A peek inside the history of the doll’s house

From stately homes with plumbed-in baths to council houses and high-rises, the story of Britain can be told through 300 years of doll’s houses

A peek inside the history of the doll's house
The Tate Baby House, 1760/ © Yui Mok/PA

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A peek inside the history of the doll's house
The Tate Baby House, 1760/ © Yui Mok/PA

For the Victorian tycoon, what better way to show off your wealth than to acquire a magnificent country pile and stuff it full of four-poster beds and mahogany dressers, with an army of cooks, butlers, maids and footmen? The answer is to do all of that – and then do it all again in miniature.

Two years in the making, Small Stories, a new show at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, brings together 12 magnificent doll’s houses, selected from the museum’s 100-strong hoard, that show the changing nature and role of these Lilliputian worlds over the last 300 years. It tells a powerful story of taste, class and social mores, played out on the stage of the shrunken domestic interior. From the decorum of lavish manors to the lively chaos of an interwar council estate and the prefab dream of a 1960s high-rise, these diminutive dwellings let you have a good nosey at other people’s lives – or, more accurately, the lives they always wanted to lead.

One of the earliest and most impressive models is the Tate Baby House from 1760, a Palladian mansion with rusticated stonework and steps on either side to sweep the mini-gentry up to a pedimented front door. Peel back the facade, which swings open through no fewer than seven hinged panels, and enter its world of luxury. ….


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