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Starting Out in the Dollhouse & Miniatures Hobby

Updated on January 25, 2013


The dollhouse miniatures hobby, is unique, in that it's a hobby that can span all ages and genders.

It's one of the few hobbies, where you can witness a 90-year old great-grandmother and her 5-year old great- grandchild sharing an interest.... where granddad gets involved in the building or electrifying.... where mom helps with interior selections.... where brother paints or designs.

The hobby is important, not only in its unique ability to bring family members together, but in its ability to foster the sharing of ideas among friends.

And, the hobby is necessary, insofar as fostering our creative thinking processes and our abilities to use our hands.

The hobby can be approached at many levels. You can start with a shadow box, a room box, a house, a 3-dimensional picture.... Once you get into miniatures, the possibilities are almost endless.

As a starter project, you may choose to do a simple roombox or vignette, choosing a theme to your personal liking and interests. Many miniaturists do holiday-themes (e.g. Christmas, Halloween, Birthday). These small projects can also make great personalized gifts (e.g. a nursery roombox for a baby shower).

Buy things that you don't want to, or that you can't, make -- but you'll be surprised to discover the number of simple things that you can easily create yourself. Miniatures will prompt you to look at things with a different eye: that old cigar box might make a perfect general store. That little plastic piece in the middle of your take-out pizza, might make the perfect occasional table in miniature. Scraps of fabric can become mini curtains or towels..... stray beads can become perfume bottles.... toothpaste lids can become wastepaper baskets or lampshades ... the possibilities are endless.

There are different scales in the miniature world. The most common scale for miniaturists is the one-inch scale, which means 1" = 1 foot. You'll also see this termed as 1:12. The best selection of house kits, roomboxes, furniture, components and accessories are found in this scale. There are many one-inch scale choices, for both adult collectors and for children. The half-inch scale (i.e. 1/2"=1 foot) is gaining in selection and popularity - but is still a distant second to the assortment available in the larger scale; further, half-inch, quarter-inch and smaller scales, are more geared toward the adult collector.

Many miniaturists start out by rehabbing an older dollhouse. There's nothing more rewarding, than giving a facelift to a dollhouse that has been in the family for generations. Recognize, however, that this will truly be a labor of love. Often, older dollhouses were made by hand, without plans, and therefore the current-market components and accessories, are not scaled appropriately for the handmade homes.

You may be able to find an older house, or rehab project at a yard sale -- but, be cautioned that sometimes, re-habbing an older house can be costly and time-consuming. In the case of a family dollhouse, the extra cost and effort is almost always "worth it", because of the sentiment. In the case of a yard-sale acquisition, you may spend more time, money and stress, on the fix-up, than you would by simply starting with a new, decent kit. Or, it may be so stressful that you'll give up - and that defeats the purpose!

There are several brands of dollhouse kits on the market, but Real Good Toys, by far, makes the best quality - and easiest to assemble kits on the market.

The most important rule is to focus on what is fun for YOU. A hobby is supposed to be relaxing -- sometimes challenging -- but always something that you enjoy. If you choose a project that's stressful, then you need to (1) either choose a different project, or (2) subcontract out the stressful aspects of the project, so that you can focus on those elements that bring you enjoyment.

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