Interiors through the eyes of a Doll’s House

    

       Some of the remaining Art Deco Hotels on Ocean Drive, Miami Beach.

Spending a week in the most beautiful Art Deco Hotel in Miami has got me thinking about interiors over the centuries. This particular property has been sympathetically restored, maintaining the integrity of a bygone era. I can imagine the stylishly clad women and men walking on the stunning tiled floors, surrounded by stylish fixtures and fittings.
The hotel itself is a landmark 1941 Art Deco building; understated yet opulent, and by the nature of the way it has been restored, it is very easy to imagine how it would once have been.

Our decor today seems to be a bit of ‘anything goes’. We are drawn to Hygge, simple clean lines, vintage, modular and the rest. I remember 26 years ago trawling around antique shops looking for affordable mahogony which we filled our first home with. To compliment this we had the wall to wall carpet and swags and tails at the windows! All very in at the time!

The home we bought two years ago is Georgian.  The building itself has a story to tell with servants bells, a wine cellar, high ceilings and original shutters.   Leaving that all to take centre stage we have used sisal flooring, left the shutters without curtains, and furnished our home with modern clean lines mixed with our best pieces of  mahogany.  Mixing the old and the new is a skill but the finished look is one of my favourites.

It has however got me thinking about what we will leave behind as evidence of the style of our homes that we live in today. This turned my thoughts to doll’s houses, which if you think about it are like mini time capsules.

If you look at many of the older doll’s house’s it is a perfect way to see how life would have been lived at the time they were made. Dolls houses across the world have some enchanting stories to tell.

Beatrix Potter’s own doll’s house was the magical place that inspired her to write ‘The Tale of Two Bad Mice’

Beatrix Potters doll’s house.

 

Doll’s house at Uppark House

Uppark House is home to a beautiful doll’s house that is believed to date from between 1735 and 1740. It is described as one of two of the most important British doll’s houses that have survived from that era.

Rooms were decorated to show the distinction of rank. Servant dolls were made of wood while the refined occupants of the house were modelled from wax and dressed in silk. These houses were very much modelled on how it operated on a day to day basis. We can learn a lot about how people used to live by looking at these model houses and their miniature world.

The attention to detail in some of these houses is incredible. Some had washable wallpaper which was new at the time. One even boasts a telephone.

   

 

The world of doll’s houses of course meant they needed to be furnished. This in itself created an industry which was big business.

In the 1800’s Germany was a leading manufacturer of furniture for doll’s houses, exporting large quantities. Furniture could be ordered from catalogues or bought in a toy shop. In England a Wolverhampton based firm Evans and Cartwright made washstands, fire grates and candlesticks from metal. The factory was at the peak of it’s success in 1850 and employed large numbers of children to paint the furniture.

Another such furniture company called Kestners used a different letter of the alphabet for each type of furniture they made, A for chair, B for table. They had such a selection they went as far as W.

  

Photo Ebay                                                           Photo Ebay

  

Photo Ebay                                                           Photo Ebay

Dolls house velvet sofa

Photo Ebay

Above are some examples of their furniture which today sell for large amounts online. The sofa is for sale at $550.

The story they tell:

Some doll’s houses were designed for playing with and others for display. Perhaps their creators knew that it would be a wonderful way to preserve their lifestyles. A house would typically have a lock on it if it was for display only. Whatever they were intended for there is no denying they are repositories for stories and history.

Further research led me to the V & A Museum of Childhood. Each house gave away secrets and information from the past. My personal favourites were these.

Caroline Cottage

Caroline Cottage

Devonshire Villas

This doll’s house had rooms wallpapered with wipeable wallpaper, which was very new at the time.  Amazingly it also had a telephone.on the walls in the bathroom.

  

 

Foster House


We can see that in the Georgian period (1714 to 1830) architects often borrowed from Classical Greece. Triangular pediments and greek urns are featured on the roof.

Princess Elizabeth’s Little House

This house was model of the Welsh cottage style playhouse presented to the then Princess Elizabeth on the 6th Birthday in 1932 by the people of Wales. The original house called Ybwthyn Bach now stands within the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The Drew House

A showcase for a Victoria home of the 1860’s which included some of the recent Victorian innovations of the time.

This houses a very early sewing machine – the real thing would have only been around for a decade at the time. It also has a closed oven which were beginning to replace the open ranges of the time and then only in the most forward thinking of homes.

The Nuremberg House

This house was made in Nuremberg in 1673 – the date is written on the chimney. It would have been owned by someone very wealthy who could afford to commission skilled craftsmen to make the miniatures of the full size items that they normally made.

These houses would serve as an important visual aid for the young girls living in the home. It was seen as an aid to learning about domestic skills and how the house was run.

  

 

The Merchant’s House

This particular house is full of clues. It would have been a dwelling for living and working in. In this particular case the unicorn sign beside the door indicated it was the home of a chemist. The house has a well-equipped ‘best’ kitchen downstairs on the left. This would have been used to entertain guests and receive customers.

There are some surprisingly realistic features – including a large water boiler upstairs – as they would have been at that time. Linen was an important symbol of wealth and status and this doll’s house has a full cupboard of folded linen, on display as it would have been at the time.

The final detail is the leather bound books and bible.

Art Deco House

As the eras changed so did the style of some doll’s houses.  This is a fabulous example of a rather fun Art Deco house.

 

Dolls houses today

Top of the range doll’s houses still exist today.  Dragons of Walton Street London will sell you a Georgian Townhouse dolls house for a mere £4,995!

Finally a gorgeous twist on a traditional doll’s house is a lady who is creating bespoke doll’s house suitcases.  The attention to detail is second to none and no two are the same.  If you want to scale down a doll’s house and make it portable look no further than Little Lucciola.  You can follow her on Instagram  @little_lucciola, and also find her on Etsy.

  

Photos – Little Lucciola

 

All photos unless otherwise stated are from Pinterest.