Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blue Box 1980 dolls house

I have three dolls houses made by Blue Box, a Hong Kong based company. This one dates from the 1980s - the base of the house, and the bed, have 'Copyright 1980' on them, as well as 'Blue Box Made in Hong Kong', like all the other pieces. The front of the house is so typical of many houses built in Australian towns and suburbs in the 80s - a light-coloured exterior (light bricks or brick veneer, or brick covered with cement rendering, in contrast to the dark brown, liver-coloured or red brick of earlier years), an arched porch to the front door, a carriage lamp to light it, and French windows opening to a balcony enclosed by columns, rather than metal or wooden railings.

The house and furniture are both made of plastic. Some of it is a bit discoloured - Bundaberg and Darwin both have hot climates. The flooring is made of loose cardboard inserts. The colours seem typically 80s - beige, tan, mushroom (a muted browny pink very popular in Australia) - much softer than the bright orange, green, yellow and dark brown of the 1970s.

I bought this house on Australian ebay from Bundaberg, in Queensland. It was definitely owned by a Queensland child, who has added stickers to decorate the walls and floor:

In the upstairs room, there are two stickers for the World Expo held in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, in 1988. The platypus on the left was the mascot of the show (and probably had a name, but I don't know it.)

In the downstairs right room, there is a Queensland Police 'Stranger Danger' sticker, warning kids of the dangers of talking to people they don't know.

There's also a Commonwealth Bank sticker (from before it was privatised):

No doubt at all that this was owned by an Australian child!

There is a 'garden' stuck on the front of the base, perhaps by the original owner:

This child also acquired a second bathroom, so one is in the entrance hall! I have put the main bathroom in that little room on the right downstairs, which actually looks to me like a garage - but on the original box, it's furnished as the kitchen, and the bathroom is upstairs:

Mine didn't come with its box, but I have seen them on other ebay auctions.

I like this house, so typically 1980s, but I would prefer to have dolls which can move (or be moved). The plastic dolls which come with the house are posed and not jointed, so can't be moved. (One, the mother, is missing from my house.) As the house is 1/24th scale, it's not easy to find other dolls of the right vintage and scale. (I tried some of the Ari dolls who used to live in the Vero house, but even the smallest was too big.)

A Secondhand Furniture Shop!

Inspired by Pubdoll, I have put together a secondhand furniture shop.

It's not as pleasant as hers, but is based mainly on one here in Darwin where I have bought a desk, some bookshelves, etc. It is crammed - tables sitting on top of other tables, passageways so narrow in some places that you have to go sideways - and sometimes you come to a dead end and have to go back.

The other room in this little secondhand shop is more inviting - nice lounge suites, embroidered doilies and table cloths, tea-sets, nick-nacks, and even a couple of dolls - are all displayed to tempt the buyer.

The shop assistants are not here at the moment - it must be after closing hours. But I hope they do sell some of their stock - I could fill this space over again with other spare furniture!

The roombox I've used for this secondhand shop is one I bought from Germany in its box:

(The drawings along the bottom of this box no doubt illustrate one of the reasons for giving little girls dolls houses and roomboxes - so they could learn about housekeeping!)

It's a construction set, made of wood and masonite. The upright wall posts slot into the floor with pegs, and the wall and window sections slide down between the posts. It's very easy to put together! I've chosen to have both windows in one room, but you could put one in each, on the side walls or back walls, or even one in the wall between the rooms, I think. If I was using it for any other purpose (such as the hospital I need a building for), I'd probably want to paint or wallpaper it. But it's perfect as it is for a secondhand furniture shop!

As with the German bedroom furniture in my VERO house, the maker is a mystery here. DBGM just means 'Deutsches Bundes Gebrauchmuster' - 'German Federal Registered Design'. I suspect the castle motif on the top of the box signifies the maker - if only we knew whose motif it was!

PS - I forgot when I wrote this that I had seen a similar box on the Puppenhausmuseum website (50er - 32). I have checked, and indeed it is the same - according to their information, it was made by the firm W. Fritzsche, ca 1958.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

VERO (DDR) 1960s bungalow

I have had this house for just over a year, but have only just put it together. It came in its original box, with an instructional diagram:

"Zerlegbar" means it can be taken apart. Of course, it has to be put together before it can be taken apart. The box also says 'Absolut Standfestigkeit durch Schraubverbindung" - roughly: 'complete stability due to screw fastening'. I don't know about that - I think you need to be an octopus with hands and eyes on each tentacle to screw this together. I managed, but I have to admit that the plugs into which I was supposed to be screwing the screws came out of the holes in the walls and became firmly attached to the screws, so in effect my house has metal plug joints. Oh well - here it is:

Definitely worth trying to be an octopus.

(The box also says 'Washable surfaces'. I agree about the roof and floor, but I'm not sure about the wallpaper or the artificial grass.)

Until this weekend, I thought this house dated to the 1950s. I think that's what the auction on German ebay said, and it looked like it to me. However, I was looking through the Puppenhausmuseum website trying to identify the furniture, and found a similar, though two-storey house, with an identical box, dated to 1968-70:

This house has a name - Seeblick, 'Seaview', unlike the bungalow. But they have many identical features, and were most likely made at the same period.

The Puppenhausmuseum site is a wonderful source of information (as well as being very enjoyable to look through). Another page gives some information about VERO, describing a house as made by "Moritz Gottschalk innerhalb von VERO (Vereinigte Olbernauer Spielwarenfabriken VEB" - 'Maurice Gottschalk within VERO (United Toy Factories of Olbernhau POI [People's Own Industry])'. So VERO stands for Vereinigte Olbernhauer.
Olbernhau is in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) region of Germany, in what used to be East Germany, close to the Czech border. This is an area well known for its wooden toys. I found some more information about VERO on German Wikipedia, which lists the companies that at different times formed part of VERO (including a wax flower factory, construction toy firms and a musical toy firm, although Gottschalk is not mentioned). It seems that VERO was founded in 1966, although of course many of the firms which combined to form VERO were operating long before this.

So, back to my house. There are only two rooms, which I have furnished as a bedroom:

and a living room:

The red and yellow chairs, the fireplace, and the two little three-legged stools in the bedroom came with the house. So did several pieces of country-style wooden furniture painted with hearts and flowers, which I think may also be made by VERO. Also, there were seven little plastic and rubber people (mostly Ari), whom I have callously dispossessed. Two of my Erna Meyer dolls now live here.

All the other furniture is German, but bought separately from the house.

(I apologise for the flash in these photos. This house stands under the table which holds the Bodo Hennig Bodensee, and doesn't get much natural light.)

I was lucky enough to find the bedroom furniture with its original box, and with the bedding (though whether that is original or made by a former owner, I'm not sure). The box is lovely,

but very uninformative, unless the numbers stamped on the side mean something to somebody:

So I have no idea who made this beautiful furniture.

The living room furniture, apart from the two red and yellow chairs, also came as a set (including the clock and plant stand with pots), but without a box, so again, I don't know the maker.

The tea set I bought on US ebay; most of the ornaments are costume jewellery brooches bought on various ebays.

The glass doors in each room slide open to a long patio:

One end is roofed, and has a bed of flowers:

Here's a view through the open living room sliding glass doors:

(These poor dolls are rather faded on their fronts, but still lovely.)

As well as a chess table and one chair (from Sweden), there is also a swing seat on the patio - what in German is known as a "Hollywood swing":

As you can see, along the top of the glass doors and at each end the house is faced with wood veneer:

The VERO mark appears on this end:

(And clearly, 'Made in Germany' does not always indicate that the item so marked dates from before WWII, as is sometimes thought. This house definitely post-dates the division of Germany, but does not state which Germany it comes from on the house or box.)

There is also a (torn) paper label on the side of the box, which no doubt gives information about the production run:

Now a couple of PSs -
PS 1. - The box for the house has some writing on it. The writing on the side is clear:

"Präger Verkauft". Now, my German-English dictionary, and an online one I found, both say that Präger means 'coiner'. However, I suspect that it means 'lay-by' here (or, as I believe they say in the US, 'lay-away') - in other words, a deposit has been paid and the balance will be paid. Perhaps a German reader could let me know?
- Oese has suggested that this is probably the name of the person who bought it - thank you Oese!
So, 'Präger, Sold' - and the top of the box tells us:

As part of this writing was eaten away, I played around with the image, and I think it says "Präger bis Mittwoch" - 'Präger till Wednesday'. So the house was probably first owned by a family called Präger - so I will call my Erna Meyer couple Mr & Mrs Präger (or Praeger in English).

Ps 2. I bought another set of living room furniture, never removed from its box:

The chairs are very similar, but have metal legs, so this set is probably by a different manufacturer. It has more information on the box, with the name Keller on the lid:

and a label on the side, with the name Dregeno and an image of a leaping deer in front of a pine tree, as well as the recommended retail price of 9.20 DM (presumably?):

There is also a name, D. Mansfeld, stamped under the box, which I imagine could be the name of the seller / shop, or possibly the person who checked the contents (although they would more likely have a number or initials, I would have thought):

I haven't heard of either Keller or Dregeno before, and know nothing about them. I have been tempted to remove the furniture - I love the newspaper holder! - but for a house this small, it's not worth it.

PS 3. I bought this house on German ebay from another seller who went to some trouble to send this to me, with the usual story of incorrect quotes, and then 'oh dear, sorry, too big for the mail'. When this happens, I am happy to pay more to actually get the house (I don't see why the seller should have to pay the extra when the post office has misquoted - it's happened several times, in several different countries - just one of those things when buying a large item). I really appreciate sellers who take some effort to find a means of shipping the house I've bought. So, thank you, Limpeter!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Homemade Australian - Leadlight Arts & Crafts style house, ca 1920s?

This is another of my homemade Australian houses. This one came from Victoria (the Australian state), from an ebay seller who used to have an antiques shop at Armadale, and who picked the house up at a local market. Whether the market was in Armadale, or what the history of the dolls house was before he found it at the market, I don't know.

It appears to be quite old, based on the lino flooring and the type of glass used in the windows. Also, a lot of paint has been lost from the roof, and some glass is missing from the windows. I'm not an expert on vintage glass or lino - I suspect it may date from the 30s, but possibly even earlier, ca 1920.
A great deal of work has gone into the exterior of this house; by contrast, the interior is very basic. The house has three remaining glass windows, and one which would originally have had glass in it.
This is the main leadlight window, from the outside:

(you can also see the beading in the woodwork in this photo);

and from the inside:

The texture and colours of the glass remind me of glass I've seen in houses built in the late 19th century and the first two decades of the twentieth century.

The front gable has another leadlight window, happily complete:

You can also see the shingles individually nailed to the face of the gable here. (And some clumsy repainting, which I haven't attempted to remove.)

The side gable window is sadly empty of glass, but the metalwork is also quite intricate:

The other side of the dolls house has a small window with a single pane of cobalt blue glass:

This side, unlike the other, has timber clapboard or weatherboard cladding. It also has two drainpipes (one complete, one half there):

I like to try to work out what architectural style the builder of each dolls house had in mind. I have a book called Australian House Styles by Maisy Stapleton and Ian Stapleton, with descriptions and drawings I can compare with the houses. In this case, I think the Arts & Crafts style (as expressed in Australia) may have been influencing the maker of this house. This style was common in the decade 1910-1920.

Here is part of Australian House Style's description of Arts and Crafts:
A multi-gabled roof swept over the building ....The deeply-pitched roof dipped into steeply-angled gullies, [or] formed hoods over windows ... The roof was supported by additional brackets and corbels ... exposed rafter ends peeking from beneath the roof's edge revealed the honesty of the construction.
... The multitude of roofline gables encouraged a variety of finishes, as if to prove the architect's imaginative skill. Shingles ... were typical. ... Sometimes a shaggy coating of weathered timber shingles crept over the entire upper storey or formed an apron below a porch or window opening. ...
The organic nature of the style led to a diversity of window forms, each somewhat perversely different from the other and scattered with abandon. There were strips of windows, with delicately tinted panes, bays of casements with a coloured glass frieze, oriel windows and small slit windows. [p. 60]

Several of these features were also typical of the Federation style, common in the decade before this - coloured glass windows, gables, shingling, etc. So perhaps the maker, clearly skilled in woodwork and metalwork, was simply including decorative features seen in many houses in the first two decades of last century, without being particularly focussed on any one style.

While the exterior is very detailed, the interior doesn't seem to have been given a lot of attention. There is no ceiling - the beams are exposed, and the inside of the roof is unfinished wood:

Beams are typical of Arts and Crafts houses, but usually within the ceiling!
Why is there a strip of wood running vertically down the back wall? and why a ledge running horizontally below the blue window? Were there perhaps partitions dividing the space into two or three rooms? With several rooms, and well-made soft furnishings, the interior could perhaps have been as decorative as the exterior.

The house didn't come with any furniture. I have furnished it with items which reflect its era (depression?), the patterned and coloured glass in the windows, and its new inhabitants - two cats!

Both cats are German - the one on the left, standing at the table, is a Kersa cat:

There is a large jug for milk, some chicken soup in a packet, and a (quite modern) whole chicken. Behind her is a framed photograph (to be hung) of an explorer cat, a relative of theirs, pictured at some ruins in Italy.

The other cat is a Schuco Bigo Fix cat. He is standing in front of a German kitchen dresser with clear patterned glass in the top. The bedding is from America - a lovely crazy patchwork quilt cover. The fireplace is homemade Canadian - on it is a portrait of a military ancestor, and a statuette of a very well-known ancestor wearing boots:

The green pressed glass is German; the cobalt glass English; the glass hen dish came from the US, and the jugs and glasses came from the UK and the US, but I think they may be German originally.
I was inspired to people a dolls' house with cats by Vivien Greene's Shell Villa, "a lodging house for cats in need of sea air, kept by Tabitha, Selina and Bramwell Twitchett." I've never seen any other cat dolls like hers, and I don't like dolls with cat heads and human hands and feet, while these German small-scale soft toy animals fit well here, and have articulated heads and limbs, allowing them to be posed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Australian metal dolls house furniture

I first saw this furniture at the Dolls' Houses in Australia 1870-1950 exhibition in 2000 (also in the book of the same name): Canberra collector Wendy Benson's 1940s house has green bedroom and living room sets, and a blue kitchen set.
There wasn't a great deal of dolls' house furniture made in Australia - a lot was imported from Japan, the US and the UK. There weren't many dolls' house manufacturers either - I have several homemade Australian houses, and some homemade furniture. But I like having some manufactured Australian pieces of furniture in my collection as well.
The first of this metal furniture I acquired was a set of kitchen furniture which came up on Australian ebay not long after the exhibition. That set (fridge, table and chairs, and kitchen dresser) is now in the kitchen of my Triang 52:

It's cream in colour, with remnants of red paint on the handles of the fridge and dresser.

The next pieces I saw, and bought, on ebay were an armchair and stool, painted light blue:

And just recently I've acquired some dark blue furniture - the same kitchen pieces,

(the cream chair borrowed from the Triang kitchen for the photo);

and also four pieces for the bedroom:

They also have (or had) red handles, as you can see here:

The "mirror" on the dressing table seems to have grey paint over the blue, though it's not very distinct:

They are small scale - the dining chairs are 2" high, the double bed 3 1/2" long by about 2 1/2" wide, and the tallest piece, the kitchen dresser, stands 3 3/4" high. The taller wardrobe is just a smidgin shorter. So they're probably 1/2" scale (1/24th), or could be smallish 3/4" (1/16th) scale - they were definitely made in the days before king and queen size beds, when furniture was more modest in scale.
I wish I had a house to display the blue pieces in, but I have nothing of the right period and scale (at the moment!). According to Dolls' Houses in Australia 1870 - 1950, they are thought to have been from aluminium alloy scraps at a factory in Arncliffe (a suburb of Sydney), in the 1940s.

They are hollow, and some have numbers or letters impressed into the back. Do these identify the pieces?
Here are backs of the pieces I have (though I have to admit I did not want to dismantle the display on the cream-coloured kitchen dresser just to see if it had a mark!).

There is a number 1 on the back of the cream chair, but not on the blue chair:

The numbers 2 and (I think) 4 are on the large wardrobe and dressing table, respectively:

Was there something marked 3? I don't have one.

The small wardrobe and the bed are marked 5 and 7, respectively; again, no number 6 that I know of:

The light blue armchair has the number 11:

The two fridges, however, have letters - B on the cream fridge, and I think it's a D on the blue fridge:

As far as I can tell, the tables and the blue kitchen dresser have no markings at all:

I'm waiting for a dark green metal sofa I just bought on Australian ebay to arrive - I'm hoping it's by the same manufacturer, but I won't know for sure until I see it!

I would love to hear from anyone who has any of this furniture. Were there other pieces, I wonder, such as a bathroom? Do the numbers indicate the range of furniture, or perhaps the worker who made them?