Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

Tuna Kullan, an unbelievable story of a piece of Swedish craftsmanship by Susanne Hjelm

 Through previously published newspaper articles and talking to their daughter Eva, we learn the story of Tuna Kullan.

Husband and wife, Britta and John Nilsson were wondering what to give their daughter Kajsa for Christmas, the year was 1947. They decided to start making a dollhouse, this was also a protest against their own small and simple accommodation in the south of Stockholm. 

With the help of Britta's brother Harald the cabinet was finished in a few weeks, now only the furniture remained. Britta went to the city to look at dollhouse furniture, not an easy task, it turned out. The little that was available was either too expensive or of poor quality.

So they just went ahead and began making furniture, and with the help of a bit of imagination the five rooms were soon furnished.

 

 

 Tuna Kullan dining room furniture.

Dolls are Erna Meyer; rug is homemade. Photo: Carola Eriksson

 

 

The next problem was, where do you hide such a large dollhouse? Britta decided to make an effort, and get it on KF's big hobby exhibition, even though the application deadline was long overdue. However, the cabinet was accepted and although it was highly unlikely it won a prize. After that, everything seemed to work by itself.


The story of Britta and John ended up in a newspaper called VI, the article was read by an employee at a radio station which resulted in three radio programs for children. In the programs Britta and John told people how to make your own dollhouse furniture. It was a success.

 

After the radio program the radio station bought the dollhouse. Britta and John soon got a new request, this time from the Stockholm County Crafts Association about doing an exhibition. No issue there, they just went ahead and started producing a new dollhouse. 

 

In the late summer of 1948 Britta came in contact with PUB's purchasing manager who was delighted and ordered a large order for 100 pieces of each. Everything had to be delivered in time for Christmas shopping.

 

 

 

 Britta and John decided to take a chance, as both wanted to move from Stockholm, it was a good opportunity for them. The moved home to the family farm in Dalarna (a province in central Sweden): Broby in the parish of Stora Tuna a few steps outside the town of Borlänge.

The name Tuna Kullan comes from the parish Stora Tuna, and 'kullan', a popular word for girls of Dalarna which derives from 'kula', a kind of song the women used to sing to each other from their mountain pastures.

 

Originally the idea was that a lot of manufacturing would be sent away but it turned out to be difficult, so they started to manufacture themselves. John temporarily put his studies away, and became a toy manufacturer. 

 

 

John in the workshop

 

 

 

 Tuna Kullan kitchen furniture. Photo: Susanne Hjelm

 

An old chicken coop became the manufacturing premises, the Great Hall became a storage and drying room. 

 

 Esther at the loom


  Grandma Esther wove carpets, eleven could fit across the width of her loom. Relatives and friends helped with the painting, photographs for the clock faces and more.

 

Britta painting chests

 

After a successful Christmas sale an even bigger order came from PUB and the business grew. They decided to hire three people and they had a number of home working subcontractors.

 

 Britta, wearing a hat, with the specially designed case for the furniture

 

Eva remembers how beautiful she and Kajsa thought that their mother was when she put on her hat and cloak and went to Stockholm to visit clients. She was also carrying the bag that John had specially made and it contained the 32 different models of furniture. 

 

 

 Tuna Kullan nursery set and plants.

Dolls are Erna Meyer. Photo: Carola Eriksson

 

After a few years John took his engineering degree and got a permanent job, and the family had also grown. The family made the difficult decision to put the business aside, and production was never rebuilt. According to Britta and John, they remember it as a busy but fun time in their lives.

 

The production period was 1948-1952.

 


 

 Tuna Kullan chair, clock, radiogram & fireplace.

Dolls are Erna Meyer; rug is homemade. Photo: Carola Eriksson

  

 Tuna Kullan phone with label (Photos: Rebecca Green)

 

 

This article was previously published in Swedish.

Photos of John, Britta and Esther published by Dalabygden newspaper.

Many thanks to Agneta Ekeberg who mediated the contact with Eva.

 

Author Susanne Hjelm's  website is called DockskåpsMäster.

See more Tuna Kullan on Carola Eriksson's website Carolas Dollhouses.


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