overshot woven fabric I made myself in the 1980's. The mahogany chest on the right is not actually Lynnfield - it should have a small pull-out shelf just under the top - but is strikingly similar and just fits the space. The carpet is a section from a worn needlepoint bag I found at a flea market.  I love the way the colors blend together to give this room a warm, vintage New England feeling.

I planned to put the bathroom over the front entryway from the very start and it was tricky getting the walls placed to fit under the spacious dormer window that I kept in the original roof section. Because it is in front of the upstairs hallway, I decided to make the wall removable in case I need to get in there sometime. I had to trim the wainscot so I could just squeeze in the bathtub. The floor boards upstairs were cut by my husband from some old pinewood panels that had been used as doors for the walk-in fireplace in my 230-year-old dining room. They were not original to the house but were probably from the early 20th century and I save them for the wood when we renovated that room. Sanded and stained, they have a lovely warm patina, and are another example of recycling materials for this house. They are a little irregular, but after the mess that resulted from power sanding the floorboards downstairs, I opted to sand these by hand and retain some irregularity. I made the hanging shelf and painted the Strombecker table beside the tub. The wallpaper is scrapbooking paper in a very small fern-like pattern.

I envisioned this small room behind the parlor as a private oasis - a study or music room. I found the Lynnfield piano in a pawn shop when I went to sell my husband's wedding band from his previous marriage - he told me to sell it and spend the money any way I chose and I was surprised to discover this Lynnfield piano and matching bench in a pawn shop of all places! The upholstered furniture is by Robert Bernhard and there is a Chestnut Hill banjo clock on the right wall. The globe is also from Chestnut Hill and the needlepoint rug used to belong to Betty Valentine.

The kitchen looks a little old-fashioned and outdated even for a mid-20th century house. I've had the appliances for some years but it was a real hunt to find the table and assemble a set of four chairs (two is more common). I also had the cheerful red and white wallpaper for a long time and was glad to finally have a house where I could use it.

To the right of the kitchen, I created a little breakfast room to display the Lynnfield breakfast nook set. The table and benches were purchased on ebay and I traded a Tynietoy Welsh dresser with a friend whose had this one in her Tynietoy South County farmhouse - a good trade for both of us. This set is sometimes mistaken for Tynietoy but the table and chairs have very different profiles and should not be confused. The breadbox on the dresser is a Lynnfield accessory and I'm still looking for the matching canister set! The cookie jar was purchased in the 1970's at a yard sale in Westport, CT from the home of Popeye artist Bud Sagendorf. I've used that cookie jar in so many different houses over the years that seeing it brings back pleasant memories of houses I no longer own.

The unusual angles on the upper floor of the rear ell provided many challenges and I spent a lot of time figuring out how to place the walls and doorways to maximize the space. This master bedroom feels a little bigger than it looks because of the large dormer window on the left. I was able to create just enough space for the rare Lynnfield highboy and the canopy on Roger Gutheil's bed just fits in the dormer space. I really like the old chintz fabric on the Lynnfield club chair and I created a little area for doing needlework just inside the dormer, shown below.

The nursery is tucked into a cozy and serene space with another dormer window on the right. The painted nursery furniture was purchased from a friend of mine in Missouri and the tiny doll bed on the right was a Christmas present from Molly Brody's shop in 1976. The Beatrix Potter painted shelves were made by Mary Grady O'Brien and the wallpaper is scrapbook paper - I had just enough!

I have been working on the exterioir of this house and plan to post photos soon. I also have plans to redecorate the bedrroms and the kitchen since I have sold off most of my Lynnfield furniture. Bet of all, I recently heard form Barbara Nicholson, who built the house with her husband in 1976 and have learned more about its origins, Look for an update soon as I am now working on the back of the house! (revised 11.12.12)


The Red Colonial House

I took a general design class during my sophomore year at NYU as a prerequisite for some other art classes I wanted to take. The class was held in a basement workshop a block from my first New York apartment and there was a nice assortment of power tools in the wood-working shop area. I obtained permission from my professor to come in during another class period to use these tools to build this dollhouse. At the time, he was constructing a Shaker step stool for a grand-daughter and he gave me some rough-sawn walnut scraps to use for beams in the dollhouse - I was thrilled. The plywood for the shell was scavenged from a building site near my parents' home in Connecticut (with the owner's permission, of course) and my youngest brother helped me electrify it, re-purposing one of my Dad's old model train transformers (this was before I had any access to Illinois Hobbycraft's transformers), which we hid behind the bathroom wall. I began the house in 1975 and finished it the following year and have often referred to it as my Bicentennial house.

I designed the house as a colonial townhouse with a front entrance featuring a six-panel door and a Dutch door in the back, leaving the side open. The design was influenced to a degree by some dollhouses I admired in the toy collection at the Fairfield (CT) Historical Society. I did not have access to milled siding and did not have the patience to apply individual clapboards - my interest has always focused primarily on the interiors and I find the exterior details an exercise in drudgery, although the results are worth the effort. The roof shingles are made of posterboard that I cut into strips on an old paper cutter, and then individually cut - aaargh! Each one was individually glued in place and then painted with black enamel paint. There are a lot of things I would do differently now, but when I built this at the age of 19, I was pretty happy with the results.

Much of the woodwork in the house was made from the walnut given to me by my art professor, but I also used redwood for the long floorboards upstairs, and tongue depressors that I coaxed out of a med student at the NYU student infirmary were cut and glued down for the first floor. The fact that some are a little warped and imperfect suited my aesthetic. There are fireplaces in all the rooms and I used the flues for electrical wiring, which consists of fluorettes tucked behind beams or inside the fireplaces. When I went to work for Molly Brody in Westport, I was asked to exhibit the house for the Christmas Holiday Dollhouse Exhibit at the Westport Historical Society. For security, I had a sheet of acrylic cut to fit the front, and it fell off the house in the parking lot, breaking in half. We had to tape it all up for the exhibit, but that was the last time I had it enclosed. Yes, dust is a real problem and the reason I am now loathe to buy or build any other dollhouses if they don't close up nice and tight!

I redecorated this house about seven years ago, updating the papers and painted surfaces, but retaining all the furniture and window curtains. The original wallpapers were Italian book lining papers, and examples can still be seen in the stairway on the left in this picture, and in the upstairs bathroom. This room had a dark green paper that made the room look even smaller, so I replaced it with a lighter pattern. The fireplace wall is sheathed in stained and varnished panels (I will try to get a better photo of that area). My aunt made the needlepoint carpet for me as a Christmas gift while I was still in college and I was so thrilled to receive it. I made a number of pieces of furniture in this room including the Duncan Phyfe settee, the mahogany grandfather clock, the harpsichord and music stand in the foreground, and a Queen Anne tea table mostly obscured in this photo. The marine painting on the back wall is by Ned Allen and small tables by Betty Valentine and Robert Carlisle accessorize this room.

I made the harpsichord primarily with mahogany, but the curved section was built up from layers of veneer strips and the legs are pine. There was a matching bench once upon a time...hmm. The keys are made from flat toothpicks and the candlestick is actually silver-plated - I really need to do some polishing!

This Queen Anne tea table was my first attempt at carving cabriole legs, and my one and only attempt at inlay! Without access to appropriate tools, I had to gauge out the table top by hand to make space for small strips of satinwood inlay, but I did have a Dremel Moto-Saw to cut out the legs. I was working for Molly when I made this table and she asked me to make a few more to sell in the shop - I did (minus the inlay), but when a customer asked me to make enough cabriole legs for a dozen chairs, I felt the job was too big for me and declined - oh, she was mad at me for the longest time! I made a few other things to sell in the shop: blanket chests, printer's trays filled with a variety of tiny seeds, and sleigh beds and Empire mirrors very similar to those made by Tynietoy, only I hadn't heard of Tynietoy yet!

There are several painted cupboards in this house. I enjoyed making them, especially applying the painted finishes. Case pieces like this are a lot easier than making chairs, so I like to buy artisan chairs. I made this cupboard to fit this space, and I bought the tole document box and wall sconces from Mary Grady O'Brien at Molly's shows so many years ago. The butter churn is by Jean Yingling, I framed the print of a theorem, and my first husband gave me the keys on a ring while we were in college.

The kitchen has ladderback chairs by George Hoffman and I made the table and most of the furniture. I love the roughsawn walnut beam on the right.Most of the stoneware pottery in the kitchen is by Jane Graber. The loaf of braided bread on the table was a wedding gift from my youngest brother's best friend - I was so surprised, and he gave me a lovely carved Tudor table, too (now in the English cottage). I guess all those free haircuts I used to give my brothers' high school buddies on our front porch paid off!

The built-in kitchen cupboards are so 1970's! I made them from redwood with Bristol Board countertops edged with Letraset tape. The drawers have dividers for cutlery, but the handles are crudely fashioned from leather. No Houseworks hardware for me in 1975... More Jane Graber stoneware and redware on the wall shelf and the yellowware mixing bowl is filled with miniature cookie cutters.

The upstairs landing provides a convenient spot to place a blue stepback cupboard filled with - you guessed it - Jane Graber stoneware and some pieces by Jean Yingling as well. Another needlpoint rug made by my Auntie picks up the blue color of the cupboard. Auntie also gave me the Jane Conneen numbered print on the wall. Through the double doors you can glimpse the bathroom with its Shackman porcelain bath fixtures, but I don't know what has happened to the mirrored front of the medicine cabinet - a little TLC needed up here. The newel post was hand-carved from a scrap of pinewood. I was so proud of the steep, winding stairs I built in this house.

Francis Whittemore made all the colored glass seen here, Jim Ison made the ladderback chair and footstool, while I made the little pine desk. I have actually used the feather duster from time to time. The basket on the cupboard is from Seneca Baskets and has darning eggs inside. The rolls of Scott tissue on the bathroom shelf were made by Helen Norman, who built lovely, one-of-a-kind dollhouses in the 1970's under the trade name of Hudson River Dollhouses. A friendly and extremely artistic woman, I loved her unique dollhouses and wonder where they are today...

This bedroom was originally papered with a thin wrapping paper decorated with yellow flowers, but I love this Joe Hermes Bittersweet pattern. I purchased the Robert Gray spool bed on my first business trip in the autumn of 1978, to Allentown PA, where I stumbled upon Noel's House of Miniatures. It was $38, as was the matching bureau and washstand, but I could only afford one of the pieces at that time. Still searching for those other pieces... A collection of tiny dolls rests upon my home-made painted blanket chest.

The gauze curtains look pretty naive now, but I'm sentimental about them and so they remain. I love the cozy look of this corner of the room, where the tiny pattern of the wallpaper is very satisfying. I made the painted hatboxes and there is a story behind the pair of ruby slippers: my oldest nephew, Michael, was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz when he was a little boy and one Christmas he asked his parents for a pair of ruby slippers. My brother bought a pair of sneakers and stayed up late one December night gluing red glitter to them - and Michael loved them. When I saw these cast resin slippers, made as a mini Christmas ornament by Hallmark, I had to have them to remind me of Michael - I hope he doesn't visit this website or I am in BIG trouble!

One more look at the bedroom where you can see the fireplace and the washstand I blatantly copied from the one I coveted in the Chestnut Hill catalogue. The stoneware crock on the floor was ordered from the Enchanted Dollhouse, with the early spelling of my mother's maiden name. For some years, this was my favorite house in my collection, where my nicest furnishings were placed, and I still love the atmosphere within its walls. I have finer examples of artisan furniture now, much of it stowed away waiting for another house to be built. I got detoured by focusing on English houses for a while, but am beginning to plan another American house down the road.

On the left is the mahogany washstand I made (and signed) inspired by the Chestnut Hill example, which was made in pine. I guessed on all the measurements and when I borrowed an original one to photograph for my Miniature Collector article about Chestnut Hill, I was shocked that it was almost identical in size. The framed photo shows my paternal grandfather, taken on my parents' wedding day.

The very first examples of Betty Valentine's work that I purchased at Molly's shows have resided in this dollhouse for over 30 years now. She made the tables shown on the right. I paid $18 for the small Victorian table on the left, and $20 for the table on the right. These were investment pieces for me in 1976, as was the Wallace Auger Windsor chair I purchased at my first Guild show in the early 1980's. But if you are visiting this website, you already know it was never about "investing" in miniatures....

I hope you enjoyed your visit to my Bicentennial House. What fun I had building and furnishing it at 19 and 20 years of age!  (11/10/08)

A 1930's Dutch Colonial Cottage

This small dollhouse came to me through pure serendipity. During a visit to The Dollhouse Factory, the owners asked me to come into the back workshop area to identify an old dollhouse they had recently bought from someone who simply walked into their shop and wanted to sell it. They bought it from him for a mere $20, thinking it might be a Schoenhut house and they planned to redecorate it for resale in the shop. I informed them it was not a commercial house at all, just a little homemade house, possibly built from plans published in a hobby magazine. I urged them to do nothing to it as it was collectible just as it was, even though it was very dirty and someone had scribbled with crayons on several of the walls. They said they might put it up on ebay in a few weeks. I went home and just a few days later, they called me to ask if I could come in and help in the shop one day while they went to a trade show. I agreed, but said I'd rather have the house in lieu of salary, and we were all happy with the arrangement. At the end of the day, I simply plopped the little house in the back seat of my car and drove home with great satisfaction.

I haven't done anything to the exterior of the house. The original color was a creamy yellow with green trim and the white repaint was done some time ago as it has alligatored on almost all the surfaces. I could scrape it down one day but I'm okay with the way it looks now. The brick paper that covers the foundation and chimneys was painted over with red translucent paint at some point. Fortunately, the interior escaped these well intentioned cosmetic spruce-ups. The front door opens into a hallway with a door to the parlor.

One of the reasons I was attracted to this house was the original wallpapers that remained in all the rooms but the master bedroom, and the architectural details such as heavy cornices, built-in fireplace, and baseboard, door and window trims. The house is constructed of 1/4" plywood and the second floor dormers are artfully constructed - I love those little corners, even though they make the small rooms a little more difficult to decorate. The interior doors are actually false, made from plywood simply stained and varnished, and they remind me of the chestnut doors in the 1920's Sears kit house in which my first husband grew up. The original wallpapers had waxy crayon marks on several walls, which I sealed and painted over with good effect. The ceilings are papered, too. The floors are stained and varnished with checkered paper on the floors of the kitchen and bathroom. This is one of the few houses I still own with an open back - and the dust gets pretty bad! I will probably make a facade for the back of this house one day. The scale of this house is a bit smaller than the standard 1/12, with ceilings measuring only 7" high.

The front hallway opens into this parlor that has been decorated with a German upholstered parlor suite, a German red-stained console table I bought while I was in college, an early and rare Lynnfield console radio and three Strombecker walnut tables. I painted the Strombecker wooden lamps. The wallpaper in this room is a full-size scenic paper, with small images of the Alamo (one is behind the armchair). I have furnished this house with a combination of vintage German and American commercial furniture and several pieces of vintage home-made furniture. A few modern accessories are scattered about, including the patterned carpet shown here which is actually a mousepad. The curtains throughout the house are made from antique lace and I used plastic upholstery buttons as tie-backs - they look like antique pressed glass in miniature.

In the background (sorry for the fuzzy focus) there is a Governor Carver replica chair, a vintage souvenir from Plymouth Plantation. Many of the pictures hanging throughout the house have been fitted with small jewelry loops so they can be hung from nails on the walls. I try to avoid using wax adhesive when hanging pictures because of the staining problem. I think it is a lot easier to fill in a tiny nail hole than try to cover up an ugly wax stain. I do use wax to keep things fixed on table tops.

I found these German upholstered pieces at an antiques show for only $15. They caught my eye because the sofa is so similar to one that was in my grandmother's house. I have seen this set in blue velvet as well. The dolls are earlier Caco dolls with composition heads and painted metal hands and feet. I redressed the woman with pieces of fabrics I handwove in the 1980's. Her sweater is made from a sample of Swedish point weaving which has a texture that reminds me of classic Aran fisherman sweaters.

I like the realistic room arrangement in this house. Although there is no staircase, one can easily imagine there is one in the hallway behind the dining room wall. The dining room is small and I could have fit four smaller chairs around the table, but I really like these cottage-y German red-stain chairs and the little drawers in the ends of the drop-leaf dining table. The sideboard and grandfather clock are also German, while the white painted corner cupboard  is a vintage homemade piece constructed of cigar-box wood that fits perfectly in this homey room. 

Another view of the dining room showing the doorway to the kitchen. The ladderback armchair is sometimes mistaken for Tynietoy. From this angle, you can see the fronts of the vintage tin kitchen appliances, and the appropriately placed kitchen window - I'm pleased that the builder pitched this window higher in the wall to accomodate the sink.

The wallpaper in the kitchen is remarkably similar to the painted effects I remember from a Brooklyn apartment where I lived in the 1980's. I had the bottom floor of a two family house built in the early 1930's, and the similarity helped me date this house to the 1930's. It could just as well be from the 20's or 40's as this Colonial Revival style was popular for several decades in the first half of the last century. The painted tin furnishings are Linemar pieces I bought in a Williamsburg antiques mall in the early 1980's for $15. There is a stove, a sink and a cabinet. I also had the washing machine but its handle that churned the agitator made it difficult to place in any dollhouse. I've never had the refrigerator so I tucked a Strombecker icebox in the back corner. The electric stove is very similar to the one in my grandmother's West Hartford, CT home built in 1938.

Another view of the kitchen, revealing the Linemar cupboard and a 1930's wooden Gottschalk chair.

The master bedroom was the only room where the original wallpaper was so damaged that I replaced it. Someone had already removed about 80% of the original sprigged paper, so I removed the rest and used remnants of a pretty wallpaper I hung in my bedroom in my first full-size house some twenty years ago. I wish I had another roll of it! The mahogany canopy bed was made in the 1950's by a man in New York City, who also made the Empire chest of drawers on the right. The hand-carved Scotty dog in the foreground is from my mother's childhood.

In this view of the bedroom, you can see the framed pictures of my parents taken on their wedding day.

Both the bed and Empire chest were made by the same New York man in the 1950's. I bought them at an antiques show in Allentown, PA a few years ago and regret I did not write his name down. The finials are hand-carved and I love the way the sheer canopy fabric is gently gathered along the curved tester. The patchwork quilt was made from fragments of antique fabrics.

The cozy bathroom has the same softly marbled wallpaper as the kitchen, and has been furnished with wooden bathroom fixtures from Germany. I painted the Wanner console table and there are some vintage accessories scattered around the room.

I really like the original wallpaper in this small bedroom, which is furnished with a home-made four-poster bed with hand-carved posts and original stringing, and a charming mahogany chest of drawers with hand-carved drawer pulls and applied trim. It is made from old cigar box mahogany and I found it at an antiques show for $20 some twenty years ago. The chest at the foot of the bed is really an old trinket box with a decal of a clipper ship applied to the domed top. The little girl is a vintage Caco doll in very good condition. I just noticed the cornice molding is loose! A vintage upholstered George le Clerc chair is on the right.

A variety of vintage rush-seat chairs furnish this house. The chair in the center is made of walnut and features crisply turned posts. I don't think it is German because just a few years ago, I came across another one of these chairs in a pretty large group of walnut furniture stored in the basement of Flora Gill Jacobs' house. None of the matching cabinet pieces were marked Germany as one might expect, which makes me think it is probably of American origin. The painted chairs on either side are shown in the Ciesliks' Gottschalk book and date to the 1930's.

A pair of George LeClerc side chairs with calico-covered seats flank the hand-carved mahogany chest from the nursery. I love the folky quality of this home-made piece of furniture crafted from old cigar boxes. The LeClerc chairs go nicely in this house because they are a little smaller scale than comparable Tynietoy chairs.


My First (and Second) Doll House

I was eight and it was under the Christmas tree: a large Rich colonial mansion, supposedly the last house they manufactured. I don't remember asking for a dollhouse, but I did have a few pieces of furniture that has been my mother's as a girl, and I often played with them inside the shelves of a bookcase, so I think it was an inspired gift on my mother's part.

I don't remember anything else I got that Christmas except for the plastic furniture sets in bubble packs: a purple dining room, a pink kitchen and bath, and a white bedroom. I already had some wooden living room furniture that had been my mother's and while I preferred it to the plastic furniture (even then, its obvious cheapness offended my budding taste), I longed for something better. I stuck small pieces of red flocked Con-Tac paper to the dining room seats, and my mother let me cut up an old terry washcloth to make bedspreads for the matchbox beds I contrived for the nursery. The following summer, I was given the Petite Princess Fantasy Family for my birthday, along with a small chair and footstool upholstered in fawn velvet, and the rolling teacart.

I loved these dolls with their detailed clothing and bendable limbs and I still have them along with the few pieces of Petite Princess furniture I accumulated in the next two years. It was very expensive and whenever my mother took us shopping at the local department store, I always headed straight to the toy department and the cardboard display case filled with Petite Princess furniture, pleading for one more little box of furniture, but seldom getting anything. The planter came my way eventually, and a table and lamp, but by the time I was old enough to get paid for babysitting (I never got paid for watching my own brothers), production had ended and the display went away. Around this time, I went to a classmate's house for an overnight visit and was absolutely enchanted by her enormous dollhouse (it was easily twice the size of mine) filled with Lynnfield furniture and occupied by a family of German Caco dolls. She wasn't nearly as interested in the house as I was and even got annoyed with me for being so enthralled with it. I actually snuck into the playroom in the dark of night to play with it, and went home the next day very tired and envious of this dollhouse that did not seem to be appreciated.

I continued to play with my dollhouse and its inferior furnishings for about four years until a visiting girlfriend questioned why I was still playing with dolls at my age (12). Embarassed, I put the furniture into boxes and tucked them away in my closet, and my younger brothers commandeered the dollhouse to use as a fortress for their GI Joes. When they left it outside in the rain, the Masonite walls virtually melted and that was the end of my first dollhouse. But I didn't really feel that bad about it because it always bothered me that the floor plan was uninspired and lacking a staircase.

Within a year or so, I rescued the Petite Princess family and furniture from my closet, gave all the other plastic furniture to a younger neighbor and started collecting small cardboard boxes from a local liquor store. I had fun cutting doors and windows into the boxes and arranging them into rooms papered with floral Con-Tac paper and felt carpets. With babysitting money in my pocket, I started to buy wooden dollhouse furniture.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school, I was privileged to see a delightful antique dollhouse that belonged to the mother of one of my brother's band-mates. She ran a nursery school in her home (before it was called "day care") and she allowed her young charges to play with her childhood dollhouse, an elaborate two-story Victorian farmhouse with cream-colored clapboards and green painted trim, and a wonderful wrap-around covered porch with perfect Doric columns. I loved this house at first sight, pitied its worn condition and asked if I might "rent" it for the summer to clean it up. Mrs. O'Connell let me have it on loan for those two months while I committed all kinds of ignorant sins "restoring" this poor house: I painted the original clapboards with fresh white paint and turquoise trim - ugh! Inside, I removed most of the original wallpapers (they WERE heavily damaged) and replaced them with new papers taken from a discarded wallpaper sample book and I cleaned the dark interior woodwork with ...nail polish remover!

It was terrible what I did to that house, yet its owner was pleased to see it "refreshed" when I returned it to her at the end of August. The guilt I feel about what I did to that house weighs very heavily on me to this day. The house probably dated to about 1900 and had been given to Mrs. O'Connell by her doctor when she was a little girl. The kitchen, which was difficult to access, had its original built-in tin sink, and the bathroom had built-in wooden fixtures including a tub recessed in wood paneling. It was wonderful and I'd dearly love to have it now to do the job properly!

My "summer rental" inspired me to build my first dollhouse the next year as an art class project.  I was sixteen. I went to a lumberyard and bought 3/4" pine boards 8" wide for the walls and used some leftover plywood in the basement for the floors. A very obliging boyfriend helped me cut out the doors and windows in his basement workshop and I cut up some of my mother's old velvet party dresses to carpet the floors. I was especially proud of the staircase painstakingly made from balsa wood cut with an X-acto knife. This house I filled with Shackman furniture and some treasured pieces of Lynnfield, and I cut paper mats for Kate Greenaway stickers to hang as pictures. I made ruffled curtains with the Featherlight sewing machine my grandmother had given me, and sewed patchwork quilts by hand. I felt very clever when I made a European-style tin stove using a metal switch-plate cover for the top, learning how to solder from this same boyfriend, and I went on to make a "brass" bed out of wire coat-hangers painted with gold Testor's enamel. I really had a wonderful time making things for this house and I got an "A" in art that semester!

So how many people do you know who actually take their dollhouse to college with them? Hello! My roommate kept a small portable stereo on top of her dresser, I put my dollhouse on top of mine, and kept on collecting...


It's just possible that I have owned maybe 100 dollhouses since then - they have come and most have gone, but I still have this first dollhouse I ever built. A few years after my college graduation, I decided to renovate the house: I replaced the wallpapers, re-built the balsa wood staircase that was too fragile from the get-go, and replaced the velvet carpets with individually laid floorboards. I kept almost all of the original furniture with a few additions over the years. But until the summer of 2008, it never had a front! I kept moving the house around from one room to another and even thought of packing it up and putting it away for a while, but while I was working on the new facade of my Tynietoy mansion, I decided to make a front for this house, too, similar to the other New England style dollhouses in the dollhouse mural room. So please excuse the amateur craftsmanship of this high-school dollhouse and enjoy a visual trip down my memory lane...

The facade is somewhat reminiscent of some Tynietoy houses with its symmetrical formal design, hand-painted window mullions, applied green shutters and green door with faux recessed panels. The massive pediment over the door is actually an off-cut from a fence post cap that had to be trimmed when we attached a new picket fence to one side of our garage this spring. As soon as my husband trimmed it off, I grabbed it and told him I had a use for it. The somewhat battered fish-scale roof shingles were purchased from Molly Brody Miniatures, glued in place and the green painted finish was antiqued.

The room arrangement is actually somewhat similar to the six rooms of my first dollhouse, the Rich Colonial Mansion, but I was keen to have a staircase this time and I positioned it along the back wall of the small dining room. I also reinterpreted an idea from the "summer rental" dollhouse in the way I constructed the house to lift off one floor at a time. Built of pine boards and 3/4" plywood, the house would be very heavy to move in its assembled state. Its modular construction makes it easy to transport and to clean as well! The wood trim, the balsa wood doors, and the floors made from popsicle sticks were stained with Olde English Scratch Cover, because that's what I found under my mother's kitchen sink.

The parlor is decorated with a Shackman settee upholstered in red velvet, a rare Shackman breakfront bookcase, a pair of console tables I made in the 1970's, and a pair of Block House chairs. The smaller chair was a birthday gift from my first college boyfriend. I think at some point, every one of my boyfriends donated something to my dollhouses! My brother painted the bust of Napoleon on top of the bookcase, and in the back corner is a grandfather clock made from an X-acto kit way back when they first came out. I recovered the lampshade on the Petite Princess lamp in the foreground.

The dining room has one of my earliest purchases, the Shackman china cabinet tucked under the stairs. The settee was purchased in upstate New York in an unfinished state and I enjoyed painting it in a Hitchcock style. I was an admirer of Hillhouse furniture in the 1970's, but it was beyond my finances then, so this was the closest I got. I made the dining room chairs, copying an antique chair I had bought at a Westport antiques fair, and the three-tier cake is by Debbie McKnight.

This is the first piece of wooden dollhouse furniture I ever made, cut out of balsa wood by hand using an X-acto knife and painted with Testor's black enamel paint. I was probably 14 or 15, and I upholstered the seat with a scrap of cotton calico left over from a favorite dress I'd made in junior high school.

The kitchen wasn't this cluttered originally! The Jackie Dieber sink was a Christmas gift from Molly Brody when I worked for her, from the first year of production (1976). The other lady working for Molly at that time was Deirdre Humphrey and she got one, too. She was an interesting and creative woman who persuaded me to get my first power saw, a Dremel jigsaw, and she also told me where I could buy a carton of redwood scraps that were easy to use for making furniture. I remember the box was about three feet high and lasted me several years. I made the settle and the hutch from that wood, as well as most of the other pieces I made in this house.

This settle is the first piece I made after I got my Dremel saw and the box of redwood scrap lumber. The seat is hinged for storage, and the design is based on a real settle that was in my parents' home. The mirror was one of a number that I made when I worked for Molly and I sold them in her shop on consignment.

I was inspired to make this continental style stove from photos of antique dollhouse stoves. The top is made from a metal switchplate cover and the scalloped sections on the bottom were cut from gears, I guess, donated by my high school boyfriend, who did a lot of metal sculpture in those days and he taught me to solder. The stovepipe is a piece of copper plumbing pipe, and everything was painted with Testor's enamel paint. I thought this was awfully clever when I made it and even though it looks pretty crude now, I still remember the excitement of completing it and putting it in my dollhouse.

The master bedroom contains several of the first pieces I made after learning to use the Dremel saw. The sleigh bed was copied from one I admired in Susan Hendrix's dollhouse as shown in Marian Maeve O'Brien's first book.  The little wicker crib in the background was another gift from my first college boyfriend who bought it in Mexico. The hatbox with little hat came from MiniMundus, where I worked during my senior year in college.

The little dresser was inspired by an antique one I saw in a small booklet from the V & A, and I carved the knobs from a dowel. I always enjoy making patchwork quilts for beds.

The upstairs hallway functions as a small study and contains several pieces of Shackman furniture: the Winthrop desk, grandfather clock, the coatrack, magazine stand and the armchair and footstool, which I bought at F.A.O. Schwarz when my high school science class had a class trip to the Hayden Planetarium. We attended a program in the morning and then were allowed to go off on our own to find lunch and wend our way back to Grand Central Station by the end of the afternoon. I dragged a group of five other teenagers to the toy store that day and I suppose that's the day when I "came out " to my class-mates about my hobby. And to my surprise and relief, they were cool!

The other bedroom contains the Petite Princess chair and footstool I treasured as a child, along with the Shackman highboy purchased with my very first check. I was a regular visitor to the Shackman retail storefront in my college days and usually stopped there on my way to buy used textbooks at Barnes & Noble. So the first day I was in college, I bought dollhouse furniture before I bought a textbook! All the other furniture in this room is by Shackman. My aunt Priscilla made the carpet next to the bed. All the little kitties in this house have had their tails broken off at some point, and reglued.

This is a real house of memories for me as I can recall pretty much every purchase I made for this house, and all the little gifts that found their way here. Even the green velvet carpets in a couple of the rooms bring back memories of my grandfather's house, where I found an entire roll of this fabric that he had used for a photographic backdrop.


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