Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mexican memories

Mexico is in the news every minute this week. Pandemic awareness and preparedness is extremely important on our small planet, but even so, it makes us uneasy.

I wanted to blog today about nicer thoughts of Mexico. Last February I was lucky enough to spend a week on the Mayan Riviera with five of my best girlfriends. We had a riot. We enjoyed the luxury of a five star resort and had the the most wonderful time, enjoying sun, sand and sea, plus all the food and drink we could manage to consume.

Even when I go on vacation I can't forget my mini-mania. One of our expeditions was to an authentic Mayan village. (at least they told us it was authentic. We wondered if it was just for the tourists and all the Mayans went home to their air conditioned haciendas each night.)

The lovely young lady in the picture below is wearing traditional Mayan dress and gold jewelry. Our guide told us that the embroidery on her dress means she is single but spoken for - probably engaged (or maybe that was the other girl's dress - if anyone out there reads Mayan embroidery let me know). She is inside a Mayan house with the family's pet deer. It was so tame and friendly that I hope it isn't some future dinner.

So, inspired by our field trip, I went out looking for souvenirs and, of course, found miniatures.

My own Mayan girl is not as lovely as the real thing, but still I find her quite charming. She is about five inches high.

I couldn't resist the hand painted blue chairs. The Mayans we visited didn't have furniture like this in their huts, but I don't mind improvising. 

The Chihuahua is a bead. You can't see it from this angle, but there is a good sized hole right through his middle. I figured I could fill it, or ignore it. Whichever I prefer. He's cute though, don't you think?

The rooster is another bead. He has a hole too, to fill or not, whatever. The little Mexican rugs were quite a deal. Four for a US. dollar. The pots I already had, but I think they work with the scene.

I love the little 'Day of the Dead" cabinet. It is made of cardboard and hand painted. The little figures inside are made of some sort of sculpty clay.

So now all I have to do is gather twigs and grass and create a Mayan house. Yeah, maybe, after I finish all my other projects. Plus, the Mayan doll needs a baby or two. We were told that they love children and often have large families of 10 or more.

So we say goodbye to our lovely Mayan hostesses for today, and hope that the bad old flu goes away quickly so we can visit again soon. Adios!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Plot Thickens!!

I am so excited!

Tallulah-Belle from Tallulah-Belle Originals recognized my Stockbroker Tudor dollhouse as her childhood home in England. It's spooky how identical my dollhouse is to the real house which is one side of a semi-detached home.

Check out her blog entry : Well.....what a surpise I had

I left her this comment:
Thanks so much for this post. I am amazed that my dollhouse is identical to your childhood home. Your descriptions are wonderful. The coal bin under the stairs was a mystery to me until you explained it. I couldn't figure out why it had no door into the house. Your explanation of the bookshelves in the living room makes me see how this dollhouse must have been copied from a real home. No wonder you got a strange feeling when you saw it. I was experiencing an other-worldly tingle as I read your story. I like to think that this dollhouse was lovingly made by a skilled grandfather in England to give his grandchildren when they emigrated to Canada. He made it so professionally and so beautifully that they could never forget their first home. I can't imagine how anyone could give it up. I would love to hear more. Susan

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!!!

I am doing my best to save the planet by gathering all unwanted dollhouses into my living room so that they will be kept out of landfill sites and other garbage dumps.

A good way to justify my mini-mania, don't you think? The only problem is one more doll house and I won't fit into the living room any more.
Mary commented on the Stockbroker Tudor "Taking a leaf out of your book, I scoured the classifieds and a thrift shop website in hopes that I would land a handsome house as well. Alas, no new house yet." 
So, I thought I would respond with some secrets about my searches (although they aren't really secrets at all - just treasure hunts) .

I have had some good luck in finding wonderful doll houses. The first one I found was a hand made folk art house lovingly constructed for some lucky child in the 50s or 60s. It started the avalanche.

I will put up more pictures after the weekend (I have to take them first).

Then, quite by accident I found a new doll house at Goodwill on a half price day. It cost me $5.00. Later I saw it in the dollhouse store for $140.00 (assembled), so I knew I had lucked out. This is the house I spent over $200.00 to decorate. (When is a bargain not a bargain? When you wallpaper your doll house rather than add to your retirement fund.)

Since then I have been checking Craigslist and Kijiji regularly. The Stockbroker Tudor was listed on Craigslist. The seller was in my neighbourhood, only a few miles from my home. Obviously the house was meant for me.

The big yellow house was also a Craigslist find, although I had to go about 15 miles for that one. It is also a house from the 50s or 60s. The person I bought it from said it had belonged to her mother as a child, but could offer no other information on its history

I don't own a car, so picking up these houses is a matter of logistics. Do I rent a car, borrow one from a friend, use Autoshare? I have to take into consideration the added expense of obtaining the car when figuring out how much I can afford to pay for the house. Still I manage, even if I put a strain on my budget.

Both the Stockbroker Tudor and the Big Yellow house have been wired for lights. I haven't done an restoration on either of them, so as you can see from the picture the wiring is hanging around willy nilly. It doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of the houses at all. Some day I will figure it all out.

One more Craigslist house is this newer slot and tab beauty. The lady I bought it from said that they had made it for their daughter, but she was now grown up and they were downsizing. It was very well made, and I was happy to add it to my collection. It is a bit messy in this picture because I have been storing furniture from other houses on the verandas. The maid and little girl didn't come with this house, but the wicker furniture did.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stockbroker Tudor Doll House

I recently bought this 'Stockbroker Tudor' dollhouse through the classifieds. I have searched the internet until my eyes are blurry, but can not find anything like it online.
I am interested in knowing what company made it and when. I don't think it's home made. It is professionally done with interior wiring for lights, appropriately scaled floors and wallpapers, real glass in the windows, etc.
It needs some restoration as you can see from the picture, but it is gorgeous. Perhaps someone out there will know what it is, or where I can find information on it.
I need to decide if it would be better to restore it by replacing the damaged wallpaper and floor coverings with duplicates of what is there, or if I can re-decorate with my own designs.
Any information would be appreciated.

Half of the left side opens and reveals the front hall, the stairs, the upper landing and the smallest bedroom of the three. Apparently a tiny third bedroom was typical for this style of house when it was human sized. Notice the baseboards and ceiling moldings in all rooms. There is a small cupboard under the stairs with no access from the house. The smallest bedroom is the only room that has wallpaper on the access door. Because of that I think it might have been re-done at some point.

The back of the house opens completely. There is a kitchen door (missing), and a sliding glass patio door.

The back of the house reveals the kitchen (lower right) with a herringbone floor pattern, and dining room with a fireplace (lower left). Upstairs is the bathroom, with black and white tiled floor and delft-tyle style wall paper. The large bedroom at the back is missing its original carpet. All the rooms are wired for lighting, but some fixtures are completely gone, while others, like the one in the bedroom remain, but are missing their covers and bulbs.

The brick on the house is paper, but has a realistic look to it. The front entry is gorgeous, and has a small inset porch (the white area).

The porch area and threshold. The carpets are a mess throughout the house, but I would like to replace them with 'wood' floors anyway.

Dining/living room from the back patio door to the front bay window.

There is a built-in bookcase with sliding doors on the bottom. The living- dining room run the depth of the house as one big room. The bookcase kind of divides the spaces.

Inside the bay window, which swings open for access to the master bedroom and living room. It needs a lot of restoration, but you can see how lovely it could be.

I love that the all the windows in the house have interior framing. Some is missing, but I should be able to re-create them.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Petite Princess

In the mid to late 1960s I coveted (drooled over) the wonderful Petite Princess dollhouse furniture by Ideal. I never even saw it in person, just in the Christmas catalogues, but I wanted it so much. I was, by some opinions, outgrowing dolls and these 3/4 inch scale treasures were not to be mine.

Not then, anyway.

Fast forward through a happy, adventurous life to last November when I found two very different dollhouses at local thrift shops (I will tell you about them in a later blog) and fell head over heels in love.
My passion for learning and acquiring was overwhelming and I jumped into the internet with both feet, gathering all the information I could. I wanted to know everything, and I wanted to know it yesterday. I absorbed everything I could find. Of course I came across my old love, Petite Princess Fantasy rooms.
Just before Christmas I discovered it was easy to find Petite Princess on eBay and, happily, the prices were within my reach. I went a little nuts and bought rooms, furniture, accessories. I justified it by saying it was my Christmas present to myself. That would have been fine, except I bought myself several other presents too.

Still, though my credit card suffered, I didn't regret it for a minute. I had this lovely living room and dining room to enjoy for the holiday and I had the fun of decorating them for Christmas.

There are so many things I love about these rooms (The actual rooms are cardboard and fold flat). The details are incredible. There is a metronome on the piano. The bookends are little  horses heads with gold bound books. The coffee table came with large decorative cigarette lighter and ashtray. Can you imagine the uproar if you put smoking paraphernalia in a child's toy today. Kids can't even eat those chalky white Popeye cigarette candies we used to get.

The little in tea cart came with a wine bottle and wine glasses. 

The armchairs are upholstered in a sparkly lame. They came in various colours. I love the whimsey of it. The wing back chair is a chinese brocade with gold thread.
The cupboards and drawers really open. The porcelain pieces for the top of the buffet are really porcelain. 

I don't have any 3/4 scale dolls, so this little fairy is house sitting until a family can be found for the house. After all, someone has to look after the dog.

The dog doesn't go with the furniture. It isn't even vintage, but it is an homage to my beloved Labrador Retriever who gave us 15 years of love and loyalty before her old body wore out on her.

When I was in my buying frenzy for the Petite Princess treasures I discovered that many of these wonderful toys had never been removed from their original boxes. Was this old store stock. Had they been unpopular and never sold. Did they sit in stock rooms for decades? 

If so, it was bad for Ideal, but great for us today. After all these years, I can drool over these lovely things in person.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Designer wallpaper

I have been designing my own wallpaper for my little houses. This picture shows my first attempt. Even the ceiling is papered and has a border. Ceiling papers were very common in Victorian times. The fancy parquet floor is also one of my papers.

At first, I was delighted to see the selection of properly scaled wallpapers and floor papers at the local dollhouse store, but after redecorating my $5.00 thrift shop house with $150.00 worth of wall and floor coverings I decided to look around for a less expensive alternative.

As well, I had collected several books on dollhouses and after seeing some of the incredible miniature rooms that artisans have created I found the dollhouse store wallpaper a little dull and ordinary.

I started by doing a google search for dollhouse wallpaper. I found lots of free downloads that looked great, but once downloaded they left something to be desired. Some were low resolution, making them fuzzy when printed. Others were the wrong scale, or the colours were off. After the first few trys I changed my google search to Victorian wallpapers and found a wealth of resources.

Using my background as a graphic designer, I took ideas from the images of the antique wallpaper and created sheets of patterns for my own use. I an quite pleased with the way my first room turned out. The door is also a print out and glued to the wall on a Trompe L'Oeil fashion.

I have always loved Arts and Crafts designs and couldn't resist doing my dollhouse kitchen with the lovely Macintosh rose tiles. The floor and upper wall tile (white) and tin ceiling are from the dollhouse store.

The lovely furniture is artisan-made and was a Goodwill find a few years ago. You can see the discoloration on the table were kitchen items were displayed in some long ago dollhouse.

I will be  furnishing the kitchen  with a stove and accessories once I finish decorating the house. It is proving to be a bigger job than I thought.

I will post more pictures of my wallpaper designs as I complete the rooms.

The found dollhouse

Sometimes you come across a house that needs more than TLC, but something about it speaks to you.

Although this house needs a complete overhaul I fell in love with the front portico and I had to have it. Can't you just see it with flower boxes under the windows and topiaries on each side of the door

Some aspects of the interior had been decorated well and to scale, but the house must have gone to a new owner or the builder lost interest in the project. Look at the attic wall paper.

While a charming reflection of a 1970's childhood, does nothing to enhance the natural beauty of the house.

Removing the wallpaper proved to be impossible, so I got our my hammer and plyers and took the house apart. I found it to be well constructed, if not professionally made, and I became excited to see that it would probably be quite a lovely little home once I had stripped it, and re-decorated.

There are so many possibilities with the large rooms, and wide windows. I could have four deep narrow rooms on the second floor, or perhaps a lovely master suite, a nursery and a bathroom.

The main floor has such large windows it makes wonder if the plan was to play with the front room setting through them. The rooms are so deep that it is difficult for an adult to reach around the furniture and get to that part.

I am sure that small hands would have less trouble.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Family in the Big Yellow House

The family is sprawled stiffly in the living room of the big yellow house. Knees bent awkwardly, arms in graceless positions. The mother is holding an oversized storybook, hoping to entertain the children. The little girl, her unnaturally long hair in two thick ponytails, is perched in the armchair.  Their poodle, gazing at the girl with an unbroken stare, sits on the ottoman at her feet. The baby lies on the floor. There is nowhere else to put him, but he lies quietly, content to be there. 

The father is missing from this cozy group. He is sitting on the bed upstairs because he doesn't have any clothes, and no one knows what effect it may have on the children, not to mention visitors to the house, if he is allowed to roam around naked.

At one end of the living room the wallpaper is ripped off - the curtains too. Even the wood frame of the window is missing. The history of this desecration is a mystery. There are other mysteries in the house too, but the family doesn't know or care what happened before they came to live here. This house is wonderful to them. Their previous home was no more than a box, cramped and dark.

Granny is in the kitchen. She can't sit down and works continuously at the big cast iron stove that dominates the back wall. There is a gas stove in the room, but Granny prefers the big black wood stove. She is set in her ways. She is wearing the same print housedress and muslin apron she has worn for six or more decades. She is comfortable in these clothes and she sees no need to update them. At some point in the past Granny met with an accident. One of her feet is gone. She doesn't remember how she lost it, but thinks it was a result of some childish foolishness. She is happy to work at the stove all day balancing on her good foot and the prosthetic that is stuck to her stump. Granny is not one to complain. She has survived a long time and is just happy to be there with the family.

On the round oak table in the middle of the kitchen sits a freshly baked pie. Another child, a tow-headed girl with indistinct features, is trying to climb onto a chair and get her fingers in the pie. She is not adept at maneuvering the chair and can't get it close enough. Granny ignores her. The child has been trying to get that pie for a long time and has not succeeded yet. Granny knows that even with her awkward prosthetic she can cross the kitchen quickly enough to save the pie if need be. 

Yes, the family is happy and comfortable in the big yellow house. They don't question how they came to live here, just as they don't question the giant hand. A hand large enough to gather the entire family into it and still have room for more. The hand visits regularly. It moves the furniture around, adding new pieces and removing old ones. It lifts the inhabitants from room to room so they don't need to walk or climb the stairs. The hand can be clumsy, knocking the delicate china cups out of the corner cabinet or toppling the grandfather clock so that it crashes on the coffee table and spills the flower arrangement. But the family doesn’t complain. They regard the hand with great reverence. It brings them gifts - a painting to put above the fireplace, gold trimmed bowls to set on the buffet, a new dog, and sometimes even a new family member. They have complete faith in the hand and its benevolence. It was the hand that brought them to live in this lovely place.