My Dollhouse Collection

How to Start a Collection of Dolls House Miniatures

By , Guide


With an endless number of choices, deciding how to start a dolls' house miniature collection can be daunting. The diversity of materials, price ranges, styles and periods of dolls house miniatures can be overwhelming to a beginning collector.

Narrowing your focus to the type of miniatures that interest you most is the best way to start. With a focus and a vision, you'll find it easier to create a collection that goes on view and not into several drawers.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: variable

Here's How:

  1. Find a Focus - Choose a Period or Theme

    Work out the things that appeal to you. There are three main types of collections of dollhouse miniatures:

    • A Period of History: Victorian and Federal/Georgian are very popular periods with lots of material to collect but other periods are available as well.

    • A Particular Passion: Items we collect are widely available in common dolls house miniature scales. A collection can be showcased in a shop or a display. Switching to miniature may let you have a larger collection!

    • Telling a Story: If telling a story with a miniature vignette appeals to you, will it be a single scene or will you need a related series?

  2. Choose Space and Scale

    What space will your dolls house collection need? A collection of miniature shoes can go into a small showcase or a small shop. A series of period rooms may need to be in a doll house. If you've decided to create a miniature village, what scale do you have room for?

    What will work best for your chosen focus from step one; a display box, a building, or a room full of glass cases?
  3. Decide Whether you Need a Display Box

    Collecting for a Display Box: - Smaller dollhouse miniature collections can stay in a themed display box until you have enough pieces to showcase them in a larger structure (house or shop). A display box protects collectibles from dust and sunlight. Some houses are collections of display boxes. For examples of spectacular display rooms see the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago.

  4. Select a Kit and Furnishings (if appropriate)

    A dollhouse collection involves more choices and expense than a display box. What scale miniature house can you display? Will one be enough? Will you need more? Is there a particular period/style of house you want? Are kits available in your style and price range? Will you scratch build, or buy something already wired for electricity or partially finished? Will you be happy if rooms stay unfurnished for years while you collect? Study the range of dollhouses and styles at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London.

  5. Ask yourself: Do I wish to tell a story or create a scene?

    If you don’t want to tell a story or create a scene, a showcased collection may work best. Theresa Yu has an enormous collection of dollhouse miniature items housed in showcases. (This can be a slow link as it is a huge private collection.) Hers is an impressive example of how large a miniature collection can grow! Imagine if it was all housed in miniature buildings!

  6. Map out Your Scene

    If you have a vision from Step One, and an idea of how to house it from the steps above, now map out your plans and decide which direction to take your collection. This is where you let your creativity shine. I'll use a display box as an example in the points below, but the same process applies to a building if you treat each room as a separate display. If you have decided on a showcase, you can ignore the following steps.

  7. Focus on Detail

    When you see your scene in your mind, what is the first thing you notice? Lots of detail and texture? A calm, peaceful feel? Do you want colors and design that create excitement? Write down the details of how you want your display to appear, use descriptive language, moody, peaceful, bustling, bright. this will give you the overall direction to design your display.

  8. Choose a Display View

    With this step you choose how your eye will focus on the collection in your display. Will you need the viewer to focus on one corner, the back wall? Several layers and heights within the box which focus on a particular collection (i.e. shoes). Brooke Tucker’s Put Abouts draw your eye in to a multi layered scheme to showcase detailed collections. Plan your view and decide if you need windows for backlight, a doorway to draw your eye through, levels to change height and draw the collection upwards.

  9. Choose Colors and Lighting

    These need to work together. Plan how your light source will look most natural and how you will achieve that in your box (wiring, glass top, natural light?) Choose colors that will work with your detail and lighting. (If this is a whole house display your colours and lighting will need to work with adjoining rooms.

  10. Plan Plan Plan!

    With the main concepts in place, a box, backlit via an open doorway in sunny colors to display a collection of kitchen miniatures. Or an Edwardian house, in soft greens and creams, focusing on period embroidery in each room. Now you know what you intend to build, the colours you will use, and what you will use as the focus for each scene, list what you can build and what you must buy in order to build your scene. Make sure you include all the construction materials to build and light the actual box, finish the front edges and provide a base for the display.

  11. Find the Right Pieces

    With a vision of your scene in place you can focus on tracking down any essentials you are missing. Stick to a plan when you go shopping. It is easy to be drawn into adding more detail than the display can manage. Go with a list, a group of possible colours and fabric/wallpaper swatches and a simple photo of any pieces you already have. Divide your list into the sections following (main focus, supporting cast, background, and construction materials) and check they all work together.

  12. Determine the Display's Main Focus

    What is the central display focus? List what you have and what you need to find. These are the main draw for your eye, so the quality of these should be as high as you can find, create, or afford.

  13. Select Supportive Display Pieces

    To showcase main miniature pieces what supportive pieces do you need? What characteristics are important (color, size, material, texture, height and width available to hold displays) An example; you want a farmhouse kitchen style pine table to place your collection of dollhouse crockery and food items on, but it could be painted plastic as most of it will be covered with a white tablecloth.

  14. Select Background Elements

    Everything not a central focus or support for the central focus is background. This might include rugs, furniture, even figures. It has to be chosen to continue the mood and add to the overall feel/color/design but it shouldn’t be what you notice first. Find color swatches and experiment with fabric and paper samples to make sure your background choices stay out of the limelight but add the right effect.

  15. Collect!

    Go out and find all those pieces to make your collection shine!

Contact Me

Pamela O'Brien

Pineapple Grove, Delray Beach, FL

(561) 573-7039

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