Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

Hobbies of Dereham Dolls House Furniture and Fittings 1946-1968 by Rebecca Green

In the last issue, I continued my series on the dolls house designs issued by the firm Hobbies of Dereham, presenting the dolls houses and wallpapers of the post-war period. As I described, these were years in which Hobbies gradually recovered from the wartime shortages of materials for civilian purposes, expanded their range, and then experienced financial difficulties, a change of ownership, the introduction of merchandise produced by other manufacturers, and eventually liquidation. These phases are also reflected in Hobbies' offerings in the way of dolls house furniture and fittings. 

Hobbies Furniture Designs

Immediately following World War II, only one dolls house design was available from Hobbies. The 1/24th scale 186 Special, which had been issued in the 1945 Handbook, was still available in the 1946 and 1947 Handbooks. The plans for this dolls house included a full house of the furniture designed for the 186 Special in 1933 and 1934, in 1/24th scale.

 

Two single designs were published in Hobbies Weeklies in 1946 - a grand piano, and a model miniature car for a dolls house. 

 

A Doll's House Model Grand Piano, published in Hobbies Weekly No 2623 Jan 23, 1946

 

"Add to the doll's house by making this model Miniature Car."  Hobbies Weekly No 2650, Jul 31, 1946

 

 

Dolls house design No 2666 had been issued on 20th November 1946. It then appeared in the 1948 Hobbies Handbook, which also included "a new set of designs of modern doll's house furniture ... There is something for every room and of up-to date style." These were sold only as a complete packet of designs, comprising 30 pieces on 8 sheets.

 

Modern dolls house large (5" high) and small (4 1/2" high) wardrobes  and dressing table.

Available 1948-1960

 

Modern dolls house bedsteads and chest of drawers.

Available 1948-1960

 

Modern dolls house settee and easy chairs, and four occasional chairs.

Available 1948-1960

 

Modern dolls house piano and stool, and bureau bookcase.

Available 1948-1960

 

Modern dolls house dining table, sideboard and four dining chairs.

 Available 1948-1960

 

Modern dolls house 3 tile fireplaces for bedroom, lounge and dining room.

 Available 1948-1960

 

Modern dolls house kitchen sink, cupboard and draining board.

  Available 1948-1960

 Modern dolls house kitchen kitchen cabinet, shown closed and open.  Available 1948-1960

  

Modern dolls house electric cooker and kitchen table and two chairs.

Available 1948-1960

 

The 1948 Handbook also listed a wallet of patterns for "simple little toys and models", similar to that which had been available from the 1920s, right through until 1946. The dresser and chair in this wallet had been updated from the pre-war design, and the mangle was no longer included:

 

Kitchen dresser and chair, in the Simple Models Series 1 Wallet.

Available 1948-1955

 

In 1952, a Hobbies Weekly published an article on making inexpensive upholstered furniture for the dolls house, from items such as ice cream cups, pill boxes, small, fairly deep cardboard boxes, scraps of fabric and silk cord. Diagrams illustrated how to make armchairs and a sofa; the making of a pouffe from a pill box was not illustrated.

 

How to make an armchair from an icecream box, and a sofa from a cardboard box. Hobbies Weekly No 2936, Feb 6, 1952

 

In October 1953, Hobbies re-issued in 1/24th scale the first part of the furniture plans originally designed in 1/12th scale for the 186 Special in 1933 and 1934, and then available in 1/24th scale from 1945-1947. The article stated, "Hobbies already publish designs for furniture of a scale to suit their larger doll's houses, but this design sheet has been produced to fill a gap. For some years there have been no standard patterns for Hobbies smaller doll's houses, such as Nos. 2910, 2666 and the bungalow No 2792, and makers of these models have had to improvise the furniture themselves. With the reintroduction of these standard patterns, hours of work will be saved, and the resulting furniture will fit snugly into the dolls' houses concerned."

The first design sheet, No 3024, contained patterns for bedroom, kitchen and hall furniture, all in 1/24th scale. The wardrobe was 2 7/8" tall, and the base of the bed 2 7/8" long by 1 3/4" wide. Note that while the original 1/12 scale design had incorporated decorative fretwork on the wardrobe door and the foot of the bed, this is not present in the 24th scale patterns.

 

No 3024 1/24th scale bed, dressing table and wardrobe.

Available 1953-1965

 

No 3024 1/24th scale hall stand, hall seat and combined mirror and hatrack, and two bedroom chairs. Available 1953-1965  

 

No 3024 1/24th scale kitchen dresser, table and four chairs.

Available 1953-1965 

 

The second design sheet was published on 9th December, 1953, and comprised dining and drawing room furniture.

 

No 3032 1/24th scale dining table, four chairs and wagon.

Available 1953-1965

 

No 3032 1/24th scale sideboard, bureau and plant table.

Available 1953-1965

 

 No 3032 1/24th scale settee, easy chairs and lamp.

Available 1953-1965

 

The next series of designs were published in late 1958 and early 1959, and were to be Hobbies last furniture plans before the firm closed in 1968. Called Series 14, they replaced the packet of Modern dolls house furniture plans issued in 1948. Like those earlier plans, these are in 3/4" or 1/16th scale. They represent up-to-date modern style and appliances, including a washing machine and a bathroom.

 

Series 14 bed unit and chair, published October 1958, page 63.

Available 1958-1965

 

 

Series 14 sink unit and washing machine, published October 1958, p 99.

Available 1958-1965

 

 Series 14 bath, wash basin and toilet, published January 1959, p 247.

Available 1959-1965

 

 Series 14 sitting room group, published January 1959, p 279.

Available 1959-1965

 

 Series 14 kitchen cabinet & cooker, published 4th February 1959, p 301.

Available 1959-1965

 

Series 14  dining room group, published February 18th, 1959, p 333.

Available 1959-1965 

Below, detail of the underside of the dining table.

 

 

Series 14 wardrobe & dressing table, published 4th March, 1959, p 361.

Available 1959-1965

 

Series 14 two modern fireplaces, published April 1959, p 463.

Available 1959-1965
 
 
Not furniture - but note that homemade furniture could also be finished with flocking. Hobbies sold Flock Powder from 1962, and other firms had advertised it in the Hobbies Handbooks / Annuals for at least five years before that.
 

Furniture Sold by Hobbies

While Hobbies Annuals and Weeklies had carried advertisements for commercially made dolls house furniture (Pit-a-Pat prior to WWII, and Barton from about 1960), Hobbies did not sell ready-made furniture until 1963. The 1963 Annual showed four sets of plastic furniture "specially imported from the Continent", "just the thing for the normal size of Doll's House built to 1/16th scale (3/4 in. : 1 ft.)". The maker was not named, but it has been identified as Modella, made by Paul Kerkmann.

 

Modella 1/16th scale plastic dolls house furniture for the bedroom, kitchen, drawing room and dining room. Available in Hobbies Annuals 1963-1965.

 

More accessories than furniture: Addis Ware utensils appeared in Hobbies Annuals from 1963 to 1966.

 

 

Modella furniture was also available in the 1964 and 1965 Hobbies Annuals. Larger scale furniture was introduced in 1964, for larger dolls houses like Hobbies' 'Dreamholme'. The 1/16th scale sets were still offered in these years too.

 

Modella 1/12th scale  plastic dolls house furniture for the kitchen, dining room, sitting room and bedroom. Available in Hobbies Annuals in 1964 and 1965.

 

From 1964 to 1966, Combex plastic dolls house furniture was also listed. It was described "sturdily made in durable plastic. All parts a perfect press fit ... Can be taken apart and re-assembled". It came in "authentic 2-tone colourings", and made "delightful model furniture for the 'Lindy' Play House". (The catalogue images of the 'Lindy' in these years show it furnished with Combex; in 1967 and 68, it was furnished with the Hobbies' Dol-toi range.)

Five room settings were available in 1964, though only three are pictured. In 1965 and '66, furniture was available for six rooms, including a bathroom.

'Combex' Model Furniture in Hobbies Annuals of 1964 (above) and 1965-66 (below).

 

 

In the final two Annuals, for the years 1967 and 1968, Hobbies carried dolls house furniture made by Dol-toi, as well as Jenny's Home by Tri-ang.

The Hobbies Annual describes the former as "designed specifically to furnish Hobbies range of Doll's Houses." Marion Osborne, in The Book of Dol-toi 1944-75, notes that the bedroom is from Dol-toi's Rutland range, but while the normal Rutland pieces were varnished wood, the Hobbies set has the wardrobe and dressing table doors and the bed head and foot painted blue. The kitchen is also from the Rutland range, but has yellow formica surfaces instead of the usual red. The bathroom, however, is not the plaster or plastic Rutland set, but rather the range described by Marion Osborne as "Later bathrooms of solid blocks of wood". It is painted blue, with gold taps and toilet seat. The dining room is unique to Hobbies: it is similar to Dol-toi's Oakham range, but the dining table and sideboard are both smaller; Marion Osborne illustrates the differences in her book. The lounge suite is Dol-toi's standard flocked suite of the late 1960s, but the TV is larger than the table TVs in Dol-toi's usual range.

 

Dol-toi for Hobbies, 1967-68.

 

 

While we can recognise this furniture as made by Dol-toi, Hobbies did not name the manufacturer. The Jenny's Home range is named, with its manufacturer Rovex. Hobbies sold the large and small rooms, as well as the following furniture sets. The prices ranged from 12/9 for the bathroom, nursery and playtime sets, to 17/9 for the dining room, bedroom, living room and kitchen.

  

 

 

Additional Jenny's Home items were available in separate packs:

 

  

 

I will show the light fittings sold by Hobbies in the next section, but the electrified furnishings made in West Germany for Hobbies belong here. They are described as "a new range of craftsman-built wood and metal furniture pieces, each enhancing the furniture arrangement with their miniature lights." (I hope you understand that!) Like the German light fittings, these items were probably made by the firm Karl Kahlert (see below). They only appear in the 1967 Annual, so perhaps they did not sell well, and while they are said to be made for Hobbies, some have typical German designs which the Hobbies catalogue writer seems unfamiliar with. The 'Vanity Dressing Table' was probably intended for the hall, and while the Standard Lamp Table was an "unusual design" in Britain, it was common in Germany. Similar items were of course sold in Germany, and exported to other countries as well, for a longer period of time than they were sold by Hobbies.

 

West German electrified furnishings for Hobbies, 1967. Above, Claygate style fireplace with illuminated log fire and formica top; television set with illuminated picture when the light is switched on. Below, Vanity dressing table, standard lamp and standard lamp table.

 

A plastic, non-electrified hallstand was offered in the 1965 Annual; this was probably made by Häfner and Krullmann, like the plastic windows and doors shown below.

 

Plastic Hall Set with mirror and hangers, probably by Häfner and Krullmann, in the 1965 Hobbies Annual

 

Hobbies Dolls House Fittings 1949-1968

Hobbies had introduced Romside metal dolls house windows in their 1940 catalogue (published in 1939), but they were not available after the war until 1949. The 1950 Hobbies Handbook offered windows, doors and fireplaces, and they were also supplied with the complete kit of materials to make the Doll's Bungalow design No 2792, published in May 1949.

 

Romside metal dolls house components in the 1950 Hobbies Handbook

 

It seems that supply was not secure, however, as they could not be purchased separately through the 1951 Hobbies Handbook (although were supplied both with the Bungalow No 2792, and the Large Tudor Dolls House, Hobbies Special No 237).

By mid 1952, when the 1953 Handbook was published (unfortunately I do not have the 1952 Handbook), Romside fittings were back, and a greater range including stairs and chimneys was available.

 

Romside metal dolls house components, available 1953-1968

 

Romside components remained in the Hobbies Handbooks / Annuals right through until 1968. In 1960, square-paned windows were added "to meet popular demand":

 

New Romside square-paned windows, 1960

 

Romside square paned windows highlighted in the 1962 Annual

 

Plastic windows and doors were introduced in the 1964 Hobbies Annual. They were "specially imported", and were intended for larger houses like Hobbies 'Dreamholme'. Although Hobbies marketed them under the name 'Hobbiholme', we believe that these plastic components were made by the German firm of Häfner and Krullmann.

 

'Hobbiholme' plastic doors and windows, as shown in the 1964 Hobbies Annual

 

A clearer picture of the 'Hobbiholme' casement window from the 1965 Hobbies Annual

 

The 'Hobbiholme' plastic components were available until 1968. In 1965 a multi-colour window was included, but it was not offered again in subsequent years. (A colour photo of this window appears in diePuppenstubensammlerin's article about a Häfner & Krullmann bungalow.)

 

'Hobbiholme' multi-colour window, available 1965 only.

 

New metal windows and doors were introduced in the 1965 Hobbies Annual, under the name 'Easifit'. These appear to be the same as those used by GeeBee from this date, and were probably made by the same manufacturers (GeeBee themselves, or the firm which supplied them).

 

'Easifit' metal doors and windows, available 1965-1968

Here is the range of windows and doors, both plastic and metal, shown in the 1967 and 68 Annuals:

 

The fireplace numbered '16' in the photo above was plastic and British-made. It had been introduced in 1965:

 

 

Lighting components were first offered in the 1956 Hobbies Handbook (published in mid 1955). A set comprising bulb holders, switches and wire was available, or they could be purchased separately. Bulbs and batteries were not included, and nor were any light shades.

 

Dolls House Electric Lighting Set, available 1956-1968

 

Bulbs were introduced in the 1958 Hobbies Annual, along with a new type of switch:

 

Separate lighting components, including bulbs and a new switch. Available from 1958.

 

A second lighting set was offered from 1963, and three were available from 1964. The 'Brite-Lite' kit for modelmakers included coloured pea bulbs, in red, green and amber as well as plain, very useful for models of planes, cars, trains, etc, but the packaging also encouraged buyers to 'Light up your dolls house'. This set was Empire made (so may have been made in Hong Kong).

Dolls house lighting sets in the 1963 Hobbies Annual.

 

1964's new set is called the 'Wardie' Light-up Set by B. J. Ward. If you look closely at the packaging, you can see that it was 'Packaged in England'. This set also includes light shades and holders for hanging, wall and table lamps. The designs look similar to those sold separately from 1963 on, which are described as 'Foreign' and can be identified as German. It's possible that the Wardie lights were also made in Germany.

 

Dolls house lighting sets in the 1964 Hobbies Annual; available until 1968.

 

The individual light fittings introduced in the 1963 Hobbies Annual are described as 'Foreign'.

DiePuppenstubensammlerin has identified these as almost certainly made by the West German firm Karl Kahlert.

 

Ads for Karl Kahlert's 'Dori' brand toy lamps and accessories in Das Spielzeug magazine: above, 1960; below, 1964. © diePuppenstubensammlerin 

 

 

By 1964, Hobbies had given their foreign-made dolls house lights the name 'The 'Hobbilite' Range for Dolls' Houses'. New models were included in the range in this and subsequent years.

 

New 'Hobbilite' dolls house lamps offered in the 1964 Hobbies Annual.

 

Additional lights in the 1965 Hobbies Annual.

 

 New lights in the Hobbies 1967 and 1968 Annuals (1, 4, 5 and 6 available both years, 2 and 3 in 1967 only).

 

Kahlert dolls house lights in original packaging. Left © Rebecca Green, right © diepuppenstubensammlerin.

 

The 'Foreign' 'Hobbilite' fittings introduced in 1963 were still available in 1967 and 68, although some switches and power points are shown in black, rather than white.

 

'Hobbilite' electrical dolls house fittings as shown in the 1967 and 1968 Hobbies Annuals.

 

 

Karl Kahlert catalogue for 1975 © diepuppenstubensammlerin.

 

From 1964 to 1966, it was also possible to buy model shrubs, plants and trees through the Hobbies Annuals. These were "specially imported from the Continent". The hedges and some trees are named as 'Herpa'. Other trees and shrubs are identified as "R.W.", so it seems that they were sourced from more than one manufacturer. While the trees were rather small for 1/12th or 1/16th scale dolls houses, the hedges and flower boxes were of suitable sizes. Note that the 'Island Moss' ("real live lichen") is described as"suitable for fixing to musical models such as the Swiss Churches and Chalets".

 

Above and below: scenery for models and dolls houses as shown in the 1964 Hobbies Annual.

 

'Herpa' hedges as shown in the 1965 Hobbies Annual.

I hope that this article will help you to identify any Hobbies furniture from the post-war period which you may have in your collections, and to date Hobbies houses from the fittings used in them, as well as the actual designs.

Hobbies Ltd closed in 1968, but was then re-established by a former employee. The dolls houses designed by Ivan Stroulger, and sold as plans and kits through the later Hobbies Handbooks, will be covered in a future article.

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