Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

Big Worlds in Small Scales - A Dolls House Exhibition in Turkey by staff of the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, İstanbul


Aerial view of the Rahmi M. Koç Museum in İstanbul © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

The Rahmi M. Koç Museum in İstanbul is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Our museum offers invaluable collections dedicated to the history of transport, industry and communications. Among its collections, the museum has historic vehicles, a maritime collection, unique models and engines, as well as a street of recreated traditional shops, including a toyshop.


 Haliç's Toy Store sign © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

Interior of Haliç's Toy Store © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum


Haliç's Toy Store window display © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Models of customer and owner in Haliç's Toy Store © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum 


Our collections appeal to the interests of people from 5 to 90 years old. More than 400,000 people visited our museums in İstanbul, Ankara and Ayvalık this year, and more than half of our visitors are children and students.

We carry out many educational activities for children, and while we were going through the history of the industry of toy making, we came to realize that the “dolls’ house” is one of the milestones of this history. Thus, we decided to prepare and open an exhibition about them in honour of our 20th anniversary. We hope that this exhibition, the first of its kind in Turkey, will help flourish the rich imagination of our young visitors and take our adult visitors back to their childhood ...


Rahmi M. Koç with Ruby Villa. © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


The founder of the museum, Rahmi M. Koç, explains,

"I grew a passion for these houses when we opened our museum and bought them wherever I found them, only because they were decorative and colourful.

However, the moment we decided to do the exhibition of dolls’ houses, I asked our restorers Ms. Serra Kanyak and Ms. Özden Çelik to study them and approach these beautiful decorative crafts from a scholarly perspective. Therefore, Serra and Özden visited many museums in the UK that exhibit dolls’ houses, they met with experts and built up a library, full of related books."

Dolls’ houses are outstanding and extraordinary works of art that make people find themselves reminiscing about their childhood; pushing the limits of their imagination; and reflecting on their inner worlds, the societies they live in, and history.


Above and below, overview of the exhibition gallery. Photos © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum


Above and below: Visitors view the exhibits. Photos © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum 


The exhibition includes dolls’ houses from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. They reflect their owners’ personalities and tastes with their colour, smell, pattern and details like furniture, fabrics, curtains, carpets, chandeliers and number of rooms.

Some of the earlier dolls houses in the exhibition ...

Exterior of Ruby Villa © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Ruby Villa, 1880.

Dimensions 81 cm w x 116 cm h x 45 cm d


An English dolls’ house named Ruby Villa, which was made for Ruby Gibs in 1880. Inside, it is decorated with original wallpapers of the period.


Interior of Ruby Villa © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


In the right upper room is a Waltershausen desk. The brass oil lamp on the table is also German, late 19th century.

Bedroom in Ruby Villa © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

Living room in Ruby Villa © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Kitchen in Ruby Villa © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum



Exterior of Dora Villa © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Dora Villa, English, ca 1900

Dimensions 44 cm w x 76 cm h x 24 cm d

The external frontage is painted in the form of a red brick wall. The stairs of the house, the basement walls and the door have been painted to resemble marble.


Interior of Dora Villa © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum

The sofa on the upper floor is a British product that belongs to the 1840s.



Photo © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

German, probably Gottschalk, ca 1900

Dimensions 51 cm w x 86 cm h x 36 cm d


Ca 1900 German dolls house open. Photo © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Detail of upper room of ca 1900 German dolls house © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

The interior was redecorated with papers and fabrics of the period. It is furnished with modern reproduction Victorian style pieces. [Ed: I show close-ups of the papers on the upper and lower floors; to me, the floor paper looks possibly original, and the wallpapers look old.

Detail of upper room of ca 1900 German dolls house © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum



Exterior of Marqueterie Villa  © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Marqueterie Villa, ca 1900

Dimensions 48 cm w x 43 cm h x 25.5 cm d

This single-storey dolls’ house has a brick effect exterior, while the door and two glazed windows are decorated with marquetry.  One side of the roof is glass and the other side is a wooden flap, which opens to give access to the house. There are two rooms and one hall. Original paper can be seen on the floor. The wallpapers are not original.


Detail of Marqueterie Villa  © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum


Exterior of Mirador Villa © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Mirador Villa, by Christian Hacker, ca 1900

Dimensions  75 cm w x 85 cm h x 51 cm d

This French style dolls’ house with a typical mansard roof is designed by the German manufacturer Christian Hacker. The attic roof is covered by diamond shape tile effect paper and it has three glazed windows. There are four glazed windows on the front and two at the back. The central balustraded balcony has a door leading to the upper floor.


Detail of front of Mirador Villa © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


There are two opening fronts, one for the upper storey and one for the lower storey. The four rooms on the first and second floors are connected to each other by a central staircase. All the wallpaper and flooring is original. The kitchen has painted shelves.


Interior of Mirador Villa © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum

The typical French white lightwood furniture is decorated with gilt paper edgings and floral decoupage. The furniture was a specialty of the Parisian maker, Victor-François Bolant and dates circa 1890.

Mirador Villa, detail of upper room, with furniture by Victor-François Bolant © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum
Photo © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum

Orobre House, 1904

Dimensions 20 cm w x 29.5 cm h x 26 cm d


Orobre House was made in 1904 by the firm Orobre of Brandenburg, in Germany, better known for their tin toys. This house is made of lithographed tin, and consists of six rooms with printed walls, one garden and one roof. The rooms can be removed individually. All the furniture is also made of tinplate and is fixed inside the rooms by pinning lugs.
 Photo © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

Gottschalk Dolls’ House, 1905

Dimensions: 28 cm w x 63.5 cm h x 19.5 cm d

This sea-side villa type dolls’ house was designed by Moritz Gottschalk in Germany for the French market. The wooden, two-storey dolls’ house has lithographed paper cover to simulate some architectural details.  The hipped roof and the turret with a steeple roof is painted blue. The hinged front opens to two interior rooms.

Open Gottschalk 1905 dolls house © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum
Photo © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum

Red Roof Dolls House ca 1930

Dimensions: 39.5 cm w x 38 cm h x 32 cm d

This two-storey, primitive wooden dolls’ house is fitted on a wooden ground. The interior of the house is furnished with the original furniture of its period.


The exhibition also includes dolls houses by Triang, Hobbies, GeeBee, Wolverine, and Fisher Price, as well as a radio modelled as a house, a school set, a model church, displays of dolls large and small, and accessories and furnishings.

Display of milk glass crockery © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum
Above and below, displays of bedroom furniture © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum
 Display of kitchenware © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum

Some of the later dolls houses in the exhibition ...

As we noted in the introduction, our exhibition includes dolls houses from the 21st century, as well as products of the later part of the 20th century.


Photo © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Maritime Museum ca 1960

Dimensions: 1.7 m w x 1.09 m h x .91 m w

This model of a Maritime Museum was made ca 1960, by Ed and Helen Sims of Laguna Beach, California, in 12th scale.


Plaque with Maritime Museum makers' names © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


It is built in Georgian style with four columns, blue siding and a wooden tile covered roof.


Above, detail of dormer window; below, open back of the Maritime Museum. © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

There are eight rooms over two stories, with each room depicting a different aspect of seafaring history. The main room at the entrance of the house depicts the clipper ship era with paintings, ship models, and a ship’s figurehead.  

Above, main room of Maritime Museum; below, Maritime Museum office. © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

There is an office room with a China trade front desk. On the other side there is a room which celebrates the era of the ocean liner with various ships and images on the wall, the central focus being a model of the R.M.S. Titanic. Upstairs there is a diorama room with two dioramas and some ship models.

Central rooms of the Maritime Museum. © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum

There is also a workshop for model ship making, with a work bench, wood pieces, paints, glue and some tools.

                                 Model making room © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


It seems very appropriate that this model of a maritime museum now belongs to a museum which has a large maritime collection, including both real vessels and models.


View of exhibition gallery with June Ann dolls house on right. © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum

Whole front of June Ann dolls house.  © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


June Ann Dolls’ House, 1974

Dimensions: 2.69 m w x 1.19 m h x .53 m d

This handmade American Victorian style dolls’ house was made by Maggie and Walter Prysaiznuik, and named June Ann Dolls’ House, after a family friend who died of cancer at 22. The Prysaiznuiks spent 10 years and more than $100,000 building this dolls’ house. There are a lot of handmade items and store-bought dolls, carousels and horse-drawn carriages on the balconies.


     Dolls on the balconies of June Ann dolls house. Photos © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum



The Miami Herald News awarded June Ann House as “the best dolls’ house” in December 21, 1986. After Walter Prysaiznuik died, the dolls’ house was exhibited at events and especially at Christmas time in shopping malls and the revenue was donated to organizations helping children in need such as the “Broward County Kids”. This dolls’ house has been dedicated by Maggie Prysiazniuk to the memory of June Ann and all children who are forgotten.


Dolls on the balconies of June Ann dolls house. Photos © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum



Photo © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Patandons Emporium, 2000s

Dimensions: 99 cm w x 97 cm h x 56 cm d


This Victorian style dolls’ house designed as a shopping center was presumably made two people named Pat and Don. It has four storeys and twelve rooms. There are three shop entrances on the lower level, leading to an ironmonger’s, a baker’s shop and a toy shop. At upper ground level, a glassware shop, ladies' accessories and clothes shops also have external entrances. Stairs lead up from here through the central shops, and also from the back of some stores. A nursery shop, gentlemen’s accessories shop, furniture shops, and a clock shop are on the upper floors.


Interior of Patandons Emporium  © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Left side of Patandons Emporium  © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Centre of Patandons Emporium  © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Right side of Patandons Emporium  © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


View of exhibition gallery with Café Dolly on left. © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum


Photo © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


 Café Dolly, 2013

Dimensions: 64 c w x 64 cm h x 58 cm d


This German style, two-storey little tower is fixed on a hexagon platform. The interior and exterior decorations of the house were made at the Düzey Workshops (Turkey) and designed as a cafe.

Café Dolly, open © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum


Café Dolly outside seating area  © Bruno Cianci/RMK Museum


Café Dolly, a waiter serves wine to customers © Ali Konyali/RMK Museum



We hope you have enjoyed seeing some of the magnificent dolls’ houses belonging to the collection of the Rahmi M. Koç Museum. This is only a selection of the many dolls houses on show in this exhibition – we hope that you will visit Turkey and come to our museum to see the whole collection.


See the What's On page for more detail of the exhibition, or visit the Rahmi M. Koç Museum website. 

Grateful thanks are due to staff of the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, especially Ms. Nihal Tokat Kushan, who wrote most of the text, Yesim Anadol Zengin (Collection Department Manager) and Bruno Cianci (International Press Adviser).

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