Small Talk Tag: Dollhouse

Finely Furnished: The Tynietoy Town House

tynietoy mansion

During the 1920s and 1930s, the United States fell in love with its roots: the colonial era. The Tynietoy company’s founders Marion Perkins and Amey Vernon reimagined a wide variety of historically-inspired wooden dollhouse furniture based on the full-size furnishings of America’s earliest years. It probably comes as no surprise that in addition to Tynietoy’s furniture offerings, matching Georgian colonial mansions were also produced.

One of the most popular and stately models was the New England Town House, seen here. The Tynietoy mansion has two floors connected by a grand staircase, a smaller wing, and a long attic with a hinged roof. The removable façade of the house has nine celluloid windows, green shutters, and a painted neoclassical doorway complete with a door knocker. If you are thinking this description sounds like a real estate listing rather than a dollhouse, you’re not too far off. According to a 1930 catalog, the New England Town House sold for $270 completely furnished- that’s about 40% of the price of a new car at that time!

The World Made Small

Colonial Williamsburg Dollhouse

Generations of visitors to Colonial Williamsburg have witnessed history come alive before their eyes. Historical reenactors interpret everyday life in the revolutionary city, from famous patriots to tradespeople and shopkeepers. One of the best ways (and of course our favorite) to see how children lived in America’s earliest years is through the toys they played with.

The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg has stepped out several of their dollhouses for an exhibit called The World Made Small. More than just playthings, dollhouses provided a way for girls to learn the importance of keeping house. Among the dollhouses on display is an 1820 cabinet-style house filled with over a century’s worth of family heirlooms, including a tiny chest-on-chest made from a cigar box. A massive fifteen-foot-long dollhouse from 1900 steals the show with Victorian furnishings that emulate full-scale homes of the time. Colonial Williamsburg staff and volunteers actually re-created several paintings from the permanent collection on a small scale to adorn the walls! Not to be outdone by the “girlish” dollhouses, the exhibit also features toy structures for boys including a fort, soldier’s campsite, and a farm.
Photo: Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg.

Finely Furnished: The Tynietoy Company

Tynietoy

Rhode Island was one of the most distinctive places for furniture-making in colonial America. It was only fitting that Marion Perkins and Amey Vernon founded the Tynietoy Company there in the 1920s. The female entrepreneurs capitalized on the colonial revival movement in America and began making high-quality wooden dollhouse furniture based on early American decorative arts movements.

Wing-back chairs, highboy cabinets, and four poster beds all found their way into dollhouses. Each piece of furniture was hand-painted by students at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1923, the company standardized the dollhouse furniture to 1:12 scale (1 inch equals 1 foot in full-scale) and were produced in a variety of styles. Tynietoy’s high-end (and high-style) playthings sold at stores like Marshall Field’s and F.A.O. Schwarz. Upon Vernon’s passing in 1942, Perkins sold the company and by the early 1950s, Tynietoy had dissolved. Tynietoy dollhouses and furniture are (mostly) stamped with a trademark underneath and have become highly collectable today. Up next: a visit to T/m’s Tynietoy Georgian style dollhouse!

A Storied Past

dolls' houses from the V&A Museum of Childhood

If the residents of the V&A Museum of Childhood’s dollhouses could talk, can you imagine the stories they’d tell? That’s exactly the focus of the special exhibit Small Stories: At Home in a Doll’s House. Fictional family dramas, posh parties, and even spooky mysteries told from the viewpoints of dolls speak to the time period of their home.

Twelve dolls’ houses spanning 300 years of history are displayed, including an 18th century London townhome, a 1930s modern villa with a swimming pool, and a swinging ‘60s high-rise flat. Not just lovely on the outside, the contents of the houses also reflect the everyday lives of residents, guests and employees who would have inhabited the full-sized homes of their day. The exhibit includes a special art installation Dream House in which designers have created miniature fantasy rooms that reflect the imagination, technology and art of today.

Photo: Whiteladies House, 1935, Moray Thomas, England. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The Walls of 17 Winter Street

antique dollhouse wallpaper

Like many young ladies near the turn of the century, Mamie Burt learned household management as she decorated and played with the dolls (and animals) that lived inside her dollhouse. Many of the rooms, from the music room to the hallway, are decorated with original wallpaper and gold cornices. Most likely Mamie used leftover pieces of real wallpaper to decorate her dollhouse. We like to imagine that her dollhouse looked a lot like the rooms in her real house.

Look on the far left and you’ll see that the parlor even has a pocket door! Pocket doors were common in Victorian homes to close off sitting rooms and dens, and a practical solution for a dollhouse where there is no room for the swing of a hinged door.

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