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 15 January, 2017


Section of the White House replica being unloaded at an exhibition site. Source unknown.

Miniature White House

Using the word “miniature” to describe enormous dollhouses has always seemed weird to me. That’s especially true with the 1/12the scale replica of the White House. This colossus is 60 feet long and 20 feet wide. It weighs 10 tons and goes on tour in a big rig. John Zweigel’s obsessions truly stretches the universe of “tiny things.”


First Visit

John Zweifel’s first visited the White House in 1956 when he was 20 years. Only five rooms were open to the public at the time, but he was so entranced Zweifel decided to make a model of what he saw. Taking pictures was forbidden, note taking too, for fear of bomb plots. He would take the tour, commit what he saw to memory, then sketch the rooms and make notes as soon as he left the building.

His first miniature effort was a 1/12 scale room box, which expanded to the five rooms available to him. He was such a frequent visitor that during Gerald Fords administration, Zweifel was granted access to more rooms and over time his miniature White House grew to its present size. His White House miniature needed a permanent home.


Ronald Reagan’s Oval Office

Presidents Hall of Fame

John Zweifel and his wife Jan turned a tired wax museum in Clermont, Florida into to the present-day Presidents Hall of Fame. Clermont is on the western edge of the Orlando theme parks area, a terrific location to attract visitors. But is it a logical place for a monument to the US. Presidents? The city is on the I-4 corridor, and as political junkies know, this Interstate highway that runs from Tampa to Daytona is the turbulent swing area of one of the country’s most volatile swing states. All those presidents and a model of the People’s House fit right in.

 Continuous Construction Zone

Initially, John Zweifel was on his own, building the miniature from photographs, published drawings, and the notes and sketches from his public tours. As time passed, it became a family project (John and Joan having six children) and joined by thousands of volunteers who labored to ensure that the replica is an exact miniaturized copy of the original. Several hundred thousand hours of research and construction have gone into the project. The investment is over a million dollars.


Miniature Lincoln Bedroom

The richness of detail is incredible. Rosewood, maple, and mahogany are some of the woods used to match the floors and other furniture in the White House. Tiny, working televisions, hand-carved chairs and tables, crystal chandeliers, portraits exactly like those that grace the White House’s walls, and miniature carpets that reproduce the originals stitch by stitch

The White House is not a static exhibit. Whenever a new president, or his wife, has the Oval Office redecorated, a new miniature room is created. Former Oval Offices are presented in a separate exhibit. The Zweifel’s recreate all major redecorations in miniature.


The model has been on exhibition in all 50 states plus England, Holland, and Japan. Over 42 million Americans have seen it. In 1992 and 1993 it was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and the Kennedy and Reagan libraries. It has since been exhibited in most of the other Presidential libraries.


Blog-white-house-patio While on display in the Netherlands, significant damage was done to the model by a group of anti-American vandals. Queen Beatriz was horrified and with her support, and the efforts of over 100 volunteer artisans who worked around the clock for 12 days, the miniature White House was on exhibit again. However, it would take years to restore the model completely.


There are many Presidential Halls of Fame videos on YouTube. Click here for what I think this is the best because it spends more time on the dollhouse than the rest of the museum. It’s all interesting, of course, but the miniature White House is the star of the show.


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 Patrick Owens

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