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The history of doll houses

The history of doll houses begins with the simplest patterns and ends with real works of art in which renowned artists and craftsmen were engaged. Due to relatively high construction costs, only the most affluent members of the patriciate could afford them. They used to be present at the royal courts, ducal palaces, and manors of rich aristocracy in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and England. At present, old doll houses can be found in museums and private colections. They represent a 3-dimentional document of the epoch’s culture - both material and spiritual.

A leading doll house manufacturing centre used to be Nuremberg. Miniature houses produced there were precisely constructed, with perfected details and sumptuous equipment, all of which, obviously, entailed high prices. Paris ranked second to Nuremberg in terms of doll house production. There, a lot of attention was put into both elegant finish and the dolls’ clothes which were supposed to match contemporary fashion trends. Many of the English doll houses which were once beloved by members of the royal court and rich aristocracy, may now be admired in various museums. Dutch cabinet doll houses (the so-called „poppenhuizen”) excelled doll houses from other countries in terms of their valuables. Richly decorated, they were equipped with valuable materials, such as ivory, silver and porcelain. They were usually a wedding present given by the groom to the bride and by mirroring the bride’s family estate, they were supposed to soothe bride’s homesickness. Craftsment who made them were associated in a separate guild.

The hayday of doll houses was the period between the years 1700 and 1900. In the beginning, doll houses were not meant to be a toy but were miniature pieces of art performing various functions. Their major function was decorative and representative. Doll houses were most frequently true replicas as well as decorations of manors. Their equipment enchanted with skill and precision. They not only contained exact copies of real furniture, but also carpets, curtains, minature porcelain, silver dishes, ivory decorations, paintings by famous artists and books. A miniature version of a real manor house owned by the daughter of Prince of Bavaria Albrecht V housed miniature bottles with real wine in its tiny cellars. Later designs included electricity and sewage system as well. Doll houses performed a didactic function too. By observing the houses and their equipment, and later playing with them, kids acquired knowledge and prepared for their roles in adult lives. It may seem surprising, but in a house which the Princess of Saxony gave to her daughters in 1512, emphasis was placed on kitchen equipment. In other doll houses, on the other hand, one could find not only books but also maps, mini-globes or drawings presenting authentic historical buildings. Doll houses construed in this way are a tangible document of the epoch and the source of knowledge about culture and lifestyle of their owners.

The most famous doll house is an English Queen Mary’s house. It presents a 1:12 - scale Winsor castle and the equipment dates back to the 20’s of the 20th century. It was a present for Queen Mary’s birthday given to her by grateful subjects who wished to thank their queen for her attitude and dedication during WW1. The idea for building it originally came from Queen’s cousin Princess Marie Louise and the design was prepared by Sir Edwin Lutyen. The completion of this incredible miniature took four years. Its interiors enchant with precision and accuracy. The wall papers, carpets, curtains and furniture are exact copies of real castle equipment from the times of Queen Mary’s reign. The house contains contemporary paintings, 300 books by authors such as A. Conan Doyle, J. Conrad, R. Graves and others, a miniature gramophone playing God save the King, photo albums and many other items. Royal cars with petrol engines can be found in a garage nearby. Bathrooms contain tiny towels and cellars house bottles of real wine. The bathrooms are fully plumbed with hot and cold water; even the light fittings are working. 70 people were putting the house into life, among them: artists, craftsmen, sculptors, painters, writers and poets. It is now on display in Windor castle.

A bookcase-like cabinet doll house commissioned by Petronella de la Court in 1670 took nearly 20 years to build! It was ordered in 1670. Made of olive wood and divided into 11 parts, lavishly equipped, filled with rich trinkets, it contains 1,600 various objects: from 28 dolls through Dutch paintings, ivory bas-reliefs, sculptures, finely made clocks, or even a globe with a brass stand, to illustrated books with leather covers. The house used to be a pride of its first owner. At present, it is displayed at Utrecht Museum.

Doll houses were exclusive products, available merely for a limited number of people. Made with precision and consisting of top quality materials, they enchanted with accurate details and precise workmanship. They were pieces of art created by artists and talented craftsmen, completely transcending the dimention of common toys. They decorated, added prestige to the owners, educated and entertained.

Boomini goes back to these traditions by introducing beauty, quality, and safety of use into modern houses. Our doll houses are both a designer item and a gorgeous toy allowing a child to develop imagination and social functions, satisfy intellectual and emotional needs as well as develop a sense of esthetics and passion for beauty. Boomini teaches how to search for the best, the refined and the unique.