Friday, March 13, 2009

Homemade Australian - Californian Bungalow style house, late 1920s

Here is another of my homemade Australian dolls houses. Like the Federation bungalow, this one also comes from Sydney, probably from the Centennial Park area. I loved the front of the house when I saw it on ebay:

I love the pylon-shaped window frames and door frame - wider at the bottom, narrower at the top. This shaping of exterior (and interior) timbers is typical of the very common architectural style known in Australia as 'Californian Bungalow', which was imported from California in 1916. Other features of this style are diamond-paned leadlight casement windows, and porthole windows in the front door (in real houses, usually filled with a stained glass design of an Australian native bird or animal).

This house is definitely not a bungalow, and it doesn't show as many features of this style as the Californian-bungalow style house in Dolls' Houses in Australia 1870-1950. But I think that the maker of this house definitely had this style in mind - and the white picket fence is so typical of Australian towns and suburbs.

The exterior has been repainted - perhaps fairly recently. The original colouring can be seen in places - creamy yellow on the walls, with grey trim (very similar to the Federation bungalow in reverse).

The interior is much plainer. When I bought it, it had wall and floor coverings dating to the 1950s:

The wallpaper in particular was falling off the walls. I have removed it, although I've left most of the flooring under the new floor papers. I discovered remnants of the original decoration. All rooms had heavily embossed cream wallpaper; the largest fragment is above the light switches:

Upstairs there was a flocked crimson floor covering:

and an olivey grey green patterned material downstairs:

Cream, deep pink and olive were fashionable colours for decorating Californian bungalows in the 1920s.

I couldn't hope to find enough vintage embossed wallpaper; I have one beautiful sample sheet, but you can't scan or photocopy embossing! Instead, I have used vintage sample papers of wallpaper - French this time, some of it thick and washable. So the house is much more decorative than it would originally have been.

Here is the living room.
It's 1929, and the man of the house is a well-to-do business man. He and his wife have recently been on a trip through Great Britain and the Continent, and have brought back souvenir books - of Inverness, Burns Country, the Krkonose Mountains, and Stuttgart. They are now entertaining two visitors from the Continent (I'm not sure exactly where), and the maid has served tea and coffee.

The furniture here is German, apart from the beautiful fireplace, which I think is English.

Upstairs is the nursery, where a governess and a nurse are supervising a tea party of four small children, as well as a toddler in a playpen and a baby in a cot:

The playpen and stroller are German, the sideboard is homemade Australian (and I think the table and chairs are too). The rest of the furniture at the back of the room, which you can see a bit better in this photo, is American - Wisconsin Toy Company nursery furniture from the 1930s.

I have bought vintage fabric to make curtains for each room. I'm keeping the curtains which came with the house, but not using them; they are transparent white nylon, and I think they date from the 1950s decoration of the house.
There is a light in each room; whether this was original (1920s) or installed later, I don't know. The wiring runs to the roof, where there was no doubt a battery - I haven't tried to get the lighting going again (yet).

In the main bedroom, there are two single beds - at the back, one in English oak (which comes with a dresser and wardrobe)

and at the front, a Wisconsin Toy Company 1930s "Moderne Bed Room Set". I bought this through a live auction on US ebay - it was not cheap! But the tapering lines of the furniture reflect the lines of the window and door frames on the front of the house.

In this room, the eldest daughter of the house and a friend are looking at the lengths of material they have just bought, and considering which of the designs in the Weldon Ladies Journal they will have them made up into:

Downstairs is the kitchen, where you can see the light switches and also the dagger-shaped curtain rod finials, which I think are most likely original (they are in all the rooms):

Cook's nephew has dropped in. He is unemployed, and tramping around with his cockatoo looking for work. Cook has fried up some bacon, eggs and tomatoes to give him a good feed before sending him off again, and is joining him for a cup of tea before she gets back to work. She is lucky to have a Triang kitchen range, though I hope she won't mind a modern new gas stove if I ever have a Triang house that needs a stove. (There's no frying pan, so she must have taken it out to the scullery, which, with the bathroom, is perhaps in a lean-to on the back of the house - though that is not typical of Californian bungalows).

Cook has a very large cookbook which she inherited from her mother. It contains recipes for sandwiches, salads, chafing dishes and cocktails!
The table and chairs here came with the sideboard now in the nursery - they are all homemade Australian. The cupboard on the right is now a cleaning cupboard (or will be when I get some brooms and dusters and so on). It has had a past life as a shaving cupboard and a pen and ink holder; I like its design.

As I've said, and as the calendars in the kitchen and living room show, I've set this house in 1929. I'm not sure of the actual date of construction, but there are some clues. Californian bungalows proliferated in the 1920s, and one part of this house has a trade name marked on it:

This is the underside of the roof, which can be lifted off. Presdwood is a trade name of masonite hardboard. It seems that it was invented in 1924, and was mass produced starting from 1929 - in America. I suspect that it would have been used to make the roof of a dolls' house in Australia a bit later than this, so perhaps the house really dates from the 1930s.


  1. Your Dolls Houses are fantastic. Do you know Rachel Whiteread's work? She collects old Dolls Houses too.
    I'd love you to look at my miniature gallery:
    Rebecca M

  2. Thank you Rebecca! The Shopping Sherpa had a post about your miniature gallery - now I've had a better look through all the different installations. I wish I could see them in person.