Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

Designer Dollhouse Showcase by Megan Hornbecker


Back in February, I literally fell out of my chair when I found out about the Designer Dollhouse Showcase on Modern MC's blog. Ten impeccably designed homes, hand crafted and decorated by twenty prominent interior designers were going to be auctioned off in Los Angeles. I immediately started stalking tracking down all of the designers and blogging as much information on the event as I could find.

When the project first started, the committee for the inaugural Kaleidoscope Ball fundraiser had contacted a dollhouse company to manufacture ten identical houses for the charity auction. "After searching for pre-built dollhouses, we decided that we wanted to do something more innovative," said event co-chair Amanda Brown-Chang, author of the novel Legally Blonde.

The committee contacted architects Richard Manion and Robert Meiklejohn of Richard Manion Architecture Inc. to design plans for five different styles of houses measuring 6 feet long in 1:12 scale: Modern, Contemporary, Georgian, Italianate and Brownstone. Builders Matt Barnes of Finish Rite Construction, Dan Hershman of Richard Holz Inc. and Steve Miller of Miller Woodworking all worked at a frenzied pace to build these designer dollhouses in time for the fundraising event.




Interior designer Tim Campbell gathered renowned designers to decorate the houses. The stellar line up included stars of the reality show Million Dollar Decorators on BravoTV and a past contestant on HGTV's Design Star. The talented interior designers included Natasha BaradaranChris BarrettJoan BehnkeCari BergTim CampbellMark CutlerElizabeth Dinkel,Waldo FernandezAdam HunterMartyn Lawrence BullardJames MagniJeffrey Alan MarksMary McDonaldAlexandra and Michael MisczynskiPhilip NimmoLonni PaulEstee StanleyRon Woodson and Jamie Rummerfield and fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, who created a replica of her New York Brownstone bridal salon. The designer showcase also included two mini-garden oasis' landscaped by Stephen Block of Inner Gardens and Christine London of Christine London Ltd. Patricia Benner of Patricia Benner Landscape Design also worked along with Stephen and Christine to design beautiful landscapes making the exteriors as enticing as the interiors.

At the end of last year the designers teamed up to work on the houses. The designers were originally partnered at random by literally drawing names from a hat, but after the different styles of houses were determined, some designers were able work with partners that shared visions of what their dollhouses could be.

None of the architects, builders, interior designers or landscapers had ever worked in 1:12 scale. They didn't know the miniature world even existed. "There is a rather insane little world of people who make the most amazing replicas of real furniture," said Tim Campbell. As they would all soon find out, building, electrifying and decorating a dollhouse in a few months would be more labor intensive and expensive than they originally had imagined.




Designers Adam Hunter and Lonni Paul estimated they spent $10,000 and more than two months on their Italianate House pictured above.

When asked how designing in miniature compares to designing in full scale, Mark Cutler replied "it really is just as much work as designing in full scale." Cari Berg said, "the detail I put in here was what I would put in a real house, and I used the same craftsmen I would for a regular project." Chris Barrett commented, "it's the same process. The biggest difference is the sources. It was a challenge getting up to speed on who and where the sources were."

Many of the designers struggled to find exactly what they were looking for (all too familiar for miniature enthusiasts). Many turned to miniature artisans for custom pieces and solicited vendors they work with to make miniature replicas of their full scale designs.



Mark Cutler commissioned Janet Harvie from Maggie Melinda Miniatures to build and upholster all of his furniture based on designs from his concept boards (the scallop backed pink chairs are my favorite). Mark also worked with Fuse Lighting to create a miniature replica of one of their popular chandeliers for his Italianate House.



Chris Barrett's favorite items for her Modern House were the Barcelona bench in the entry (ReacJapan 1:12 scale version of Mies Van Der Rohe's Barcelona Daybed) and the piano she had refinished as a favor by Phenoyd Inc. who finishes life size pianos. Joan Benke reached out to full scale potter Sara Petersen of Peterson Pottery to create unique furniture and pottery for her Modern House.

The designers shared all of the sources they found; Paris Renfroe of PRD Miniatures, Doron Silverman of Bespoke Furnishings, Doris Nathanson of minimodernistas, Elizabeth LePla of ELF Miniatures are all over the place. Also featured is the work of Peter Tucker, minisx2, Gigi N Studio, A Life in Miniature, Mod Pod Miniatures, and Cufflinks Cowboy Boots.

The small scale challenged many of the designers to improvise. They found themselves looking at the world differently and repurposing items to work in miniature. Jewelry and beads for lamps and perfume bottles, napkin rings for table bases, fancy paper and sample fabrics for wallpaper, upholstery, linens and rugs, and drawer pulls for tables and stools (sound familiar?).



Many designers also created miniature versions of their signature style. Jeffrey Alan Marks created replicas of his new furniture collection for Palecek for his Contemporary Beach House. Chris Barrett scaled down her fabrics for the sling chairs and window coverings in the media room.

The designers had a lot of fun working on the houses and were excited to see everyone's responses to their designs. The reception was a glowing success; along with the sales of dollhouses and donations, the first Kaleidoscope Ball raised almost $1.8 million to benefit the UCLA Mattel Children's Discovery and Innovation Institute. Bungalow 1a has some fun coverage of the event with photos of some of the attending celebrities like LL Cool J, Jason Biggs, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. If the fundraising committee can put together another all star event like this next year, I'll do whatever it takes to be there. Here are more details about the designers and the designer dollhouses.

Modern House 1 by Natasha Baradaran and Waldo Fernandez



Natasha Baradaran designed the first floor, containing a terrace, kitchen/dining area, family room, and powder room in a coastal color story of coral, turquoise and white for a modern take on beach chic paired with an elevated sophistication and unexpected edge. Through the creation of a custom dining table, imagined from a piece of a gate, stone-inspired fabric from Beacon Hill envisioned as a custom carpet, and Trove wall covering for a punch of pattern, Baradaran was able to accomplish a sophisticated twist on the classic beach chic vibe. Credits go to Holly Hunt, Beacon Hill, and Larsen through Cowtan & Tout for their contributions to the design.


Waldo Fernandez designed the second and third floors, containing two patios, two balconies, a living room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a master suite and bath. The design has a light airy feeling created by the dominantly neutral color palette and splashes of color throughout. Surprise touches of mid-century modern furniture and art custom made by PRD Miniatures and Mini Modernistas keep the design fresh.


Modern House 2 by Jim Magni and Joan Behnke


Jim Magni designed the first floor, containing a living room, dining room/kitchen, and outdoor Zen garden including a water feature in "Magni Modernism," combining modern, art deco, Asian, and contemporary designs together for a look all its own. In keeping with the modern look of the home the rooms are done in a color scheme of whites, creams, taupes, and grays. The rooms' furnishings and style are inspired from Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Magni Home Collection. Credits go to Fawn Dang and Sue Chitpanich of DAO Home, Kyle Bunting, Maggie Amir with Caeserstone, and PRD Miniatures for their contributions to the design.



Joan Behnke designed the second and third floors as an artist's retreat with a top floor dedicated to a studio/gallery space and exterior decks to retreat and watch the waves and the second floor designed as a master bedroom, bath and meditation room. Behnke took a more "free" approach to furnishing the house because she wanted the house to be a space to showcase beautiful things, reflect, and create. Working with found objects and sculpted materials as inspiration for furniture designs, all of the furnishings are meant to be touched, held, and examined for some whimsical detail. The design's color palette mimics that of the natural surroundings of the home, including warm neutrals and soothing sea tones. Credits to Satori Design, DeMott Drapery, Princes and Crows, Jaime Heintz, Leslie Evans, Margo Newman, Petersen Pottery, Eve Durando, Philip Stahlhuth, Sara Petersen, Erin McGuiness, Charlene Aspray, Valerie Jurado Botanical Design, Sandra Jordan, Pierre Quinton Design Inc, G & E Custom Furniture, Arte Bella, C.G. Custom Tile and Marble, Campbell Glass, Donghia, Reborn Antiques, Micucci, Soli, Stone Source and Blair Newman for their contributions to the design.


Contemporary Beach House 1 by Jeffrey Alan Marks and Elizabeth Dinkel



Jeffrey Alan Marks designed the first floor, including a dining room, kitchen, living room, and gym, in his now signature color scheme of breezy blues. The design features custom dollhouse furniture modeled after Marks' actual furniture line with Palecek, with the living room including Marks' "Spindrift Sofa", "Spindrift Chair", "Brockton Coffee Table" and "Bryant Lounge Chairs" and the gym utilizes Marks' "Wind & Sea Folding Screen" to create a private massage area. In addition to the Miniature versions of Jeffrey's Palecek Furniture, the living room includes a custom wool and silk area rug inspired by vintage Fortuny fabric and provided by Decorative Carpets, while the private massage room includes walls covered in custom de Gournay "Fish" wallpaper, replicating Jeffrey's personal kitchen and two massage tables covered in Cowtan & Tout Linen. Credits go to PRD Miniatures, Monte Allen, Cowtan & Tout, Decorative Carpets, and Larsen for their contributions to the design.



Elizabeth Dinkel designed the second floor combining the spare and minimalist elements of a modern beach house with the natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean as her backdrop. Her design features clean, modern white lines paired with the some of the more organic tones found in the natural world. She designed the space with a professional art collecting couple who use their house to escape city life and catch their breath in mind. Her intent was to design a house that is sophisticated architecturally but not too fussy or overly serious.


Contemporary Beach House 2 by Chris Barrett and Ron Woodson & Jaime Rummerfield, Landscaping by Inner Gardens


Chris Barrett designed the first floor to include a combination of textures in light colors with white high gloss ceilings, grey walnut driftwood floors, and white grass cloth on the walls. The neutral colors of the living room are broken up with an unexpected pop of pink in the large custom area rug, while the window treatments and pillows showcase the new patterns and colors of Chris Barrett Textiles. The kitchen includes high gloss white cabinets with "Carrera marble" countertops manufactured by Bespoke Furniture. The family room includes a modern built in, a sectional, and Noguchi coffee table. The three story entryway is emphasized by the driftwood gray walnut planks extending from top to bottom, which contrast nicely with the high gloss lacquered walls. Credits go to Bespoke furniture, Marc Phillips, Elf Miniatures, Gigi Walker, Paris Renfroe, Phillip Jeffries, and Phenoyd Inc. for their contributions to the design.



Ron Woodson and Jaimie Rummerfield designed the 2nd and 3rd floors to include a garage, master bedroom suite, guest bedroom, office, and two balconies. They created a look that is clean and contemporary by using a color scheme of tonal whites and cool grays. Pops of blues and yellows, the use of chrome accents, white lacquer, and muted bleached wood throughout help to give the floors a sophisticated California coastal look. Woodson and Rummerfield wanted a design focused on simple colors but rich textures and luxurious materials as seen in the master bedroom's focal wall of faux-onyx and the floors' sculptural accents and art (some of it painted by the designers themselves!). Credits go to Superior Glass, Miniatures from Avalon, PRD Miniatures, Astek, Rolling Greens Nursery, and Eric Soroe for their contributions to the design.

Stephen Block and landscape designer Sherry Till designed a garden for a modern beach house that is simple yet organic. Using natural materials of gravel as sand and stones and rubble as rocks and gravel at the shore Block was able to accentuate and support the modern architecture of the house without distracting from the house's beauty. The use of "tillanandsia" plants, grey airy plants, was used to represent the Sea Lavender that grows at the beach.


Italianate House 1 by Lonni Paul and Adam Hunter

Lonni Paul designed the entry, dining room, and great room. While living in Italy, she was drawn to the more modern interiors of centuries old homes and designed the house with a mix of timeless elegance and a modern Italian sensibility. The color scheme includes blues and silvers in the great room and an all red palette in the dining room. Adding to the elegance of the design, the great room includes wall coverings from Trove and David Sutherland, Rubelli fabric for windows and Donghia for the sofas and ottoman. The rooms' furnishings consist of custom designed pieces including a Ralph Lauren for the bench fabric and Swarovski crystals on miniature lighting fixtures, illuminated by LEDs. The dining room showcases Sahco curtains and wall coverings from Innovations for the ceiling and Maya Romanoff for the remainder of the room. Credits go to California Acrylic Design, Holly Hunt, and GGNStudio for their contributions to the design.


Adam Hunter designed the second floor to include a master bedroom with master sitting room and a child's bedroom. Hunter uses lush fabric and rich textures to create bedrooms with an old European feel but with a modern influence. The master bedroom has a color palette of silver, grey, crème, and pale lavender, while the child's room is a combination of mint pistachio and hints of soft pink. Credits go to Gigin Studio, A Life in Miniature, Mod Pod Miniatures, Cufflinks Cowboy Boots for their contributions to the design.

Stephen Block contributed basic plants and landscape elements to the Italianate garden to help create a landscape that compliments the rustic charm of the European inspired home.

Italianate House 2 by Mark Cutler and Cari Berg, Landscaping by Christine London

Mark Cutler designed the first floor as the ultimate girl's dream house. Inspired by the great fantasy houses in Palm Beach and the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, Cutler design features a sophisticated neutral color palette for the two story entry that showcases a custom miniature "Ramona" chandelier by Fuse Lighting, and the striking "Martinique" banana leaf wallpaper before transitioning into the glamorous living room and library. Both spaces are brightened with vivid pops of pinks, reds, purples, and feature handmade Japanese wallpaper, custom made upholstery, and a creative blend of classic and contemporary dollhouse pieces and repurposed items that make for a luxurious fantasyland any girl would love.


Cari Berg designed the second floor landing, bedroom and studio for the fashionable girl. The landing is anchored by the classic Martinique patterned wallpaper and the runners, custom made by Merida, the upholstered borne settee and the drapery help layer the space and add to the cosmopolitan mix of materials. The abstract original artwork from artist, Loryn Kolbrenner, adds a graphic quality to the space. The bedroom is draped in a billowy white sheer and provides a dreamy backdrop for the modern lines of the custom upholstered pieces with a simple color palette of white and hot pink allows for the different textures to take center stage. The coolness of the marble and lucite coffee table, the warmth of the mohair rug and fabric walls come together to create the ultimate in relaxation and comfort. All of this is set off by custom miniature lighting, inspired by pieces found in today's most stylish showrooms. The Studio is complete with all things a girl needs to be creative and fashionable. Custom lacquered wardrobes anchor one wall and provide a space to showcase her most stylish handbags. She has an antiqued mirror and Lucite table, allowing plenty of space to display jewelry or work on a sketch. White tufted upholstered walls envelop the room, highlighting the custom hot pink silk upholstered screen and tufted ottoman. The white fur rug covers the walnut floor with the most luxurious of textures. Valerie Jurado Botanical Design, Sandra Jordan, Pierre Quinton Design Inc, G & E Custom Furniture, Arte Bella, C.G. Custom Tile and Marble, Campbell Glass, Donghia, Reborn Antiques,Micucci, Soli, Stone Source and Blair Newman for their contributions to the design.

Patricia Benner worked with Mark and Ceri to design a sophisticated and chic garden perfectly suited for this Palm Beach palace.


Georgian House 1 by Mary McDonald and Martyn Lawrence Bullard


Mary McDonald designed the 1st floor and exterior to include a dining room of pale pinks, grays, and chalky whites from the F. Schumacher fabris collection shown on wall curtains. The living room combines Jade Greens from F.Schumacher Chinois Palais and Don't Fret fabrics from Mary McDonald's new collection all paired with hints of Black or white in a more formal yet modern way. Finally the entry combines black, green, and white in a a more graphically bold way showcasing the Jade green Chinois Palais Schumacher fabric as paper. Signature formal millwork was used in the living and dining rooms for authenticity, while the floor is all real oak planks scaled accordingly as a life size house with natural patina and movement found in original English Georgian houses. Graphic Bold painted wood floors, chinoiserie references paired with carefully edited mini empire, and Georgian and 18th C. Style furniture help to complete the look. Credits go to Schumacher, Bespoke Furniture, Carson Mazaros and Jed Voltz- for their contributions to the design.



Martyn Lawrence Bullard designed the top floor to include a master bedroom, a guest room, and an upstairs landing. The top floor is done in black and white with a strategic pop of color in each room and features Martyn's new Schumacher collection of wall coverings on the walls in each room.


Georgian House 2 by Tim Campbell and Philip Nimmo

Tim Campbell designed the first floor and exterior to have a transitional and modern look. The design uses a color scheme of creams and blues for a fresh look. Credits go to Soane Britain, Merida Meridian, and Canyon Interior for their contributions to the design.



Philip Nimmo designed the second floor to include a two room "gentleman's lair". In one room, a daybed floats in the center of the room behind a big agate-and-polished-brass coffee table flanked by 2 chairs. The second room is the lair itself, where a man would preoccupy himself with intellectual pursuits, his collections of art and objects found during his travels, and all of the curiosities that a 21st century Renaissance man desires. These eclectic furnishing and a high-contrast palette create a warm and inviting environment. The Gentlemen's Lair features ebonized floors with dark shades of gray furnishings paired with cream upholstery. Credits go to Cowtan & Tout, Larsen, Sandra Jordan, Phillip Jeffries, Larriane's Small Wonders, Kneedler Fauchere, Jean de Merry, Philip Nimmo (Furniture), Bespoke Furniture, and Roman Raygoza Fine Furnishings for their contributions to the design.


Brownstone House by Michael & Alexandra Misczynski and Estee Stanley


Michael and Alexandra Misczynski designed the first floor and exterior to include an entry way, gallery, library, and main stairway. The design is a rather formal Beaux Arts background with contemporary engagement. The library has a reclaimed interior from Jean Michel-Frank for Jean-Pierre Guerlain, circa 1935 and is furnished with pieces by Jean-Michel Frank. Credits go to Hideki Okuda & Raul Diaz for their contributions to the design.


Estee Stanley designed the 2nd and 3rd floors to include a living room and master suite in neutral colors with accents of turquoise and pink. The inspiration for the dollhouse was to create a neutral background filled with things we love. We wanted something eclectic and effortless. The resulting style is a relaxing blend of cultures and traditions creating a warm yet sophisticated space - a great balance to the brownstone architecture.


Monique Lhuillier NY Flagship Boutique by Monique Lhuillier



Monique Lhuillier designed a replica of her New York flagship boutique intact with the former private residence's grandeur of an old world townhouse. Spanning three floors, the townhouse offers the bridal collection on the entire ground floor, the ready-to-wear collection on the second and the VIP custom area on the third floor. Iridescent paintings by Nancy Lorenz and custom mirrors and tables add just a hint of sparkle, while the two commissioned pieces by New York sculptor Silas Seandel are truly one-of-a-kind. Taking cues from the original structure, Lhuillier creates a sophisticated environment in the world of grey, using luxurious fabrics, furnishings and art to showcase the true stars in the boutique, her signature gowns and collections. The dollhouse includes grey suede walls, recreations of the Monique Lhuillier Waterford chandeliers, inspired by the delicate beadwork of Monique's signature gowns, and organic hammered stainless steel cabinets, made especially for the bridal salon. All furniture for the townhouse has been recreated by the renowned craftsmen at Kensington Dollhouse Festival.



Stephen Block and landscape designer Sherry Till complimented the townhouse design of the boutique with classic landscaping. The pair framed the boutique with box hedges for a simple but put together look which aligns perfectly with the old world charm of the home turned boutique.


Brownstone Walled Garden


Christine London designed an urban walled garden with a diversity of areas for dining, gardening, reading and play. Warm neutrals were used in the stonework while the plants were a mix of crisp greens, creams, and whites. The plants were all handmade and detailed in England. Credits go to Pauline London, Holly London Whitefoord, and Candace Conard. 



Georgian Garden

Christine London designed the Georgian garden to suit a country house. It tells the story of a venerable old tree presiding over a space and the atmosphere and sense of place that this creates. Using one main planting element has the impact of creating a serene but multipurpose garden room full of different shades and textures of green. Credits go to Pauline London, Holly London Whitefoord, and Candace Conard.



You can check out more close up photos of the houses, additional event coverage, and full designer bios and interviews on my blog

Mini smiles,
MiniDork (aka Megan)


All photography of finished houses by Jon Hugstad. Additional photos by Jeffery Alan Marks and Mark Cutler. Publicity information provided by bluPRint public relations firm.

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