Saturday, February 28, 2009


In the mid 90's my daughter in Orlando called me and said she had a favor to ask. Her oldest was 'graduating' from kindergarten and because the teacher was a very good one, my daughter wanted to do something special for her as an end of the year gift. She then asked if her father and I could do a miniature classroom which would be presented to the teacher as that gift. It sounded like a good idea to me so I asked Tom what he thought since he would be the one to make the box to hold the classroom. He of course agreed...he's good that way, especially when miniatures and grandchildren are involved. Tom and I got busy making and finding things to put in the room. I had a number of items that would work, we made some and found others at various stores, like Toys 'R' Us where we found the teacher dolls and the miniature computers. For that first box the only thing we couldn't find in Miami was the desks for the students as there were no miniature shops in the area. Our daughter was able to find the desks because she has my favorite miniature shop, Ron's, in Orlando. Within two weeks that first mini schoolroom box was in the mail to our daughter. She was pleased with the box and later told us that the teacher was really appreciative that someone would go to that much trouble for her gift. I suspect she was told that good teachers are always appreciated!!

At the time we had two older granddaughters in elementary school so of course they wanted to make gifts for their teachers, too. We got busy on those boxes and added an interesting touch...because those girls were older, they had done various projects in their classes during the year so I asked each girl to pick out a project and duplicate it in miniature so that we could include it in the box. Both girls did excellent work on their projects; we were pleased with how authentic they looked and hopefully you can see those projects in the pictures.

I have added these pictures and the story of the schoolboxes because some of you reading this may well have elementary age children who could honor their teachers in the same way. The three boxes shown here were well received. If you start your planning now, you could have a fabulous schoolroom box finished by the end of the present school term.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Some years ago I found a post on the Internet which seemed very interesting to me. A group called the Miniature Industries Association of America began a program in which they hoped to find people to contribute dollhouses to Ronald McDonald houses. The hope was that every Ronald McDonald house would have a dollhouse for the enjoyment of the ill children and their families. I assume that most people reading this are aware that McDonalds has a program of establishing a home in any large city, and near a hospital facility, where any child with a serious illness can be treated and the families are housed in one of the McDonald facilities. I thought it was a wonderful idea and decided that I wanted to build a dollhouse which when finished would be donated to the Ronald McDonald facilty in Miami. The dollhouse kit was donated by DuraCraft and although I later learned that furniture, wallpaper and such could also be donated by other companies, I only asked for the house kit. I do not remember the name of that first DuraCraft kit that I built, but it turned out well and with a few furniture donations from friends, the house was completed and given to the Miami facility. Next are a couple pictures of that first house.


I so enjoyed building that first dollhouse for Ronald McDonald that I decided to do another one. I had seen a DuraCraft house picture that I loved so I called DuraCraft and asked if The McDonald program was limited to one particular kit. I was told that I could have any kit I liked so I asked for the Manchester and received it soon after my call to request that particular kit. I wanted to donate that house to the Ronald McDonald facility in Charlottesville, VA in memory of my mother-in-law who had lived her 90 1/2 years on a farm just 16 miles from that city. She was a much loved woman who spent most of her life working in school cafeterias in the area. The food that those children got to enjoy would make most of us envious. Who has ever heard of a school lunchroom where homemade bread is served every day? As a result of her involvement with the school children, she also knew who had had a house fire, who was in need of clothes for the children and she spread the word so she was far more than the lady who ran the cafeteria. In any event, I built the Manchester and my husband Tom and I drove to Charlottesville where we presented the house. It was well received, as I would hope all of the donated houses would have been. The July 2000 issue of Miniature Collector had a nice article about the MIAA program with pictures of a number of the houses which had been donated. I never did hear how many houses were donated. In fact, I never heard anything else about the program, but hope that many houses were donated. Now for pictures of that second dollhouse.


During the time that I was building the two houses to be donated to Ronald McDonald homes, I received a phone call from a woman who lived in Miami Beach. She said that she had been given my name by someone involved in the McDonald program. She explained that she had a dollhouse that had been built by her deceased mother; that she wanted to donate the house to a charity, but that she did not know anything about doing dollhouses and the one her mother had built needed some refurbishing. I told her that I would be happy to look at the house and fix it up if possible. The house was brought to me and I was suprised to see that it was in pretty good shape. It did need some work, but much of the decor was in good condition. I had to do flooring because that had not been done, although all of the house was wallpapered and a lot of the rooms had furniture. I did the flooring, Tom and I did the shingling of the roof and Tom made pieces to replace trim ones that were missing. I also had to do a bit of landscaping, make flowers for the window boxes and add a few pieces of additional furniture so that all rooms were furnished. When the house was finished, I called the couple who brought it to me and told them it was ready to be picked up. They were delighted with the completed house and told me that they planned to take it to Jacksonville, FL where they wanted to donate it to the Childrens' Home, the facility where the woman's mother had lived. I have to say that doing houses for a good cause is a real joy and anyone who has the opportunity to do a similar project is well rewarded. I recently heard of a project in NJ where one can donate a dollhouse and the group involved will put the house together and give it to a child who is dealing with serious health problems. For more information on this project see the following: Now for pictures of that Harrison dollhouse.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Some years ago when my younger daughter told us that she was going to give us grandchild #3 and when I knew that the baby shower would be held in Miami, I decided that my gift to her had to be something miniature and hopefully, something practical. I talked over my ideas with husband Tom because he would be making the basic box and we decided to build a miniature nursery which would be done as much as possible in the colors and style of the real nursery. It also would have lights in the ceiling and a music box to hopefully lull the baby to sleep. Tom completed the box for me and I proceeded to decorate it. The first nursery box had a teddy bear theme and I found a mini shop owner who said she could order wallpaper for me. When the paper came in, it was not colored, that is the teddy bears were colorless and that just didn't work for me, so I hand colored every single one of those teddies. The final result worked well; so much more attractive than colorless bears on the mini wall. Tom used two night lights in the ceiling of the nursery box and they were wired to regular 110 house current. The nursery could be set on a dresser and enough light was given for Mom to feed the baby at night. I will post some pictures so that you can see just what the nurseries looked like. The project snowballed in that many relatives and friends asked to have one. In all we built 15 of them. The nurseries were all pretty much the same although some things were added. I enjoy decorative painting so some of that was added to almost all of the boxes. I made a lot of the toys, painted the tiny dollhouses and made pictures and Christening gowns. We also took measurements and drew up plans so that each new nursery would not be a new learning process. This was a fun project and I think I can say that it was much appreciated by all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The door decorated for Valentine's Day was part of a project designed and taught by former Miamian Donna Parker.

She taught classes called "A Door For All Seasons". The basic door box was the same, but there were five sets of decorations, Valentine's Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas. Of course clever miniaturists were free to make more decorations for any desired holiday.

Donna later put the instructions on video and sold them to miniature shops in various parts of the country so you may have seen this particular project.
I made a dozen of these doorboxes as they were very popular with family members and friends. The first picture is a variation on the normal box as the friend for whom it was made had a modified wrap around porch and the doorbox reflected that.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Most of the furniture in my first dollhouse came from kits as many were being produced at that time. The wallpaper in this house is also of a much earlier time period and most probably no longer exists. The Light fixtures are different and old, made by a company whose name, if I remember correctly, was Illinois Hobbycraft. Their fixtures were old fashioned, but said to last for years if one tested the bulbs before installing the fixtures. I never had one burn out so I guess the company told the truth.

I also should point out that the Wizard of OZ figures are made of Fimo. I found them on a trip to Carmel, CA. Wendy Brokaw was their maker and she did magnificent work.


In the early years of miniatures almost everyone had a General Store and I was no exception. It was the very first project that I made and kept for myself. Realife Miniatures had started to produce some kits and one of the very popular ones was the one to make the main pieces for a Country/General Store. There was always a Post Office, an A&P bin, a Coates and Clarks Spool Cabinet, a Diamond Dye cabinet and of course, lots of shelves. After the kits were put together, the mini maker then had to collect and/or make the other ingredients to complete the look of an old time general store. Here is a picture of mine.

It was about the same time that I discovered my first mini shop. I can't even begin to describe the joy that I felt when I first walked into The Dollhouse Factory in Lebanon, NJ. What wonders were to be found in that shop and I wanted one of everything. I purchased my first dollhouse kit there and then could not wait to get back to Miami so that I could put that kit together!! The company who made the kit is long out of business, but I still have that first dollhouse.

The kit was basically a farmhouse and seemed a bit plain so the next picture shows the porch a few years later when I decided to upgrade the trim. Next there is a picture of one of the bedrooms, a very basic room, but there is also a picture of that room when the house was redone/upgraded/ beautified at a later time.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


In the past few weeks my two daughters have complained that they have enjoyed reading my blog, but that I have left out the most important part of my experience in the miniature world. As far as they are concerned, all that Tom and I have done is wonderful, but the best part was the very first dollhouse, and that of course was the dollhouse built for them. In the 60's when our girls were in elementary school...the second and fifth grades, to be exact, I saw an article about a dollhouse in one of the magazines, Better Homes & Gardens, if I remember correctly. I showed the magazine to Tom and asked him to build it for the girls for Christmas that year. He actually built two houses and they were housed in a neighbor's garage for the weeks until Christmas. The other house was for the neighbor's daughter and because their garage was well arranged so that the dollhouses could be worked on, but not seen, many evenings were spent in that garage until the holiday arrived. The first dollhouse was nothing like what we have today. First, there were no shops where one could purchase supplies and second, no one knew much about the hobby in those days. Scale was not even considered and anything that went into a house was made by the beginning builders. Furniture was just odd pieces of wood and the fabric most used was felt as it didn't ravel or fray and was easily cut to desired sizes. Perhaps I should add a picture to show just what I am trying to explain.The original dollhouse is the one with the pink roof.

That first dollhouse was a strange looking one, but it was the most treasured toy that my girls had in their childhood. They loved it and took great care with it. If a friend came over and wasn't careful, she was not allowed over again, or at the very least, she was not allowed access to that favorite dollhouse. Notice that there is no staircase in that first dollhouse, a subject that frequently causes much discussion. My girls for some reason were not at all bothered by the missing stairs. After all, they just used their imaginary elevator to put their dolls wherever they needed to be. Mattel had come out with some small dolls called "Little Kiddles". My girls had about two dozen of them and all had their space in the dollhouse.

I am now well used to the wonderful furniture, mouldings and accessories that we have available to us in the miniatures hobby, but I still remember how things were in the early days. How many hobbyists remember when we had only contact paper for walls; when we used earring parts to simulate lights; when toothpaste caps became flower pots and spent bullet shells were vases? These days I wonder if there is anything in the real world that cannot be found in miniature. In the top picture, the yellow roof picture, is a dollhouse of the same design, but built more than ten year later. I still had not found my first miniature shop, but I did find a book with patterns for building furniture in scale. It was all made from balsa wood and some of it was not particularly attractive, but it did serve the purpose and very soon after that, real miniature furniture became available. The first bathroom and kitchen pieces were already on the market and a few stores carried them so I was able to use those in the house made for the two daughters of good friends, but that house also has toothpaste caps and bullet vases. How far we have come!!