So maybe like me, you don’t intend to move or you can’t afford one of those great homes you see for sale all as you scroll through one of your Facebook groups dedicated to all things mid-century. I long to be able to revamp and outfit a whole home with lots of kitschy things that I see, but unfortunately, I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Well, there is an alternative. “What is it,” you say?
Get a dollhouse. That’s right – a doll house. In more recent years, the trend of interest in dollhouses has grown as well as a change of design – towards traditional mid-century styles.
Once dominated by Victorian designs, new dollhouses reflect the minimalistic and clean lines that define many homes of the mid 20th century. For people interested in this style who may never actually work as an architect or interior designer, crafting a home and the entirety of its contents in miniature can often fulfill a long-standing dream.
One thing to know though is that furnishing a dollhouse can be as expensive as a real home, or maybe even more so in some cases. According to an article published in SFGate, “PRD Miniatures, for example, can cost anywhere from $35 (a tiny cowhide rug) to $350 (a kitchen unit with color-changing LED backsplash).” Also noted was “a classic Barcelona chair, shrunk to 1:6 scale, is $430.”
There are tons of sites to let you gawk at and admire the creative works of others. For example, take Modern Mini Houses, a site with some truly remarkable miniature houses, all designed and outfitted precisely according to what appears to be strict mid-century guidelines by Megan Hornbecker, a self-proclaimed “minimalist” who has been chronicling her work with miniatures since 2007.
For a more kitsch and less expensive way of furnishing a mid-century dollhouse, I’m happy to say there is an alternative. Remember Barbie? Well, she had a “Dream House” and, while any version of that can in no way compare to those coveted by dollhouse enthusiasts, they can provide a suitable and fun alternative.
Ebay is the place to start looking. There are often listings for the Dream House which was basically a room or two made from cardboard with furnishings made from cardboard as well.
I particularly like this one:
Even though the furniture and everything else is made from cardboard, like the description says, this thing is “Swell!”
I even got a kick out of the perma-image on the TV set.
So, yes, this is not really as fulfilling as working on the more expensive, scaled to size dollhouses. But I did remember something as I was writing this.
When I was a kid, I had a couple of Barbie dolls and I never played with them like most girls. I was interested in their home design, not the clothes.
My parents didn’t buy us many toys so I had to make things for myself. I used to take boxes and paint the insides with house paint, then I would cut out windows and doorways, then attached the boxes to each other to make my own house.
I then crafted all of the items that I needed to outfit any particular room that I was making. I used shoe boxes for beds that I cut down to size and then re-taped. I sewed my own bedspreads and curtains. I took yarn that I had and knitted or crocheted rugs. I made appliances out of things like Band-aid tins and I remember using a small, clear tackle case as shelving in the kitchen.
Back then we used to shop at Grants and would buy these plastic sleeves that held really small trinkets – like the prizes in the round plastic cases that you got out of a gumball machine. Enclosed in those were things like tiny plastic irons, cups, plates, utensils, dogs, shoes, mock food products, and more – all placed in the house I built.
Needless to say, while I’d love to be able to do a full-scale, money-is-no-object mid-century dollhouse, as I recollect, I had tons of fun creating my version when I was a kid on a budget.
Original blog post on ThatVintageSite.com
I'm April Bailey, a freelance writer and editor for hire who has been writing about various topics for many years. Most of my early print work was destroyed in a major house fire. Luckily, I was able to pull some copies from an old PC and have posted them here. Other items on this blog reflect my current articles and blog posts written for online publications and copied here so I never lose my work again!