Dollhouses Dollhouses

If you're reading this article, it's a safe bet that the words "crown molding" or "Louis XVI chair" make your eyes light up, and therefore it's a safe bet you'd like to pass this passion for design on to the kids in your life.

But chances are an 8-year-old won't think it's exactly entertaining to follow you into the local discount lighting store, or pore over fabric swatches under florescent lights.

So why not approach design on a child-sized scale? Even if your kid doesn't grow up to love the distinctions between chintz and velvet, she'll have a great couple of years putting up tiny curtains over tiny windows and solving the problem of where to place the miniature sofa so it doesn't block the teeny fireplace.

The world of dollhouses and miniatures is in itself a miniature world. You can find dollhouses in every style, including Georgian, Victorian, contemporary, and Arts and Crafts. Some dollhouses can be purchased completely put together, but you can also buy dollhouses to build yourself, providing a great way of spending time with your child. As you build the house, your child will learn not only about architectural design, but also about elements of electricity and landscaping.

And once the house is put together, the decorating begins. Your child can create the house in all its detail, and then she can mobilize the little family that lives in the house to move around from kitchen to living room, up to bed and back downstairs for breakfast again.

The dollhouse provides a child with a way of practicing being an adult, just as all good play does. With a dollhouse, your child will be creating a fantasy world that is much more real than any video game can be. A dollhouse can help her form her imaginative powers, as she'll be able to make up her story lines for the dolls, and in a more concrete way she can make up the house they're living in, by actually choosing and arranging furniture and accessories, reinforcing her imaginative play.

The world of dollhouses is highly detailed, with every tiny thing available from trees for landscaping to miniature books and cooking utensils. The dollhouse can provide a terrific outlet for creativity, because you can change the look of a room without having to take out a second mortgage or put your back out moving furniture. You can see what a change different lighting or wall color would make in a room, or play with furniture from different periods.

I mean, your child can do these things. You wouldn't start encouraging her to go to back to the video game while you tidy up the dollhouse, would you?

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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