Dollhouses exist in different scales: the most common is 1:12 (that is 1cm / 1 inch in the house equals 12 / 1 foot in the real world)
but 1:24 or half scale is also spreading. The most famous dollhouse is that of Queen Mary of England, in the Royal castle of Windsor. It is
1.5 meters high, 2.5 meters wide and is fully functional.
Generally dollhouses are inspired by 4 main British historical eras for their decoration and furnishing: Tudor, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian.
All are named and inspired by the British monarch of the period, who influences architectural styles, which, however, already change on their own as
time goes by. You must also take into account that architectural styles do not change abruptly from one day to another, but merge gradually one into
Here I offer some brief analysis of the periods mentioned above, which may constitute a basis for further study, but my advice is to give a look at the
books for sale on Amazon.
TUDOR (1485 - 1603) -
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The Tudor period begins with Henry VII and extends beyond the realm of the Tudor house, until the Elizabethan period. It is a period characterized
by peace and stability, which also lead to an increase in overseas trading.
Houses are grouped in villages, while the rich generally live in huge mansions in the country, with over a hundred servants. These buildings have
usually symmetrical forms, with E or H shaped plans.
Structure are made of oak or beech, which are England native timbers: it can be inferred that these structures are not as dark as one would expect,
but will become so as time goes by. The space between beams, which are also visible on th inside of the house, is filled with panels made from wattle
covered with mud and plaster or bricks. The first floor usually protrudes outwards than the ground floor: this feature allows you to make the
greatest possible space, but also implies a reduction of sunlight to illuminate the streets. Roofs are steeply pitched and covered with thatch or oak
tiles; in this period we have the first dormers. There are many chimneys, given the amount of fireplaces, which are the only source of heating for
Tudor houses and are also used for cooking.
Fireplaces structure corresponds to their important role: they are made of stone, often limestone, or carved wood, in any case large and impressive,
often characterized by a pointed arch, also said flattened Gothic arch. For the first time fireplaces are moved from the center of the room to a wall.
For the first time windows have glasses, but they are available only in small panes, held together by strips of lead. A typical window is that called "Oriel", ie that
protruding out of the building, to allow more light within rooms that are quite gloomy; many are also equipped with a seat. Doors are made of vertical
wooden planks nailed to horizontal planks. They are often characterized by a pointed arch, like fireplaces.
Rooms are quite bare, walls are paneled with wood, especially on the lower floors (a technique which also allows to keep rooms warmer), or covered with
whitewashed plaster or left bare stone (painting was not in use). They are characterized by niches, which have a pointed arch form, like chimneys,
and are decorated with curtains and tapestries (real or imitation). Fabrics used for curtains, as well as for canopy beds and upholstery, are damask,
velvets, silks and brocades, with rich and bright colors: crimson red, orange, yellow, turquoise, pink and purple are the most frequently used.
Floors are made of slabs of stone, granite, slate, sandstone (depending on the areas and the assets of the owner) on the ground floor or wide planks
of oak or elm on the upper floors; however it is still possible to find compacted dirt on the ground floor, especially in kitchens. Carpets are not very common, they
are still a luxury even for the wealthiest, so that they are mostly used in bedrooms, where there is less transit and therefore less wear.
People rarely use glass and porcelain objects, prerogative of the richest class: the most common objects consists of dishes and tankards made of pewter, brass or wood, of armors
and stuffed animals. Knives and spoons are the only cutlery, forks are not used until 1700.
Thanks to the recent invention of the printing press, you can already find a number of books in wealthier homes. Another way to show one's status
are portraits, to be passed to future generations to witness to their social position.
As for pieces of furniture, they are massive, simple, functional, carving is the only decoration. Used timbers are always native ones for England, like the aforementioned
oak and beech, but also walnut and chestnut; only later, thanks to trade, other timbers begin to be imported and used, such as mahogany, rosewood or conifers wood.
In the early Tudor period, furniture variety is fairly low: mainly tables (often made just by a board resting on trestles), benches, stools and chests. These are not only
used as containers (for silverware, jewelry and documents), but often as seats or tables. Over time, however, the stability that these monarchs bring to England is reflected
in the welfare of the population, leading to the birth of a new middle class, which increases the demand for furniture: new types are created, such as, among others,
buffets, various types of dressers and chairs.
Chairs are developed from chests (and in fact often retain a part of this nature with a compartment to store objects) and can sometimes be transformed into tables;
if they are padded, they are covered with leather, velvet or tapestry. The most important piece of furniture of the house, as well as symbol of prestige, is the canopy bed,
very large and richly decorated with carvings (acanthus leaves, lozenges, fruit or flowers or animals, heraldic symbols).
At last a look to lighting: it is rather poor, being provided only by candles, and in fact the atmosphere of houses of this period is rather gloomy.
Candles and candleholders are made of black wrought iron or other metal or wood; wheels are often used as chandeliers.
GEORGIAN (1714 - 1830) -
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The Georgian era (named by the 4 kings who rule England at the time) starts in 1714 with beginning of the George I reign and ends with the George IV
regency, during the illness of his father. The style of the period is the neo-Palladian, which affirmation is also due to the so-called Grand Tour,
a journey a couple of years long that wealthy young Englishmen take in continental Europe, especially in Italy (home of the Palladian and classic
style). Towards the end of period, during the Regency, thriving styles are Gothic revival and Chinoiserie (ie imitation of Chinese porcelain, silks,
furniture and wallpapers), otherwise known as Rococo.
Neo-Palladian style is defined by a classic design, by references to ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, from search for symmetry, order and proportion;
these characteristics may be also found in the planning of cities, with the crescents, and villages, with the terraces. Space is exploited at best
with the building of taller houses, which are used as follows: the ground floor and the upstairs are for the master of house, the attic for the
servants. Often there is also a basement, where are situated kitchen and servants quarters for the day.
For buildings façades it is now widespread the use of stone (limestone or sandstone, more rarely granite) and bricks. In wealthy homes dressed stones
or ashlar are particularly used, usually on the front, with rougher stones or rubble on the sides and back, where it is less visible, to make some
savings. Alternatively, red Flemish bricks may be used; if less valuable bricks are used, they are then covered with stucco: in this case typical
colors are beige or gray and deep lines are dug in the stucco, to simulate stones. Chimneys are no longer built outside the houses but inside,
creating alcoves on the sides of fireplaces. Even the façades of the houses respect symmetry and regularity rules, placing front doors in a central
position and windows in odd number on the upper floors, generally 5.
Front door is wide and is made with raised panels, usually painted in dark tones (black, green, rarely blue, the most valuable), which are the most
expensive and so an affirmation of social status, with light colored framework. Doors are surmounted by canopies or porches, made of wood or stone
(where it is available), and by pediments. Often doors are also equipped with filigree fanlights, to give light to the hall. Front door accessories
in this period are the knocker and the knob (at waist level), made of iron or in the most expensive brass. An upside down iron cone, the snuffer, is
often found attached near the door: it serves to extinguish the flame of the candles used to move in the streets. Near the bottom of the door is
finally positioned an iron foot-scraper, painted black and more or less elaborate in design, to wipe shoes before entering the house.
Windows respond to the increased height of houses and rooms with higher and wider measures. They are sash windows and have larger glass panes (thanks
to an improved manufacture technique): master floors have windows with 9 or 12 glass panes, those for the servants with 6 (the same goes for dormers).
The window structure, built of soft wood and therefore more delicate, is painted with lead oxide (with a typical white color) to protect it.
To shield rooms and furniture from light, windows are equipped with shutters, sometimes external (in this case usually a dark color as the door),
sometimes internal, and draped curtains. During this period bay windows begin to spread; at first they are mostly used for small shops or houses in
Another innovation in the façades are the balconies, made of stone or wrought iron, which may be only purely decorative or
constitute a real security measure since the widening of the windows.
Guttering is made of wood, lead and sometimes copper. Pipes may be square or
round and are generally painted dark green, as well as gutters. Traps (or hopper heads) are made of lead and usually report the year of construction
and the initials of the person who has made them.
Roofs are very small compared to earlier eras. The most common are: the side-gabled roof, the mansard roof, the hipped roof and the flat or terraced
roof, which is covered with gray lead.
From the many chimneys of the Tudor period, only a couple resist, on the sides of the house, topped by the first, simple chimney-pots.
Talking about interiors, Georgian characteristic color schemes were at first oriented towards light tints (blue sky, powder pink, sage or pea green,
cream, grey blue, Wedgwood blue, grey, buff), to accept then richer colors like Venetian red, vermilion, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, Prussian blue,
indigo and green during the Regency. Walls may be paneled, but only to the height of chairs back and painted in light colors.
The upper wall is painted in the colors above mentioned or covered with wallpaper, which begins to spread in this period before expanding more and more
during the Regency, thanks to the ever increasing industrial development and consequently lower costs: wallpapers designs in this period are simple
patterns repeated several times, often with geometric shapes or lines. The most sought after are the ones imported from the East, with themes of
landscapes, human figures, pagodas, intricate lattices, and birds and exotic flowers. Another style which is very popular in this period is that of the
Print Rooms: they are decorated with engravings or with prints of landscapes or cities pasted on the walls. Walls are then decorated with plaster and
moldings with elaborate drawings and gilded details, as well as ceilings, adorned with stucco reproducing ribbons, draperies, swags, figures and
Floors are often made with boards and covered with oriental rugs, which come to be almost as big as the room. In the wealthiest
houses you can find stone floors (often in the kitchen) or light-colored marble (in the halls, which are more likely to get dirty and therefore
the marble makes the cleaning easier).
Fireplaces have still an important role within rooms and are attuned to the classical style of houses: they are decorated with swags, urns and
medallions, columns or statues of women (caryatids) to support the mantelpiece. Logs (only at the end of the period you start to use coal) are placed
in basket grates and at the bottom there was a panel of decorated cast iron. The fender is painted to blend with the room, decorated with the same
wallpaper or also with trompe l'oeuil technique. The so-called dummy boards instead serve to mask the heart of the fireplace during summer months
when it is not used: they are wooden silhouettes mostly representing children, ladies and animals. Subjects can be painted directly on wood or on
paper or canvas and then glued on the board: sometimes paintings depicting family members are even cut out for this purpose. Their use often
extends to "populate" houses during the holiday season, so as to discourage ill-intentioned people, or enlightened steps with candles attached to
Fabrics used to decorate rooms have simple and elegant designs, like wallpapers, and are usually cotton satin. Often the same fabric is used for both
upholstered furniture and curtains, which are surmounted with carved wooden pelmets (though over time these are often made with the same fabrics of the
curtains). To keep intact for longer the finer fabrics used for sofas and armchairs, there are coatings made with cheap canvas.
The lighting is still based on candles, only at the end of the period the first rape oil lamps will be introduced. In wax manufacture they begin to use
paraffin, which produces whiter candles that burn odorless. Candlesticks are made of glass, porcelain, silver or pewter and are often used as
centerpieces. Another source of lighting are wall sconces, which can be made of brass, silver or wood and have a mirror between candle and wall, so
as to multiply the light produced by the candle. The same concept of light reflection is applied to integrate candlesticks mantels topped by mirrors.
The chandeliers, usually made of metal or glass, are used only on special occasions.
To decorate rooms people use screens (which often follow
the same concept and type of decoration of Print Rooms), fans, porcelain and silver services, romantic porcelain figurines, classical busts and statues.
Objects of oriental lacquer are also much sought-after. To embellish rooms, it is also spreading the habit of hanging many paintings, sometimes
integrating them into mantels: in State Rooms, where the largest and most important paintings are hung, furniture must be adequate, so libraries or
cupboards are narrower and some types of high pieces of furniture disappear completely in the Regency period. In a society where some of the favorite
pastimes are reading, writing, music, card games, studies and libraries become essential.
As for furniture, the most commonly used wood is mahogany,
imported from Cuba and Honduras: it is so much sought-after because it is not attacked by termites, because of how well it can be carved, because of its
resistance to torsion and shrink. Georgian typical pieces of furniture are: corner chairs (with a two-sided back), George II chairs (with honeysuckle
carvings on the back), sofas with "double chair" back and tables with extensible accordion-like mechanism. The late Georgian period was also called
the "golden age of furniture" because furniture play a major role, so that many renowned architects engages in its design. Among the most known
there are Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, Robert Adam and Thomas Sheraton.
Thomas Chippendale - works from 1745 to 1780.
Preferred timber: mahogany.
Hallmarks: chairs with Gothic pierced urn shaped splat,
massive wardrobes, breakfront bookcases (ie with a central section that is projected forward), scalloped or "piecrust" edge tables, Chinese motifs,
cabriole legs with claw and ball foots, fretworks, acanthus leaf decorations, heavy carvings.
George Hepplewhite - works from 1760 to 1790.
Preferred timber: mahogany and satinwood.
Hallmarks: simple and sober style,
chairs with heart- or shield-shaped backs, curved lines, finer carvings and lighter furniture, straight tapered but also cabriole legs, wardrobes,
Pembroke tables (ie with 2 drop leaves on the long sides and a drawer on the short side), dressing table (to hold jug and basin, given that as yet
there is no running water), urn decoration, draped fabrics.
Robert Adam - works from 1760 to 1792.
Preferred timber: mahogany and satinwood.
Hallmarks: Italian neoclassical influences, classical
and simple lines from Greek and Roman styles, simpler moldings, solid furniture, sideboards with 2 side columns surmounted by urns, chairs with oval
or shield backs, straight tapered legs, low relief ornaments with Roman and Greek motifs, chairs with low lyre-shaped back, shapes hexagonal and
octagonal, winged griffins decorations, painted or gilded plasterwork.
Thomas Sheraton - works from 1790 to 1806.
Preferred timber: mahogany, rosewood and satinwood.
Hallmarks: severe neoclassicism,
decorations with oak and laurel leaves, swan-necks, lion paw feet, saber legs, lyre stand for tables, many types of secrétaires and desks full of
hidden compartments and secret drawers (result of his passion for mechanical parts) which can also be found in other pieces of furniture, chairs
with square and straight lines (including the shield shape, so modified), tapered legs, sideboard with 6 legs, sewing tables, roll top desks,
painted pieces of furniture.
During the last part of the Georgian period, that is the Regency, other features and types of furniture find their way to popularity. Used kinds of
wood are always mahogany and rosewood, joined by ebony. If using a less fine timber, pieces of furniture are finished with black lacquer in
imitation of Oriental furniture or with gilding.
In many marquetries brass is replacing wood, less durable, and metal is also used for grids that
overlap glass doors of libraries. Typical Georgian decorations are winged griffins, lion heads, animal legs, Roman gods, saber legs and lyre supports
for tables. As already illustrated for Sheraton work, many pieces of furniture are copied from originals of Greek, Roman and Egyptian era: perhaps
the best known is a chaise longue type called Grecian Couch, who recalls a triclinium with scroll terminals supported by sphinx heads on lion legs.
Other pieces of furniture which are produced in this period are: the "whatnot", an étagère whose shelves are designed to accommodate various items,
such as ornaments, porcelain or china; the "davenport", a small desk with an inclined and hinged writing plan (that can be lifted to access a
compartment where to store writing stuff) and a series of drawers on one side; the sofa table, derived from the previous Pembroke but with drop
leaves on the short sides and a pair drawers on the long ones).
Kitchens and their furnishings deserve a separate examination. Sinks are made of
lead lined wood or stone and dominated by a tank with tap, also made in lead lined wood, since there is still no running water. Dressers are very
important (there may even be a couple for kitchen), to store dishes, spoons, sometimes also spits; in some kinds the bottom is made so as to
accommodate hens, especially in winter, with bars and door. Since 1750 the first models of kitchens, which combine oven and grate, begin to replace
open fires. Starting then from 1780 kitchens may also include boilers. In the center of the room there is usually a large table, used for food
preparation: the work surface is often left unpainted and cleaned scratching off dirt.
On kitchens walls you may find a candle box, a knives box and
a salt box, as well as shelves to store utensils and miscellaneous equipment. Ceilings have often beams, where you may find hung a bread car (a basket
to store the bread), drying herbs, garlic and onions braids and various kinds of food. In kitchens you may also find service bells, connected by wire
to all rooms of the house so as to be able to call servants if necessary.