Dollhouse Decorating

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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 29 March, 2016

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Astolat Dollhouse Castle

Astolat Castle

There are hobbies, then there are obsessions. When Elaine Marie Diehl’s customers entered her miniature shop in Sedona, Arizona, the nine-foot, seven-tiered, meticulously decorated dollhouse just inside the door gave them a clue about the owner.

Making dollhouses began as a hobby for Elaine. She would come home from her day job working in “display art” and play with her latest creation. The miniatures grew in size and price. People dropped by her home unannounced to see her latest creation and after one particularly profitable sale, she decided to give up commercial art and play full time, opening Minielaine’s Miniature Shop in 1981.

Work on the Castle had begun in 1974 and would not be finished for thirteen years. Coming up with a name proved difficult, until Elaine reread Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic, “Idylls of the King.” The line, “Elaine the fair,Elaine the Lovable, Elaine the lily maid of Astolat” jumped off the page. “I always did wanted to rule over my own domain,” she thought.

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Astolat Castle exterior walls showing papier-mâché over wood carved to look like stone.

Exterior

Astolat Castle has a copper roof. The structural wood walls that are finished on the exterior side with papier-mâché, then sculpted to a rough faux stone finish. This process took over a year to complete. Some of these exterior wall panels are fixed to create a 3-dimensional effect when viewer’s peer into the Castle through bay windows. Other walls can be opened or removed for group viewing.

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Astolat Dollhouse Castle Bedroom.

Interior

The interior has seven levels. The basement level consists of the Knights Of Columbus room, wine cellar, kitchens, and the armory. The main floor contains the entrance foyer, main stairway, and butler’s closet. Next level up contains the formal living room, dining room, and music room and its audience balcony. The fourth level contains the private library containing dueling pistols, a library of miniature books, fireplace, miniature daguerreotypes, and the oil painting display area. Fifth level contains the sleeping quarters. Sixth floor contains the grand ballroom, musician’s alcove, bar area and sitting rooms. Wizards’s tower is on the top level and contains hand painted zodiac signs, telescope, observatory and astronomical depictions.

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Astolat Dollhouse Castle Kitchen

Lighting

There are two lighting setups. One for day and one for night. Elaine could control them from behind the cash register. The furnishings include five periods and styles: Spanish, Oriental, Tudor, 18th-century English, and Victorian.

News of an amazing dollhouse on display in a tiny shop in a little-know Arizona town spread far and wide. Mail addressed to Home of Astolat Castle, Sedona, Arizona found its way to the shop. So did silent movie star Colleen Moore of Fairy Castle fame. She visited in the Spring of 1982.

Retirement

Elaine Diehl retired in 1996 and the Castle was acquired by collector L. Freeman, who moved it to the Nassau County Museum of Art on Long Island, N.Y. Freeman is an avid collector of dollhouses and since her acquisition of the Astolat Dollhouse Castle she has continually upgraded its interiors with additional one-of-a-kind antique miniatures furniture and paintings, in addition to those that already existed within the structure. There are now about 30,000 miniatures pieces in the collection, but only about 10,000 are displayed at any one time.

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Video of the Astolat Castle being set up in the Time Warner mezzanine

On Display

Astolat Dollhouse Castle was on rare public display at the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle, New York City from November 12 to December 8, 2015. In proper great dollhouse tradition, all proceeds benefitted charities for children, including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Autism Speaks, Orphan’s International and others.and

 

Susan

Posted by Susan Downing

Categories: Great Dollhouses


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