Handicrafts Dolls House Furniture, Fittings, Fronts and Follow-up by Rebecca Green
In the last issue of the magazine, I described the history of the firm of Handicrafts, and showed the dolls house designs and dolls house papers available from Handicrafts. In this issue, I will show the designs which Handicrafts published for dolls house furniture, and the dolls house fittings available through the Handicrafts Annual catalogue. Dollshouse fronts - printed images on paper of the front of a dolls house - could also be bought, to make a simple house very easily and cheaply.
Since I wrote the earlier article, I have acquired a couple more Annuals, so that I now have 1914, 1925, 1926, 1929 - 1934, 1936, 1937 and 1939.
By 1925, 9 designs for dolls house furniture were already available. Not having many earlier annuals, or Handicrafts monthly magazines, I don’t know when all these designs were first published – or how many other designs might have been published and then discontinued before 1925.
The design numbers fall into three series: one for advanced designs, commencing at A1 and going to A59 by 1925; one for designs costing only 1d or 2d, which started with No. 5000, and went to 5480 by 1925; and another series of designs which were not advanced, but cost more than 2d. This series started at No. 1, and went to No. 385 by 1925.
Two advanced designs of dolls furniture were produced. Both appear in the 1914 Handicrafts Catalogue.
A6 Drawing Room Furniture, 1914 - 1929
A6 is a set of drawing room furniture, comprising a four-leaf draft screen, a round table, small square table, plant stand, chairs, armchair and ? stand, a sideboard with mirror, a small cupboard, and two hanging mirrors. This design was available until 1929.
A 15 Bedroom Furniture, 1914 - 1926
A51 is a set of bedroom furniture – without a bed! The pieces included are a wardrobe, a washstand, a dressing table, a towel rack, a small table and chairs. The furniture is rather larger than 1/12th scale – the wardrobe and the dressing table are both 10½ inches high and the washstand is 8¼ inches by 8 inches. Probably they would fit in the Large Dolls’ House, design A58, which is pictured opposite them in the 1925 Annual – the rooms of that house are 11 inches deep and about 12 inches high. This design was available in 1925 and 1926, but not in 1929.
The style of these drawing and bedroom sets is not named, but could be described as art nouveau.
NEW Another set of doll's bedroom furniture was published in the May 1914 issue of the Home Handicrafts Magazine. It was intended for use with dolls house No 265, the design for which had been issued in the April 1914 issue of the magazine.
This set comprised a dressing glass, a table, two chairs, and a towel horse. Again, no bed!
Doll's bedroom set, May 1914: above, dressing glass; below: table and towel horse; bottom: chairs.
A design for a bed was available separately until 1929 – No. 5263, 7½ inches long.
5263, Dolls' Bedstead, pre 1925 - 1929
This was probably not the first set of dolls house furniture included in the 5000 series of penny and tuppeny designs. The first in numerical order is No. 5195, a set of Jacobean furniture for the dining room: table, chairs and a sideboard or cupboard. The table here is 3¼ inches high, a smaller scale than the A6 and A51 designs. This design was available until 1934.
5195 Jacobean Dining Room Furniture, pre 1925 - 1934
After design 5263, the bed, comes another set of drawing room furniture, 5276. Like set A6, this has a screen – with 3 leaves this time, and small round and rectangular tables. However, instead of upright chairs, there is a sofa and corner chairs in craftsman style. As well as being more comfortable, this drawing set is smaller, with the screen standing only 4½ inches tall. This design was available until 1934.
5276, Drawing Room Furniture, pre 1925 - 1934
Handicrafts drawing room screen made from design No 5276, above, standing, and below, flat © Alicia Davies
Set 5320 is a washing set – a table, tub, wash board, stool, mangle, rack and pegs. The tallest piece, the mangle, is 6¾ inches high. This set was described as kitchen furniture in 1925, when it was available individually and as one of four sets of furniture published in a book of designs (Book No. 28, Doll’s House and Furniture), with dolls house No. 325. It was available right up till 1939.
5320, Dolls' Kitchen Furniture (1925), then Washing Set 1926 - 1939
Set 5339 is another bedroom set, with a bed, wardrobe, washstand and chair. The wardrobe in this set is 6½ inches high. This design was available individually until 1929, and in Book No 28 until 1934.
5339, Bedroom Furniture, pre 1925 - 1934
Above, bed and wardrobe, and below, washstand made from Handicrafts design No 5339, photos © laurieleeplays
Bedroom chairs made from Handicrafts design No 5339 © laurieleeplays
Set 5363 is another dining room set – a table, chairs, sideboard (6 inches high) and a grandfather clock. This design was available until 1934.
5363, Dining room furniture, pre 1925 - 1934
Above and below, dining room table and chairs made from Handicrafts design No 5363. The smaller chairs are from the bedroom set. Photos © laurieleeplays
Design No. 5430 is a mantelpiece for a drawing room fireplace. It was already available in 1925, and continued to be published in Design Book 18 (Simple Working Toys) until 1934.
5430, Mantelpiece, pre 1925 - 1934. Deckchair, in Design Book 26, pre 1925 - 1931.
A design for a deck chair was also published in a Book No 26, Realistic Models and Toys. This was available from at least 1925 to 1931.
Note that we have not yet seen any kitchen furniture, apart from the wash set illustrated above. A design for a kitchen set, No. 5517, appeared from at least 1929, until 1934, comprising a kitchen dresser, a table and chairs.
5517, Kitchen furniture, ? 1929 - 1934
There was still no stove or kitchen range. The illustration, below, from the 1925 Annual, of a kitchen decorated with Handicrafts dolls house papers shows a simple dresser and a strip wood table, and what appears to be a metal kitchen range – presumably this was to be bought from another supplier.
Another dining set appears in 1929, No. 5608, consisting simply of a chair, a rectangular table with crossed struts ???, and a small round pedestal table. Less work was needed to make these, as spindles could be bought for the legs. Like the kitchen set, this was available until 1934.
5608, Dining room furniture, ? 1929 - 1934
Among the designs which were neither advanced nor cheap, we find No. 365, a set of Chippendale furniture (also for a dining room). This included a sideboard, centre table, arm chair, single chair, screen (with two leaves only), and a side table. The wood provided was satin walnut, with whitewood for the overlays. It was already available in 1925, and remained in the catalogue right up to 1939.
365, Chippendale dining room furniture, pre 1925 - 1939
Chippendale furniture can be seen at the top left of this window display of fretwork from 19xx. Bottom centre is the sideboard from set 5363, and other pieces, including a clock, table, mangle, washstand, wardrobe and mantelpiece, can also be seen.
As well as pieces specifically designed as dolls furniture, Handicrafts published a number of novelty designs which could have been used in a dolls house. These included an armchair inkstand, No. 201 (available until 1929); a sewing machine cigarette box, No 336 (available from 1929-1932); a chest of drawers money box, No. 5257, and a piano cigarette box No. 5305, both available from 1925 until 1937 (in later years in Design Book No. 20, Cigarette Boxes and Money Boxes).
Most of these designs are in fretwork. Handicrafts also ran a short series on strip woodwork in 1926, including a dolls kitchen table.
In 1925 and 1926, the only fittings available for dolls houses were lion head door knockers, letter plates, door knobs (in brass or bone), hinges, hooks and eyes for keeping the front closed, bevelled mirrors and glass for windows.
1926 Annual: Bevelled Mirrors
By 1929, a range of accessories was also offered, with the explanation that “having made a Doll’s House most of our customers have found great difficulty in obtaining suitable small fittings for it. To meet this need we are now offering a few inexpensive novelties which we believe will give endless enjoyment to little children.”
1929 Annual: Accessories for Dolls' Houses
The accessories offered in 1929 and 1931 were: a turned wood lamp and shade, 2”; tea cups (whitewood) and enamelled & gilded tray, 3”; a hanging salt box, 1¾”; plants in wooden pots, with various flowers, 2½”; a wall clock, 1½“; a mandolin, 2¼“; an ‘alarum’ clock, 1”; and a telephone, 2½”.
Electrical fittings were also available: two types of lamp holders and a switch. Bulbs were also listed from 1931.
1932 Annual: Accessories and Fittings
In 1932 and 1933, the only wooden accessories offered were the telephone, salt box, wall clock, wooden lamp and plants.
1934 Annual: Electric and Other Fittings for Dolls' Houses
By 1934, this was reduced to just the salt box, telephone and plants, and by 1936, these had gone too. While there were many changes in 1936, and a general change of focus from fancy fretwork to plainer furniture, perhaps the demand for accessories like these had declined with the greater availability of such items from firms like Pit-a-Pat and Tiny Toy.
1937-1939: Light fittings, door knobs (1/4" and 1/2", in erinoid and wood), letter plates and flower pots.
The 1937 Handicrafts Annual introduced a range of electric ceiling, wall and table lamps, complete with shades, fittings and bulbs. Flowers in pots were also available again. These were all still shown in the 1939 Annual.
A ceiling lamp with identical shade to a wall lamp available from Handicrafts 1937-1939
Door knobs, 1/2 inch, in Antique Finish and Nickel Plated, and Lion Door Knockers, from the 1939 Annual
Handicrafts offered many coloured paper designs, called ‘picture patterns’, to be pasted onto wood and cut out to form calendar holders, toys, etc. From at least 1925 until 19??, two dolls house fronts were available as picture patterns. One was for a small dolls house 9” wide and 14” high, with two storeys and two bays.
Small dolls house front, 9" x 14"
The larger house was 14” wide and 18” high, with two storeys and three bays, plus a balcony at first floor level. The fronts were printed in four colours: the brickwork was a natural red, the door a cheerful green, the stonework at the sides of the house and the cornice, grey granite; the stonework surrounding the windows and door a pale cream; and the windows and curtains “most artistically shaded to represent the real thing”.
Wood could be bought to make up these dolls houses, or complete kits with all fittings included, but no doubt used boxes were also converted cheaply and convincingly into simple box-back dolls houses with these picture patterns – the fronts by themselves cost only 2d (small) and 4d (large), with 1d postage.
Follow-up: More Dolls Houses
Isobel Hockey shared her wealth of knowledge for the original article about Handicrafts dolls houses, and has delved into her files again to find 3 more designs which weren’t included in that article.
1913: Model Dolls' House
The first dates from 1913, and must be one of the earliest Handicrafts designs for a dolls house. It is called the Model Doll’s House. The scan here shows dimensions of 27” x 17” x 28”, but in fact the instructions provide for 3 scales, so that the maker could choose the most appropriate size.
1926: Ideal Dolls House
From August 1926 comes the Ideal Dolls House, which, like the A58, has a widow’s walk on the roof, but has only two bays, not three, and has balconies at the sides (with no railing!!) rather than at the front.
1929: Venesta Plywood dolls house
In 1929, Venesta Plywood published a design for a fairly simple house – made, of course, from their product.
Finally, here are a shop and a family butcher illustrated in an article on 'Toy Making - Uses for Red Brick and other Doll's House Papers', in the 1926 Annual. Unlike the Toy Shop included in the last article, there is no mention of design sheets for these shops. Perhaps they were just drawn for this article - or perhaps plans had appeared in a Handicrafts monthly magazine but were not for sale through the Annuals.
Above, a Shop, and below, a Family Butcher's, made with Handicrafts Doll's House Papers. From the 1926 Annual.