People who think dollhouses are for little kids may want to think again.  Miniatures are big business, with adult collectors spending big bucks on ready-made scale furniture, house kits, and custom artisan minis made with every bit as much care as full-size objects.

Below are a couple of pictures of my smallest dollhouse (I have seven).  Not all are put together and none are finished right now.  This is a old thin luan plywood Greenleaf kit called the Fairfield, and I rescued it from a flea market.  It was already assembled so my decorations had to be applied in completed rooms.  It’s hard when it’s so small.  How I’m going to decorate the stairwell I have NO clue.  Long-handled tools will be my best bet.

I apologize for being the worlds WORST photographer.

Originally blue. I have put fake cardboard clapboards on part of this house. Might take off and do brick.

Bottom: Parlor, dining room. Top: Two upstairs bedrooms. The plaster ceilings are pieces cut from Anaglypta wall covering and glued to lining paper, then painted over.

Someone needs to sweep…

I set the period of this house at around 1895.  A well-off merchant might have had a bathroom.  Electricity was still for the rich, and most people had gaslight.  I didn’t think to wire before I put wallpaper on, but I can do pipes for the gaslight and that will cover the wires.  Ha!

This dollhouse is ½ scale.  That means one half-inch equals a foot.  The most common scale is an inch to a foot, or 1:12.  Most ready made miniatures in the US come in this scale.  1:6 is known as Playscale, and fits 11-1/2 inch fashion dolls like Barbie and Ken.

The first miniatures appeared in baby houses in the sixteenth century, which were cabinets with shelves decked out as fully furnished rooms.  England, Germany and the Netherlands have the finest examples.  They were not playthings, but showcases for wealthy adult collectors.  Later, house–shaped containers were specially made to display collections of miniature objects.  Both present a fascinating glimpse of life in the time they were made.

Eventually, dollhouses became children’s toys.  But there are still plenty of artists making tiny furniture, silver, dishes and fabric minis that are scarcely discernable from their full-sized counterparts.

Modern miniaturists have created a wide variety of roomboxes and houses from the simplest found objects to elaborate constructions with everything from electric lights to working fountains.  The history of dollhouses is too vast to recreate here, so check this Wikipedia page for more information.

There is a huge divide on whether dolls should be included in a display house.  Some miniaturists feel they take away from the realism of a carefully-crafted room, as no one can ever make a doll that looks exactly like a person.  Others feel that rooms are more artistic than realistic and dolls make the rooms more lived-in.

If you do use dolls, it’s better to have them posed in the midst of some kind of action, to give an illusion of life and movement.  A room without them can be staged to look as if someone were just there, perhaps with objects in disarray as if the person stepped out for a sec to yell at the kids or go to the loo.
I personally dislike dolls, but I have to admit there are some fabulous doll artists out there.  I had one idea I want to try and if I can make decent-looking dolls for it, I will do it.  If not, I’ll just stage things.  When I ever get that finished I’ll be sure and post a picture of it.  Why can’t there be more than 24 hours in a day?

Some people prefer to buy miniatures and some like to make their own.  I like both because I can’t afford the nice stuff, like Bespaq furniture.  If you look regularly at flea markets you can sometimes find things already constructed, or even kits still in the box.  The most I paid for a mini was $85 for a German Bodo Hennig replica of a gramophone that really works (it’s a music box).

Left to right: Window and door components, gramophone, wiring kit, tiny suitcases (they don’t open), a discontinued furniture kit.

All kinds of found objects can be used to make miniatures.  Once you start doing this, you look at things with a different eye.  A metal bottle cap with pleated edges becomes a pie plate, pepper seeds look like tiny potato chips, flat buttons can be plates.  Beads have myriad uses.  When I was a kid, we made stuff for our Barbies all the time.  I’m just working in a smaller scale now.

If you’d like more information, check out the links below or go to your local library and look in the Crafts section.  There should be some excellent books on miniatures with lots of pictures.


National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts.  See Links and Resources for a list of miniature museums.

The best source for minis, dollhouses, components, electrical supplies, etc.

Another good place to buy minis.  I got a working pair of teeny barber’s scissors here.

6 thoughts on “Miniatures!

  1. I’ve always been fascinated by dollhouses and miniatures. I would have probably felt a little girlish to have had a doll house when I was a kid, but If I had the room to display it I wouldn’t mind having a doll house or 2 or more now. I’m sure my wife would think I’d gone nuts.

    Tossing It Out

    • Arlee, there are plenty of male miniaturists. You could make it any way you liked. Do roomboxes–those are good in small homes without a lot of display space–or you could make a house decorated like a gentleman’s club, a store, a gym, anything you like.

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