The above question is one I have asked myself many times.
When collecting antique/ vintage dolls houses and miniatures it is always the cheaper option to buy the extremely well played with and maybe damaged items. Although by doing this the amount of hours that will be required to get a dolls house to a pleasing level of acceptance are much greater than the already restored or well looked after house. Of course the later option will warrant a much higher price to be paid. Basically it depends on time, money and on how much one enjoys the process of "working" on a house.
Restoration is I feel an art form in itself, it is very hard to achieve the desired cosmetic look when a novice. I have restored a few houses and I admit I am not very good at it! I am fine if the house just requires layers of paint removed and the majority of the original paint still remains beneath the overcoated paint. My stumbling block is when there is hardly any original paint left and bare wood is in sight! To obtain the correct colours and thickness of paint is extremely difficult. It is hard to achieve the "aged look" when applying new paint.
If my finances allow I tend to buy original houses, which are a higher cost, if this is not possible then I opt for the already restored houses but I do also buy the really cheap "battered" houses as I feel I can't make them any less pleasing than they already are, so I do not feel as if I have vandalised them any further than they have been already. I like houses to look aged as they would be but I do not like seeing houses looking empty and sad.
Some Collectors like the new fresh paint look, it is a matter of personal preference and if a Collector owns a house then basically it is their choice as to what they do or do not do with their house.
Positioning of houses is quite important when the house is an antique or vintage item, it is best to keep direct sunlight away from the house and contents but I do understand this is not always possible. I have a large house right in front of a large window but due to its size it can not be placed anywhere else within my home. I am constantly closing my window blinds as soon as the sun comes shining through!
Houses should preferably be stored in an atmosphere that is not too damp, as this will cause the wood to rot. Dry well ventilated rooms are the best option but not near any direct heat as this will lead to the wood splitting. An ideal position is in a hallway or on a landing.
Dust is always an on going chore, I only use a fine soft brush. The problems with cloths are however soft they appear to be on an old dolls house with dry wallpapers they seem to have an abrasive effect!
Woodworm is a major concern with houses as they are vulnerable as years ago wood was not automatically treated. It is best to check your houses regularly, it is likely that many old houses will have evidence of old woodworm holes (the opening of the holes will appear dark in colour where the wood has been exposed for along time). It is best to always treat any visable woodworm holes to ensure you giving the house the best precautionary treatment and also you would not want your home infested, a very costly business!
I have had two houses with many woodworm holes and after much research into the subject treated as follows:
1. Ensure the correct face safety mask is worn before commencing. Coat the whole house inside and out with a 5* wood pest treatment, clear finish, available from most D.I.Y. stores/shops, this not only treats the problem of woodworm but also the many other wood damaging parasites.
2. Seal the whole house into a large plastic bag, this contains the fumes within so that any fumes are left inside the bag to penetrate the house wood. If possible then place the house outside in direct sunlight for a day, the heat within the plastic bag will help kill any residing pests.
3. Leave the house for 2/3 weeks in a garage or outbuilding still contained within the plastic bag.
4. Repeat the above process.
5. Ensure this house is checked very frequently, woodworm tend to come to the surface of wood around early spring time, this is when they will be in flight looking for a new wood home to lay eggs, to start there whole life cycle again!
Woodworm can lay dormant in wood sometimes for around five years, so you may not always see signs of their presence.
I have never knowingly bought a dolls house with active woodworm, it is easy to see recent activity, the hole entrances are not dark in colour they are the colour of new wood. There will be fine wood shavings visible on the house floor below the hole entrance or in the vicinity. The house can be tilted and a coloured paper held under the suspected hole, then tap the house to see if any fine wood new shavings appear.
If a house is particularly rare, professional help could be sought, although this option can be costly. If the house is heavily infested and the numerous holes are unsightly the worst pieces of wood can be removed and replaced with new wood but it would be best to treat the remaining house shell as above.
Small items with woodworm are much easier to treat, they should be put into a plastic bag and placed in the freezer for 3/4 weeks, this will generally kill the "pests". Woodworm and other wood parasites do not like extreme hot or cold,
One of the other main problems for dolls house collectors is moths, these blighters can do a lot of damage to old fabrics eg upholstered furniture, bedding, curtains. The best option is to open your houses frequently and check them regularly. Moth repellant products can be placed within the close vacinity of the house, but not in direct contact with the house or contents.
When carrying out restoration on a dolls house, if the overcoated paint is quite flakey, rather than try to chip this paint off which can do damage on the under surface, use parcel tape. Ensure the tape is firmly pressed down onto the surface and then carefully peel it off.
I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this Magazine edition and also May's edition, I do appreciate the work and time involved with writing articles. I am always requiring articles for future magazine issues, so please feel free to write and send me any articles you would like to submit, they will be very much appreciated.
(Website Manager & Magazine Editor)