So maybe like me, you don’t intend to move or you can’t afford one of those great homes you see for sale all as you scroll through one of your Facebook groups dedicated to all things mid-century. I long to be able to revamp and outfit a whole home with lots of kitschy things that I see, but unfortunately, I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Well, there is an alternative. “What is it,” you say?
Get a dollhouse. That’s right – a doll house. In more recent years, the trend of interest in dollhouses has grown as well as a change of design – towards traditional mid-century styles.
Once dominated by Victorian designs, new dollhouses reflect the minimalistic and clean lines that define many homes of the mid 20th century. For people interested in this style who may never actually work as an architect or interior designer, crafting a home and the entirety of its contents in miniature can often fulfill a long-standing dream.
One thing to know though is that furnishing a dollhouse can be as expensive as a real home, or maybe even more so in some cases. According to an article published in SFGate, “PRD Miniatures, for example, can cost anywhere from $35 (a tiny cowhide rug) to $350 (a kitchen unit with color-changing LED backsplash).” Also noted was “a classic Barcelona chair, shrunk to 1:6 scale, is $430.”
There are tons of sites to let you gawk at and admire the creative works of others. For example, take Modern Mini Houses, a site with some truly remarkable miniature houses, all designed and outfitted precisely according to what appears to be strict mid-century guidelines by Megan Hornbecker, a self-proclaimed “minimalist” who has been chronicling her work with miniatures since 2007.
For a more kitsch and less expensive way of furnishing a mid-century dollhouse, I’m happy to say there is an alternative. Remember Barbie? Well, she had a “Dream House” and, while any version of that can in no way compare to those coveted by dollhouse enthusiasts, they can provide a suitable and fun alternative.
Ebay is the place to start looking. There are often listings for the Dream House which was basically a room or two made from cardboard with furnishings made from cardboard as well.
I particularly like this one:
Even though the furniture and everything else is made from cardboard, like the description says, this thing is “Swell!”
I even got a kick out of the perma-image on the TV set.
So, yes, this is not really as fulfilling as working on the more expensive, scaled to size dollhouses. But I did remember something as I was writing this.
When I was a kid, I had a couple of Barbie dolls and I never played with them like most girls. I was interested in their home design, not the clothes.
My parents didn’t buy us many toys so I had to make things for myself. I used to take boxes and paint the insides with house paint, then I would cut out windows and doorways, then attached the boxes to each other to make my own house.
I then crafted all of the items that I needed to outfit any particular room that I was making. I used shoe boxes for beds that I cut down to size and then retaped. I sewed my own bedspreads and curtains. I took yarn that I had and knitted or crocheted rugs. I made appliances out of things like Band-aid tins and I remember using a small, clear tackle case as shelving in the kitchen.
Back then we used to shop at Grants and would buy these plastic sleeves that held really small trinkets – like the prizes in the round plastic cases that you got out of a gumball machine. Enclosed in those were things like tiny plastic irons, cups, plates, utensils, dogs, shoes, mock food products, and more – all placed in the house I built.
Needless to say, while I’d love to be able to do a full-scale, money-is-no-object mid-century dollhouse, as I recollect, I had tons of fun creating my version when I was a kid on a budget.
For those that love mid-century kitsch, why not dig deep into your wallet and get ready to roll on over to Hillsborough, California where you can once again purchase the iconic “Flintstone” house.
Visible from Interstate 280 and overlooking Crystal Springs Reservoir, the purple and orange residence is a local landmark. Created in the 70s by the original owners and local architect William Nicholson, this house is anything but conventional.
According to Realtor.com, “The swingin’ ’70s are evident in the stylized conversation pit, with an amoeba-shaped window that looks out to Crystal Springs Reservoir. The 2,730-square-foot home, nestled into a hillside, has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a game room, and a loft space. ‘It’s very comfortable. It feels cozy but airy,’ the agent says.”
Architect Eugene Tsui designed the “biologic” kitchen with storage compartments that seem truly cellular. Other unique features of the home, aside from its “prehistoric” outer design, include a game room, a conversation pit, a garden visible from inside, and the 3rd bedroom with a loft. This is an amazing opportunity for buyers who appreciate distinctly unique architecture and design elements and like a home that makes a statement.
In the past 2 years, the price of this home has dropped and currently, all of this can be yours for $2.8 million. If that’s out of your league, don’t worry! You can stay there as part of an Airbnb stay.
Want to see more? Take a look at this video walk-thru.
Planning on getting away this summer? Need to get a fix of a time and place reminiscent of days from your childhood? Want to introduce your kids to a style of living and a time when things were simpler and definitely more cozy? Then maybe you should look into taking a trip back in time at a mid-century motel.
Yes, there are plenty of them still out there. In this article, originally posted on Curbed Los Angeles, author Jenna Chandler features a series of motels in California and Nevada that were featured on old postcards and goes into the details of each location.
“In the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, wholesome American families embarking on road trip vacations actually wanted to stay in motels. They weren’t just affordable and convenient—they were in fashion. They were modern and homey and optimistic, even futuristic, in their design, with dramatic angles, colorful interiors, and oversized neon signs. Sometimes, there was even a touch of fantasy.
‘For some travelers, the motel experience was the closest they might have to visiting the Hawaiian Islands… or a trip to the moon! Not everyone could afford a trip to Hawaii, but many could afford to stay at the Polynesian-themed Waikiki Motel.'”