As a child, until I discovered fashion at thirteen, I devoted every penny of pocket money to my doll’s house. How strange then, all these years later to have this pattern reversed – and quite by accident. In December 2021, my son Kit and I visited the Kensington Dollshouse Festival with the vague notion of finding a present for his baby sister Bunny. We were instantly gripped with miniature fever and bought the first house we saw, which happened to be a twelve room MDF McMansion. I wasn’t confident it would even fit in the playroom. It definitely wasn’t a Starter Home. But I’m an interiors nerd and he wants to be an architect, so quickly the house become a shared obsession. The baby seemed disinterested.
For a long time, we were intimidated by the size of the house and didn’t want to make a start. Instead, I busied myself with mood boards, covering a wall of my makeshift workshop with room schemes and writing extensive lists of tasks and timelines. I studied the history of doll’s houses, buying every book I could find from Oxfam and Etsy. And while I took inspiration from some of the finest houses in the land, our MDF shell remained untouched in the corner.
By the time we took up our paintbrushes, I’d raised my expectations to ludicrous levels and my characteristic delusions of grandeur were now running riot, at 1:12 scale. We weren’t just making a doll’s house anymore; we were making the ultimate doll‘s house. I had literally lost all sense of perspective.
It was quite sobering then to spend a solid fortnight of evenings getting primer on our PJs as we slapped on the basecoat – creatively unfulfilling, but we had at least begun.
Historically, doll’s houses or baby houses were used as teaching aids for young women, for lessons on how to run a household. Perhaps it’s a deliberate perversion of this, that our house only serves pudding and martinis and Dom Pérignon and there’s not a whiff of domestic drudge about the place. My daughter won’t learn much from this house because it is a pure fantasy.