MINIA­TURE MAR­VELS

You don’t need mil­lions to en­joy the per­fect pe­riod prop­erty. Caro­line McGhie finds small can be beau­ti­ful too

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property Life -

This is a mag­nif­i­cent 18th-cen­tury wed­ding cake of a house, five storeys piled high with strings of grand rooms, at­tics, pan­elling, or­nate plas­ter­work and an ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece of a stair­case. It is a small palace fit for a duke and duchess, all lime­stone dress­ings and Doric col­umns. Ser­vants’ quar­ters, kitchens, pantries and scul­leries are buried in the base­ment. It needs to­tal dec­o­ra­tion. How much is it? At just over 6ft tall and 6ft wide, Ash­worth Grange can be yours for £2,500 plus a £250 de­liv­ery and set-up charge. Mark Wil­cox will prob­a­bly set off be­fore dawn from Liskeard in Corn­wall to de­liver it to you. He will make it for you too. Mark be­gan mak­ing doll’s houses nine years ago when he was made re­dun­dant as a lorry driver and thought his six-yearold daugh­ter would like one. She pre­ferred the idea of own­ing a pony, but he was hooked on minia­tures by then. It was a good decade to start up The Dolls House Builder (01579 24168). Prop­erty prices were soar­ing, tele­vi­sion cos­tume dra­mas were thriv­ing and those who couldn’t af­ford to buy the tro­phy house of their dreams opted in­stead for the minia­ture. All doll’s house mak­ers say that nine out of 10 of their sales go to adults. Thou­sands of them at­tend ded­i­cated doll’s house fes­ti­vals around Europe. “It gives them back a bit of their lost youth. Most of them are in their mid-six­ties and they al­ways say they wanted a doll’s house when they were young,” Mark says. “A doll’s house is an as­set, be­cause it goes up in value more than money in a bank ac­count. And it is all about hav­ing the fan­tasy house that you can’t af­ford to buy.” Much of the value is in the in­te­rior dé­cor. “You can buy fur­ni­ture room sets for £15 to £20 each, or you can go to proper crafts­men who will make fur­ni­ture with in­laid mar­quetry at £400 to £500 a room. It isn’t the houses so much as the things which go in them which are valu­able. You can get chan­de­liers, flock wall­pa­pers, ta­ble set­tings, any­thing,” Mark adds. Fully dec­o­rated, Ash­worth Grange could be worth £40,000 to £50,000. Din­g­ley Hall, a doll’s house made in the 1870s from the car­cases of two book­cases by two school­boys who lived at Min­ley Manor in Hamp­shire, made a land­mark sale at Christie’s in 2003, fetch­ing £124,750. Early doll’s houses are prized as records of do­mes­tic de­tail at the time they were built. One of the most fa­mous is Queen Mary’s, de­signed by Sir Ed­win Lu­tyens and on show at Wind­sor Cas­tle. Christ­mas brings out a surge of pur­chases for chil­dren. The Dolls House Em­po­rium (08000 114422), which has a daz­zling choice, sees young buy­ers go­ing for the Wild West Rocky Ridge sa­loon bar and Mary Beth’s ice-cream par­lour (both £73). Their finest, usu­ally bought by adults, is Grosvenor Hall. It is more than 5ft high and costs £565. More af­ford­able isWent­worth Court at £169. Both come flat-packed for self-as­sem­bly. To what ex­tent does play im­i­tate life and vice versa? Few houses have a greater air of doll’s house pro­por­tion and fan­tasy than Ash­down House, a his­toric stately home in Ox­ford­shire. At £4.5m through Knight Frank (01488 688500) and Carter Jonas (01635 263000), it costs 90,000 times as much as its minia­ture. Built by the Earl of Craven in 1663, of dressed chalk with hints of French chateau, and eight bed­rooms, cot­tages and park­land, it is known lo­cally as “the doll’s house”. So now it seems that we spend per square foot on real es­tate what we are pre­pared to spend on a whole doll’s house. “Prime Ox­ford­shire houses cost £500 to £750 per square foot and prime Kens­ing­ton costs £1,500 per square foot,” says Ru­pert Sweet­ing of Knight Frank. In both, we ap­pear to de­sire or­der, sym­me­try and pe­riod pret­ti­ness. The Queen Anne house ranks high. Mat­tishall Hall, inset, in Nor­folk, priced at £1.55m through Strutt & Parker (01603 617431), has the ex­act façade, with seven bed­rooms, swim­ming pool, ten­nis court and land. Shrink it to the play­room and you could have all the fun of dec­o­rat­ing it for much less.

Ash­down House, full size, far left; left and above, Grosvenor Hall doll’s house; be­low, minia­ture pasties in the kitchen

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