By Celia Thomas of KT Miniatures
Mixing Old With New
Have you ever thought about using antique or vintage miniatures in your modern reproduction dolls houses or room settings?
At a fair, a while ago now, I was trying to explain to a customer that it was ok to use antique or vintage 1/12th scale pieces in her reproduction 1/12th scale house. Her astonished reply to this was “I didn’t think you could and actually I had never thought about it before!” Needless to say, she departed from my stand clutching a bag of antique goodies! Most of us in our real life sized homes probably have a mixture of antique or vintage possessions lurking amongst our more modern pieces. We tend to often inherit or accumulate in some way all kinds of pieces from several eras throughout our lives, so why not do the same in our miniature houses?
One or two vintage pieces in reproduction settings and dolls houses can certainly add authenticity to the overall effect. For example, as seen in the photo of this first old attic room scene, a customer specifically asked for a globe and a gramophone to be incorporated in some way. Of course, I could easily have used all reproduction pieces, but tucked away at an auction I found a vintage globe (which started out as a pencil sharpener but once strategically fixed into place no-one would have guessed) and it was the most gorgeous muted colour. Plus also at the same auction I managed to find a job lot that contained an old miniature tin gramophone. This was a real find, as I often spend hours making new items look old, but this gramophone was genuinely aged and truly wonderful.
In this second old attic room, various vintage pieces have been used such as a 1960s plastic doll, an old clock, a Barton chest of drawers (hidden away in the corner), some vintage pottery, an antique hat and old French jewellery boxes.
Additional examples of mixing old with new is seen here in “An Old Loo” scene that was created inside an antique 1900s cabinet, where a vintage 1930s wooden chair has been perched in a corner to help contribute to the aged ambience. The other pieces have been created to look old. In the schoolroom scene based in the 1960s, you may recognise the small children’s chairs as being 1/16th scale Barton dining chairs and the Barton tallboy which is now “teacher’s cupboard”.
All kinds of genuinely old pieces could be put to good use in your reproduction dolls house including for instance a 1950s DCMT metal cooker for the 1950s/60s kitchen, or a pair of early 1900s German candlesticks, an FGT Gas Fire, a 1930’s Pit-a-Pat Sideboard or a vintage German tin globe.
It is true that many of the old pieces may not be absolute to scale but at the same time, many are. So it is just a case of measuring carefully and deciding whether the piece will work for you.
Mixing New With Old
Ok…I know for a fact that many serious collectors of antique and vintage dolls houses have never considered adding modern reproduction miniatures to their old treasures. I can fully understand, as apart from the obvious ie. a modern reproduction that looks brand spanking new will stick out like a sore thumb…so why on earth would you ever consider this? However, many of you may not be aware but there are miniaturist artisans nowadays who create aged and realistic miniatures that can look quite at home in both a genuinely old dolls house as well as a modern reproduction house.
Maybe you could try accessorising your vintage dolls house by adding a few “aged” reproductions to your collection? Various examples that might be suitable to use can be seen here; printed items such as a box of school books, an art deco filled book rack, stack of old boxed filled with vintage ephemera, an aged settee with worn blanket & hand painted 1930s cushions, books etc…….all of these could look well at home in a vintage dolls house? You could even use mock packaging in your old pantry (seen here is an example of 1930s packaging).
Many of us with old dolls houses that no longer contain its original paint, wallpaper and flooring are often presented with a predicament on what to use as a replacement. I would much prefer to use antique wallpaper and flooring if I can get hold of it. Indeed at KT Miniatures we do sell antique wallpaper, however I have to be honest and say that some of this antique paper would not be suitable for the smaller 1/16th scale house , so an alternative is often needed such as wrapping paper or modern reproduction wallpaper (see Dolls House Restoration’s selection of replica Tri-ang papers). A huge amount could be written on this subject alone and it is down to personal choice, however to briefly touch on the subject, let’s just say that paint and modern papers can be used if necessary, and then aged with acrylic paint to look old, if the “aged and well used look ” is what you are aiming for.
Modern reproduction flooring can also look far too new so many collectors will discount the idea completely without investigating further. In the same way as wallpaper, did you know that you can quite easily age modern reproduction flooring by applying sparingly a wash of well diluted brown acrylic paint? Paper flooring is readily obtainable plus there are other varieties of flooring that can be used in vintage dolls houses, including mock lino.
Mock lino is a good substitute to real vintage lino which can be so elusive to track down and even if you can find the real thing, the pattern can be far too large or the lino itself too bulky to use in your old dolls house. In this image of the 1930s “Winsford Dolls House” (taken from “ A Tale Of Winsford House” – KT Miniatures) you can see a variety of my own handmade imitation lino has been used, based on actual 1920s-30s designs. It too has been given a wash of acrylic paint to age it, in order to make it look more authentic alongside the original paintwork and wallpaper from the 1930s.
So there you have it, I hope this article has inspired you……… even just a little bit, to maybe thinking about mixing old miniatures with new. As a miniaturist artisan I spend hours making new miniatures look old but being a seller and passionate collector of antique and vintage dolls houses too, I find mixing old with new comes naturally!
All photos and editorial on this page ©Copyright KT Miniatures Celia Thomas