Good news, miniature lovers! Dollhouse Beautiful is back for Season 2. This time, House Beautiful gave six California designers the same midcentury modern dollhouse and $500 to decorate it any way they wanted. A whole lot of Krazy Glue, DIY accents, and miniature accessories later, we present Dollhouse Beautiful. Tune in every Tuesday for a new episode and to see how each designer created their miniature masterpiece.
Though Los Angeles interior designer Amy Sklar makes a business of creating—er—human-scaled design, when we tapped her to participate in Season 2 of Dollhouse Beautiful, it wasn’t her first brush with miniatures: “My mother was a miniaturist,” reveals Sklar. “She was incredibly talented. She designed a miniature box of the table at my wedding, complete with our miniature wedding cake.”
“She was so into it, we even went on a miniatures cruise together once—yes, that’s a thing,” quips the designer. “You would go to a port and do port things, and then when you were back at sea, you would go and make miniatures.”
“I made fun of my mom a lot for being super into miniatures, and I would joke that I couldn’t believe we’d gone on a miniatures cruise,” says Sklar. “But about five years ago, I lost my mom. And I loved that time we’d had together on that ship.” So, as Sklar designed her modern miniature house, her late mother became a kind of guiding light, an inspiration for the many Lilliputian items she spent months tracking down, assembling, and building from scratch.
“I started out thinking I’d build the house for my daughters,” says Sklar. “But as I was building all the little elements, I began thinking about my mother, and it felt like I was channeling her. So the house is not just for my daughters. It is in honor of, and an homage to, my mother. And I felt that she was beside me every step of the way.”
Tour Amy’s dollhouse below.
“I’ve been around dollhouses and miniatures, but this is my first time ever working on a modern dollhouse,” says Sklar. “And so I think the challenge was, How do I style this? How do I make it my own? I didn’t want it to look like a midcentury museum piece. I really wanted it to have a feeling of my design style.” So, as for any project, she assembled materials, scheming patterns and textures to give the home a cohesive look. Not content to just work with floor plans, Sklar ordered and assembled a duplicate version of the dollhouse for her to mock up pre–installation day.
Sklar tapped preteen miniature artist Ella of Life in a Dollhouse (who made her House Beautiful debut in Caitlin Wilson’s dollhouse last season) to create a custom stove for her dollhouse kitchen, which also featured a refrigerator and a hood, both of which Sklar wired so that they were lit from within. The hood proved the most difficult part of the installation: “In order to have the wiring in the proper place, that hood had to be installed first,” explains the designer. “But every time we would go to install it, the hood would say, ‘Not today. Not on my watch!’ Finally, we glued it into submission. There are four different adhesives holding up that hood!”
Sklar also included a miniature butcher-block countertop and a pegboard with miniature copper pots. While the designer looked to Etsy for many of her miniature items—“There are so many talented vendors of miniatures out there,” she says—she also relished creating things herself from unconventional materials.
“One really exciting thing for me was seeing something that I loved and thinking, OK, I love this detail. How can I build this? How can I make this happen? Do I need a boba straw for the roof?” Sklar says. “Coming up with interesting ideas and thinking outside of the normal channels—there are so many things you can do. It doesn’t have to be expensive.”
And there was some custom too, like miniature pots hand-thrown by ceramicist Christine Rhoden. “When I asked her if she could make something small for me, I don’t think she understood exactly how small I was talking, and when I mentioned tinier than a teacup, she obliged,” quips Sklar.
In the bedroom, Sklar found inspiration from her own home. “These little hats are a callout to a wall of hats I have in my own house and my little tray of perfumes,” she reveals. Sklar crafted the (working!) bedside sconces by putting LED lights inside wooden craft beads, then attaching them to her handmade headboard. Layered miniature bedding makes the room look as well styled as any full-size version!
One of Sklar’s earliest projects was crafting a custom miniature version of a record cabinet she has in her own home. “I really wanted to include this record cabinet, and it was probably the hardest thing to make because it was one of the first things I made before I got a good idea of how to make things,” laughs Sklar. “And instead of making it out of plywood, I made it out of actual little walnut veneer, which I hadn’t ever worked with before. It’s really tricky!”
Next to a miniature Eames lounge chair, the cabinet sets the scene for a midcentury record-listening session.
A miniature pedestal table, sculptural wooden chairs, and dangling white fixtures atop a neutral rug give the dining room a cozy, modern feel. British wallpaper purveyor Marthe Armitage scaled down its Poppy print to miniature size for the walls.
Sklar maximized every square inch of the dollhouse, including an inches-wide loft space, where she set a Nakashima-style wooden bench atop a plush hide rug and hung a tiny artwork.
Despite Sklar’s precise planning, she admits she had to think on her feet: “There have been last-minute changes that I absolutely didn’t foresee,” she says. “Initially, when I was doing the first rounds of space planning, I thought, Oh, I would have the bathroom here and have this really dramatic bathtub. And that got scrapped pretty quickly.” But she still created a luxe bath with the use of wall tile by Jessica Cloe and floors by Tabarka, both scaled down for the dollhouse. She then added a miniature freestanding tub and a wooden vanity made by Kristine Hanna of Paper Doll Miniatures, styled with a vase of flowers, as on any professional photo shoot!
Like any good Los Angeles designer, Sklar didn’t overlook the outdoor space either: Her terrace includes a custom-built outdoor fireplace (complete with firewood storage), a cozy lounge chair, and a miniature telescope that fully expands!
“It was a real labor of love,” Sklar says of the house. “I think that having spent more time with this dollhouse has really allowed me to devote a lot of time and energy to it, and everything feels like it was done with love. So I hope that comes out in this house. I hope that you can feel the love.”
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