Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Update: Dolls Houses Past & Present Down Again!

As of 6 hours ago, Webs, our host for Dolls Houses Past and Present, reported that they are experiencing an outage as a result of a DDOS Attack on Webs. So if you can't access the site, it's not your computer or your browser, etc, it's the Webs host itself. They don't have an estimated time for fixing the problem yet.  

Update: we seem to be back up again, so hopefully they've fixed the problem.

Update #2: Webs is down again, and so Dolls Houses Past and Present is too. No info yet on Webs' facebook page about the cause or likely time it will be fixed :-(

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Odessa's House

I recently won this wonderful dolls house on ebay. It was in a Sydney suburb not far from where my sister lives, so it was only a short drive to go and pick it up.

The house is made largely of plywood, and there are some small areas of damage. But what an amazing facade! As you can see, there are two entrances at ground level - the arched opening in the centre, with a seat on each side of the arch, and tall (7") doors under a porch roof at the left. On the first floor above the central arch is a small balcony with double doors again  - and at the side, a single door opening to a large roof terrace.

Some features of this house - the arches, the circular fretwork windows, the roof terrace - make me think of Moorish or Middle Eastern architecture. The plywood stencils of a camel and a bear add to this impression. We think the two animals on either side of the arched entrance are goats - what do you think?

The whole front of the house lifts away. Inside the double doors is the hallway and stairs. On a small door to a cupboard under the stairs is another plywood animal - a donkey, I think. And leading in to the next room is a large archway, with little round tables at the base of the arch. (One of these is broken, but there are more between the other rooms.)

Above each room, at the front, the plywood is shaped to form something like a proscenium arch or drapery. I'm sorry I didn't take a photo of the whole house open, so you could see them in each room. You can see them clearly in some of the photos of individual rooms, including this one:

This is the room that the arched entryway leads into. I found it a bit hard to arrange furniture in here - it seems natural to make it a living room, but the lounge chairs and sofa, and the small kidney-shaped table, make it a bit full - and it would be hard to enter through the arch!

This room is on the right side of the ground floor, under the roof terrace. I have placed a dresser and table with matching chairs here - I think this is the kitchen, although no stove or fire came with the house.

Upstairs on the left, the stairs lead to this landing. The green bench is removable - it is built to fit around the balustrade.

As you can see, all the floors in the house are covered with the same lino. In fact, the green base at the front of the house is lino too, which has been painted green.

I have placed the wardrobe in this room, with a matching chair - but there is no bed! My sister said that the people who live here must be party animals - there's nowhere to sleep, and nowhere to cook, either, so they must always buy takeaway food!

Through the door on the right of this room is the roof terrace.

I mentioned that the walls of this house are made of plywood. The furniture is mostly solid wood, although two of the tables have formica tops. The windows have a hard kind of plastic, like the kind that used to be used in shirt boxes, fixed between inner and outer fretwood frames. The flooring is hardboard, covered with the lino - you can see the underside of the hardboard in this photo:

(I haven't cleaned the undersides of the roof or floors yet!)

The roof is made of plywood over wooden struts, and the coloured tiles on the roof top are plywood too.

The base is interesting - the ground floor, like the first floor, is hardboard, but the frame is made of planks of solid wood, one of which has printed on it SYDNEY NSW AUSTRALIA. The base of more letters can just be seen above this, but not enough of the letters is visible to work out what it says.

The ebay seller I bought this from had bought it for her daughter Odessa, probably about 10-15 years ago. I don't know who made it, or when. It is probably homemade, perhaps in about the 1950s (going by the presence of both the lino and the formica) - or perhaps earlier, as the architraves and arches also have an Arts and Crafts look about them.

I'm not sure yet who will live here. What do you think? What does this house make you think of?  What kind of dolls do you think would like to live here?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Perhaps they're earlier than I thought!

Today I searched the digitised Australian newspapers on the National Library of Australia website for Walther & Stevenson. As well as many ads for model trains, surf boards, and saddles, I found this:

This advertisement appeared on 11 June 1947. The bookcase (no 6, lower left) is identical to the one I bought!

The stove (no 13, upper right) is almost identical, though the handles look a bit bigger in the ad:

The dressing table (no 5, above the bookcase, lower left) is similar to mine, but the one in the ad is not symmetrical like mine is:

So perhaps these pieces of furniture date from the late 1940s or early 1950s - as I mentioned, they are not in the 1956/57 Walther & Stevenson catalogue.

It's really interesting to see the other pieces of furniture, too. The bath is fairly basic, but I would love to find the bath heater (No 10) - so reminiscent of older Australian houses! Both the houses I grew up in had gas hot water tanks in the laundry, which piped hot water to the kitchen and bathroom as well as the laundry, but in older houses I lived in in Canberra as a student, there was a gas hot water heater over the bath. We had to remember to turn the water to the tank on before turning the tap on (I think - it's a long time ago!), so that it wouldn't overheat and blow up! At least it wasn't a chip heater - having to cut and light wood chips to heat the water for a bath or shower was not something I had to do, thank goodness!

I was also excited to see the Kitchen Set, 5 pieces in attractive box (lower middle of the ad), as I think I have it too!

It's the Tiny Town kitchen set (No 1), by Goodwood (Australia) Productions, which I was lucky enough to buy on ebay 2 1/2 years ago. So I'll be able to use it with the stove, which it suits, according to the ad!

I have cleaned the Toy Works house the furniture came in, and the pieces of furniture too. They look much better, but the house is still missing a door, some shutters, and all its clear plastic windows.

The lounge chairs are modern, I think, but more finely made than the other chunky recent pieces, so I think I'll keep them here too. It needs a bit more furniture - I'll probably use some Twigg and early, unstained Barton or Dol-toi pieces, to go with the Walther & Stevenson furnishings.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The other house

I mentioned that I bought two vintage dolls houses from Recycling Works. As well as the hardboard house, there was a lithographed tin dolls house. Here are some quick photos of it - I haven't cleaned it at all yet.

The ground floor exterior is built of stone, while the upper floor is timber-clad.

I particularly like the wall frieze in the children's bedroom - there's a frog, a rabbit, a squirrel, a cat and ducklings.

The walls are in quite good condition, but the floors and roof are rather rusty.

I like the yellow-flowered curtains in the living room, and there are yellow curtains in the main bedroom too.

There's no maker's name on this house - does anyone recognise it? I think it's probably American - possibly made by Marx??

Friday, February 1, 2013

The excitement of finding a label

At first, I thought that all the furniture in the Toy Works dolls house was modern pine furniture. A few pieces have painted red and blue trim, like the stove, sink and kitchen corner unit (not a bread box, as Troy pointed out!) ....
But this bureau has books painted in more colours .... and the handle on the pull-down desk lid is a tiny metal nail, not a large wooden knob like on the corner unit ....

Bureau: roughly 5" tall, 2" wide, and 1 1/4" deep when closed.

So I looked more closely - and found that on the back, there is an old label and remnants of glue or paint:

953 - an old stock or catalogue number?

So I looked at the back of all the other pieces, and found - woohoo!

The remains of a Walther & Stevenson label!!!

This is on a stove, which also has little nails as knobs and handles:

Stove: roughly 2 1/2" high (to top of splashback), 2 1/2" wide and 1 3/8" deep when closed.

Walther & Stevenson was a toy shop in Sydney, at 395 George St. I have catalogues from 1933 and 1956/57 - both have dolls house furniture sets pictured in them, but not these pieces. I have found on another website that Walther & Stevenson closed in 1969, and I suspect that these pieces could date from the 1960s.
As far as I know, this is the first lot of dolls house furniture I have from Walther & Stevenson!! And Australian-made - and commercially-made - dolls houses and dolls house furniture is pretty rare, so it was very exciting to find it, especially in a fairly ordinary dolls house. (The 1933 catalogue states that the furniture is Australian-made, from plywood; the 1956/57 doesn't say whether the dolls house furniture is made in Australia or imported.)

Both the bureau and the stove are made of plywood, and fixed together with tiny nails.

None of the other pieces has a label or the yellow residue found on the stove and bureau, but the bed did have a label at one time, and it's made of the same kind of plywood:

Bed: roughly 5 1/4" long, head & foot 2 3/4" wide and 2" high.

So I think the bed is also from Walther & Stevenson. 

One other piece is made partly from plywood, and that's the dressing table - which also has the same kind of tiny nails for handles as the stove and bureau:

Dressing table: roughly 3 1/2" wide, 3 1/4" high and 1 1/2" deep when closed.
As you can see, the mirror has come off ...

This side-on view shows the plywood back and top clearly:

The opening doors, and non-opening drawers, are made from pieces of solid wood:

I'm thrilled to have one labelled piece of Walther & Stevenson furniture, and I think it's very likely that I have three other pieces, too. Finding any dolls house furniture in an antiques and collectables shop is rare - finding vintage, wooden, labelled, Australian dolls house furniture is amazing!!! So you can see why I had to buy the dolls house it was in! I'll keep these pieces of furniture with the house, as I think they date from the same period, and they may well have been together for over 40 years.