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Vintage Dollhouses for Collectors

Updated on February 11, 2018
viryabo profile image

I love crafts works. I made my first ragdoll when I was 10 as a class project for a jumble sale and made my first rag rug when I was 16.

Traditionally, doll houses served as toys for the grown ups and were not meant for children, but in the last century, they have become toys primarily for kids. Today's adults who are into dollhouses are mainly collectors and craftsmen who consider it as a hobby.

Beautifully crafted miniature houses with quaint dolls and miniature furniture are still sought after by a great number of collectors that have a passion for miniature collectables, especially vintage doll houses.

Dollhouse production dates back over four centuries and was crafted carefully and painstakingly by hand, mainly for the wealthy. Not like many of today's version of miniature homes that have become mass produced toys.

Hundred of years ago, building a dollhouse took many months and in some cases, many years. Building the house was always made to order and was always customised to the desire of the owner. It involved so many intricacies, and furnishing the interior spaces was a painstaking task done with extreme care and thoroughness. So was dressing the dolls in the appropriate clothes and accessories of the time.

After the industrial revolution of the 18th century, industrialised hand tools made production slightly easier and less time-consuming. By the end of WW2, dollhouses became increasingly mass produced and consequently became more standardized, readily available, and affordable by more people than was the case in the past.

A vintage style 3-storey dollhouse with a central wooden spiral staircase, a parlour, fireplace, kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom.
A vintage style 3-storey dollhouse with a central wooden spiral staircase, a parlour, fireplace, kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom.

Popular Styles Sought by Collectors

Though many dollhouses are now made in plastic and/or other non-breakable material and are majorly for children, authentic and intricately built dollhouses are still held in high regard as a valuable display for the home.

Hobbyists and crafters of vintage dollhouses usually have their own architectural preferences and know what they want or how they want to have it constructed. Some craftsmen will even produce styles that have a mix of the antique and modern while others strictly stick to producing period style miniature homes and furnishings.

Popular choices include:

  1. 16th-century Western European dollhouses - These were called baby houses and were built mainly for cabinet display (home decoration). They came with pretty miniature furniture set beautifully in tiny rooms with ornamental furnishings, well detailed interior accessories. The homes also included household items like pots and pans, crockery, beddings, cast iron stoves, wash tubs, brooms, and vacuum cleaners. The spaces also have miniature dolls seemingly going about their daily household chores.
  2. 19th-century Victorian dollhouses - Architecturally stylish with towering, precipitous multiple roofs, elaborate trims, chimneys and peak crests, a Victorian dollhouse is vibrant and classy. Interiors are plush, multi-coloured, multi-textured, with mixed finishes and wallpaper coverings.
  3. Tudor style vintage miniature homes - These styles are not necessarily a popular choice of dollhouse collectors when it comes to miniature collectables, but they are equally as intricately made as the Victorian dollhouse. Beautiful with a truly authentic look, Tudor style miniature homes come with marked wooden rafters, white exteriors, leaded windows, and tiled roofs. The houses are shorter which probably give them that intimate look. During the Tudor period, homes were not as spacious and the interiors less cluttered, however, there was much detail, character, and charm.
  4. American style dollhouse - Colonial style architectural. They are typically square-shaped small family homes with a triangular roof, windows, and one entrance door. The interior design is decorated to fit any style of choice - traditional or contemporary and has a living and dining room, a kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms. Collectors and dollhouse craftsmen have a choice to decorate and adorn as they wish.
  5. English dollhouse - They are sort of similar to the American designs, box-styled but taller. English style dollhouses are mainly country-style homes and are more decorated internally and are styled with more embellishments. As is typical of English homes, their dollhouses are decorated to reflect either contemporary styles or those of a period.
  6. 20th-century miniature dollhouses - Modern dollhouses of the 19th to 20th century are made from a variety of materials ranging from metal sheets (tin litho) and fibreboard to plastic and wood but the majority of them are made for children often produced from PVC based materials. Unfortunately, they are less detailed than antique and vintage miniatures, and they lack the high quality and fine craftsmanship associated with its production in the past. A typical dollhouse of the 1950s, for instance, was made of painted metal sheets while the rooms were decorated with plastic furniture. This has made the cost of miniature houses very affordable for a majority of people.

Vintage Dollhouses - Great for Home Display

As mentioned earlier, miniature doll's houses weren't intended for children to play with but rather, they represented decorative conversational objects and playthings for adults to admire or boast about. They were off-limits to children because they represented expensive and painstaking works of art and served as centrepieces and objects of admiration.

Vintage dollhouses are like trophy collections, with some complete and fully furnished houses worth almost the price of a real-life modest sized home.

If you are a die-hard fan of miniature collections and will like to build a dollhouse, you can do-it-yourself or have one made to order.

A 20th century doll's house
A 20th century doll's house

21st Century Miniatures and Doll Houses

Today's dolls houses typically come in do-it-yourself kits produced from plywood or medium-density fibreboard and other installation accessories.

Installation systems include tab-and-slot kits which consist of thinner plywood pieces held together by tabs and slots and bonded with glue. With dolls house kits made from heavier plywood or MDF boards, nails and glue are required to assemble them. Contemporary doll houses are usually light-weight while the vintage styled classics are heavier as they often require siding, shingles, and other building features and treatments.

Many miniature houses in the US have an open back for easy reach and view, while in England, doll houses are more likely to have a hinged front panel that opens to reveal the beauty of the interior décor and its occupants.

COLLECTING MINIATURE HOMES WILL MAKE A WONDERFUL HOBBY. WHICH PERIOD DO YOU THINK WILL HOLD MORE VALUE IN FUTURE?

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© 2009 viryabo

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    • viryabo profile image
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      viryabo 6 years ago

      Thanks FA.

    • profile image

      furniture assembly 7 years ago

      A house collection of dolls are really a great tips to read on

    • viryabo profile image
      Author

      viryabo 8 years ago

      Hello betherann, i know the victorian dolls houses are what many think about when talking about miniature homes, so it seems a bit 'flogged' nowadays. But the contemporary ones always seem nicer somehow.

      Thanks for the visit and for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Cheers

    • betherann profile image

      Beth Morey 8 years ago from Montana

      I really like the last photo of the contemporary doll house. The Victorian-style houses don't do much for me, but I do like the more modern versions. Thanks for sharing this!

    • viryabo profile image
      Author

      viryabo 8 years ago

      Visited the site G, wish i live remotely around santa Monica. Would love to pay a visit to this museum.

      I always wanted a dollhouse when i was young, but never had one. It used to fascinate me whenever i see one. Now as an adult, i plan to start enjoying this fine collectors piece.

      I'm sure you will both enjoy having one, while she will love her gift to bits.

      Thanks for your visit G.

    • GPAGE profile image

      GPAGE 8 years ago from California

      Really cool viryabo! This will be great for my little girl! Not only for a gift, but for us to do together! AND you reminded me about a great little museum in Santa Monica called "Angels Attic" which features over 60 dollhouses!!

      http://www.lathingstodo.com/angelsat.htm

      GREAT idea and great hub! G

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