Modella – dolls house furniture 1955-1968
by diepuppenstubensammlerin with Rebecca Green
In the last issue, we saw the roomboxes produced by the German firm Modella from 1968 to 1978. Modella was founded in 1955 by Paul Kerkmann, and produced wonderful plastic dolls house furniture for 13 years before coming out with the innovative roombox packaging described in that article.
Modella - plastic dolls' furniture The modern and elegant gift - All pieces also available separately
The ad above appeared in the trade magazine "Das Spielzeug" ("The Toy") in 1956 and 1957; the Modella factory was still at its original location in Düsseldorf then. Amazingly, at this early date the furniture was available in 3 scales: a small scale for small dolls houses, a middle scale for normal dolls houses and the largest scale for playing without a dolls house at all. (They did not mention exact scales or dimensions.)
In 1958, the same living room furniture was advertised in colour, showing black or white frames with pink surfaces. A bedroom set was also available, and the ad also shows the packaging of this date:
Paul Kerkmann commented about his work, in "Das Spielzeug" in 1959:
“The child should have real possibilities to play with its doll furniture. It should be able to water the plants, rearrange the books, to make a telephone call and to open and close drawers; it wants to change the table cloth, to take out the carpet and to move the furniture.”
The advertisements at left and below appeared in the same year, 1959, and show beds with removable bedding, cabinets with drawers which open, a flower pot and watering can, a telephone - all the details which Paul Kerkmann believed necessary for children's play.
This ad (left) also celebrates the success of the firm at that year's Toy Fair:
"From the abundance of our modern colourful novelties, these three sets were most strongly bought at the Toy Fair."
The firm was making bed rooms, living rooms and dining rooms in three sizes at that time, all made of foam-rubber and polystyrole and fininished in bright colours. They were successful not only in Germany, but also exported their modern dolls furniture to many European countries.
Above: a colour ad in 1959 for a living room set in "Das Spielzeug".
Below: the same living room set appeared in the English 'Hobbies Annual' 1964, along with dining room, kitchen and living room sets, for "normal size" (1/16th) dolls houses, and larger dolls houses. 'Hobbies' is a woodwork and craft company, selling by mail order and at local depots; Modella furniture was first shown in 1963, and was also available in 1965.
Here we see a glimpse behind the scenes at the original Modella factory in Düsseldorf in 1959, the year before the move to larger purpose-built premises at Wesel-Flüren:
"Some of the essential Modella novelties of 1960" are shown in this ad - similar sets to previous years, with some additional articles decorated with embossed designs:
The "embossed patterns" can be seen in more detail in the door of the wardrobe, below:
The bed cover and the dressing table curtain were of a thin pink dotted cloth, to be seen on the last picture. I hope I will find something similar.
Pictures showing scenes of fairytales.
The old Modella plastic furniture survived only very rarely, either it was not kept on purpose ("just plastic"), or it broke quickly. It is more difficult to find than wooden furntiture of the same period. (The first products made out of plastic were of low quality because there was still much research to do in regard of durability or keeping the same colour over the years, that is perhaps a reason for discarding those toys more readily.)
Modella attributed their success to the colourfulness and value for money of their articles, and also to the help and loyalty of their customers and employees. Modella furniture was available in several different colour variations. In the room setting below, the chairs have black arms and legs and yellow "upholstery", while in the ad above, the same design is shown in red and yellow.
In 1962, more variations were introduced: new sideboards in the living and dining rooms, and new side tables.
New packaging appeared in 1963. The lid of the box shows two girls, with the typical short haircuts and Peter Pan collars of the time, playing with Modella furniture:
New designs were introduced for the furniture. The bedside tables and dressing table now have drawers too, and the bed ends are more solid, with the same embossed design as the wardrobe doors. The rubber foam on the bed disintegrated over the years:
A kitchen set was available for the first time in 1963. It can be seen in an ad which appeared in the 1963 "Quelle" catalogue ("Quelle" was a large German mail order firm):
Quelle did not name the manufacturers, but on the right, we can recognise the bedroom and living room furniture by Modella . On the left, a two-room-box by Häfner and Krullmann is shown, with kitchen furniture also by Modella, and living room furniture by Crailsheimer.
My set is a year or two later, and includes the hinged/folding bench added later:
It's astonishing how modern these chairs look and how many different pastel shades were used on the cupboard doors. Very typical are the rounded shelves of the cupboard on the right. All doors and drawers can be opened and there even is a small extending table with stool for working more comfortably. (The extending bench is just to the right of the fridge; the stool is not visible in this photo.)
I also have a living room set from 1965:
The chair cushions are also disintegrating.
Here are sets from 1966; note the different boxes, as well as new furniture designs.
photo: Lilli Latzhose
Old ebay photo
Whilst Bodo Hennig presents his new collection of wooden furniture with metal feet in 1967, Modella advertises for the usual plastic furniture, but now with a modern wooden appearance.
Modella was featured on the front cover of "Das Spielzeug" in October 1967. The livingroom comes with rectangular red armchairs ...
or with daring red swivel armchairs:
Modella dolls' furniture delights the hearts of children all over the world.
We know that!
The kitchen came in several colours. Here is the blue, white and red version pictured in the ad above:
and a yellow, white and red version:
Photo: Rebecca Green
as well as pieces from a red and yellow set:
At this time, they offered 30 sets of dolls furniture made of top quality plastic, in two scales, 1:10 and 1:20, with a lot of accessories. They were proud of their patented imitation-wood plastic veneer.
These shelf-units were also sold in red.
Even the bedroom is decorated with imitation-wood surfaces...
...just like the diningroom with those elegantly designed red chairs.
old ebay photo
1968 brought new styles, new colours - orange!
and was also the year Modella launched the new room boxes (see previous article in last issue of DHPP) and a new era began.
- Ads all from "Das Spielzeug“
- If not indicated otherwise, all photos from my collection.