Homes for tiny people

18 beautiful doll's houses

by
Beth Daley (Europeana Foundation)

As a child in 1980s Britain, several books and TV shows captured my imagination with their little people and tiny houses. Bagpuss. Tottie - the Story of a Doll’s House. And my very favourite, The Borrowers. Imagine being so small, the whole world being so big. I imagined these people existed, under my floorboards, amongst my toys.

My dolls came alive when I wasn’t looking. By extension, I just love doll’s houses. Being able to see into a whole building is really rather voyeuristic. Like walking down a residential street at dusk, the front rooms brightly lit but the curtains not yet drawn - a brief glimpse into strangers’ lives. But with a doll’s house, you don’t just see it, you get to control it. Every room, every character. And you see everything that goes on - the wealthy lords and ladies up in the drawing room and the lowly cooks and maids below stairs - it’s all a bit Downton Abbey.

Poppenhuispoppen. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Poppenhuispoppen. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA dolls2 4 poppen, 2 mannen, 1 vrouw en 1 kind. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA dolls3 4 popjes, kinderen. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

And all those tiny pieces of furniture. How do fat-fingered grown-up human beings even make them? Maybe it’s part of the training programme to become a keyhole surgeon? I mean, look at these minute baskets - who can weave that small?

miniature baskets Vier miniatuur manden. Source: Museum Rotterdam, CC BY.

On Europeana, I’ve found some really beautiful and clearly well-loved doll’s houses along with some gorgeous furniture, crockery, dolls and clothes to match. I love the old-fashioned ones the best, like this lovely highchair and what’s billed as ‘the world’s smallest medicine chest’.

highchair Houten miniatuur kinderstoel. Source: Museum Rotterdam, CC BY

L0074481 World's smallest medicine chest in Queen Mary's doll house Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org WF/M/I/SL/36. World's smallest medicine chest in Queen Mary's doll house. Photograph shows a comparison of sizes between the medicine chest and a half penny. WF/M/I/SL/36  Products A - Z Published:  -  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ World's smallest medicine chest in Queen Mary's doll house. Source: The Wellcome Library, CC BY

I was also quite amused to find some sixties-inspired doll’s house furniture - like a pink toilet (we have one just like it in our real house!), a plastic dining set, and retro white dresser.

pink toilet Roze toiletblok met verlaagde stortbak. Source: Museum Rotterdam, CC BY

sixties table Ovale tafel en zes stoelen. Source: Museum Rotterdam, CC BY

white dresser Wit plastic dressoir, met serviesgoed. Source: Museum Rotterdam, CC BY

Here’s a collection of beautifully crafted doll’s houses that you can find on Europeana. I love these ones because the quality of the photographs is so good - particularly those from Deventer Musea, Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum.

Dolls house 1 Kleding van popjes uit poppenhuis. Source: Amsterdam Museum, CC BY Dolls house 2 Poppenhuis met miniatuurzilver. Source: Amsterdam Museum, CC BY Poppenhuis met inventaris. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Dolls house 4 Doll’s house kitchen with 45 miniatures. Source: Rijksmuseum, public domain Dolls house 5 Mansion Style Doll House : Do-it-yourself Toymaster. Source: Spielzeugmuseum Nürnberg, CC BY-NC-SA Dolls house 6 Dolls’ House of Petronella Oortman. Source: Rijksmuseum, public domain Twaalf poppenhuiskamers. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Dolls house 8 Poppenhuis van twee kamers. Source: Museum Rotterdam, CC BY Dolls house 9 Poppenhuis op tafel. Source: Amsterdam Museum, CC BY Dolls house 10 Poppenhuis met klokgevel. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY Dolls house 11 Poppenhuis "Ria". Source: Museum Rotterdam, CC BY Dolls’ house of Petronella Oortman. Source: Rijksmuseum, public domain Dolls house 13 Poppenkamer. Source: Amsterdam Museum, CC BY Dolls house 14 Dolls’ house of Petronella Dunois. Source: Rijksmuseum, public domain Dolls house 15 Poppenhuis met inhoud. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Poppenhuis met kruidenierswinkel. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Dolls house 17 Poppenhuis met meubeltjes. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Dolls house 18 Poppenhuis met inhoud. Source: Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

Amsterdam Netherlands Rijksmuseum toys