… which I had to give up two weeks ago!
Ever since I was 14, I have had a dream of owning a dollhouse. Not a Lundby house, like the one I grew up with, having modern furniture in it and no people to play with. No, when I was 14, I was utterly in to the Victorian era, loving everything from the literature, clothing to the morals of the day. (Not the morals of the future Edward VII that is!) Of course it helped that I had been running around to castles, palaces and bourgeoise homes converted to museums, seeing the style. Later on, I visited the Museum of Childhood in London and Windsor castle, seeing the gorgeous dollhouses there. I came as far as ordering a pattern to build a Victorian dollhouse, which was going to be my grandfather’s task, and buying a tiny porcelain doll, which I made clothing for.
But my grandfather went senile and passed away from a stroke. Life took over as I always say. Then, on a family outing to Egeskov (on Fyn in Denmark), one summer, visiting one of their castle gift shops, I was once again faced with a dollhouse. It was gorgeous and my heart so much wanted to go home with it and finally start creating a miniature home. It was way out of my budget at the time though, and it would have been an insane purchase, had I given in to the urge. These houses cost so much that you need to know what you are doing, when purchasing one. I went home with a Victorian stove, for a dollhouse. That was all! And a silly purchase at that, since it has a tendency to fall in to several pieces for some reason.
Years went by and then I visited the Imperial War Museum, the exhibition “Family at War” about the Allpress family, and saw the impressive replica house, one of the Allpress’ son-in-laws built, taking 30 years. Or was it 40? I was struck by awe. Took tons of photos. And decided that I must make a Blitz house in miniature!!! Because I love the time period, everything about WWII except the fact that people died and the battles. I left the Victorian era behind, ages ago. It’s lost its charm entirely.
From then on, during certain periods, I have been utterly obsessed with researching the time period and what is available out there. But you only get that far, without money and a dollhouse. Little by little, I have acquired small things for my future dollhouse, but eventually you lose interest, not having a house to put things in. So off and on, I have looked at houses and tried to persuade my husband to buy me a kit.
The dream house was this one: A house sold on eBay, only for pick up in Britain. Broke my heart to not have this house, since it was no ordinary house from a kit. It was a one-off. The seller’s husband built it and it was an exact replica of the house the seller grew up in! What was fantastic about it, was not just that it was a replica, but the fact that it was untraditional and opened both in the front and on the side. (See an older post.)
When I realized that this house could not be mine, ever, I started looking at the houses built in the 1930s. And this dollhouse is a perfect example of those houses, that still stand out there today! The Doll House Emporium calls their rendition of this house style: The Mountfield. I looked at all sorts of shops, to find the cheapest deal, I looked at how all owners have decorated their Mountfields on the outside, but… I just could not get myself to get this sort of house, even though it has openings on almost all sides of the house. Even though it is perfect in all aspects… EXCEPT TWO. It has an indoor loo, which only a very small minority had in those days. And to me,this house does not represent WWII. This is not how the majority of people lived! Certainly not the ones who had to live in an Anderson shelter every night. Not the Keep Calm and Carry On people. This is more safe suburb, to me. So, sadly I opted out of this second, almost perfect house.
I went to Miniatura in Birmingham’s NEC, to get ideas, 18 months ago. I talked to the experts. Barbara’s Mouldings, suggested that I get her Terraced house x two. That is, buy two of them, attach them to each other and pretend them to be a one-family house. I have a very vivid imagination, but it will not stretch that far, that a working class family would have two stair cases! The whole idea was just too bizarre. Why two houses? It only has two rooms and an attic room with sloping ceilings. Which rooms would one choose away from doing, in such a small house? A kitchen is a must but what would I have to sacrifice? That is why she suggested two houses.
I had read on the home page of Margaretha’s Dockskåp, that the mistake all beginners make, is the one of buying a too small house the first time, so that they can not do what they want to do, with their dollhouses. THAT was not a mistake I could afford to make. Barbara also suggested something else, and that was getting a Georgian house. She showed the one she makes and I just could not get around it, not having a hallway nor stairs. Enough rooms yes, but I felt that hallways were essential, since I wanted a coat rack, like in “Foyle’s War”, an umbrella stand, because I love Phoenix Model Developments’ umbrella stand, and I wanted to place buckets, water pump and ARP helmet in the hallway, just like they did in the Imperial War Museum’s Allpress house! So, I said no to Barbara’s suggestion of dragging home a Georgian house kit on the airplane, as a carry on!
I felt that Miniatura was very enlightening, even if I did not come home with a clear view of what house to buy. I did have a clear view of what NOT to buy though. That must count for something, right?
I sat down and looked through all vendors from that fair, and stopped extra long at a place called Bromley Crafts, since I do want to get back to them, when it is time to cover my house in bricks. I did find two houses with them, which were interesting. First of all, their own room-by-room kits. An excellent idea, since you add on as many levels on your house as you desire and buy the fronts for the boxes, that you wish for. It becomes a costly house if you add on say five floors, but you could buy and decorate one box at a time, and spread the cost over many years. Hoping that they keep the idea and the production going! But my problem was: No hallways and stairs! Barbara suggested that one put false doors on one wall of the house, and pretend that the hallway and stairs are outside the door, BUT that does not help when you want to decorate hallways does it?!
Finally, I settled on the Laurels. A Georgian house with all the rooms and the hallways and stairs that I wanted. Albeit a little bit too fancy looking for “my” WWII family, but I did find that kind of house in all parts of London, covered in either red or yellow bricks. Mostly red. And funny coloured doors like green, cornflower blue, red… I found the producer of the house, since I did object to the side windows. Windows steal decorating surfaces! The producer said that they would be happy to re-program their machine, to not cut out the windows on the sides, so I was very pleased and happy. All I needed now, was a lot of money, since the producers are the most expensive, all other shops selling the Laurels far cheaper.
I also had to get my husband on board, since he had promised to build it for me, having no skills for it what so ever, of course. But he got cold feet a year ago when I mentioned it would be a great Birthday present. He also backed out for Christmas and said we have no room for a dollhouse, even though I pointed out the perfect place for it.
Then I went to the miniature fair in Farum, Denmark on the 30th April, this year. And got to see a really cute little house put together by Gunnel at Minimani. She is not going to make any more houses and are getting rid of the ones she still has in her craft’s room. (See post on Farum’s Miniature Fair.) She sent me home with three sheets of paper, picturing the three kinds of houses she had at home. I showed them to my husband that evening and surprisingly he said “go for it”. He thought it was a “no brainer”. I was not as convinced as he was, but then I did not have cold feet about building a house from scratch, or kit scratch. We went there, two days later, since the house I was mostly interested in, had a family interested in it, already. Friends of hers. I looked again at the two small French houses, with only three floors. T. was most impressed by them, since they were small and slightly cheaper than my favourite. Even though they had no back door, so everything inside would get dusty. But he is hopeless. I have spent hours on end researching. This is MY thing. MY dream. To just say to me “you don’t need more than three rooms, that is good enough”, was an insult and I wanted to throw him out the door. I just let him stand in a corner and rant on, making a fool of himself, when I got in to a more serious conversation with Gunnel.
I told her that, while the houses were not even close to my dream, maybe I would have to settle for less. What do you do, when postage and price is horrendous? And when your husband goes on strike as soon as you mention building something? She told me how long it takes to build a house, all the frustrations, and all the costs for decorating walls, roofs etc. I did agree with her that at this point, it is better with a dollhouse, than nothing at all. I have nowhere to put all the little items I have bought so far. When I go to fairs, I do not know what colour schemes to look at. I can’t see what I need as far as furniture go, how much will fit in to the rooms and so on. So what happened? I told her, that I would buy the house that she already had a possible buyer for. And she was happy to make a sale and get more room in her craft’s room. Saying that now it was going to a good home. We managed to get the house out to the car, she and I, while T. did his whining about me not settling for the little French house. And whining about my discussions on how to alter the floors etc. with Gunnel. She thought it was amusing that the house is going to be turned in to a WWII house, while T. just went on and on that it is fine the way it is. Even though the colours are all wrong.
I have had to leave my dream behind. Now it is up to my imagination to make this house in to something, which I will still enjoy and have fun with. It is not easy to re-think everything! To give up on the perfect set up. And it will cost to alter. BUT I have a dollhouse standing on my living room floor after all these years. It is physically there. “Gubby” was ecstatic when we got home with it and wanted us to put all furniture in to it. “Oh sweetheart! Mamma doesn’t have any furniture to put in to it yet!”. I showed him some of the small things I have and he said “you need to buy a table so we can put those things somewhere”. Cleverly put my son!!! That is ONE of the things needed.
At the moment, all I am doing is trying to get used to not getting the hallway and stairs I so much wanted in my dollhouse. And to the fact that so many things need to be altered on and inside this house.
A yellow house from Denmark was not at all what I dreamed of. Something will have to be done about it. Some day. When I have figured out what to do with the white parts made out of plaster. They are fragile and can break. If I get to go to Miniatura again, I am walking straight to Bromley Craft’s stall and asking them if one still can use their templates and clay, to make the house covered in red brick. Usually this is done, before windows etc. are put in. Now everything is in place, and both door and windows are very fragile. I would have liked to have replaced all of them. One day, maybe I can?
The house was, should I say, cut out in Helsingör, Denmark, and was modelled on a Copenhagen house, from the year 1900. How on earth I am going to stretch my imagination, to see a British house here, is beyond me. But I am more and more telling myself, that it is the inside which counts, not what the stupid house looks like on the outside!
But the inside of this house has definite problems. Ever seen ready-made houses? Ever thought about how silly it looks when you
open the door to look inside, and you see all the curtains on the windows just hanging there, on the door that opens the dollhouse. Well, Gunnel hates that. So she has made the opening for the house in the back. I thought that was a great idea, till I got home and thought about it. Especially, since I want a corner copper to stand in the kitchen, this presents a problem. The copper will cover part of the window! Idiotic I know! But that is not the only problem. By opening up the dollhouse in the back, you only have two walls to decorate on, two walls to lean furniture against. So, I am not delighted by that aspect of the house anymore. But I will have to work around that problem as well…
Like I said, my husband thought the house is just fine as it is. I do not agree. THIS does not look at all, the way a 1930s house looked in Wartime Britain. If we start with the kitchen:
When I dreamed of my 1930s house, I envisioned black and white tiles on the floors. Like on the front of Jane Harrop’s book about the decade and the furniture one used, back then. But I actually always did like this kind of floor as well, so I had contemplated having the black and white tiles in the hallway, outside the kitchen, and this kind of tile in the kitchen itself. It is so well done, that I will actually not mess with it, but accept it as is. It does look lovely actually and it is not paper bricks, but real miniature ones, which I really do love. What I do not love is the ghastly wallpaper which will have to go. THAT I doubt existed even in 1900 Copenhagen kitchens! I will paint the walls creamy yellow, just like everybody did in the 1930s. I am going to have an authentic looking kitchen with everything in cream and green. Even though it turns out to be a nightmare, trying to find the right green colour paint, in Sweden. I was in town yesterday and my parking ran out, but Panduro, the Danish craft shop, might just have the answer. I need to go back with downloaded pictures on my mobile and compare them to their options.
The living room is the one I detest the most. Had it been Lily’s room, I would have been delighted. But as it is, THIS does not work for a wartime living room! Completely the wrong colours. Blue wood floors and blue & white wallpapers is very much summer house Scandinavia 1900. This room will have to go through an entire transformation. I have ordered an Art Deco wallpaper from Jennifer of Walsall, but since the sheets were on sale and she only had four left, I have no idea if those four will be enough. Nor do I know if I will receive them, since after I ordered, the site still said she only has four left and I received no order confirmation. I guess I will just have to be surprised. Either they arrive or they do not, and then I will have to spend time finding something else. It is not easy to buy wallpaper over the internet, since you can’t really get a good feeling for what they will look like in real life. I just hope that I will love the ordered ones, IF they show up.
The dark wood flooring, which I am changing over to, has already showed up though, from jandasupplies.co.uk. Excellent company, very helpful, quick with delivery and I have seen several things I like in their shop. Best of all, they are going to start making a 1930s door! If I can’t change the outer door on the house, I might at least put in a false door here and there to get the right feeling.
What can I say about the master bedroom? Depressing. The wallpaper is depressingly boring. Very modern really and not at all from decades past, in my view. And while the floor is lovely, it was a strange decision to make a master bedroom have a clearly livingroom-looking floor. But that could be helped with carpets, I guess. I do not think I will meddle with the floor, but the wallpaper will have to go. Since the sister staying in this room, is to be named Rose, I have been contemplating pink. But this room is far down on the priority list, not having anything for it at all, except a little book for a nightstand.
This was supposed to be Rose’s sons’ room, but since there is just one more room, in the attic, it does not feel right to make another daughter of the house, sleep in the attic, when home on leave from the WAAF. It is a room which will probably go to the daughter Lily, whom I already own. I have imagined her room all in blue, so this is completely and utterly the wrong colour. Even if I take this room for Rose’s evacuated boys, I would not like to keep this wallpaper. It is not a wallpaper I am attracted to, and I feel that I must like how the house looks.
The attic. Would it be right to make poor Lily live up in the attic? When bombs were dropping on London? The first place struck, would be the attic. A tougher place to get down from as well, when the air raid siren went off. I need to do a lot of thinking here. These rooms are very narrow so you can not do a lot with them. Besides, the attic was usually were children were placed, where they had their rooms. I am not even sure what I think about the wallpapers here. Lots of more research is needed!
So, was it right to give up my dream? Forego the dollhouse I had settled on? Just to be able to drive to town, buy the house and bring it straight home. To have a house finally, to do something with. I guess I just gave up, because I started to feel that my dreamhouse would never be mine. I no longer could see myself place the order and carry that box with an un-assembled dollhouse in it, in to our home. And I could NOT see my husband build the house at all! Sense had to rule over sensibility!