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Frequently Asked Questions

This page gives answers to all of those frequently asked questions about the Dolls House Emporium.

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A brief history of Dolls’ Houses

Dolls’ Houses, for centuries, have been providing educational recreation and enjoyment for their fortunate owners.Originally, fine craftsmen were commissioned by wealthy patrons to produce replicas of outstanding interiors in miniature. The earliest example was probably the house made for a Bavarian Duke, Albert V, in the sixteenth century. Not many were able to afford such a splendid display, and the ‘cupboard dolls’ house‘ evolved, in which to display miniature room settings.

Later, it was fashionable to use a dolls’ house as a means of demonstrating household management. By the Victorian era, mass-production meant that the nurseries were equipped with fully-furnished dolls’ houses, and they became a toy. The finest example of a dolls’ house must surely be Queen Mary’s, on view at Windsor Castle, and designed by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Many craftsmen donated their work to decorate and furnish the interior of the house, and even the linen is monogrammed. The splendid result is not only a wonder to behold, but also an accurate record of life in a stately home in the early twentieth century. At about the same time, Mrs James Ward Thorne, who resided in America but travelled widely and visited country homes and castles in Europe, indulged her childhood passion for collecting miniatures and built up an impressive collection.

By the 1930s, Mrs Thorne, assisted by the depression and the requirement of wealthy families to liquidate certain assets, had been able to acquire miniatures at advantageous prices – so many, in fact that it became necessary to rent a studio in which to house the collection. Mrs Thorne then decided to create miniature rooms in which to display her collection. Mrs Thorne’s talent for producing miniature interiors, albeit with assistance from friends and craftsmen, proved to be immense and in 1932 the first set of 30 rooms was put on display at the Chicago Historical Society. Unfortunately this set of rooms was presented to The Institute of Art in Chicago in 1940 who, shortly afterwards, sold it to the IBM Corporation. After years of being on tour, the rooms were spotted in a store window by Mrs Thorne’s son, who arranged to have them returned to her for refurbishment. The Thorne Rooms are now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Although ready-made displays of the standard of the Thorne Rooms and antique dolls’ houses are difficult to find and fetch high prices at auctions, it is not necessary to spend a lot to enjoy the hobby. Many items can be made (Blue Peter style!) from household objects – the difficulty is recognising what, at full size, can be made into a perfect 1:12 scale miniature. An artistic and inventive approach is necessary and the results can be spectacular. Whatever your age, there’s always a certain fascination in miniatures. Nearly everyone can remember using small-scale playthings as a child, whether dolls, model cars, model railways, soldiers or replica pots and pans, tea sets and so on. The fine replicas available today are not only a reminder of our childhood but also an historic exhibit.

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Getting started in the Dolls’ House hobby

There are many things that need to be considered when starting out within the dolls’ house hobby in order to get it right first time around. For example, not all dolls’ house furniture is made to the same scale, so if you are not careful you may find that some furniture and accessories that you buy are too large or too small for your dolls’ house. There are options to buy fully furnished dolls’ houses if you do not feel too confident about the what’s, where’s and who’s first time around. Below is a quick guide on how to get started when buying your first dolls’ house.

Research

The first thing to do is to find out as much as possible about the hobby. Read magazines and visit websites to gain a good knowledge of the hobby. A good place to start would be by visiting a popular search engine such as Google. This site can act as a starting point to help you access the masses of information that is available on the internet and find out more information about dolls’ houses. Also on the internet, you can buy dolls’ house related books from numerous book sellers. The most recognised online book seller is Amazon. Researching this information can help give you an idea of the type of dolls’ house that will suit you.

Choosing your perfect house

Once you have researched the dolls’ house hobby and seen what is available, you can then move on to choosing your perfect dolls’ house. By this point you will probably have an idea of the type of house you are looking for, and so this will enable you to narrow your search.

Building, Decorating and Lighting your dolls’ house

So you now have an idea of the type of house you want. You may have even bought it already. The next stage is to get help on how to build, decorate and light your dolls’ house. Some houses come as kits, which are ready to build, others may require a little more craftsmanship. It is usually advised to paint the outside of your house before building it, and also install any lighting before decorating.

Furnishing your dolls’ house

Once you have decorated your dolls’ house, it is then time to start furnishing it. There are thousands of different accessories and items of furniture available for dolls’ houses, from old Victorian antiques to modern day technology such as plasma televisions, and you can mix and match to your own taste.

Advancing your hobby

If you find that the dolls’ house hobby is becoming a big part of your free time, there are a number of ways you can make the most out of the hobby. You can join numerous dolls’ house clubs and subscribe to a magazine. This is another good way to find out what is available to you, and will give you information about various shops and catalogues that can provide you with everything you need to build, decorate and furnish your dolls’ house.

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