Projects: The Dollhouse

In my ongoing hate affair with my Dollhouse Project (or “Little House Project” which I call it when I am trying to make it seem more dignified), I came to a realization which has allowed my hate to morph into love. My revelation? The simple truth: a perfectly executed miniature world, where I bring every room up to standards suitable for the pages of House Beautiful, is just not going to happen. It’s just not in me. I can’t even be trusted to bring my people-sized house up to a certain standard. So why would I create a miniature house that forces me to transcend my lack of thoroughness? I just want to make the house interesting, not perfect. Some people are capable of accomplishing both, but one of those people is definitely not me.

Now that I’ve realized this, now that I’ve fallen back in love with my project, like any love-sick fool I am a bit obsessed, working out the scheme for each of the house’s little rooms with a view toward the details. Only in my case, the details run more along the lines of an episode of Hoarders. Or more along the lines of an episode of Eccentrics, if such a show existed (why doesn’t such a show exist? It should. It would be a lot more enjoyable than Hoarders, which crosses a line into intense sadness. I always want to take some sort of medication that can eradicate sad images after I talk myself into watching a segment).

The inhabitant (yes, an imaginary inhabitant) of my little house is a reclusive artist. The type of artist who has never sold a painting in his life, yet manages to eke out a living, Grey Gardens style, by buying cans of pate on a small trust fund. This is a photo of his studio, stage one (the room has since acquired a lot more detritus).

Early stages of the art studio

The project is coming along nicely and will debut at our upcoming Home (re)Cycled Show at the Tusinski Gallery in April. Meanwhile I’ll try to tamp down my enthusiasm and avoid inundating you with progress reports.

And for a small taste of perfectionism, you have to check out the Thorne Miniature Rooms housed at the Art Institute of Chicago. Unbelievable. Mrs. James Ward Thorne, a woman with an obsession and loads of money, recreated period rooms so perfect your eyes will bleed if you stare long enough. These rooms give all of us a view into, not only American interiors circa the past, but craftsmanship in the service of detail that is truly a marvel.

Mrs. James Ward Thorne’s collection: Tennessee Entrance Hall, 1835, (built c.1940)

Mrs. James Ward Thorne’s collection: Shaker Living Room, 1800 (built c.1940).

4 thoughts on “Projects: The Dollhouse

  1. I know those Art Institute dollhouse rooms! Was a time I was obsessed with dollhouses but lacked the materials and wherewithal to put one together. We’d visited Colonial Williamsburg and Washington DC (where they also have dollhouses in some part of the Smithsonian, I think) and I desperately wanted a period colonial home, but all I could do was pine away. When I came home, I sewed myself a mob cap out of an old piece of calico and made do with wearing it around the house for a while. This is a great post, brings it all back. (PS: I love your dollhouse inhabitant’s back story.)

    • I would love to see you in a mob cap, merrily cooking away. And you summarized the dollhouse dilemma perfectly with your “lacked the materials and the wherewithal” phrase. The world of miniatures is not for the faint of heart or light of pocketbook. I’ll be sure to send you some photos of the house if you can’t make it to Rockport for its debut. And thanks for appreciating the backstory – I know you love a good narrative!

  2. Love your take on the house….several occupants, thus many layers of styles. And the Thorne rooms….rooms that filled my dreams all my childhood. Love those rooms!

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