“miniature homes” or “dollhouses”: an exploration of terms

There are conversations wherein people ask what you’ve been up to, or how you plan to spend the rest of your day. It’s a polite inquiry, those auto-pilot conversations to fill in the quiet stuff. But since I’m asked, I’ll respond, “Well, I’ve been working on a dollhouse.”

A beat usually passes and then, “A dollhouse?” Like for dolls?” The first couple of times I heard it, I shrank a little, feeling my adulthood challenged. I’d respond by inflating my resume. Greatly. Ridiculously. “More like architecture and interior design.” Really?

It was around this time I began to rethink the whole, “I’ve been working a dollhouse” answer. Is it really a dollhouse if a doll doesn’t live there? And since I never intended a doll to live there, then, maybe dollhouse was never the proper term. This might be a good place to add I come to the hobby as a former analyst. I’ve been told I overthink even the simplest of things, and my super-power is the ability to suck the joy from the joyful.

Still, as a former analyst, I can’t help but choose my words carefully. Therefore, I’ve come to see miniature homes and dollhouses as somewhat different variations on a theme. I think of the latter as finished homes that probably include tiny inhabitants–singles, families, characters, pets. These homes are alive and lively. They have heart and warmth. And they tell stories.

And then there are miniature homes. Miniature home hobbyists focus on construction. This set, and by “set,” I mean me, wants to tweak doors and stairs and windows and room sizes. I want to add and subtract architectural features; mesh interior and exterior design, and ensure colors transition outside to in, room-to-room, and floor-to-floor. I view the house as a three-dimensional puzzle that results in a beautiful work that doesn’t always reveal itself until the final piece is fit into place.

So forgive me if you ever have the unfortunate luck of asking about my day. I will probably bury my answer beneath too many words. But the bottom line is the hobby is a pastime that “sparks joy” for me and my fellow miniature enthusiasts no matter what we call it.

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