German dolls houses of the seventies – "elka"
When I bought this dolls house some years ago I did not know the maker because it was not marked. At once I was attracted by the included garden scene. The 1:12 scale house is really huge but it can be disassembled by taking the plastic roof off, then the light cardboard walls and the plastic chimney which leaves the light plastic floor plate.
There are 4 rooms separated by bare cardboard walls which need wallpapers very badly. The floors are already painted with a tile pattern or a vinyl floor imitation. The 3 windows are covered with a thin plastic pane.
But the garden with its chimney and swimming pool is its most fascinating feature. The colourful garden furniture came originally with the house and was made by Modella since 1973.
The dolls are by a well-known German manufacturer of plastic figures, Schleich. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schleich)
I furnished the entire house with Modella because their style is so typical of that time.
Well – who made this dolls house and what else did they produce?
A report from the big Toy Fair in Nuremberg of 1973 answers these questions:
“Elfriede Ferner, head of the toy firm in Küps with her new doll bungalow”
The firm was called "Firma Elfriede Lipfert" in fact, because Lipfert was Elfriede’s maiden name. She and her family founded a small workshop directly after the war – 1946 – in KKüps near Kronach and produced painted wooden buttons at first. She made many other wooden household articles, even bottle cases, but in 1950 she started making toys. A little shop she had made for her daughter to play with was admired by everyone and so she presented it at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, together with some wooden horses of different sizes. She was successful and sold more and more in the following years. Many wholesalers and mail-order firms ordered her wooden shops and other toys.
This is the first ad of her firm that I found – from 1966 – and it shows that Elfriede Ferner was using plastic at that time as well. She had even officially patented a technique for a dolls house with integrated furniture. While moulding the walls from thin plastic, the furniture placed against the walls was formed at the same time. The design of the house was unusual, too, 4 rooms diagonally placed on a square base. On the photo you see additional furniture like chairs and tables in the middle of the rooms but the main part is fixed on – or melted into – the walls.
This is a drawing of the patent specification where you can see that in the bathroom the tub, toilet and sinks were all moulded into the wall. In the living room, the fire-place and a bench were built-in, in the bedroom the large bed and the dressing table and in the kitchen all the cupboards. To increase the stability of the construction they put wood into the walls. Sadly I never saw this house in a collection.
The firm’s logo was “elka“ even then – derived from the German pronunciation of L and K. They called themselves: Fabrik für Holz- und Kunststoffspielwaren (Factory for wooden and plastic toys) and listed stalls, shops, puppet theaters, dolls beds, dolls cupboards, Swedish kitchens, wooden and plastic sand cars and rocking chairs as their range of articles.
In 1968 the firm advertised this "Play market in plastics and wood, see-through counter, collapsible”:
In 1971 the Spielwarenfabrik Elfriede Lipfert was 25 years old and celebrated its jubilee. Their product range included toy markets and stalls in all standard sizes. Many articles were in the traditional style of Bavaria or Franconia. About 20 percent of the goods were exported, with Belgium, Holland, France, Italy and Austria as the main buyers. The firm had 45 employees and the most modern machines.
In 1972 a new model was advertised: “A doll’s bungalow with a wide range of fittings. These fittings are unusually solid and the bungalow contains all the accessories that make up its play value.”
The ad is not very interesting in black and white but you can clearly recognize the Modella furniture which was included. The walls are covered with a shrill patterned paper, the roof is similar to my bungalow.
In the same year it was also offered by a large mailorder company “Quelle”, so we have a photo in colour, too. Here it was sold unfurnished, but you could order furniture sets for four rooms right next to it. The wallpaper is different here.
A very colourful time with patterns for walls, tiles, clothes, sofas, that look clashing and loud nowadays. Imagine having curtains like these:
They were on sale in the same catalogue.
In a report of 1974 I found the house still on sale in a toy shop. Can you spot it on a shelf?
Then came my dolls house with the moulded garden and swimming pool in 1973, which was still exhibited at the Toy Fair in Nuremberg in 1975. The other dolls houses on sale are in the traditional rustic style.
Elfriede Lipfert is still busy promoting her toys at the fair.
Here my chronology ends, but the firm lived on for many years and was later bought by another toy firm.