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Vintage Miniature Homes: A Collection of Traditional Dolls Houses

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I love crafts works. I made my first rag doll when I was 10 as a class project for a jumble sale, and I made my first rag rug when I was 16.

Handcrafting miniature houses and furniture dates back over four centuries. They were carefully crafted and painstakingly built, with some pieces taking many years to structure. They were created as toys for grown-ups and varied from lowly room designs to luxury home styles with intricate interiors that only the wealthy could afford.

Astolat Dollhouse Castle - A museum-quality dollhouse appraised as "the most valuable dollhouse in the world".

Astolat Dollhouse Castle - A museum-quality dollhouse appraised as "the most valuable dollhouse in the world".

Unlike the modern versions of dolls houses that are flimsy and mass-produced, traditional collections were sturdy, one-of-a-kind pieces, and made to order. They involved many intricacies, and crafting was done meticulously with a high level of intricate detailing.

With the industrial revolution of the 18th century, hand and mechanized tools made production simpler and less time-consuming. By the end of the Second World War, miniatures became increasingly mass-produced and standardized. They were no longer the precious art pieces of the past as they became readily available and highly affordable.

Although dollhouses have become toys primarily for kids, many adult enthusiasts are avid collectors. And some craftsmen still create miniature pieces for modern-day aficionados who collect miniatures as a hobby.

Dollhouse - Germany style.

Dollhouse - Germany style.

Vintage dollhouses represent decorative conversational objects to admire and playthings to boast about. They are expensive works of art displayed as centerpieces, just like trophy collections, with a few fully built and furnished ones worth almost the price of a real-life modest-sized home.

English Dollhouses

The English dollhouse designs are similar to the American styles with their box-shaped forms but taller. They are crafted after country-style homes, but more attention is paid to a decorated and more embellished interior. As is typical of English homes, their dollhouses are decorated to reflect either contemporary styles or those of a particular period.

Antique English Dollhouse

Antique English Dollhouse

American Miniature Homes

American cabinet homes are majorly fashioned after the Colonial style architecture. They are modestly-sized square-shaped homes with triangular roofs, double-hung windows with shutters, and a central entrance door. The interiors are decorated to fit any period style of the collector’s choice - antique, traditional, or contemporary. They feature living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Collectors and dollhouse craftsmen have a choice to decorate and adorn as they desire.

American - Vintage miniature dollhouse showing numerous internal rooms.

American - Vintage miniature dollhouse showing numerous internal rooms.

Tudor Era Crafted Miniature Houses

Tudor England, 1400s to early 1600s. Dollhouses of the period are not necessarily a popular choice for collectors like Victorian miniatures. However, they are equally intricately made like the Victorian era dollhouses. Unusually beautiful with a truly authentic look, Tudor style miniature homes come with marked wooden rafters, white exteriors, leaded windows, and tiled roofs. The houses are shorter, which probably explains the intimate look, while the rooms, although not as spacious as the opulent Victorian interiors, are less cluttered. However, there was much detail, character, and charm in all the pieces, including the dollhouse structure.

Dollhouse with papered brick work & roof tiles referred to as butter box doll's houses. Lithographed paper representing red brickwork and roof tiles were produced by companies like Hobbies and Handicrafts Ltd, Great Britain

Dollhouse with papered brick work & roof tiles referred to as butter box doll's houses. Lithographed paper representing red brickwork and roof tiles were produced by companies like Hobbies and Handicrafts Ltd, Great Britain

The Queen Mary's Dolls' House

This masterpiece is said to be the most famous dolls' house in the world. The beautiful miniature structure was built for Queen Mary by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and include contributions from over a thousand fine artists, craftsmen and manufacturers of the early 20th-Century. It features the lowly to the highly-placed - life in the basement to the high-society setting of a library bursting with original works. Each room is fully furnished and comes with electricity, running water, and working elevators.

Queen Mary's Dolls' House is the most beautiful and most famous dolls' house in the world.

Queen Mary's Dolls' House is the most beautiful and most famous dolls' house in the world.

16th-Century Western European Dollhouses

Around this time, miniatures were called baby houses and built mainly for cabinet display and home decoration. They came with pretty miniature furniture set beautifully in tiny rooms with ornamental furnishings and well detailed interior accents. Crafted homes also included household items like pots and pans, crockery, beddings, cast iron stoves, washtubs, brooms, and vacuum cleaners. The spaces also have tiny dolls seemingly going about their daily household chores.

19th-to 20th Century Dolls Houses

19th-century Victorian dollhouses were architecturally stylish. They came with high, multiple roofs, elaborate trims, chimneys and peak crests. Dollhouses of this era were vibrant and classy with plush interiors, multi-coloured and multi-textured elements, mixed finishes, fittings, and beautiful wallpaper coverings.

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Modern dollhouses of the 20th Century are made from various materials ranging from metal sheets and fibreboard to plastic and wood. But the majority of them are made for children and often produced from PVC based materials. Unfortunately, they are less detailed than antique and vintage miniatures lacking the high quality and fine craftsmanship of dolls house production in the past.

A typical dollhouse of the 1950s, for instance, was made of painted metal sheets, and the rooms were decorated with plastic furniture. This has made the cost of miniature houses very affordable for most people.


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21st Century Miniatures and Doll Houses

Contemporary dollhouses are usually lightweight, unlike the heavier vintage styled classics that often require siding, shingles, and other building features and treatments. They typically come in build-it-yourself kits produced from plywood or medium-density fiberboard and hundreds of other installation accessories.

Installation systems include tab-and-slot systems consisting of thinner plywood pieces held together by tabs and slots and bonded with glue. For sturdier dolls houses, kits components made from heavier plywood or MDF boards, nails and glue are required to assemble them. Many miniature houses in the US have an open back for easy reach and view while in England, dollhouses are more likely to have a hinged front panel that opens to reveal the beauty of the interior décor and its occupants.

© 2009 viryabo


viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on August 24, 2011:

Thanks FA.

furniture assembly on May 17, 2011:

A house collection of dolls are really a great tips to read on

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on April 01, 2010:

Hello betherann, i know the victorian dolls houses are what many think about when talking about miniature homes, so it seems a bit 'flogged' nowadays. But the contemporary ones always seem nicer somehow.

Thanks for the visit and for taking the time to leave a comment.


Beth Morey from Montana on April 01, 2010:

I really like the last photo of the contemporary doll house. The Victorian-style houses don't do much for me, but I do like the more modern versions. Thanks for sharing this!

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on December 12, 2009:

Visited the site G, wish i live remotely around santa Monica. Would love to pay a visit to this museum.

I always wanted a dollhouse when i was young, but never had one. It used to fascinate me whenever i see one. Now as an adult, i plan to start enjoying this fine collectors piece.

I'm sure you will both enjoy having one, while she will love her gift to bits.

Thanks for your visit G.

GPAGE from California on December 02, 2009:

Really cool viryabo! This will be great for my little girl! Not only for a gift, but for us to do together! AND you reminded me about a great little museum in Santa Monica called "Angels Attic" which features over 60 dollhouses!!

GREAT idea and great hub! G

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