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Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Open House Miniatures - white elephant screen for doll's house

This White Elephant Screen owes a great deal to Graham Rust, whose book The Painted House is crammed full of designs for murals, screens and fireboards – not to mention studies from nature of flowers, shells, fruit, scenery and wildlife.

It is also full of excellent, professional advice on how to plan a painted project and tips on how to achieve perspective and lighting effects.

I would dearly like – if only I had somewhere to put it ! – a dolls’ house that I could decorate with his designs.

Unfortunately, I am fairly certain that I could never put any furniture in such a house as I would not want to cover up the murals.

My attempt at a compromise is the White Elephant Screen, which is adapted from one of the room plans in The Painted House.

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In the introduction Mr Rust writes that The Painted House is:

…is intended to serve as a pattern book for professional painters and a source of inspiration for those seeking ideas for the decoration of their houses…

This does not mean to say that his designs are copyright free and, if you buy his book and use his ideas, please make sure you give him full credit.

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Dolls’ Houses – from the V & A Museum of Childhood – ISBN 978-1-85177-546-0

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This is a large book (11 inches tall) of 144 pages and there is at least one full colour photograph on each page.

I bought this book (from Amazon) because I have two Shire books by Halina Pasierbska which I have found very informative and entertaining.

I was very slightly disappointed that this book covers much of the same ground as the two I already have – even to the extent that there are a couple of identical passages in both.

One quotation by Maria Edgeworth (from her 1801 essay on toys in Practical Education) that is repeated, is a favourite of mine –

Our objection to dolls are offered with great submission and due hesitation. With more confidence  we may venture to attack baby houses, an unfurnished baby-house might be a good toy, as it would employ little carpenters and sempstresses to fit it up, but a completely furnished baby-house proves as tiresome to a child as a finished seat is to a young nobleman. After peeping, for in general only a peep can be had, into each apartment, after being thoroughly satisfied that nothing is wanting, and that consequently there is nothing to be done, the young lady lays her doll upon the state bed, if the doll be not twice as large as the bed, and falls fast asleep in the midst of her felicity.

Carping aside – and there is a limit to what is known and can be said about dolls’ houses! – if I had borrowed this book from a library I would not want to return it.

It covers, in a very compact and un-fussy way –

  • a brief history of dolls’ houses – not just those in the V & A – (20 pages)
  • the dolls’ house as a ‘toy’ (10 pages)
  • an overview of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection (20 pages)
  • a comparison of kitchens through the ages (18 pages)
  • a comparison of bedrooms and bathrooms through the ages (22 pages)
  • a comparison of reception rooms through the ages (18 pages)
  • an scrutiny of dolls’ house furniture and furnishings (14 pages)

There is then an appendix listing the dolls’ house in the V & A’s collection and a bibliography.

On a purely personal basis, I enjoyed spotting modern items that I recognised.

Some things were very, very familiar and I am willing to bet – at least 50p – that the carpet under the kitchen table of Roma Hopkinson’s House (on page 73) came from Kristin Baybars’ shop because I remember cutting up a piece of¬† thin, boldly patterned real carpet, sections of which were just right dolls’ house size.

(Note for historians – I bought the carpet from a shop on the Kilburn High Road, in North West London. It was new (in the late 1980s) very thin, and cut beautifully without fraying at all.)

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