Friday, June 26, 2009

Homemade Australian Italian Villa ca 1950s

Here is another of my homemade Australian houses, the one I've most recently acquired. It is built in an earlier style than the Federation, Californian Bungalow and Arts & Crafts houses, but was probably actually made later than those houses.

The Italian Villa style flourished in the 1850s, particularly in Melbourne and Victoria generally, following the goldrushes. The style included features such as a stuccoed facade, arch-headed windows and stone paving at the front of the house, with clipped box hedges. I bought this from an ebay seller in Blackburn, an outer suburb of Melbourne. As a sheet of laminate is used to form the first floor, I think this dolls house was probably constructed in the 1940s or 50s, a century later than the real houses of this style which can still be seen in large numbers in Melbourne.

The house has been made with a lot of attention to detail. The stucco effect is created by sand stuck to the outside walls. The front door is painted to show moulded panels, and has a little door knob. A lamp used to hang in the porch, and there's a door mat for dolls to wipe their feet on:
Four flat, painted wooden topiary shrubs decorate the facade, and the ground storey windows at front and side are finished with window boxes filled with fabric flowers.

Inside, each room has skirting boards and simple cornices, and ceiling roses so typical of the era when Italian Villas were built. Only one lampshade is still hanging (in the living room), though another loose one came with the house. Here's the ceiling rose in the kitchen; this also shows the plastic laminate which the kitchen ceiling / bedroom and living room floor has been made out of:

My guess is that this dates from about the 1950s.

It's a small house, only 40 cm (16") high, with 15cm (6") high rooms, just the right size for my Australian metal furniture, and for Mr and Mrs Black, PI Angus Shand's clients (though even they have to bend to get through the front door!).

Mr and Mrs Black have just returned from a meeting with the private investigator, and Esmé Black is being greeted by two very enthusiastic dogs in the kitchen. She has already started laying out the afternoon tea.

The cupboard on the wall is built in. As well as the blue metal furniture, the kitchen is furnished with Australian 'Marquis' brand white and blue plastic furniture.

(The 'Marquis Mouldings' company, later the 'Commonwealth Mouldings' company, was established during World War II in the Sydney suburb of Arncliffe, near Mascot Airport. During both World Wars, companies producing dolls & toys started up in Australia, but didn't always survive post war when imported goods once again flooded in. The Marquis / Commonwealth plastics company, however, flourished into the 1960s, producing such varied goods as school rulers, kitchenware, and toilet seats.)

Upstairs, Harold Black is relaxing by listening to a record. He and his wife are very fond of music, and Esmé is quite an accomplished piano player.

The green piano and stool are part of the same range as the metal kitchen, living room and bedroom furniture. Not much is known about the maker, although it's thought possible that the EFCO Manufacturing Company, which made aluminium dolls' heads in the mid 1940s, may also have made this furniture. EFCO had its factory on the Prince's Highway at Arncliffe, just like Marquis / Commonwealth Mouldings.

The wooden pieces in the living room are by Barton (the bureau bookcase and TV) and Dol-toi (the radiogram), and the flying ducks on the wall are by Barrett & Sons.

The bedroom is decorated in pink and blue. To the blue metal furniture, I've added two little side tables by Barton, to hold the bedside lamps by Eagle Toys. The rugs here and in the living room are Westminster Tobacco premiums.
The cat has been asleep on the bed, but has heard Mr & Mrs Black returning, and is thinking of going down to see if any food is in the offing:

The maker of the Italian Villa had to improvise on some parts. It seems that large hinges were available to attach the front to the house, but the hinges holding the front door are made from leather and attached with tiny nails:

The hook which latches the front of the house closed is also handmade, from wire:

At the back, on the right side of the roof, is a chimney; it's not visible from the front of the house:


  1. Liebe Rebecca, mir gefallen besonders die Metallmöbel. Sind sie typisch für Australien? Ich habe so etwas noch nie zuvor gesehen.
    Du musst ja ein großes Haus haben, um so eine große Sammlung darin unterzubringen.
    Entschuldige, falls du es schon mal geschrieben hast, aber bei etwas längeren Texten in Englisch verliere ich manchmal noch den Mut...

    Liebe Grüße aus Dortmund

  2. What a great little house! So nice that Harold and Esmé Black found a home that fit their size! I especially love the kitchen!
    Hope they get their daughter back home soon!

  3. That metal furniture is fascinating, I love the paint colours, so evocative of the period.

  4. Liebe Oese,
    Danke! Ja, die Metallmöbel sind in Farben und Formen typisch der Zeit (die 40er).
    Meines Haus ist nicht so groß! Die Puppenstuben und Häuser stehen im Wohnzimmer (3+), auf dem Kühlschrank, in meinem Schlafzimmer und die meisten im Gastzimmer (größer als mein) im "Kleider"schrank, auf dem Bücherregal - und ich habe zwei Rolltische gekauft, die zwei und drei Regale haben. Manche liegen auch in Schachteln verpackt!
    Liebe Grüße aus Darwin nach Dortmund!

  5. Helene, thank you! I will pass your good wishes on to Harold and Esmé - and I am sure that Angus Shand is working hard on the case.

    Thanks, Lizzie! Yes, the colours are great, aren't they? I also have a kitchen set in cream. The piano was new to me - who knows what other pieces were made?

  6. the first thing I thought when I saw the exterior shot of the house was 'Gingerbread house!' must be the sand/stucco effect, but it looks very edible to me :-)