July 12, 2021 is the first anniversary of my new, old dollhouse hobby. As I mentioned in post #1 here on realsmallrealestate, my initial interest in “dollhousing” (verb: the act of constructing a miniature house, not the Urban Dictionary definition, however interesting their take might be) began in my early twenties. At the time, I bought a front-open townhouse from a quaint shop in equally quaint Occoquon, Virginia, but I only got as far as the basic assembly (and a lot of furniture purchasing) when I gave up and passed it along to a local thrift store. This time, I’ve followed through with four completed houses, and one in-process room box. I’ve been reflecting on the homes I’ve built over the past year and how my housebuilding has evolved.
I began building dollhouses as a distraction from COVID. More precisely, a distraction from a debilitating case of Tension Myoneural Syndrome (TMS), a condition where my brain became so alarmed by global events (uh, a pandemic) that it triggered a sciatica-adjacent condition to pull my attention away from the awfulness of the world. I thought dollhousing would distract me from the TMS that was distracting me from the pandemic. The hobby helped a little, but mostly, it was a lot of self-work convincing my brain I could handle life and to please, please stand down.
The thought of building a dollhouse literally popped into my consciousness one day while I was out walking Sunny, the pooch. The next day, I headed to a local hobby shop, My Doll’s House, in Torrance, California, where I purchased the Beachside Bungalow, a home I’d seen online that seemed like a good starter project.
I pretty much followed the instructions word-for-word. In fact, I was so horrified when I found I’d made a 180 degree error installing the second floor, which equally threw off my staircase, I considered tearing the house apart to reverse the landing. In the end, I figured it would do far more harm than good since the glue was firmly set. It turned out I loved the mistake, and I think this is what got me thinking about instructions being more guidelines, than rules.
My second place was the Westville. I did some minor improvisation here, including adding an extra passageway through the bathroom to lead to a “secret hallway” and pull-down stairs to the attic.
By the third project, the Rye, I took a few more baby steps by making my own turned staircase and cutting an extra window in the kitchen.
With house number four, the Orchid, I didn’t do a lot of architectural modification, but I challenged myself to make all of the furniture, appliances, fixtures, and accessories from items found on the street.
And then I began the Tilton. I decided to turn it into a bridal salon. Originally, I focused on furnishings and I found oodles of gorgeous, one-of-a-kind pieces. But when I added up the cost, it was expensive. Like, really expensive.
For several weeks, I stared at the kit, thinking I’d change the project, but I couldn’t shake the idea of a sumptuous salon. I decided to go forward, but instead of concentrating on the furnishings, I’d focus on the architectural features, and make as much from scratch as I could. I’m having a great time with it, but I don’t want to give too much away. I posted pictures of the interior floor and porch over the last two weeks. The rest is on its way.
Dollhousing has been a great creative outlet. I’ve gotten back in touch with the artiste that has been hiding inside since my angsty high school days when I drew decent portraits, and wrote bad short stories and even worse poetry. While it challenges me to be creative, it also gives my brain a workout. Builds require you to plan ahead, so you’ve got to be on your toes. Sometimes you just have to learn from the mistake and do it right the next time.
I still look at dollhouses online and think how tacky my places look compared to some really extraordinary work. But I also have moments when I’m sitting in my living room and one of my houses catches my eye and I think, “Wow. I built that!” I’ve traveled a bit of a distance since my first house, and it’s been a fun and satisfying journey.