Friday, September 21, 2012

A new dolls house

I don't know if you'll remember the scans I showed last year, from the very grandly named The Australian, New Zealand & Southern Equatorial Sportsgoods & Toy & Canvasgoods Retailer? The April 1953 issue has a full-page advertisement for a shop called "Elegant" Novelties, in Flinders Lane, Melbourne:

On the top shelf, at the back, are two dolls houses:

You can imagine my excitement when I saw the larger house on ebay earlier this year! Thanks to some friends of my sister's, who collected the house from the seller, I was able to get it freighted up to Darwin, and I picked it up on Monday!

I can't tell from the ad what colours the exterior was painted, but it has definitely been repainted. I can see tiny bits of red under the black paint on the window frames, and there is some green showing through the black paint on the central diamond shape. I don't think I'll try removing the black paint - I never get finished with exterior restorations, and I quite like the black as it is!

It's a book-style dolls house - it's hinged at the back, and both sides swing open, showing five rooms inside.  When I got it, it has bright red sticky-backed plastic (contact / fablon) on all the floors. That came off very easily, but has left a sticky residue. I just checked on Dolls Houses Past and Present, and someone had success using white spirit (methylated spirits?), so I might give that a go. I don't want to use eucalyptus oil, which is excellent for removing adhesive residue, because I think it might damage the flooring.

 I think I'll use this room as the bedroom.

Each room has different flooring. I'm not sure exactly what it is - an earlier version of contact/fablon? oilcloth? Lovely period designs, anyway! The walls are quite simply decorated - painted in a base colour, and then spattered with red paint - very simple and effective!

 This will probably be the living room.

This is the only room which had been repapered. Luckily it wasn't stuck down very hard - the main glue residue is on the front edges. The curtains are not original in any rooms - in this room, they were stapled in over the recent wallpaper.

This flooring looks good for the kitchen to me!

Two smaller rooms - the tiled floor suggests a bathroom, 
and perhaps the other room was intended as a laundry?

This photo finally shows the fireplaces! They are cut in each large room, at the inside front edge. Behind the walls at this point are planks of wood to which the hinges are attached - I'll take a photo of the back of the house so you can see that, and another of the fireplaces.
In this photo you can also see some recently applied wallpaper borders. I will remove this - the paper itself will come off easily, but there will be glue residue, so I haven't ripped it off straight away, having just spent some time removing the residue left by the glue under the wallpaper in the top right room.

I'm delighted to have this house, which is unique among my Australian houses in that I know exactly when and where it came from! I don't know who made it, but without the ad for Elegant Novelties, I might well have thought this was another homemade house, and wouldn't have been so sure of its age. (Of course, they were probably made in other years as well as 1953 - maybe sometime I'll be able to go through more issues of the Australian (etc) Toy (etc) Retailer, and see if it appears again.

The furniture that came with it was mostly quite recent tab and slot stuff, which I won't be keeping. I'm looking forward to going through my stash of furnishings and seeing what suits it. First, though, I have to work out where on earth - or rather, in my small townhouse - I am going to put it? I have too many dolls houses - or my house is too small, whichever way you want to look at it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Make your own 1970s chairs

I did buy a few other things at the fair - a book and a couple of magazines. The book was from the stand next to Anna-Maria's, and when I showed Anna-Maria the pictures, she said, "Why didn't I think of that!? Will you scan the pages?"
So here they are - with all the colour illustrations, because I love seeing how 70s style was represented here!

The book is called How to Decorate a doll's house, by Eve Barwell, published by Studio Vista in 1975 (ISBN 0289 70509 6). The 70s was when dolls houses and miniatures really took off as an adult hobby, but this book was written for children (as was the rest of the Studio Vista How To series - How to Amuse yourself on a journey, How to Disguise yourself, How to Mend your bike, How to Start using tools, etc ).

The introduction does explain about scales, particularly 1 inch to one foot and 3/4 inch to one foot, and recommends sticking to whichever scale you choose. It doesn't give measurements in the directions for making furniture, but suggests using the furniture in your own home to check the right size for your doll's house.

A lot of tips are given about how to decorate the house, based on who will be using the room, when and how often ...

The first room that visitors see is the hall, so it must be welcoming. However, it's a room where no-one spends much time, so the colours can be strong and dramatic:

An elegant, clean and bright hall, with its purple carpet and vase of red flowers giving a splash of colour ... (I have mentioned before the house which we rented in 1978, which had purple carpets and red curtains - or was it the other way around? - in rooms in which we spent a great deal of time. Clearly the decorators had not read this book.)

Postage stamps are one suggestion for pictures - an idea I have used myself (for example, here and here, although they would look better hung!!) - but personally, I prefer pictorial subjects to Willy Brandt and the Queen ...

The living room, of course, is where people spend a lot of time, and because of this it needs restful colours such as blue, brown or beige ...

Hello, Mr and Mrs Dol-toi!

This living room is decorated in beige and brown with splashes of contrasting green; orange or yellow would also have contrasted well ... A brown carpet and beige curtains would have worked just as well as a beige carpet and brown curtains, but not brown carpet and brown curtains - that would make the room seem dark and small (!).

Here are the instructions for making the living room chairs - of cardboard covered with fabric on both sides, with either pipecleaners or cardboard cut-out rectangles for the arms and legs:

For extra chairs in the living room, take some cardboard packaging (the kind which used to be used round fruit; is it still??) and make bucket chairs:

The colour scheme for the kitchen is yellow and orange, with a red Venetian blind - bright, warm colours making the room seem sunny and gay:

The cupboards and fitments are white, to make them look extra clean and bright - but the floor is patterned, as a plain colour would soon look dirty.

Here are the instructions for making this bright, white kitchen table and chairs - from polystyrene trays and cocktail sticks:

A pretty and restful colour scheme for the parents' bedroom:

and bright, primary colours for the children's bedroom / playroom:

Master and Miss Dol-toi happily playing in their bedroom

Monday, May 28, 2012

Before the Fair

Well, you've seen what I found at the fair. The day before the fair, my sister and I drove through the Blue Mountains to Sydney. We were running late leaving, and we were meeting our aunt for afternoon tea (already rescheduled from lunch). So when we stopped, my sister said "Just 10 minutes!"
I'd say we both had several lots of 10 minutes, in a bookshop, an antiques centre and a cafe! I had a quick scan of the downstairs displays in the antiques centre, and then went to get a hot drink before pushing on. I'd finished my drink by the time my sister came for hers, so I left her browsing her bookshop finds and scooted in again and whizzed through the upstairs section of the antiques centre - until I came to a cabinet which had all this in it:

A china or porcelain dinner set with a sweet design which looks rather like clover (the sauceboat is marked Germany) - and a set of four little blue serviettes (or napkins, depending where you're from), in rings!!!

(Actually, not the furniture (tables, chair, sideboard) - they're recent ebay purchases which I'm just using to display the miniature sets.)

A turned wooden dinner set, including a tureen and comport, painted with a design of cherries, and a vase of flowers:

A green painted wooden tea set, missing the saucers:

A set of four blue painted wooden cups and saucers (set out here with the same set of serviettes):

A green and gold turned wooden set of decanter & goblets on a tray:

A clock, some larger cutlery (marked Germany) and a larger serviette & ring:

A bowl of fruit and what I was most excited about, tiny turned wooden salt and pepper shakers!!! The guy in the shop (not the seller whose display cabinet these were from, but the guy on the till) said he'd seen others before. But I hadn't - not this small, dolls house sized. All the other items, yes, some more often than others - but I am delighted to have salt and pepper shakers, and I'm not sure how I'll decide which house to put them in! Perhaps I should put them in Tim's shop, and see who buys them.

In the same display cabinet was this little ring of charms - I almost didn't get it, but the little people in their big hats are so sweet! They're just over 1/2" long.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Buys at the Fair

There weren't many stands with vintage pieces (apart from Anna-Maria's), and you had to look hard. I found it much easier when the crowds had thinned out on the afternoon of the first day. All of the dolls in the photo above were on Robyn's Mini Dolls' stand. The solid wooden furniture, and the Fairylite bath, are from Anna-Maria. (The books and stationery are modern reproductions - two from The Miniature Supermarket, and two from Michelle's Minatures (no website; her email is

Aren't they cute? Both of these bisque dolls were on Robyn's Mini Dolls' stand. What first drew my attention to her stand was this set of folding furniture, which was in a box labelled '1900-1910 German Folding Dollhouse Furniture'.

I'm not sure if it is German - Patent No. 43297 is stamped on the back of all the pieces - but it's definitely old, and very ingenious.

And it led me to look more closely at the rest of her offerings. The two little bisques were on display:

They are wearing their original clothes, with 'Made in Japan' labels sewn on. You can also just see the 'Foreign' stamp on the back of the one on the left.

I bought this playground equipment from Anna-Maria:

These dolls are very small - these ones are tiny!

A kewpie and two other celluloid dolls with marcella waves, all from Robyn's stand. Having tried to put the dolls on the seesaw, I realise that the ones I've actually played on have bars at the front, not the back, so you don't slide down when your end goes up!

As I was showing interest in vintage dolls and furniture, Robyn drew my attention to this doll, which was on the stand - with the side of the box facing the front of the stand!

A boxed Flagg bridesmaid! At first I thought she was a bride, but Robyn showed me the end of the box:

Then she pulled out some more vintage dolls:

- this lovely painted-over bisque nurse (who's managed to get off her feet for a while, and has an Australian Women's Weekly magazine from December 1941 to read (from The Miniature Supermarket), and cards to write and send (from Michelle's Miniatures (email -

- and this Grecon riding girl!

who also has her tag:

The flowers in the vase are made by The Designing Woman, Annie Warrener-Edge, of Queensland. She had two arrangements of Australian natives in her display - the Christmas bells were slightly different, and she explained that these ones, with rounded bases, were made after she had a chance to look closely at real Christmas bells. I think they're gorgeous - I love having Christmas bells in vases at Christmas, and now I can in a mini house too!
The book of crosswords - with a pencil that really writes! is from Michelle's Miniatures.

I bought the crocheted rugs at the end of the second day from Kim's Miniatures - at half price! Now I've had a chance to look at her website, I realise that the rugs came all the way from Sweden (via New Zealand), and are made by Berit Gyllenhammar. Kim's Minis also sells miniature marquetry by Berit Gyllenhammar - amazingly detailed - you can see some in my previous post.

Kim's Minis ( also had fantastic food and baking equipment - I bought some baking trays and tins:

The wooden cupboard is from Anna-Maria. The gingerbread people and cutting boards are from Adelaide's Miniatures by Design (, and I found the Acme toaster oven on Diana Simms' stand (it's a fridge magnet, and she had a couple of others, a stove and something - but much smaller scale). This was another stand with vintage and antique dolls, though I didn't get a photo (and didn't buy any of them).

As well as the magazine, I bought some groceries from The Miniature Supermarket:

I was able to spend some time at A Sheila's Shed's stand - I've looked at her kits for 1:144 scale furniture online, and it was good to be able to see the finished items and choose which I'd like to try.

(I haven't tried any yet! There are also 3 tiny solid pieces in the photo - a sink, stove and fridge - so at least I've got some things ready to go in a house!!!)

Somewhere, I've got 3 plastic chairs from Anna-Maria - not to mention her Tomy Smaller Home!
I was sorry that there weren't more vintage and antique dolls houses and furnishings - in previous years, Anna-Maria has photographed stalls with quite a choice. However, it gave us a sense of achievement when we did find vintage things in amongst all the new pieces!

The day before the fair started, we drove across the Blue Mountains to Sydney, and I found some lovely vintage miniatures in an antiques centre in Blackheath. I was very glad I'd bought them when I saw how little there was at the fair (although I still managed to spend a fair bit of money!) So I'll photograph the Blackheath accessories next.

Diva's Houses: Waldfrieden and 1226 Cliff Drive

I had seen photos of Davidia Williams' creations, especially her Rose Seidler house, on The Shopping Sherpa's blog (and it was also written up in the Sydney Morning Herald, when it was displayed at the real Rose Seidler House).
This year she had two houses on display! One is an A-frame house, with this backstory:

Here's a view of the whole house:

furnished with lots of vintage pieces - Lundby, Tofa, Barton - as well as miniatures made by Diva. Isn't that a great spiral staircase? (Also a little scary, with no handrail!)

I love the crowded, lived-in look and feel.

Anna-Maria has much better photos in her post (taken while Diva was setting up, without the front which caught the flash. Also she's a better photographer than I am!).

While Waldfrieden is a 1960s house, 1226 Cliff Drive, Watsons Bay, is completely modern:

Here's a closeup of the backstory:

The front door:

And, as you can see, a very different colour scheme and vibe. The monochrome furnishings really let the artwork stand out:

Sorry this is out of focus - you probably can't see the Toblerone on top of the green crate:

More great artwork, and a lovely Mackintosh mantelpiece:

The stairs lead up to the bathroom (and I am obviously totally oldfashioned in liking railing or banisters on stairs - at least these stairs are against a wall!)

The bedroom, where the picture certainly makes me want to snuggle up in bed and keep warm:

Now I'm off to start photographing my finds!