Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

2011 New York International Toy & Gift Fairs  by Christine Ferrara



I logged in some serious miles at the recent New York International Gift Fair and the Toy Fair, which both took place at the Javits Center in New York City in the past few weeks. These major events are open to the trade (and press, which is how I got to attend), and showcase the latest trends in design, playthings, house/home wares, and (many, many) related products. Major companies, small businesses, and individuals from all over the world attend to show and sell their products--it is a bonanza of ideas, people, wheeling and dealing, and its takes window shopping to a whole new level.

The shows are organized in long numbered rows, which hold booths that are grouped together by category; the aisles look like this:


                                      Toy Fair


                                                                                   Gift Fair

So, this gives you a sense of the magnitude: multiply these pictures by about 100 and that's how much there is to see! The purpose of my visits to both was to see the offerings through my "mini goggles," but I had to be selective since I only had one day for each fair (both events run over a period of days). I will say that I got some *very* strange looks when I said I blogged about modern miniature design, but at least it was a good ice breaker.

The ice breaker was not needed at the brinca dada booths, however, and I had the pleasure of meeting owner Doug Rollins at the Gift Fair and architect Tim Boyle at the Toy Fair to see their latest wares. Let's start off with Doug, who had the prototype for the new collapsible Dylan on display (I blogged about it here). Doug demonstrated the Dylan and answered a few questions for me as I drooled....please excuse my inadequate use of my kids' Flip camera (I need to get some tips from them!)



 It was great to see the Dylan up close and imagine its potential (the scale is still undetermined, but likely will be close to 1:16). Doug let me know that originally there was to be a drawer that would hold a set of paper furniture, but that was abandoned in the interest of making this as light and portable as possible. The paper furniture will still be done, though, and Doug and Tim promise great modern fun. I'm intrigued!

When I met Tim at the Toy Fair, he, too, was kind enough to indulge my lame Flip work, and showed me the gorgeous, gorgeous 1:16 Bennett House. I was happy to see it there, and Tim admitted that it took some late night hours to get this lovely prototype into shape for the Fair! First, a video of Tim and this gem:




Fantastic, right? I really do love the lines and structure, especially the play possibilities when it is both open and closed. As Tim notes in the video, there will be a new line of furniture for the Bennett that will be sold as a group, as with the Emerson furniture. By the way, Tim did note that they are working with a new manufacturer for the Bennett and Dylan, and are confident that the quality woes encountered with the Emerson are behind them. Price on the Bennett: $500-600. Timing for the Bennett: Fall 2011.


Other Toy Fair Tidbits

One of the four major trends at this year's Toy Fair was "cent-sational," or the "pennies-per-play" model of mini collectibles and mini versions of toys already on the market at mini price points. Anyone else collect those LEGO action figures??? Speaking of LEGO, I thought of my buddy Pubdoll when I saw this LEGO car from the movie Cars, which was situated on the main floor. Over 100,000 pieces needed for that one!



The HaPe showroom was a highlight. The Sunshine Bamboo Dollhouse was on display, along with all of the funiture; it was nice to see it first hand. I had a long talk with the marketing head about the fun and challenges of producing and promoting these houses. I took some pics of the one they had on display, and admired the smooth, durable quality of the pieces.



We also discussed their new All Season Dollhouse, from their Educo division, which is a more straightforward structure, but still with an eco theme. I liked the hanging mod light and rocket ship accessory!




On to Plan Toys... I'm familiar with the Green Dollhouse, and I liked handling the furniture and seeing some new items, like the flower bed.


Cute, huh? I love how the felted flower buds are fashioned.

Along the way, another company caught my eye, Maxim Enterprise. They do make an eco dollhouse, the 3 Level Rotating Dollhouse, which has some potential, but I was intrigued by their new wooden modular rooms that you can fit together to create a dollhouse. All eco friendly as well.



 They also were showing a barn that I thought could work as a studio to a larger house (sans the stalls), as well as a cute tree house that sprouted leaves! The Micro Timbers were pretty neat as well.

Some final eye candy that I love to use in my scenes: Tynies and the Beanie Eraserz, a line of new collectible erasers created by Ty and in partnership with the Japanese company Iwako. I love Tynies and am so glad my local toy shop carries them; it was good to see all the varieties here. Not just for kids, folks!

The Beanie line with Iwako is incredibly cute, and they feature "Beanie" colors. The eraser samples were on view in an enticing row of plastic dispensers, which attracted a lot of attention!



 Care for Some More Highlights from the Gift Fair?

 The Jonathan Adler booth had a lovely showroom space, prominently situated at one of the main entrances. I enjoyed speaking with the staff there, including Starrett Zenko, who heads up marketing and PR for the brand. Will there be more minis from Jonathan (you may know his line for Barbie's 50th Anniversary)? Not likely, at least not in the near future, but I noted that a shrink gun would come in mighty handy! I did notice Adler's "Junior" display of smaller items for the home...would LOVE those pillows in 1:12!

The "Accent on Japan" section was a real treat, and not surprisingly, there were lovely things to see. I was intrigued by mini paper instruments by Inatome, known as PePaKuRa, or the phonetic Japanese pronunciation for "paper craft." The instruments are laser cut, made out of a single sheet of paper, and they were amazing to see up close:


More paper craft in another booth:


And a mini garden!


Umbra was next on my list. I have many Umbra products that I use in my 1:1 life, but my mini use has involved the ingenious "Fish Condo, " which I enjoyed setting up as a sleek beach pad. Their booth had a storage cube that has serious mini potential:

 Even some nice picture frames that could serve as a backdrop, or two could even be used to create a little minimalist environment:

This wall decoration is fantastic as well -- many possibilities here, for flooring, a wall divider, even a ceiling in a room box!

Nearby, there was a fantastic gathering of iconic mini chairs at Karen Alweil Studio's booth, featuring the Australian company Little Nest:


The AMAC booth was like a candy store for us modern miniature collectors...


                                                 Little gems!

White opaque sleekness


Owner Steve Catechi was very intrigued and happy to see my open-mouthed reaction to the sea of beautiful plastic boxes, some gem colored, some shiny and opaque, in all shapes and sizes. HUGE mini potential here. Haven't we all used these boxes in some shape or form? The company has been around since the 1960s, and is recognized for its pure design by the Museum of Modern Art.

                        OOOH! Black opaque!


I had a blast at both fairs, and look forward to attending the next ones. 

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