Many people are blessed by siblings, but I have been extraordinarily blessed. Growing up in a family of four girls and two boys, I had many happy play times with my sister Susan and our dolls house. But it turned out that my older brother Ralph would be the one to contribute most to my collection of vintage dolls and doll houses.
Ralph worked for an organization in New York City that accorded him travel all across the globe. He developed a love of antiques and objet d’ art, especially small things that are easy to bring home from markets abroad. Knowing my love of doll houses, he scouted for me in the famous New York Antique Pier Shows, antique shops, and flea markets. He traveled to the Alexandra Palace Antiques Fair and Portobello Road in London, and scouted antique markets in Munich, Moscow, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, and many other cities around the world.
Above, Ralph in Istanbul; below, Ralph in India
One day, a carefully packed box arrived at my home in Phoenix, Arizona. I unpacked it with growing anticipation and surprise. Inside were the contents of a furnished “bachelor’s parlor” as I thought of it. All of the pieces were antiques from Germany, France, England and elsewhere. A marble topped table and Biedermeier desk that I believe are Kestner pieces, a glass-doored bookcase with tiny leather-bound books, a small cast iron fireplace mantle, two chairs, a bottle of port and wine glasses, and delightful collectibles that a sophisticated bachelor could appreciate: ship, racecar, cannon, helmet, a sword in sheath, vases, sculptures, a small statue of Napoleon, to name a few. For the wall, a mirror and two paintings (one an original oil from London). I was enthralled.
What was in the box!
I arranged it as a “room” in a bookcase where I could admire its beauty, and set out to find a special case to display it in. Soon I came across the perfect piece at Auntie Em’s Miniatures. It was a two story case of two plain shelves, one above the other, with two exterior walls shaped as a townhouse, and two walls of sliding glass. It allowed for plenty of light and was just the right size for the room display.
The empty townhouse case
I set up the Bachelor’s Parlor in the top shelf, hung the pictures and mirror, and placed it on a table next to my fireplace.
But what to do with the second “room”? Luckily, Ralph came to the rescue again. Several years before, he had brought me a set of dishes that were so unique and special, and I didn’t want to separate them and lose them into my larger doll house collection.
So I created a kitchen in the downstairs room that could do justice to this special set. Ralph had acquired it at a Pier Show, and was told by the antiques dealer that it was English, from the Edwardian era, dated about 1910 . I had plenty of kitchen furniture in my existing collection. A Barton stove along with vintage German sink, table, and cupboards were perfect in scale. There my wonderful dish set could display beautifully. I think to this day that it is fine enough to have been a gift to Queen Mary for her doll’s house, but of course I’m keeping it right here.