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Miniatures: Handcrafted Collections of Houses, Furniture, and Interior Furnishings

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As a child, dollhouses fascinated me. There were more of them around in my days, built from scratch, made with fine workmanship.

Antique English Dollhouse

Antique English Dollhouse

Barbie dollhouses may be the modern version of classic miniature homes, but traditionally, handcrafted miniatures were not toys that children played with.

Miniature homes represented many things to different people. They were:

  • Moral instruction ‘tools’ for young girls. It was used to teach them domestic skills and home improvement abilities. Things required of them when they get married and run their own homes. The handcrafted home interiors had all the imaginable household items needed like porcelain, napkins, sweepers and dusters, pots and pans, and even things as simple as tea cosies.
  • Priceless collectables owned by wealthy adults who loved, genuinely appreciated, and collected these beautiful intricate museum-worthy works of art for their own pleasure.
  • Entertainment and conversational pieces that the noble displayed to delight their guests and show off their superb taste in art collections.
  • Investment opportunities. They were amassed to eventually become antique keepsakes of extremely high value.
  • Structures of personal fascination for the miniature world of unimaginable and luxurious living. An unexplainable satisfaction of seeing familiar things in miniature forms, scales, and sizes.
  • Voyeurism. A sense of having the ability to play god and master of a tiny, yet distinct world with little people.

In a world where most millennials cannot even think of getting on the real property ladder, it is no real wonder that dollhouses remain, for many of us, a gentle bit of wish fulfilment.

Vintage miniature home's kitchen with everything a young girl needs to practice cooking, cleaning, and organizing.

Vintage miniature home's kitchen with everything a young girl needs to practice cooking, cleaning, and organizing.

Classic Miniature Home Styles

To enthusiasts and collectors, having a choice of architectural styles is part of the essence of collecting miniature homes. While some collectors only go for closed crafted miniature houses without a view of the inside, others prefer homes with viewable rooms, where each room is intricately designed with furnishings of different period styles. Every detail of interiors is included in the structures, including wallpaper, floor coverings, and tiny light fittings. Some popular traditional miniature architectural house styles include:

  1. Colonial
  2. Victorian
  3. Art Deco
  4. Edwardian
  5. Mid-century
  6. A-frames and cabins


A collector's item - A Victorian style miniature house with details typical of the 19th century home of the wealthy.

A collector's item - A Victorian style miniature house with details typical of the 19th century home of the wealthy.

Some notable and priceless miniature houses are:

  • Stettheimer Dollhouse constructed between 1916 and 1935.
  • Queen Mary's Dolls' House designed for Queen Mary in 1924.
  • Titania's Palace, hand-built by Irish Cabinet Makers.
  • Tara's Palace that took ten years to build and consists of twenty-two rooms.


These breath-taking works of handcrafted art are perhaps the most cherished collectors’ items that date back hundreds of years. Today’s enthusiasts and crafters who have constantly invested in these type of collectables can successfully sell these mementos for great sums of money.

There are dozens of annual miniatures trade shows organized by miniature collectables organizations. At these shows, crafts-persons, dealers, and collectors display and sell miniatures worthy of becoming priceless and treasured heirlooms.

Mini Furniture and Furnishings

The most attractive miniature homes are the ones that come complete with everything that is required in a household, with or without tiny people forms. Everything from furniture, furnishings, appliances, fixtures, and vanities to plush sofas and accent chairs must be included in the interior rooms. Chandeliers, refrigerators, kitchen sinks, bathtubs, towels, toilet roll holders, and even bowls of fruit. Many of these elements are even more intricately crafted than the house structure itself.

As the types and styles of the dollhouses vary, so do their furniture styles. The entire interior decoration is determined by the building occupants social stratum and the pieces are based on their lifestyles; rich and luxurious, middle-class, and comfortable, or poor and threadbare. For instance, a miniature farmhouse will have the barest essentials of country furniture and furnishings while a sleek modern house can be fashioned after an abode for the rich with streamlined sofas, Le Corbusier chairs, wood panelling, leather loungers, glass tables, wool rugs, and ’expensive’ wall art.

Some miniature furnishings collectors only collect individual furniture pieces. They use these beautifully crafted pieces to create living areas, dining room, bedroom settings, etc... (contemporary or traditional) which they display on coffee tables, wall shelves, and special display stands and units.

A miniature Victorian style nursery interior,  Notice the furniture, little baby sitting on a high-chair, a crib, and a rocking horse.

A miniature Victorian style nursery interior, Notice the furniture, little baby sitting on a high-chair, a crib, and a rocking horse.

Miniature House or Standalone Rooms?

It is not all miniature home collections that come as complete residential building structures that comprise external walls, windows, doors, and interior and outdoor rooms. They can also come as single standalone rooms, two-room designs, and storey buildings enclosed with three walls and an exposed front opening to view its interior.

While standalone rooms are easier to build, take less time to craft its furnishings, and are generally less expensive to make (depending on how simple or complex and intricate it is), a miniature-house can take many months and even years to build and therefore come with an expensive price tag.

Standalone miniature room - A fully furnished kitchen with mini elements and features.

Standalone miniature room - A fully furnished kitchen with mini elements and features.

Not many of the modern-day hobbyists like the old ornate classics like the Edwardian, Victorian, and Tudor styles. Many die-hard fans will rather opt for modern architectural and interior styles because of their clean lines and sleek minimalist interiors.

4-Room modern miniature house with minimalist style interior.

4-Room modern miniature house with minimalist style interior.

Why People Love to Collect Miniatures

They are intriguing objects; beautiful works of art that always tells a unique story. Museums and other exhibitors of miniature objects attest to the fact that these collections are extremely popular among visitors. It is amazing how spellbound viewers appear on seeing this category of miniature art. From the Gothic theme to the Victorian, the first settlers’ cabin to contemporary models, miniatures hobbyists are either purchasing them to add to their collections or crafting them as art pieces of high value.

If you are a collector or die-hard enthusiast, you will agree that making miniatures is a painstaking hobby craft that requires creativity, patience, perseverance, and a deft and nimble touch. If you love and admire them, it is because you are in awe of how anyone can craft such minuscule objects and tiny parts.

And because the craft involves making exact prototypes of buildings, humans, interiors, furniture, and furnishings, the craftsman’s pieces must be detailed, crafted to the right scale, and they must look realistic enough to be enchanting, captivating, and delightful.

Further Reading

Mini Hand Tools to Make Dollhouse Furniture

Barbie Doll Houses with Elevators

Tips for Beginner Crafters and Collectors

If you want to start collecting miniature dolls houses, you can have them custom made to your specifications, or you can purchase them from toy shops or speciality stores for miniature collectables online. You will also find them at internet auction sites including retailers like Mini Modernista and Brinca Dada. To build or gradually collect the pieces for a fully- furnished dollhouse, here are some words of advice:

  1. Start by building a simple standalone room and furnish it in a way that tells a story.
  2. For a traditional style, go for the impressive classics like a Victorian parlour or a farmhouse kitchen.
  3. Make your house look lived-in by adding occupants (miniature dolls) that will fit in perfectly with your theme. Dress them up appropriately and place them in the room. For instance, add a parlour maid serving tea to the lady of the house.
  4. Ensure that your structure is as detailed as is possible. Everything within it must be with the right scale and proportions.
  5. A diminutive home display requires ample space, preferably an area set away from the walls. This is to ensure that observers will have a good view of the house from all its sides.
  6. For individual standalone rooms, a smaller display area will suffice. The structure can be set against a wall or on a shelf as it only needs to be viewed from the front.

If you are a hands-on individual looking for how to start, get a beginners’ guide handbook. If you are unskilled and trying to build a furnished miniature house, without a step-by-step guide it will be a trial-and-error approach.

Crafting miniature pieces is not easy. It is a craft that will test your patience so if you do not wish to encumber yourself with the challenging task, start simple. You do not have to be a skilled craftsman though. There are miniature home kits that you can purchase if you are not a collector but wish to build. Also, an increasing number of miniatures manufacturers are producing tiny dolls houses, furniture, and furnishings for people who wish to create fantasy homes.

A two-room miniature house with simple furniture and furnishings. A beginner miniatures crafter can start off with a projects as simple as a 1 or 2 room space to gain the required skills.

A two-room miniature house with simple furniture and furnishings. A beginner miniatures crafter can start off with a projects as simple as a 1 or 2 room space to gain the required skills.

© 2010 viryabo

Comments

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on February 12, 2012:

Hi Gary, to make a miniature house like that is simpler than it looks.

There are books that can guide you on how to build both modern and traditional miniature homes. You will benefit much from reading such.

Basically, it all boils down to the type of finishes you use, in this case white panels for the walls, predominantly white furniture and furnishings with modern pieces, which you can build or purchase.

The monochromatic scheme also adds much to making it look very modern.

This is a wonderful gift idea for a loved one, and a unique one too.

Thanks for the visit Gary, best of luck, and best wishes for a great future for the both of you.

GodBless

Gary Yeung on February 08, 2012:

I'm planning to make a miniature house with miniature furniture for proposing to my girl friend. Can I know more details on how to make one like in the first photo?

c seeds on January 16, 2012:

check out four generation miniature

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 12, 2012:

Thank you for your very nice comments Alocsin. And thank you for the positive ratings.

Blessings

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 12, 2012:

Miniature building craft is a wonderful art and you are so lucky to have had the opportunity of being around your dad whilst be was crafting such beauty.

It is so good that you are passing on the love and interest to your children, passing on a passion their grandfather had.

Thank you for the visit L.I.P. and for finding time to leave such beautiful comments.

GodBless

Lady_in_Pants on January 11, 2012:

Wow, so beautiful and awe-inspiring!

I've been interested in doll-houses and miniatures since I was about 5 and watched my dad make his furniture for millionaires first in 1/3 scale before he took on the final product. Unfortunately he never let me keep any of the 1/3 scales, and I never got to own a doll house, but I drew many many different designs of tiny houses, their insides and what should go where etc...

Now I have kids of my own and am in the process of making my daughter her own doll-house with furniture etc... It is a challenging endeavor, but having some skill in furniture making myself, and in sewing and embroidery and art, I think I can do it.

When I finish my daughter's doll house, I hope to make my own - hopefully before I'm 30.

Cheers and thanks for this wonderful post!

:)

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 04, 2012:

Some of these are beautiful. Unfortunately, I already have enough hobbies without getting into this one too. Voting this Up and Beautiful though.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 07, 2010:

So so good to see you G. How's it going?

Thanks for visiting and your (always) nice comments.

I know you will enjoy this craft and your daughter will find it awesome and very interesting building with you this unique form of craftworks.

GodBless you richly.

GPAGE from California on March 06, 2010:

viryabo.....VERY cool!!!....all the different styles and ideas......thank you for this wonderful hub! I'm hoping to do something like this with my little girl one day as a hobby to do together.....it would be really fun! Best, G

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 04, 2010:

Im glad you found a few useful tips here prasetio, and im glad you enjoyed this hub.

Thank you so much for your visit and your nice comments AND for the UP rating.

Cheers my friend.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 03, 2010:

I can't say anything. this hub is amazing. Thanks for showing me those miniature. Only talented person and have interesting with kind of miniature can make this beautiful things. You also give us useful tips here.

PS: If you din't come to my hub and not telling me that you have collective hub about miniature. Maybe I don't know that you have beautiful hub about miniature.

Good work Viryabo. I rate this UP! Thanks

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