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The Wonderful World of Dollhouses

Have you ever wished you could inhabit and decorate a Victorian home complete with gingerbread trim and historic details, even though you happen to to live in a small flat in the city or in the middle of suburbia? Dollhouses are one way to incorporate your love for old homes and old things into your home, regardless of your real address. Today's dollhouses are often meticulously detailed and can be tailored with working lights, fixtures and furnishings. They are a fun and enjoyable hobby and make for great conversation pieces in a home.


Greenleaf - Garfield Kit

Greenleaf - Beacon Hill Kit

Greenleaf - McKinley Kit

Greenleaf - Glencroft Kit

Sid Cooke Silver Jubilee Premier House

Real Good Toys Foxhall Manor Kit

Real Good Toys Queen Anne Kit

Corona - The Buttercup Kit

In fact, the hobby of making miniatures has a long history of its own. Tombs of the Ancient Egyptians contained miniature replicas of everyday articles and even doll-sized beds, symbolizing what the departed would need in the afterlife. During the 1500s, wealthy boys practiced the activities of their elders by playing "hunts," complete with miniature replicas of hounds, horses, and a variety of other animals. Girls often played with miniature household objects. The oldest surviving record of a dollhouse is over 450 years old. Although the miniature house that Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria commissioned for his daughter in 1558, a detailed description remains and indicates that it was four stories high and filled with precious objects! The trend apparently caught on Germany, Holland and England. The English referred to such houses as "baby houses" because of their small size, while the Dutch often called them "cabinet houses" to describe their placement within a large wooden cabinet. By the 1600s, even adults began filling their cabinets with expensive miniatures made of precious metals. These collectibles were treated as precious objets d'art, and often cost a small fortune! The "Dutch Baby Houses" are the most famous of these cabinets. In addition, wealthy German and Dutch women of that time often produced petite versions of their fashion and costume designs, and placed them on dolls in their dollhouses. By the 18th century, dollhouses were quite popular in affluent homes. In England, architects presented finely handcrafted miniatures for the children of their clients. The houses and items contained inside (which were essentially small-scale models of the owners' residences) were used as teaching tools to educate children on everyday chores and niceties. American children likely also had similar houses to enjoy, with the earliest surviving dollhouse in America dating back to 1744.

Prior to modern times, the dollhouse was an extravagance of wealthy families, with many noblemen commissioning the earliest examples for their children. With the rise of a middle class in both Europe and America, dollhouses became more common and affordable. German toy makers began to feature dollhouses and miniatures in their catalogs by 1800; these "toys" were certainly not as ornate or well-made as their predecessors, but allowed families of different social stature to enjoy the hobby. In addition, the Industrial Revolution also paved the way for houses and miniatures to be manufactured for the masses. Today, dollhouse collectors of all incomes have created something of an industry, allowing for incredible variety and choices for the consumer. You can decorate your "house" in almost any style that you wish. Dollhouse kits come in all shapes and sizes, from rustic log cabins to stately Queen Annes to shingled Cape Cods. You can choose from a variety of furniture, too, from a Georgian style settee to a Victorian wicker chaise. China, silver and Depression glass are among your offerings for your dining accessories, as well as scrumptious looking plates of food. You can even select from a variety of cuisines, from Chinese dim sum to decadent French desserts. Consider switching around what you "serve" in your formal dining room depending on the season of the year!

To get started, select your house. Some people choose to build their home from a kit or purchase one that has already been manufactured. The latter will be much more expensive, but if you are low on time and handy skills, you may want to consider purchasing a ready-made house. Then begin decorating. As with a real house, you will be amazed at how much there is to decorate: wallpaper, lighting fixtures and floor treatments should come first. Once you have all of those in place, start collecting dollhouse furniture. You can choose from sets of furniture already grouped together for you, or find individual pieces that may be more expensive but give you the historical flair you are looking for. As with all hobbies and collections, remember to have fun, don't spend a fortune and build slowly... Enjoy the experience!