Dollhouse Decorating

Miniature Decorating Ideas |Articles on decorating dollhouses and the history of this artform


I have had a life-long love affair with dollhouse miniatures, and careers in art education and interior design. I hope to combine these life experiences to help other miniature enthusiasts get more out of this wonderful hobby we enjoy, a hobby that often reaches the level of an art form. Susan Downing

Posted on 27 February, 2016


Facade of the Nuremberg House on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum

The Nuremberg House was made in 1673, and is the oldest dollhouse on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It is small, measuring approximately 42” high, 36” wide and 18” deep, much smaller than most “puppenhausen” made in Nuremberg during that period.

nuremberg-17th century-dollhouse

Typical “representational” puppenhausen in 17th century Nuremberg.

The Original Owners

We know something about the original owners just by looking at the dolls house. The year it was made is written on the chimney. A sign or picture on the exterior of a house would show the proprietors occupation. In this case, there is a unicorn with a broken horn above a window next to the entrance that shows the house belonged to a chemist or an apothecary.




Picture of Martin Luther on the right-hand door.

They were a religious family, Lutherans probably, judging by the picture of Martin Luther (1483-1546) on the right door. A miniature hymnal and a prayer book are in a bedroom.

Also, note the stars on the house, popular ornamentation in 1673. They were eventually banned because they tended to fly off in times of high wind, becoming dangerous missiles.

Displays of Wealth

A 17th century German dollhouse usually served two purposes. In most of Europe, creating an elaborate dollhouse was a poplar way for the the upper classes to flaunt there wealth. They could be architecturally accurate miniatures of their manor houses. Or as in the case of the Dutch cabinet baby houses, clear depictions of daily life.

A Training Tool

The practical Germans added a second function, teaching the children skills they would need to run a household, and teaching staff how do the chores. The Nuremberg house is a good example. With only four rooms – two kitchens and two bedrooms – it was not designed to show family life. Rather, the house would be an enjoyable way for children and staff to learn the practical aspects of household management, from the preservation of food to the acquisition and storing of linen.


Interior of The Nuremberg House on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum

The Best Kitchen

Guest would be greeted at the arched door, which opened into the “best” kitchen. Particular attention would have been paid to the appearance of this room, ensuring that it was welcoming … and ostentatious. Candlesticks and silver dishes would be brought to a high polish. The table would be set with all the food and drink required for a lively evening with the family and their guests.

A practical note: the privy can be seen in the back, left corner.

Working Kitchen

This was a labor intensive place where all the messy part of food preparation and preservation was done. Scrub, clean, cook, prepare sausages, hang hams in the chimney to smoke, all the time being careful not to step on the chickens running free, unaware of their coming fate.

Another task done in the working kitchen, unrelated to food preparation, was the annual washing of the linen. It was a monumental job, requiring day labor hired locally to help with the work.


The master bedroom of the house contains a four poster bed with feather mattresses and a doll in a detailed high chair. The main bedroom appears to serve as both a bedroom and sitting room. The large stove is painted green with a flu to the outside. This is representative of stoves of the period

The Nuremberg House will be included in the Small Stories exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C., May 21, 2016 – January 16, 2017.


Posted by Susan Downing

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