Small Talk Tag: Furniture

A Bitty Baby House

miniature baby house

Contrary to what the name might lead you to believe, this 1:12 scale miniature isn’t actually meant to represent a “house for babies.” The term baby house refers to 17th and 18th-century dollhouses, typically in the Netherlands and England. This early type of dollhouse was usually a wooden cabinet on legs, with compartments decorated and furnished like a miniature estate.

This Baby House was constructed by artist Gilbert Mena. It features turned legs and finials and two functional doors decorated with one-point perspective marquetry scenes. The rooms within the baby house were made by artist Nell Corkin, who had the task of miniaturizing furnishings that would have been already tiny in full-scale! If you look closely, you’ll find diminutive delftware, two neatly made beds, and even a dollhouse pet resting on a pillow.

From Whittling to Wood Carving: Tudor Furniture

Tudor Furniture

In addition to the beautiful wood carvings (link to previous blog post) adorning this Tudor bedroom’s walls and ceiling, Thomas Warner crafted the furniture. The chairs with crossed legs and the four-poster bed’s ornate details are carved out of walnut. The bible stand, or prie-dieu, is also intricately carved with a cross and features a slanted and hinged top.

Additional miniature artists lent their skills to furnish the room with rich textiles: needlework from Annelle Ferguson, upholstery by Frank Hanley and Jeffery Gueno (of Le Chateau Interiors), and an embroidery frame and gold jewel box by William R. Robertson.

The Write Stuff

john davenport miniature

Several things might come to mind when you think of the word “secretary:” Dolly Parton’s character in the movie 9 to 5, current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, or maybe even the 1973 Triple Crown winner… oh wait, that’s Secretariat. In furniture, a secretary refers to a large cabinet with drawers, compartments, and a flat writing surface. Historically, secretaries vary in size, style, and functionality from very ornate to compact and sleek. Long before Siri sent emails for us, secretaries were all the rage.

Miniature artist John Davenport created the German Secretary pictured here based on designs from eighteenth-century schreibschränke (or writing cabinets). The secretary has 23 drawers fitted with brass hardware; three of which have a working lock and key. Most notably, a pair of one-point perspective marquetry landscapes adorn the outside, the larger of which is on the hinged panel that becomes the writing surface when opened. If you were about five inches tall, this secretary would be the perfect piece of furniture to pen your memoir, write a letter, or work on your blog!

The Magic of Color and Finish… On The Walls?

james hastrich

While we may have gotten a time out for coloring on the walls and furniture, James Hastrich pays homage to his early-American predecessors by doing just that with each of his miniature creations. He modeled his artist’s sample box after one owned by 19th century stenciling master Moses Eaton.

These traveling artists, known as itinerant painters, journeyed from town to town with their sample box, showcasing their skills to potential patrons. In return for food and lodging, these artists painted furniture (such as this chest in the style of Rufus Porter’s folk art landscapes), walls, and even floors with stenciled patterns inspired by wallpaper—which was too expensive for many families before the Industrial Revolution standardized mass production and reduced costs.

Today, some lucky New England homeowners are still discovering original stenciled patterns beneath layers of wallpaper. Maybe someday we’ll find hidden designs in one of our miniature room settings.

“The Finish and Color… is the Magic For Me”

hastrich's miniature furniture

Originally a maker of full-sized furniture (do you see another theme here?!), James Hastrich became engrossed in miniature making after constructing a 1/12th scale desk for a client. So much so that in 1977 he sold his furniture shop and fully devoted his time to the art of producing Early American painted furniture in fine-scale. Hastrich’s miniature furniture is hand painted using traditional methods and materials.

The artist’s sample box is based on one owned by Moses Eaton, a traveling painter specializing in faux graining and stenciling. Unlike the DIYers with their plastic grocery bag techniques today, the decorative painters of the 18th and 19th century were highly skilled. Eaton’s work adorned the walls of homes along the East Coast between 1800 and 1830. Hastrich replicated Eaton’s wood paint samples using historical methods such as vinegar grainingsmoke graining, and brush stroke graining.

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