Doll­house de­signs get boost on­line

So­cial me­dia out­lets al­low hob­by­ists’ projects to thrive

The Expositor (Brantford) - - LIFE - ALI­CIA BAR­NEY THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For five months now, Rea­gan Baker has spent nights af­ter work hang­ing cur­tain rods, as­sem­bling chan­de­liers and in­stalling wood floors. She’s not ren­o­vat­ing her New York City apart­ment, but out­fit­ting a minia­ture doll­house camper.

“Ev­ery­thing is just so de­tailed; I’m us­ing tweez­ers all the time,” said Baker, a hair­styl­ist by day. “I to­tally turn off when I’m do­ing it. I used to be that way when I was run­ning, but now I like to make doll­houses and just sort of zone out. I’ll spend four hours just mak­ing one lit­tle thing be­cause I’m try­ing to re­ally make it per­fect.”

Baker is part of a grow­ing com­mu­nity of doll­house hob­by­ists — mostly young women — who build, re­hab and dec­o­rate minia­ture houses. Some work on doll­houses for their chil­dren and some, like Baker, just as a cre­ative out­let. Many turn to In­sta­gram — for in­stance #doll­house­reno or #mod­ern­doll­house — to share their progress and find in­spi­ra­tion. They are catered to by on­line shops spe­cial­iz­ing in ac­ces­sories like minia­ture wall art, vintage fur­ni­ture and tiny faux plants.

These doll­houses aren’t the Vic­to­rian-era type — they tend to be filled with on-trend ac­ces­sories like mini fid­dle-leaf fig trees and wallpaper that looks like sub­way tile.

That’s what sets to­day’s trend apart from pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions’ ef­forts to cre­ate in­tri­cate pe­riod houses, said Stephanie Wal­lace, a doll­house-fur­ni­ture maker in Bal­larat, Aus­tralia.

“Maybe I re­ally want that An­thro­polo­gie couch, but I can’t have it,” Wal­lace said. “So cre­at­ing that in minia­ture is fun for me. There’s also some­thing in us that gives a vis­ceral re­sponse to some­thing tiny. It’s an el­e­ment of re­con­nect­ing with our child­hood.”

Wal­lace, who owned an art gallery be­fore the birth of her daugh­ter three years ago, sees doll­houses as an­other ex­pres­sion of her love of de­sign. Vis­it­ing an elab­o­rate doll­house replica of Buck­ing­ham Palace — com­plete with “teeny tiny Rolls-Royces and crown jew­els” — on a trip to Eng­land a few years ago in­spired her to re­turn to a hobby of her child­hood, when she played with the Vic­to­rian doll­house her grand­fa­ther had made for her mother.

“It could be a project that isn’t too big, lit­er­ally,” she said. “It could stim­u­late my brain again so I could feel like a hu­man, not just a mum, for a lit­tle bit of time.”

She started post­ing pic­tures of her project on In­sta­gram, and af­ter a few weeks be­gan get­ting mes­sages ask­ing her to make things for strangers around the world. She started an Etsy shop where she sells hand­made pea­cock beds, vel­vet so­fas and pedestal ta­bles.

Even with cus­tomers who have chil­dren, she said, “a lot of the things they buy for them­selves.” And show them off on In­sta­gram.

“If the rise of In­sta­gram hadn’t hap­pened, nei­ther would this resur­gence of doll­houses,” Wal­lace said. “All of a sud­den the fo­cus has been on visual con­tent. And it’s a way to form con­nec­tions with peo­ple.”

The doll­house com­mu­nity is pos­i­tive in a time when so­cial me­dia can be a source of anx­i­ety and jeal­ousy, she said. “I have never ever had a troll or neg­a­tive com­ment,” she said. “The rea­son is that peo­ple are seek­ing pos­i­tive hu­man con­nec­tion. They’re en­cour­ag­ing each other ac­tively.”

Amy Dor­man, who works in the in­sur­ance in­dus­try, also found that en­cour­age­ment on­line when she be­gan work­ing on a doll­house project last sum­mer. She built the house from a craft-store kit and has been mak­ing ev­ery piece of fur­ni­ture by hand.

“I get likes from doll­house accounts from peo­ple who do such amaz­ing work,” Dor­man says. “It in­spires you to make some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent, or some­thing you didn’t think you’d be able to do.”

Dor­man’s minia­ture pink bun­ga­low has a porch swing, farm­house ta­ble and even its own wee doll­house in the craft area, all shared on a ded­i­cated In­sta­gram ac­count.

“I get just like a child when I fin­ish some­thing and I take a pic­ture of it, and I want to show all my friends at work and all my fam­ily,” Dor­man said.

In Au­gust, her doll­house won a third-place rib­bon at the Iowa State Fair, where there has been a doll­house com­pe­ti­tion since 1980. The al­ways pop­u­lar event has seen an in­crease in en­tries the last two years.

Now that the house is fin­ished, Dor­man said she’ll al­low her 12-year-old twin step­daugh­ters to play with it, and she plans to build doll­houses for her young nieces in com­ing years.

New York’s Baker is still per­fect­ing her doll­house camper — she’ll tackle mak­ing bed­ding and framed fam­ily pho­tos next, be­fore dis­play­ing it on her book­shelf. But like many doll­house afi­ciona­dos, she won’t be putting away her tweez­ers and glue.

“I’m go­ing to do an­other one a hun­dred per cent,” she said. “I feel like I’m just get­ting started.”

AMY DOR­MAN/AP PHO­TOS

Amy Dor­man shows the bed­room, kitchen and liv­ing room for the 144th scale doll­house she cre­ated in Des Moines, Iowa.

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