Miniatures and miniature rooms existed even in the Stone Age, where the 40,000-year-old Venus figures mostly fit in the palm of one’s hand. The famous Nampa figurine found in Idaho could be older, or a hoax, according to conflicting archaeologists, but it, too, is only inches high. Miniatures and mini rooms existed in Ancient Egypt and Greece, and tiny idols have been found all over the world in ancient tombs and archaeological sites. By the 17th century, “baby” house, cabinet houses, or doll houses were all the rage. They have been memorialized in the novel, The Miniaturist.
Queen Anne, of doll fame, gifted her god daughter, Ann Sharp, with a doll house that still exists with its original family. Many stories and books have been written on doll houses and miniature shops and homes, including Rumer Godden’s Home is the Sailor, The Doll’s House, and Miss Happiness and Miss Flower. The late millionaire doll collector, Huguette Clark, collected custom made Japanese doll houses and miniatures. Queen Mary and Colleen Moore left us magnificent doll palaces, and Frances Glessner Lee made dollhouse shadow boxes to solve cold case murders. Margaret Grace writes mysteries centering on miniatures, including, Malice Miniature. Truly, good things come in small packages, and here are five good reasons to love them absolutely:
1. Dollhouses are a good excuse for collecting miniature dolls: Tiny penny woodens, small Parians, china heads, 18th-century wax dolls, tiny cloth dolls, miniature cornhusk dolls, all have populated doll houses. Antique penny dolls and Frozen Charlottes are in a class all their own and are a lot of fun to pose in doll house bedrooms and bathrooms. Some, like the tiny Japanese Kokeshi dolls painted on rice grains and antique dressed fleas from Mexico count as “dolls’ dolls.” Contemporary doll artists including Stephanie Blythe, Irma Park, Eunice Tuttle, and Suzanne Gibson have all worked in doll house size.
2. You can decorate your dollhouse any way you want to: One classic book about doll houses is called There’s a Decorator in your Doll House. They aren’t’ kidding. If you love that log cabin look, but live in a New York brownstone, you can have your log cabin by creating it, its furnishings, and its inhabitants in miniature. Fans of American History have created miniature examples of The White House, Native American villages, Tara, and other historical structures. As an aside, real interior decorators often use dollhouse style models that allow customers to arrange furniture the way they would like it to appear in their real house.
3. Taking care of a dollhouse teaches housekeeping skills: We only have to read Beatrix Potter’s “A Tale of Two Bad Mice” to sympathize with Hunca Munca and all the house keeping tasks she took on when she moved into the dollhouse. Dollhouses need to be cleaned and refurbished like real houses. They have tiny linens that need to be folded and beds that have to be made. Mini kitchens need to be stocked with mini foods, and doll house domestic help dolls have no trouble finding work. Miniature fairy gardens, relatives to the dollhouse, require horticultural and gardening skills. Tiny fruit trees must be harvested, and small gardens must be weeded.
4. Dollhouses are educational: As the little girls in Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and The Doll’s House have proved, creating dollhouses involves research and study. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy it, you are still looking up historical facts when you create a Victorian or Edwardian doll house. Antique dollhouses that survive intact with their furnishings are time capsules on a tiny scale. Go to any miniature show, and you will find entire libraries, mini ones real, big ones. They cover costume, historical eras, vintage interiors, art, and social custom. Miniaturists are very particular about getting it right, and their doll houses and shadow boxes are the masterpieces of their studies.
5. Dollhouses are great stress relievers and are plain fun: Lucretia Mott’s daughters who ran Mott’s Miniature Museum in Knott’s Berry Farm can attest to the fun they had creating their miniature rooms, shops, and houses when they were growing up.
Making doll houses and maintaining miniatures brings the whole family together. Some might build or assemble the house, while others create dolls, curtains, and furnishings. Imaginations run wild as doll house enthusiasts realize that the sky’s the limit when collecting tiny objects to make doll house accessories. Children learn to sew and to mend by making miniature doll clothes and linens, and a few even learn needlework and weaving on a tiny scale. Dollhouses let you escape into another world, a world of your own making that is populated by beautiful objects.
Ruby Lane is the lead sponsor of the upcoming 37th Annual Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys Fall Show in Denver, Colorado. The Miniature Fall Show and Sale is open to the public on September 9th & 10th at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Denver Tech Center. To learn more about the show, visit the show page from theDenver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys. On Ruby Lane, we have an entire section dedicated to the art of miniatures, ranging from opulent early German dollhouses, to everything your imagination could desire to decorate them with. Shop thousands ofDollhouses and Miniatureson Ruby Lane.
New Video Tutorial: Learn how to create a miniature landscape for your dollhouse in our newest video on YouTube. The possibilities are endless, and this is perfect for every age, skill level, and budget. Filmed with Pat Vick who is a longtime and dedicated volunteer at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys.
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