Friday, November 27, 2009

Henry Colbert's Art Deco Dolls House

In my search for Henry Colbert I found a great blog entry by Linda Gavin on My Imaginary World with pictures from the Dolls House Discovery website that is no longer running, but I found the below information on web archives:

Linda says he makes a few houses a year and has a waiting list. Pamela Hurley posted that she got a Henry Colbert dollhouse in Sept 2008, after a 2 year wait. Pamela - where are the pictures? PLEASE!!!!

Henry Colbert's Art Deco Dolls House: Where It All Began

In 1997 I was seeking a hobby that would satisfy my architectural, engineering and computing skills/interests and contribute to increasing my home workshop and computer facilities.

After visiting various ‘Doll’s house’ fairs I concluded that I should concentrate on this market – but what product! Whatever it was to be, nobody else should be making it. Following research and a day at the Hove fair resolved the problem – there were not any makers of 1930’s ‘Art Deco’ houses.

Accordingly, I attended an evening study course on ‘Twentieth Century Architecture’, took a camera and photographed every 1930’s ‘Art Deco’ / Moderne house that I could find within a 250km radius of where I live.

As this style of doll’s house would be unique, apart from the hinges and screws, every component would have to be designed and made by me.

A basic design was established from which it was apparent that the house(s) would have to have curved bay(s) and all the windows and doors would have to be modelled on the designs produced by ‘Crittall’ in England during the 1930’s. The house had to be instantly recognisable as the house every body knew in their childhood.

A major challenge with the house style that I had chosen was the plain simple features, free from architectural mouldings and trim that could cover up any defects and mistakes.

The next year was spent developing techniques and special equipment to engrave and where appropriate bend Acrylic for the window panels. Preform the plywood for the curved bay sections and then manufacture jigs and fixtures for the assembly of the windows / doors together with their associated frames that were assembled from special sections of wood produced by me.

The spiral stairs were another challenge, (shown left.) A wooden pattern had to be made, and then a silicon rubber mould produced so that the basic staircase could be cast in synthetic stone.

The houses are principally constructed from 9.5mm and 12mm plywood, with simulated wood strip floors created with wood veneer.

Currently two basic designs are available; however, to date no two houses have ever been the same as every customer has required a high degree of customisation some with extensions and garages. These may be basic shell for them to finish or fully finished complete with lighting and decoration.

Customers complained that they were unable to purchase bathroom equipment in the 1930’s style, – Accordingly, I designed a product range, produced prototype models and developed a manufacturing technique. I now supply a full range to include: Low flush toilets, hand wash basin, bath, bidet & shower unit in a selection of colours.

The range also includes a towel rail, an illuminated wall mirror with shelf and ‘Art Deco’ wall lights.

My portfolio also includes a twenty forth scale replica ‘Sun House’ house based on the ‘Le Corbusier’ concept, (shown below) Five of these houses were built in Amersham at High & Over Park by Connell & Ward, in 1934 (all still existing).

(images from archives of Dolls House Discovery website and The Modern Dolls' House by Jean Nisbett (2004))


  1. Art Deco is one of my favourite styles, and Henry Colbert's houses are perfection! Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing. I love Art Deco as well. It can look so modern while retaining classic features.


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