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My Collection

My collection currently numbers dolls' houses - I recently sold my second Tynietoy Mansion and all my roomboxes. I used to have over forty houses but have been steadily streamlining the collection and a few years ago, I sold off my large Gottschalk villa, three Hackers, two Mystery houses and two English box-back houses along with boxes of antique furniture. I basically divested myself of the commercial houses, but I did keep the large English box-back house I bought at Christies' a few years ago. I recently finished restoring it and it appeared in Antique Doll Collector earlier this year.

Most of my American 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 two young cats 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.

 

Back in December, 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 anmes 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 playwood 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 this spring 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)

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 colorfulo 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.

 

The candlescreen was made 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. 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 wsa 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.

And finally, 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".

Over the years I collected a lot of miniature painted stoneware and other country accessories, much of it by Jane Graber, Jean Yingling and Carolyn Curran and other pieces by Debbie McKnight, Seneca Baskets, and Wildwood Studio. When I couldn't fit it all in my Red Colonial House (see below) I stored it until I found a small shadowbox in a consignment shop for $2. When I saw the size of it, I remembered Joanne Swansen's country pantry project published years ago in  Nutshell News and decided to make a similar version of my own, scaled to fit this box. The window was a pre-built unit, but I made everything else from scratch and placed a garden scene outside the window. I enjoyed making bundles of homespun fabric to stack in the shelves and for many years I found room to add one more thing here whenever I came to Jane Graber's booth at Philadelphia! I used to have this sitting in an antique wall shelf hanging in my dining room.

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...

 

 

 

(5.28.2010)

 

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!

 

 

Dollhouses

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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