Friday, May 17, 2013

Miniature Williamsburg Dollhouse

When my sister Rosalind and I were old enough to read to ourselves, we were introduced to a book called "The Borrowers" about tiny little folk who lived in the walls of houses owned by "The Bigs."  Somewhat like gypsies in miniature, they cannily "borrowed" items from the Bigs in order to survive.  Following their adventures began my life-long love of fantasy fiction.  

When years later, as an adult, my sister began to build a Williamsburg dollhouse, I was enchanted.  I could imagine tiny little folks moving into it.  As the next three years passed, she carefully crafted period furniture, did research on colonial times, and decided the kitchen would need to be a separate building.  As the dollhouse neared completion, my sister's life changed dramatically when she met and married her love, Larry.  He had lived in Williamsburg as a child when his father, Jack Cotter was head archaeologist at the Colonial National Historical Park and directed excavations at Jamestown, Virginia.  Living in Rosalind's small house, it became clear that her dollhouse was taking up some valuable space that Larry needed for a study.  We all began house hunting for a larger house for soon to be married couple.  Moving house, meant packing up the dollhouse, which was a big disappointment for my daughters who had been allowed to re-arrange furniture under close supervision from their auntie Roz.  In its new home, the dollhouse was loved for a number of years before my girls moved on to teen age interests and the dollhouse gathered dust and was eventually packed away as my sister settled into married life.

My sister's dollhouse had been stored in her attic for seventeen years when she agreed to my request to haul it down and get it ready for a miniature show we are planning at St. Mark's.  I had remembered it as being amazing but it was in pretty sad shape after alternately freezing and heating over those years, so it has been undergoing renovations for the past six months and is now ready (as they say in TV land) for THE BIG REVEAL.  I am kicking myself for not taking photos of the before.  Rosalind had made it before internet shopping with what she could purchase in Albuquerque shops and through a few catalogs.  She had done an wonderful job, but the wall paper was not quite in period, so down it came with a whole lot of sponging and scraping...which was not easy for her in those tiny spaces!

The new wallpaper is much more elegant and was purchased from Dollhouse Emporium.  Rosalind used this paper for the master bedroom and adjacent dressing room.

Rosalind made the bed, the chair, the side tables and the cradle from kits.  The tiny little tatted edges on the pillow case were made by our great-grandmother and was handed down with her sewing box.  Rosalind made the rest of the bedding.  

At the foot of the bed, the maid has laid out a tiny little pair of knickers and a camisole for the mistress to wear after she had had her bath.  The maid has to haul water from the kitchen fireplace up a flight of stairs, to fill the bath and then haul it back down again.  No wonder people did not bathe as frequently in those days!

Next to it is the bed warmer the colonials used to made icy sheets bearable in the winters.

Here you can glimpse the bathtub hidden discretely behind a Chinese screen.

The Dressing Table

Next door to the Master Bedroom is the Dressing Room which contains a bed for the Master of the plantation.  He would retire to this bed when the Mistress had a new baby, or if he had been out late with his hunting buddies.
  A comfortable reading chair and a bottle of wine, make this space all his own.

In the next post, we will take a look at some of the rest of the rooms in this miniature colonial Williamsburg house.

For now, if you are intrigued by the miniature world, you can visit some of these fabulous site via these links:

The Queen's Dollhouse:


Colleen Moore's Fairy Dollhouse

Tom Robert's Collection


  1. This is really beautifully done and I see you're employing Camille techniques for photographing your spaces!

  2. Oh my Goodness, Heather, this is absolutely fantastic---You must show this to my mom! She will adore it! Not to mention that I've been think of taking the kids to Williamsburg next winter possibly----My sister and I went to summer camp in Jamestown one year when we were about the same age Gwen is now. The period furniture pieces are just exquisite...

  3. Love this - I have a strange fascination with dollhouses and miniature things. Maybe one day I will have a little girl so I can have my own dollhouse - and pretend it is hers. :)

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