Dollhouse Love

Abe was indifferent. Zeke was a step up from that–fond? bemused?–whatever implies a distant affection. It was clear: neither of my kids toppled head over heels in love with the dollhouse I rescued from the curb, took home and painted, papered, and decorated with homemade furniture and–get this–a miniature Frank Stella.

I mean, I went through a lot of (happy) trouble working on that thing. To make the Lilliputian furniture, I drew up little elaborate blueprints. My husband then took the plans to his architecture firm and asked the model shop to cut the pieces to size. (Did the model shoppers ever figure out the identity of the “client”? Was it, in fact, completely obvious?)

I sewed tiny pillows & stitched mini felt blankets. I made side tables out of those plastic thing-a-ma-bobs that come in the middle of pizzas. Bunk beds. Books as big as postage stamps. A bath mat the size of a match box.

My family (and the model shoppers) humored my obsession with the small scale. They regarded me with polite–and always kind–detachment. But in the ten years since, I’ve learned something important:

Sometimes, it takes a village to love a dollhouse.

First it was Sophia Alvarez, my seven-year-old neighbor. When she wasn’t constructing a Playmobil megalopolis in her bedroom, she’d come over and rearrange the dollhouse furniture for me. Over the years came other caretakers–Addie, Lila K., Lila M., Sophie U., Sophie B., Mary, Danny, Norman, and every teenage babysitter I have ever hired. It ends up I’m not the only one who appreciates the little things of life.

So if you’re with me, make sure to check out these shrunken exemplars of pristine Modernism in a NYT slide show.

(Photo by Robert Presutti for the New York Times)

Or creep yourself out with this slideshow of shoebox crime scenes beautifully photographed by Corinne May Botz in The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Or admire this 23-room, 5-story house made by Faith Bradford, in this online tour. You can also see it in person at the National Museum of American History in D.C. (And yes, I was just in Washington for school vacation week. Guess what? No one in my family wanted to go see Faith’s dollhouse with me. Sigh.)

America's Doll House: The Miniature World of Faith Bradford