Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

A Most Unusual 1920s/1930s House....But Was It Meant To Be A Toy?

By Celia Thomas - KT Miniatures



This is a truly stunning little house, completely evocative of the 1920s-1930s era and typical of the suburban style houses that were being built in the UK at that time.   Actually, I say little but it is not really that “little” at is essentially rather big! The fascinating question is....was this initially created as a toy and meant to be played with all those years ago or was it not a toy at all? The interior layout is curious and a little odd, which is why I'm not convinced that this was built with the original intention of it being a dolls house.



The exterior is magnificent and has a very effective beige pebble dash finish on all four sides, with green wooden framed and fully glazed windows.  The bay windows particularly are a very special feature of this house and give a real sense of realism. I’m of the opinion that this could well have been a 1920s-1930s developer's model to use as a kind of show house whilst the housing estate was being built, ie. to give a prospective buyer an idea of what the finished house may look like.  There is no tangible provenance that came with this house sadly, so this is purely speculative on my part.




This house is in completely original condition, devoid of any restoration or renovation and likely to have been stored away untouched, probably for decades. The only things I have undertaken is a bit of cleaning plus wash the disgustingly dirty lace curtains that were pinned up with drawing pins! However, soaking and hand washing with normal detergent made no impact on over 80 years of dirt, but thank goodness for good old “Vanish”. After more washing with this magical powder they finally became super clean! As they hung out in the sunshine to dry, my lovely slightly confused elderly neighbour (much used to seeing odd things hanging on my washing line) peeked over the fence and thought for a moment that I’d shrunk my real life sized curtains...hahaha!  


When dry, the newly laundered curtains were pinned back up in the same way as before and they really did help to enhance the gorgeous windows even further.  



This house is of wooden construction, accessed at the front via two opening halves.



There is one very large room upstairs and one very large room downstairs, each with an Art Deco wooden fireplace and dual aspect. 


Every room has the original painted decor including the lovely picture rails and varnished wooden flooring.



The hallway has a door leading into the main downstairs room and also another door leading into the kitchen right at the back, so with care you can get your hand through to access the kitchen through here. Stairs lead up to an enormous landing that also has dual aspect plus a side window too.


You can catch a glimpse of the kitchen through the window and access it further through the back door. 




The fully glazed bay windows are simply stunning and very skilfully made! 



I love the porch area too with a window either side of the front door.  The door and porch windows are also fully glazed but with very thick crinkled glass, quite different to the rest of the house.



This vent intrigues is such a realistic touch but rarely seen on a dolls house. 



The roof has been very carefully constructed with wooden mock tiles and the chimney has been hand painted to replicate a brick finish. There is lighting too, with original bulb fittings in the rooms and a space up in the roof for batteries, accessed via a hole in the upstairs ceiling. The wires run down the front inside landing wall and have been taped over, although it is just beginning to come adrift a little. This lighting must be original to the house as it would have had to have been installed whilst the house was being built.  



There are six pieces of original furniture that came with this house, as you can see in the photo-all wooden and very basic.




If this was meant to be a toy, I'm intrigued as to why a skilled maker would ignore and neglect basic principles from a child’s play value point of view? There is no proper access to the kitchen which could be frustrating to a child, and why create an unnecessarily large landing with only one main room upstairs and one very large reception room downstairs, after having put so much realism and detail into the exterior?  

On the other hand, if this was indeed a developer’s model....I can’t help but wonder why there is only one large reception room downstairs, one large bedroom and no bathroom included?  For a detached house of that era, surely there should have been two reception rooms downstairs ie. a living and dining room and most probably a bathroom too? However, it has been suggested to me by a friend who lives in a 1930s house, that a housing estate may have had a mixture of detached, semi-detached and terraced houses (maybe even bungalows) on the one site so the interior would vary considerably from house to house.  Therefore maybe the main purpose of this “model house” was simply to emphasise exterior features such as the glorious bay windows, pebbledash exterior and overall style rather than focus on the specific detailed layout of the interior?

Regardless of whether this was meant to be a toy or not, I'm sure you will agree that this is a rather lovely and quite unique house indeed.



ADDITIONAL UPDATE: A UK customer of KT Miniatures emailed me to say that her grandfather used to be chief architect for a northern city council back in the 1920s to the 1940s and that back then, student architects trained on the job. Apparently one of the things that they had to do early on in their training was to build a scale model from an existing plan. The trainee either chose a plan themselves  or were given one at random of a property that the planning department were considering for building approval and had so many weeks to construct a model of it. Height of cornice, size of mouldings, choice of colour schemes etc. were deemed just as important as the construction of the exterior and each trainee would be marked on all aspects of the model. Some of the resulting houses were given to children's homes, to younger sisters of the maker etc.....and the failures were simply burnt!


This house has now been sold and is off to a UK destination ready to embark on its new life!


More about this house, including ideas on how to maximise its potential such as unscrewing the back panel to give proper access to the kitchen, can be found on the following link:


© Copyright Celia Thomas-KT Miniatures 2013

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