Sunday, February 24, 2013

A home for imagination and creativity

When I was a child, I was given a dollhouse.  I played with it throughout my childhood and kept it set up even after I stopped playing with it (my younger sisters continued to play with it while I was in college).  When Q and I moved in together, I set up the dollhouse in our apartment.  Eventually, though, I stored the dollhouse and all its furnishings in a closet, waiting for a time I could bequeath it to another child.

Looking spiffy with the fresh paint --
and the open door invites us to peer inside.

This year, my youngest niece requested a dollhouse, so Q and I fixed up my dollhouse to give to her.  Q reattached the door and chimney that had fallen off, replaced the front stoop, and put in some new muntins for the windows.  We gave the house a fresh coat of paint inside and out and cleaned and fixed the furniture and accessories.  (We also bought some new dolls and some furniture to replace some of the shabbier pieces; the new items are not pictured here.)

We kept the original wallpaper on the second floor,
but repainted the yellow rooms -- so bright and cheery!
The attic opens up for a third floor,
which also has yellow walls.
Working on the dollhouse got me to thinking about why I enjoyed playing with it so much as a child.  For me, it wasn't really about the dolls; it was about the things in the house.  The dresser with real drawers that pulled out and the sewing machine with moving parts fascinated me.  I loved the miniature objects -- tiny magazines with real printed pages, plates and cups and silverware perfectly apportioned for the doll-sized table, tea bags smaller than my fingernail.  The dollhouse fed my passion for collecting -- I saved my allowance to buy a set of four silver goblets (I could only afford one at a time) and filled the pantry with miniature cakes and canned goods.

The wooden "coffee table" covered with magazines was part of a
set of boxes made by my maternal grandfather.  When she saw the
dollhouse, my niece noted "there sure are a lot of tables in this house."

But the dollhouse was also a home for my imagination.  Everyday objects took on new life as furniture or accessories for the dollhouse.  A plastic napkin ring made a modern side table (not unlike some of the furniture popular in the 1970s, actually).  A rubber eraser became a bud vase.  Glass beads stood in for berries or candy.  (Did I mention that I was a bit obsessed with miniature food?)  Seen through the eyes of my dolls, the mundane world was transformed. 

Cake, pies, and tea service all set up -- let's eat!

On top of the rolltop desk is a wax candle that I made,
as well as a letter to "The Doll Family."  I think I also made
the dried-flower terrarium on the floor in the right corner.
The dollhouse became a channel for my creative energy as well.  In addition to repurposing existing objects, I made things for the dollhouse.  I sewed rugs and pillows.  I cut up paper into tiny stationery.  I created food out of Play-doh and clay and cork.  I used Shrinky-Dink plastic to make a remote control for the dollhouse television set.  I made a holiday wreath and chain out of pipe cleaners.  These were not necessarily elegant or finely made items, mind you, but I clearly enjoyed the challenge of constructing miniature items out of all sorts of materials. 

The ceramic pies on the table were projects from one of my ceramics
classes.  Alas, the doll family needs more pantry space
for all the pots and pans and dishes!

The wooden pantry was made by my maternal grandfather.
In addition to the canned goods, there are some steaks
I made out of cork, colored with markers.
The dollhouse was my private world; I mostly played with it by myself. I could arrange and re-arrange things endlessly to my liking.  In a way, the dolls were less important because it was my house -- they were merely my proxies, sized to fit the house as I was not.  Elsewhere, grown-ups made the decisions and moved the pieces, but not in this house.  Not in my house.

The small round rug in front of the sink was one of the braided rugs I made. 
There is also a tiny box of kleenex on the vanity that I might have made.
The dollhouse, with all its miniature furnishings, has winged its way to Massachusetts. (Shipping was quite a challenge -- not only did we have to wrap every tiny piece separately -- there were three boxes of furniture and accessories! -- but we also had to find a shipper who could build a box big enough for the dollhouse.  After a few false starts, we did find a shipper who could handle the job.)  My niece loves it.  She was so excited about getting a dollhouse and she likes having all the different furniture. I am pleased to pass along a beloved childhood toy, to give it new life with another child.  I wish for her that this dollhouse be a home for her imagination and creativity, as it was for mine. To her I say, this is your house now.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

I love the sewing area, graced with the oversized pincushion I made. 
But where is all the fabric?
Of course, the fabric is at the dollhouse store! 
A miniature quilt store has tiny fabric bolts on display.

More tiny sewing machines and supplies -- even a teeny box of fat quarters. 
To my credit, I did not buy any of these, even though I was seriously tempted.



  1. Deborah - Thanks for posting the memories and photos of your dollhouse - I have an unfinished dollhouse my father made for me, and a stash of dollhouse collectibles. Your house inspires me to finish decorating mine one day! I love your plastic sewing machine! My sister and I made a bird cage out of toothpicks once, which I still have - complete with a bird swing! (Found out about your blog on QuiltArt list) - Denise L.

    1. I'm always glad to inspire others -- thanks! The birdhouse sounds wonderful and intricate; I can't begin to think how to build one out of toothpicks, with a swing and everything. Wow! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Denise.

  2. fantastic,so creative,how lucky she is to have such a treasure

    1. Thanks! Of course, I think my niece is a treasure -- she is a wonderful child and a joy. ;-) Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. Thanks so much for sparking childhood memories! Your dollhouse is darling--that Doll faimly is pretty lucky! I never had a doolhouse, but my very best girlfriend and I often built a "house" on the living room rug for our Barbie dolls, using small things and pillows for furniture and tables.
    It was a great time!

    1. I'm pleased to bring back good childhood memories! One of my sisters built a Barbie-house using the shelves in the basement; my Barbies tended to spend more time in their van, as I recall -- they were always going some place to eat or hang out. I love how we all found imaginative ways to play as children. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Antonija!

  4. Goodness this brings back memories! My parents built me a doll house for Christmas one year. It was a basic box shape, two levels with different rooms that they used leftover scraps of wallpaper, linoleum, etc to personalize each of the rooms. I think I had more fun 'decorating' each room with furniture and the like than I did playing with the dolls. Thank you for bringing back these wonderful memories!

  5. Goodness this brings back memories! My parents built me a doll house for Christmas one year. It was a basic box shape, two levels with different rooms that they used leftover scraps of wallpaper, linoleum, etc to personalize each of the rooms. I think I had more fun 'decorating' each room with furniture and the like than I did playing with the dolls. Thank you for bringing back these wonderful memories!

    1. I'm glad you have special memories of your dollhouse -- it sounds like you had fun with it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. It is being loved right now, though not nearly as tidily, while I read this blog! By the way, the dollhouse children have two moms AND a dad, who are all married to each other. It's kind of a Massachusetts meets utah scenario. Xxoo

    1. I am so glad she loves it! And how wonderful that the dolls are all living happily together in a polyamorous group family. ;-)