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 05 March, 2016


Stettheimer Dollhouse Foyer and Glass Elevator found on MonopolThe First Dollhouse 

The Stettheimer Dollhouse

Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks was a favorite watering hole of the New York City rich and famous. In the summer of 1916, the upper-class children had a fund-raising bazaar to benefit local children affected by a polio epidemic. Some pestered their parents for contributions, others pestered the neighbors. Carrie Stettheimer, the youngest of three daughters, got wooden boxes from a grocer and created a dollhouse with found objects and scraps. When the family returned home to their West 58th Street mansion, Carrie began her life-long work – The Stettheimer Dollhouse.


Seven rooms of the Stettheimer Dollhouse found on Linnea West

The Salon

A common definition of a salon is “a recurring assembly of guests in a private home, usually consisting of the leaders the arts, society, and politics. Rosette Stettheimer, the matriarch of the family, presided over their “salon,” and the guest list was skewed towards artists and high- society members who loved to rub elbows with Greenwich Village bohemians.  That may be why at Carrie Stettheimer’s death in 1944, the dollhouse she started in the Fall of 1916 was unfinished.

carrie stettenheimer

Carrie Stettheimer, Salon Hostess, and Miniaturist, found in the Yale University archives.

Rosette’s three amazingly gifted, never-married daughters were always in attendance at the salons. Florine the artist, Ettie the writer, and Carrie, whose pleasures were reading, learning and conversation. Ettie wrote that “these pleasures were so time-consuming Carrie scarcely had time for working on her dollhouse.”

The Guest List

The Stettheimers were active in the art world of the 1920s and 30s. And not as dilettantes. Florine and Ettie were accomplished in their chosen fields. Carrie was smart and charming and working on her own piece of art.
Regular guests at the salons included figures from the country’s first avant-garde, artists, and writers like Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Marsden Hartley, Carl Van Vechten, Gaston Lachaise, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pavel


Foyer entrance to Art Gallery Stetteimer Dollhouse

Tchelitchew, Virgil Thomson, Gertrude Stein and many others.

The Dollhouse

Carrie Stetteimer intended the dollhouse to be a near replica of the family home, even down to the decorations and furnishings. She painstakingly recreated every detail of the mansion’s interior design. Each room is lush in detail and color.


Stettheimer Dollhouse Parlor. Source unknown.

The dollhouse is large, more than four feet long and three feet high. There used to be little plaster figurines of some of the salon’s famous visitors, but they’re gone now. Most everything else is in place. The foyer is a bright yellow-gray-malachite-green fantasy with tiny silver and gold topiary trees in white urns. There are cellophane curtains tied with cherry-colored ribbons. And the red carpet and enclosed elevator with formal floral bouquets. The nursery is papered with one of Carrie’s collages and a dreamy frieze of Noah’s ark.

The kitchen is properly equipped with tiny pots and pans; the linen room linen sheets and woolen blankets. The bedroom has Limoges vases and blue taffeta drapery.


Then there’s the ballroom with a powder-blue piano, neoclassical fireplace, and a gold-and-white wooden floor. Wow!


Stettheimer Dollhouse Ballroom with Blue Piano










Stettheimer Dollhouse Art Gallery. On exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York

The Art Collection

Perhaps the most notable feature of the dollhouse is its art collection. Many of the Stettheimer friends made tiny copies of their paintings and sculptures for the dollhouse. Marcel Duchamp made a miniature Nude Descending a Staircase; Gaston Lachaise’s his statue Nude Woman; even smaller nudes by Marguerite Zorach and Alexander Archipenko. There’s a micro-cubist portrait by Albert Gleizes and William Zorach’s thumb-sized bronze Mother and Child.


Stettheimer Dollhouse exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York

Gift To New York City

After her mother’s death in 1935, Carrie stopped working on the dollhouse and some rooms were left unfinished. Her sister Ettie (who survived both Florine and Carrie) donated the dollhouse to the Museum of the City of New York in 1945. She arranged for the unfinished rooms – Art Gallery and Dining Room – to be completed as she thought her sister would have wanted them.

If you want to delve deeper into the fascinating art world in which the Stettheimer sisters dwelled, the article “Florine Stettheimer ~ Contemporary of Duchamp, O’Keeffe, and Stein” is a “must read.” Here’s a link to the Wednesday, November 25, 2009, post on the Fifty Two Pieces blog. Scroll down to the third article.

Other artists who created works for the Dollhouse include Alexander ArchipenkoGeorge BellowsGaston Lachaise, and Marguerite Zorach.

And the Stettheimer Dollhouse video by Ileana Ottini is terrific.

Susan Downing, with Patrick Owens


I invite you to visit my Etsy Shop where I offer many accessories and pieces of furniture in 1:12 scale. Subscribers to this blog receive a discount on all Featured Products. Click here for details.

Posted by Susan Downing

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