Welcome to the Dollhouse

By Molly Denver

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a fascination with dollhouses.  My dad built one for my sister and I which I recall being yellow, with graffiti that I personally contributed. The dolls didn’t matter to me, just the house itself.

Dad built all the furniture and helped me build some, showing me how to attach tiny working hinges and sand down the surfaces after applying the stain to give it the appearance of being time-worn.

This is similar to a desk I made with my Dad

Earlier this year, my husband and I vacationed in Ireland and on a visit to Powerscourt Estate, we happened upon Tara’s Palace, Museum of Childhood.

Tara's Palace

In 1978 at a Christie's auction, Ron McDonnell, head of the Irish Antique Dealers Association tried to acquire a beautiful dollhouse, Titania’s Palace built by Irish craftsmen in the 1900’s.

Danish Legoland outbid Ron, so he commissioned Irish master craftsmen to build and furnish another palace, and Tara’s Palace was born.  Slowly.  It took 20 years. Tara’s Palace was modelled on three great 18th Century mansions; Castletown House, Leinster House and Carton House

Leinster House

Carton House

Every room is a masterpiece from the sculptural ceilings, hand-painted wallpaper, and furniture with working hinges and keys that actually fit and turn in each of the tiny locks. Among the furniture is a collection of carvings made by Napoleonic prisoners of war, carved from bone pieces they kept from their scarce rations.

Detailed table in Tara's Palace

Miniature book in Tara's Palace

Tiny violin in Tara's Palace

When I think of the detail we put into houses we design, I cannot help but marvel at the craftsmanship it takes at 1/12th the size.

Nowadays, whenever I create a model of a home I’m working on, I am reminded of that original dollhouse and the dollhouses my Dad continues to make for his grandchildren. I hope that my nieces and nephew feel the wonder I felt back when my Dad gave my sister and I that first dollhouse.

A dollhouse built by my dad