Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

Nelson Villa – A piece of flat pack furniture

By Daniel Brookbank

I discovered Nelson Villa at an auction in Worthing, West Sussex. It was proudly displayed in their window. I was very pleased to secure it and discovered to my delight that it came with all its original furniture, pictures and accessories. Also in one of the box were four sepia photographs of the house when it was new.

Picture below:The  Drawing Room


The most surprising thing about it, bearing in mind that it is about 40 inches square, was that it was flat packed! On lifting off the roof there are two horizontal bars that are fixed at each end, undo the screws and the whole house just falls apart. This makes it much easier to transport thankfully.

Picture below: The Magnificent Hallway & Staircase



On getting it home it was quite apparent that the house was going to need quite a bit of investigation to date it and trace its origins and then it was going to need complete restoration. The dating was quite easy. When I picked it up from the auction house the Auctioneer told me that it had been in the same family all its life and he very kindly put me in contact with them. They were a Worthing family and told me that it was made in about 1900 by a member of the family and that it had been passed down through the generations until the present owners had put it in their loft about 20 years ago as the children had grown out of it. The photographs that came with it were taken when it was new. So it was late Victorian, something that rang true with the design and build as well as the furniture that was in it.  


Picture below: The Gottschalk childs bedroom


Sadly it had been re-decorated a few times and finished with nasty 1970’s wallpaper and paint so re-decoration was essential. It was also missing its base board so a new one needed making, this was quite easy, a piece of good quality timber from a sawmill cut to size by them. My partner and I set about the renovation in earnest, Peter did the outside. He picked paints that were of the period and decided to leave the original green woodwork, this gives it the appearance of being original. The inside was my job. I contacted KT miniatures who have a good selection of original vintage wallpapers and bought enough to do the entire house. I spent time trying to re-discover the old and original wall coverings but sadly who ever had re-decorated in the 1970’s had stripped it first, even the wonderful windmill mural shown in the original pictures had gone.


Picture below: Dining Room Detail







I purchased some original floor papers from Germany to cover the floors, I did manage to save some of the original floor which was hidden under a later addition and I created new floors for the ground floor directly onto the new baseboard. One floor on the first floors needed replacing as it was very warped and everything kept rolling to the centre!



Picture below: The 1930's American Kitchen

When the house was re-assembled it was a joy. All the original furniture went back into it along with a number of additions. My collection of Walterhausen was added, a green 1930’s American kitchen went in and a pretty Gottschalk bedroom suite has been used in the child’s bedroom. The hallway is graced with a piano and a lovely Walterhausen sofa. There were some notable pieces of original furniture that was in the pictures of the house, the bedroom suite is in its rightful place, there is a lovely Union Jack pillow on the original red sofa in the lounge and a picture of a dog is back in the house.


Picture below: The Master Bedroom

We never managed to find out if Nelson Villa was based on an original house but since it came from Worthing and there are lots of big Victorian Villas there we think it probably is. Most likely it will have been knocked down to be replaced by a 1970’s block of flats, the type my Grandmother lived in, but we will keep searching to find if it still exists.


Picture below: Two of the original Sepia pictures that came with the house

This is a wonderful big house that houses a huge collection of furniture and accessories, over 600 at my last count, and one that we both treasure.


                                              Page 6