You finally reach the stage where your tribute dollhouse is “ready”. The lighting, wallpaper and furniture is done and you’re at the stage where it’s time to accessorize. You add the basics, of course… groceries, linens, toiletries, etc… but what then? Even with a few OOAK artisan pieces, at this stage you likely have the same mass-produced wallpaper, furniture and object’s d’art as hundreds of other collectors. How do you personalize the collection and make it uniquely yours?
You have one wholly unique thing that no other collector has, your genes. You know who you are and what makes you, “you”, so who are your mini inhabitants? You have already decided what era they lived in when you chose the style of house, but who will reside in your mini house? What are they like? Where are they from? What are their tastes? Even if you’re not adding dolls to your collection, each room of your dollhouse tells a story and you are their biographer, so to speak. Now is the time to decide who you want them to be.
When faced with a tribute dollhouse, like Bob’s House, the answer is simple. I decided the house would be my father’s boyhood home and he and his parents would be represented in it. There are several cultural accents in Bob’s House reflecting my father’s family tree. Once you choose who resides in your mini house, the rest is easy. Know your subject(s) and use the information of who they, and their ancestors, were to make your collection truly original.
Let’s start with food.
As a professional food artisan, I have received many requests for custom work over the years. Collectors often ask for familiar foods or foods from their childhood but most requests are for ethnic foods… favorite family dishes passed down over generations were some of the most requested foods coming out of the Crown Jewel Imaginarium!
Regardless of the origin of your roots, chances are there is a familiar dish your grandparents, aunts and uncles made and serving it in your dollhouse is a relatively easy way to “add DNA” to your collection. My Irish, British and German ancestry are the inspiration to a variety of foods in Bob’s House you would not think to combine elsewhere and that uniquity (or oddity, LOL) is what makes it mine.
Arts & Crafts
Honoring my German great great grandparents who came to America from Dresden, I researched antiques from the 1800’s in that area and discovered traditional Dresden porcelain china was (and still is) world renowned. I added tiny “porcelain” figurines in the living room and a traditional cuckoo clock (see photo above). An Irish friend has a tiny shillelagh in her mini collection and one of my collectors in Mexico has the most beautiful Mayan terra cotta figurines on a prominent mini shelf in her collection.
Regional differences in linens are enchanting! Tiny folkart designs on Scandanavian tea towels, Navajo rugs and throws, Sichuan bamboo mats, flax towels from France and Northern Ireland and Turkish carpets, to name a few, can help put your genetic stamp on your collection.
So your grandmother is from Italy? Consider the era of your dollhouse and look into various styles of chairs from her region that she would have used. Russian wood burning stoves were quite decorative, usually tiled or handpainted porcelain and make quite a statement even in a modern dollhouse in the sunroom! A rough hewn stool from 19th century Scotland can be the perfect accent as a plant stand near a sunny window.
Your great grandfather was Dutch? Perhaps a beautiful Van Gogh painting above your mini mantle? The Starry Night is just as popular and lovely now as it was in June of 1889!
There are so many ways to “add DNA” to your dollhouse!
Cultural elements need not be obvious, but you will know they are there and that is all that matters. Marble countertops in your kitchen would be a fabulous nod to your Italian ancestry! So much of the home decor we love today actually has roots in previous decades and centuries. Ancient Romans were using granite long before it became a fad in our kitchens and the Egyptians certainly had a way with tile! The homey braided rugs gracing our floors were a way of life in Colonial America! Ukrainians were decorating beautifully intricate Easter eggs by hand long before Paas began selling those cute little kits! A quick search on Google can help you add authentic cultural elements to your collection relevant to your ancestors or the imaginary mini inhabitants you choose to represent.
Memories light the way.
If your DNA is the backstory to your tribute dollhouse, then memories and anecdotes are easily the illustrations to your draft. Your favorite uncle carved wood and you’ve added small wood carvings to your decor. Your grandmother loved to garden and you’ve added vases of her favorite flowers to the dining room table. Your grandpa loved to barbecue for the family and you’ve set up a big picnic scene on your mini patio. Your zany Aunt Tillie adored purple scarves and you’ve added one to your mini coat rack. These are the elements that speak to you, that make your collection relevant in a way no pretty, mass produced mini ever could.
Can’t find an element you need? Make it yourself! If you have to whittle that little duck carving for your mantle yourself and it doesn’t really look much like a duck your Uncle Horace made, so what? It’s original art and original art comes in all manner of expression. Make it yourself and make it your own!
Every item you choose to add to your dollhouse is the “right” item but choosing cultural items that speak to your soul can make it an heirloom. It’s an extension of you and your family and it can’t get any more unique than that! Choose the narrative for your dollhouse and let the accessories reveal your personal story. It will speak to you in so many lovely languages.
Next up… To “Season” or not season your dollhouse, that is the question!
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IGMA Artisan Robin Brady-Boxwell