Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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

A Dolls House Exhibition in Bergkamen by diepuppenstubensammlerin


A dolls house exhibition within 100 km – such a rare event that of course I went, very curious and eager. The poster promises a comparison between miniature design and reality. That is exactly my interest in collecting dolls houses!

Here I take you on a virtual and very personal stroll around the exhibition as I explored it with my camera (having asked for permission to take photos in advance).



The entire second floor of the Municipal Museum of Bergkamen, North Rhine-Westphalia, is dedicated to this exhibition: beautiful white show cases on the walls and some standalone glass cases are in these two large rooms. In the photo above (from the left to the right), a 60s Albin Schönherr house, below a 70s bungalow of BIG (Jean Höfler), the “Libelle” of VEB Grünhainichen, below a do-it-yourself-roombox, then an 80s LISA, two 70s houses by SIO and around the corner more 70s houses by Modella and JEAN.



There are 6 or more Lundby dolls houses – a field of collection I do not know much about (yet).


Behind on the wall the showcases are filled with dolls furniture and photos from old furniture catalogues and magazines. On the right a little dedication to the 50s with “real” chairs and a table:



Let’s take a look at some of the pieces:




A cosy little house of Albin Schönherr (GDR) probably made around 1960. Like many dolls houses of the time, it represents the dream of a small house with a garden of one’s own. A few years later the dreams have grown bigger just like some dolls houses…



A dream of the architecture of the fifties, “Libelle“ (translated "The Dragon Fly") made in 1961, wonderfully preserved,



and as so often with this manufacturer, clearly marked both with the name of the house and with their logo, VEB Grünhainichen. I have already seen several versions of this house – remarkable, as despite a very short production period, it was no automated mass-produced model.  This one has a beautifully original flower decoration at the front.





As a contrast to the ultra-modern factory-produced model, underneath is a homemade room box of around 1960, with lots of space for a Paul Hübsch bedroom in dark pastel colours and beautifully curved night stands.




Both large SIO dolls houses were made during the 70s, I guess, you can hardly distinguish them from the other famous dolls house producer of the Netherlands – OKWA. Luckily they write their logo right on the front of this house.



The second house I like best because of the striking 70s colours and patterns:





Both houses are decorated with a mixture of VERO, Modella and JEAN furniture.



A rare roombox of Modella which I did not have in my (photo) collection of Modella room boxes up to now. A children’s room, a nursery, made around 1975, furniture still fixed in sales condition – never before had I seen a pram or a baby's high chair of Modella.



Made perhaps at the end of the 70s this dolls house is equally rare – I had only seen it in a catalogue before this. The photo is bad because of the mirroring glass and the poor lighting.



Here is another homemade roombox: a 60s dolls kitchen made of wood, from which one wall had gone, and it was decorated with colourful paper and parts of a 1972 Modella living room boxed set – including some cut-outs of the cardboard designs from the original box. The cupboards on the right look very similar to Modella ones but they are VERO products, the lovely stool is from a Bodo Hennig bedroom and the dolls are very small (about 16 cm) fashion dolls. Modella liked to advertise their room boxes with those little fashion dolls, too.



Dolls furniture is often displayed in the Bergkamen exhibition with original catalogues and magazines showing similar pieces. Especially colourful, of course, were the kitchen cupboards. From the left to the right: Wichtelmarke (Ullrich und Hoffmann), Crailsheimer, Fritz Altmann, Crailsheimer, Paul Hübsch – and Bodo Hennig above.



One of my favourite showcases I called “Kitsch and country style furniture“:



Bad taste of that time in miniature: the kitschy, ornate “antique furniture” which Lundby also made in white Rococo imitation, or the dreadful Going-Back-To-The-Country – very common around 1970, nearly every dolls house producer had them on sale – even Bodo Hennig, but that was one decade later on. Here we see examples of VERO and Hermann Rülke – at least made of wood and not of plastic like some very ugly versions from Modella and JEAN.



The exhibition has only a few rare pieces for the eyes of a longtime collector - these pieces of Hergenröther furniture are certainly in that category, and it was wonderful to see them in real life.


Rare, too, these Crailsheimer (I strongly suppose) cupboards:




The Albin Schönherr roombox below is from the 60s, with plastic furniture by Crailsheimer and fashion dolls again. They are probably from the 70s, 16 cm tall? They are smaller than Mattel’s Sunshine Family or Skipper dolls, which are about 22 cm tall.



Above the roombox are magazine photos of contemporary furniture, although the kitchen photo bears not much likeness to the Crailsheimer kitchen. And the reason for the small Modella living room table right in the middle of the kitchen will be unsolved forever…




The collectors of this exhibition like Bodo Hennig as much as I do and there were many glass cases filled with his furniture, sadly not many old pieces, and the 70s are nearly complete in my collection.



So many white cupboards of 1972 in a row look very good – even when they are all mistakenly standing upside down!




This pattern I only saw once in an eBay auction photo – I still wonder whether it is original. In the meantime I have been able to see copies of Bodo Hennig catalogues of that time and I did not spot this pattern anywhere. Another mystery.




This photo shows a dining room set by Fritz Altmann, not by Hennig as written on the label – the two manufacturers were friends and had similar styles.



Sadly these are not chairs by Hennig either, a GDR product probably.



I collect patterns of cloth by Bodo Hennig, found on beds, sofas, deck chairs etc. This is a good one for my photo collection.



…and another one.


At first I thought “This was made in red, too???” – but looking closely you can see that it has been overpainted – so there was no new discovery after all.



A very original homemade dolls house with the typical legs of 50s furniture.



A corner of the room was separated by glass walls and presents four very very big dolls houses. Have you ever seen the villa of Albin Schönherr of 1959 (behind on the left) or the Bodo Hennig house of 1969 (in front) in a collection? Or did you try to find space for them in your own collection? Then you know how large these houses are. The other two dolls houses are even bigger, both homemade houses, behind a typical brown 80s house and on the right “Villa Christine”, probably from the 60s.




Some dolls houses in this exhibition I would have not included because they are very damaged. I think you can show old damaged houses when the preserved versions are very rare, that is better than showing badly renovated ones, but the houses of this exhibition that I refer to are often offered on and are quite easy to replace:




This is an example of the changes some toys have gone through in later years: a Gottschalk roombox in very poor condition, without the original flooring or wallpaper (the replacement floor paper is not by Gottschalk but from VEB Grünhainichen), and painted over in a terrible red. I am afraid that I would not include such a dolls house in my collection nor in an exhibition – if included, it should be described for what it is.



Here are some photos of the toy advertisements in the exhibition:



A German mail order catalogue of 1963 showing a toy shop of Crailsheimer and a tin kitchen of Fuchs.




Taken from the same catalogue, Crailsheimer furniture above and Modella below.



You could also order the wonderful bungalow of Häfner und Krullman – at a “very reasonable price – a success!”


The Bergkamen Municipal Museum also houses some very precious exhibits from the fifties, e.g. this original corner shop. 




The shop is the model for all our toy shops, fascinating to see it in real scale with all its numerous details.






Wandering to the next room you find yourself in a hairdresser’s shop of the same period, which does not exist in miniature, I think, the only hairdresser’s shop I know is by Modella of 1972. This one in real scale used to be a real shop and the objects in the glass cases are interesting in every detail.






More information on the exhibition is available on the net, written in German but with many photos.

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