Homemade Australian dolls houses
by Rebecca Green
In this article I want to share some of my homemade Australian dolls’ houses. There were some commercial makers of dolls’ houses here, and many dolls’ houses were imported for sale, but many more dolls houses were made at home by enterprising fathers and grandfathers.
The four houses I will share here all show features of architectural styles which flourished in Australia.
The earliest in style, though probably made later than the others, is this little house in the Italian Villa style. This was very common in Melbourne, where the house came from, following the 1850s gold rushes. The house was probably built in about the 1950s – the upper floor is made of plastic laminate. On the exterior, a fine layer of sand imitates stucco, and the arched windows and topiary shrubs are typical of this style. Inside, each room has ceiling roses made of wood.
I have furnished this house with Australian-made plastic kitchen furniture by Marquis (1940s-1960s), and metal kitchen, living room and bedroom furniture from the 1940s, which may have been made by the EFCO company of Sydney.
Australia was formed in 1901 through federation of the 6 individual colonies (which became states). This next house is an excellent example of the Federation styleproliferated which during the first two decades of the 20th century. It was made of teachests and packing chests in the 1920s or 30s, probably by a loving grandfather, as the name plaque above the front porch reads “POP”. Both the interior and exterior are completely original, with all floor coverings painted on. Its owner but one was an elderly lady in Ulysses St, in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood, where Federation-style houses still stand.
Stained glass doors and windows were a popular feature of several styles in the early 20th century, including the Arts and Crafts style, which this house shows elements of – the shingled gable; gable, dormer and bay windows; weatherboarding; and false exposed beam ends. This house came from country Victoria, and the wooden planking and metal roof were probably recycled from crates and kerosene tins or the like. I do wonder what the interior of this house looked like originally – there is so much detail in the exterior, and yet inside is a single room with rather rough planks of wood and no ceiling. Perhaps it was made for a larger scale doll, with beautifully sewn soft furnishings. This house was probably also made in the 1920s or 30s.
The last house has few original features remaining inside, but has a lovely front, with pylon shaped window and door frames, casement windows with diamond-shaped lattice panes, and a round window in the front door. These are all features of the Californian bungalow, which was introduced into Australia in 1916, and became very popular. This house came from Sydney, where in many suburbs the streets are still lined with Californian bungalows. A white picket fence has also come to symbolise the dream of having one’s own house in the suburbs. The roof of this house is made from Presdwood, invented in America in 1924, and mass-produced from 1929, so most likely this house was made during the 1930s.
I love these houses, which are so individual and so typically Australian.