Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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Brinca Dada Hits the Modern Doll House Scene
by Christine Ferrara (Call of the Small:

After the February 2010 Toy Fair in New York City, buzz spread very quickly amongst the modern mini community about the Emerson, a stunning 1:16 modernist creation unveiled at the Fair. From Daddy Types, to ohdeedoh to my fellow bloggers Mini Modern , Altera's Mini World, and Rebecca's Collections, design and doll house aficionados posted with intrigue about this newcomer, designed by the firm brinca dada (that's "BREEN-kuh day-duh").


Modern MC of Mini Modern recalled that a very similar-looking house sold on US eBay for over $400 USD a few months ago, and it was confirmed that it was indeed the Emerson prototype. This Daddy Types post has more on this.


According to the brinca dada website, the Emerson has it all: six rooms including a living room, kitchen, library/office, master bedroom, bathroom and child's bedroom; a large, open floor plan and floor-to-ceiling windows; many extras including mitered-glass corners, two fireplaces, sliding glass doors, solar panels, and recessed LED lights; and non-toxic and lead-free wood stains and paints. The price is pretty as well: the house will retail for $299 USD and will be available for worldwide shipping in late June. Preorders are being accepted now through the brinca dada website.


A press release on the brinca dada website notes that the Emerson's design was inspired by Neutra’s Kaufmann Desert House and the ultra-modern home that A. Quincy Jones designed for Gary Cooper, here (courtesy of

I was in touch with brinca dada head Doug Rollins, a dad of three, about the house back in February and also more recently for updates on the reaction to their creation. Given the amount of positive and plentiful press about the house since it premeried, I wanted to share more about this welcome addition to the modern doll house scene, and some updates.


What's the scale?
The scale of the house is closest to 1:16, although buzz early on said everything from 1:12 to 1:18. Rollins says, "The actual size is 3/4" which I think equates to 1:16. When we originally designed Emerson as 1:12 it was enormous and we thought it would be too big for many playrooms and too expensive. We're learning about scale as we go here. The idea for the company is to make toys that adults love to look at and kids love to play with. For the houses, we are finding that there is a significant market for dollhouse collectors as well. So we are quickly learning how best to give them what they are looking for. We developed Emerson House for kids as the primary user and adults (re: dollhouse enthusiasts) as a secondary target."

By the way, I have to assume a level of durability of this house given it is geared for children, who will likely not be deterred by the lack of stairs!


Are there accessories for the house?
There are dolls and living furniture. The dolls have a minimalist edge and in my opinion might resonate more with the kids and may not suit those adult collectors who use dolls in their scenes, but the furniture is more adaptable for collectors. Rollins said of the furniture and pricing, "We don't have prices for the furniture, but we are hoping to keep them in the $30-$40 per room range. More to come on that. We are still in the design phase so we don't know materials etc. yet." Rollins shared some new renderings of the bedroom and living room furnishings, with their strong midecentury lines set off in tones of brown and red.


While I likely will not purchase the dolls, Rollins and his team have modified their designs since February, and even launched a survey via their Facebook page to come up with the new dolls.

Where will the house be sold?
The house will be sold on the brinca dada website and in fine toy stores. Rollins said that he is "...pushing for wide distribution of our toys at retail. We're being considered for several high-end department stores, toy stores, gift stores, museum shops, and others." They are currently seeking a European distributor, but will ship worldwide.


Who is brinca dada and what is the meaning behind the name?
Rollins, a toy industry veteran, co-founded brinca dada with architect Tim Boyle, who as Rollins stated has "designed houses for a number of celebrities (which he can't disclose, even to me)." On the name, Rollins shared that "Brinca dada (it's day-duh) comes from the Brazilian term for toy or game. It's a total butchering of the spelling, though. Tim and I both lived in Brazil at different times and we both always liked the term. It has a great ring to it. Brinca is also Spanish for jump and we like the association with the dadaist movement which was so playful and also with the idea of daddy, which Tim and I both are." Boyle is dad to four, and both he and Rollins reside with their families in New York City. The company is so new that as Rollins said, "...when I say new, I mean new. We launched at the Toy Fair."


Will brinca dada continue to produce doll houses?
Rollins said that brinca dada will continue to design houses as part of their line and have some ideas for other toys that he did not want to disclose at this time.They have just unveiled designs for a 1:16 scale modern townhouse, the Bennett House, that Rollins hopes will be available by October. Rollins and his team just released images of the new house, and they are stunning.



The Bennett will retail for between $499-$599 USD, and affords a sleek and elaborate space for hobbyists. The photos demonstrate for me that it has the makings of a successful house, with the clever way it opens and closes (full access to all rooms when opened, and then access to the side when closed), but I am eager to learn more about how the various floor levels communicate and relate. The many windows and balconies certainly add visual interest, and the lovely light fixture on the bottom level shows the potential for hanging elements and other modern design accessories.


Back to the Emerson: I absolutely love the use of materials and the warmth of the house. I am impressed by what looks to be fine finishings and a keen level of architectural detail; I look forward to seeing it in person, hopefully sometime in mid-June at their New York City offices. The Emerson definitely fills a niche for modern doll house collectors, including those who prefer working in 1:12, but who might be amenable to working in a smaller scale.

The "hundreds" of pre-orders Rollins says they have received for the house is but one indication of its great potential for success.

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