Once Upon A Time, a little girl was gifted a charming Bavarian dollhouse by her grandmother. It came with hand-painted furniture and tiny dolls dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes.
The dollhouse gradually fell out of favor as the girl grew. It was stored for decades in places like basements and attics, never seeing the light of day. But the dollhouse never really left the girl’s heart.
Then a pandemic swept across the land. The girl, now a woman of some years (the actual number of years will not be revealed here), finally found she had the time to bestow some love and attention upon the aging dollhouse.
So today you’re invited to leave reality behind for a moment and come along on a tour of a refreshed vintage dollhouse.
But first . . .
A Little History
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It didn’t take much searching to find that my dollhouse and its furniture were made in Germany by the Dora Kuhn company. Dora Kuhn’s father began making toy furniture in 1911.
I learned that my dollhouse is also called a “room box.” It and the furniture were likely made in the 1960s, and all the pieces are hand painted.
My dollhouse measures about 20″ X 13″ X 8″ but I was surprised to learn that the company made several sizes of room boxes and furniture. Some of them look almost exactly like mine in photos, but they are actually much smaller.
This informative blog post covers the company’s interesting history, and it contains some great photos of various Dora Kuhn pieces.
Old Doll House, New Goals
My main objective with the dollhouse was to make it usable for my little niece so that she can enjoy it when she visits. But, since this dollhouse does have some value, I want to preserve all of its original features.
Am I worried that my niece might damage it? No. The pieces have been pretty durable so far and, when she is able to visit us again, she’ll only be playing with it on occasion. (Since it’s really just a one-room cabin, I expect her interest in it to be fleeting anyway.)
What Goes And What Stays
When I first brought the dollhouse out of our attic space, where it had been stored for the past 12 years or so, I was expecting it to look worse. But it was in surprisingly good shape.
The topcoat of varnish on the furniture pieces and on the room box itself had developed a patina, but that just added to the charm. I simply gave the pieces a thorough and careful cleaning.
However, as expected, fabric items did not fare as well over the decades. The doll costumes were beginning to fray, and attempts to clean and repair them would no doubt result in further damage.
Uncleaned, these decades-old fabrics potentially harbor mold and mildew. So it just doesn’t work for my niece to play with these dolls. I don’t yet know if they have any value other than sentimental, but for the moment they will be safely stashed away.
The curtains and bed cushions are in fairly decent shape, but the bed cushions are stuffed with something. It feels like either sawdust or something that has disintegrated into sawdust. So washing the bedding is probably not a great idea.
I decided to carefully remove the curtains and store them and the bedding somewhere safe.
The Fun Begins!
Even as a child, I wasn’t crazy about the red and white checkered fabric anyway. So off I went to the fabric store to find some fun new bedding and curtain fabrics.
I’ve always adored this four-post covered bed. But, as far as I can remember, the bed didn’t come with a mattress.
So I cut a piece of foam and covered it with fabric for a fitted sheet.
I made two pillows with the same fabric. The bed is topped with a quilt made with a coordinating, reversible quilted fabric.
Table, Chairs, and Curtains
I made curtains and a table runner with the same fabric as the fitted sheet.
I tried to make sure the new curtains didn’t cover too much of the hand-painted window shutters.
The tiny crib doll was easy to clean, so she could stay with the dollhouse. I made some simple bedding for her crib.
I didn’t do anything to the dresser but stock it with a few little decor items for my niece to use if she wants.
A tiny clock hangs on wall above it.
I wondered about the stylized lettering painted on the wardrobe front. I thought it might be artist initials.
But, according to the website I mentioned above, it stands for “Jesus His Savior” and, on the opposite door, “Maria is the Mother of Jesus.”
The wardrobe doors are beautifully painted on the inside. But the actual cabinets were bare and boring.
I still had some pages from a child’s book leftover from my Storybook House project, so I measured and cut an interesting background from a book page to use as “wallpaper.”
I simply pressed it snugly into place in the wardrobe without using any adhesive. I want to be able to remove it later to keep the wardrobe original.
Then I stocked the wardrobe with a few blankets I made from fabric scraps and a tiny broom that I made myself.
After finding this post for guidance, the broom took me about ten minutes to make, and I could use items I already had on hand.
I learned that no two Dora Kuhn dollhouses are exactly alike. For example, the painted exterior trees are slightly different on each one.
A Sweet Little Cabin
Lots of furniture is crammed into this little one-room cabin, but it’s a cheerful place.
Now it just needs . . .
Someone has to take care of that baby and fit the storybook vibe of this place, and these two dolls will do nicely.
Some time back, I stumbled upon one of these these two Madame Alexander McDonald’s Happy Meal dolls on Etsy and the other one at a local vintage sale. I didn’t pay much for either of them. These Little Red Riding Hood and Peter Pan dolls are newer and cleaner than the vintage German dolls they replace – and less precious. So my niece can play with them without any worries.
Right now, they are still getting to know their new home, and they are finding that caring for a baby is a lot of work. So they’re having a little coffee break.
It’s been fun bringing my old dollhouse back into the daylight and learning things about it that I hadn’t known in all these years. Now it’s time to go rearrange the furniture!
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