COLLECTING: dollhouses

Home projects: wooden crate wall, and pink seersucker curtains.

Screened in porch, white curtains, wicker chair, tin dollhouse, wooden crates, may 2015. photo ©Liza Cowan

The screened porch was a deal maker for me when I bought my house. At first, my plan was to build a half-wall around the room, but then I had the brainstorm of modular wall building with wooden boxes. The old owner had left a small cache in the barn, and I had my own collections, so I decided to stack them at one end, and to use some as a small "wall" on the outer deck. That's all I need. And in the Winter, they will go back to the barn because the porch fills with snow. 

My other grand idea was to put in white curtains for beauty, shade, and privacy. I had basic white curtains and tension rods on hand from an earlier project, so that was easy. A cheap and quick project, also removable for the winter months. 

Tin Marx dollhouse from my collections. 

Pink Seersucker Curtains. Lamp by Kileh Friedman. photo © Liza cowan photo

Joanne's Fabrics had seersucker on sale at 50% yesterday so I scooped up 8 yards of pink and white stripe. I love using dressmaking fabric for curtains. My curtain making technique: cut the material to twice the height of the window. Drape over tension rod on inside of window frame. Secure at the top with binder clips or safety pin. If you want to get really fancy, you can hem them. I usually don't, but if I decide to, liquid seam glue works just fine. 

Lamp by Kileh Friedman,  Burlington, VT. Shade from The Lamp Shop, Burlington, VT.

The old wooden dollhouse

Wooden dollhouse, black and white,  liza cowan photo
Vintage Wooden Dollhouse. Photo ©Liza Cowan

I bought this wooden dollhouse from a friend in Woodstock, NY in the early 1980's. She was about to move, and it was just too big to lug around. Now I have lugged it to two different houses in Woodstock, two apartments in Brooklyn, and one house in Vermont. I'm about to move again and was considering selling it, since I'm downsizing by a lot.  I took it down from atop the fridge, where it has sat for 13 years, to take some photos of it. And I fell in love with it all over again. I guess I'm keeping it. 

Wooden doll house liza cowan photo
Wooden Dollhouse. Photo ©Liza Cowan

Pressed metal dollhouses

When Oprah Winfrey interviewed President and Michelle Obama on December 13, she asked the First Lady what had been her favorite Christmas gift as a child. Mrs. Obama said it was a tin dollhouse with plastic furniture.

Hello! I have four of them in the store, and several times each day customers tell me what fond memories they have of their childhood tin houses.

 Marx tin dollhouse, dollhouse exterior
Pressed Tin Dollhouse by Marx Toys. Circa 1950's. PSAW collections.

Not all pressed tin dollhouses were made by Marx Toys but many were. Mine were. Louis Marx was a hugely successful toy manufacturer, who started his company in 1919. A German Jewish New Yorker, he went into business with his brother David with the company slogan  "Give the customer more toy for less money."

The dollhouses weren't the major part of the Marx inventory, but for many women of a certain age, and no doubt some men as well, they are the products we remember best.

 Marx Metal Doll house Box
Metal Dollhouse Box, "completely furnished with unbreakable plastic furniture"

These houses are now highly collectible. When I started my collection I could pick them up at yard sales for a few dollars. Now they sell on eBay and Ruby Lane from about $75 to $300, depending on their condition, scarcity,  and how much of the plastic furniture is left.

 Marx Colonial metal doll house box
Modern Colonial Metal Doll House by Louis Marx & Co.

I know of several photographers who use the dollhouses as backdrops for rather bizarre doll antics. I don't have access to those pictures at the moment, but I might at some point. Meanwhile, here are some relatively non bizarre interior photos.

 Marx tin doll house, dollhouse bedroom
Marx tin dollhouse , furnished bedroom. Photo courtesy Michael and Sharon of (a Ruby Lane shop) This house is sold.

 Marx tin doll house, doll house living room, doll house logs in fireplace, dollhouse currier and ives
Same dollhouse, this one is mine. Check out the logs in the fireplace.

 Marx tin doll house, dollhouse living room, dollhouse furniture, ship and guns, dollhouse television,
Marx tin dollhouse Living Room with furniture. Photo courtesy of Sharon and Michael from

 Marx tin house, statue in room
Marx tin dollhouse, living room with white statue. Photo and statue by Liza Cowan.

 Marx tin dollhouse, dollhouse micky mouse room, dollhouse alphabet
Marx tin dollhouse. Micky Mouse kid's room. The Micky Mouse makes this one of the rarer and more expensive of the Marx series. PSAW collections.

 Marx tin toy, US Army Headquarters Training Center, photo Liza Cowan
Marx tin doll house. Headquarters US Army Trading Center. PSAW collections. Cowan photo.

So, if you are at a yard sale and see one of these houses for a reasonable amount of money, and if you can afford it, and if you love it, buy it. These things are not going to go down in value and they are great to have around.

some interesting related links: