Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thoroughly Moderne Henry Colbert

I fell in love with Henry Colbert's work when I first laid eyes on his Art Deco house in Jean Nisbett's book The Modern Dolls' House (2004). Years later, here I am staring at these gorgeous works of art and reading a brilliant article on his work (THANKS AGAIN Writing Sideways!) I scanned the color copies of the article from Dollhouse Miniatures magazine and you can download the article in its entirety here (thanks DudeCraft, I borrowed your idea to use MediaFire to share this file). I am sure this is copyright infringement, but I couldn't buy the Sept 07 issue anywhere, so we'll see how long I can keep it up. The image quality is the best I could get scanning the color copies of the magazine, but still quite drool worthy. Click on images to see the larger version. Enjoy!

House in Poole, Dorset — The Amyas Petite
Henry grew up in "Barnet, Hertfordshire, just north of London, his world was a wealth of modern inspirations: the architecture of his local cinema; Arnos Grove, the nearby underground station; the Penguin Pool at the London Zoo; a Sun Trap House he passed on the way to school; and a Clarice Cliff vase from EW. Woolworth sitting on his mantel. Nearly 70 years later, many of these landmarks Henry remembers still look fresh and modern."

House in Hendon, London — The Amyas Deluxe
In 1997, ill health forced Henry into early retirement and he began to search for a hobby that could combine his skills and background in architecture, engineering, computers and a home workshop to die for. "Having attended some local miniature shows, Henry realized no one was making modern-era dollhouses. With interest piqued, he attended an evening class on 20th century architecture, bought a camera, and set out to photograph every Art Deco house he could find within a 150-mile radius of his home. Two houses stood out from the rest: a small house in Poole, Dorset, and a larger house with interesting features in Hendon, London."

The Amyas Grande
"Since the style of his dollhouses would be unique, and no parts readily available in miniature shops, apart from the hardware, Henry had to design and build every component himself. For the next 18 months he experimented by trial and error, producing the necessary jigs and fixtures to build his first models. He uses computer-aided-design (CAD) software to design each module; walls, ceilings, and floors are constructed from top-quality birch plywood with lime-wood trim. His dollhouse designs leave no room for error; the minimalist style dictates that mistakes cannot be covered up with paint, paper, or fancy trim."

The Amyas Grande Deluxe
"With key components designed and prototyped, he was now ready to launch three models that would incorporate certain key design elements. Designated the Amyas series in honor of New Zealand native Amyas Connell (1901-1980), who studied architecture in England in the 1920s and designed High & Over, one of the first International Style houses in England. Along with architect Basil Ward, they later designed their Sun House for a proposed Moderne community to complement High & Over. When war intervened, the project ended with only four houses constructed. The Amyas Petite, inspired by the Poole house, has Crittall (steel) windows, a flat roof and sun terrace, a portholed front door, and a conventional staircase."

"The Amyas Deluxe, a combination of the Poole and London homes, is a medium-sized dollhouse with the same features of the Petite, plus a flat-roofed wing, railed porch, imposing entrance doors, portholes, decorative chevrons on the bay wall, a spiral staircase, and wood-strip floors. His Amyas Grande contains all these features plus symmetrical front bays on either side of the central hall. Later Henry added an Amyas Petite Deluxe. Each house is one room deep, to make them, as Henry says, 'playable.'"

Sun House
"Henry has also reproduced a Sun House in 1:24 scale, using original house plans and photographs to ensure authenticity. The finished product is mounted on a turntable with hinged panels to access all the rooms; the house is fully electrified and has been fitted with a bathroom and kitchen."

"As demands for dollhouse accessories has grown, Henry has also designed period lighting, fireplaces, bathroom fixtures, and even a swimming pool illuminated with blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that shine beneath the resin to create an underwater glow. The pool steps are nickel-coated brass cast into the resin to create an underwater step. The pool deck is tiled with products from Richard Stacey. The end result is impressive and will delight anyone desiring a swimming pool for their dollhouse."

"With his meticulous attention to detail, Henry typically makes two dollhouses a year. His dollhouses have found homes throughout England and Scotland, with one currently under way for a customer in Wales. As interest in Art Deco has grown in the U.S., and accessories are becoming more available, hopes are that one of his houses will find a home outside the U.K." As of the writing of this article three years ago, Henry is stiff with arthritis, and is booked with orders for the next 18 months. I've read elsewhere that the wait list is over 2 years now. By my calculations there should be at least 15-20 of Henry's dollhouses in existence. I wish the owners would share some photos of these treasures.

The article continues with the topic of the future of dollhouses and miniatures artisans and the replacement of small miniature/hobby/toy shops with the big-box craft stores. It's a great read, but a much longer conversation that I'll save for later.

I have an email in to Henry and I will post his response if the email still works.

Here are pictures of the four constructed houses by Amyas Connell and Basil Ward. Sun House 2 & Sun House 1, Sun House 3 and High & Over.

(Henry Colbert images from article "Thoroughly Moderne Henry Colbert" by Deb Weissler published in Dollhouse Miniatures Sept 07 issue, top High & Over and Sun House pictures from flickr page of Metro-land revisited and bottom High & Over image from

Thank you Writing Sideways

Back in November I asked if anyone had the September 2007 issue of Dollhouse Miniatures with the article on Henry Colbert. Lo and behold, Writing Sideways of said she would be willing to scan and send me a copy. I was expecting a few photos but was extremely surprised to see a 6 page spread with gorgeous color photos, detailed article and Henry's email!!! I will post images and details tomorrow, but wanted to send a HUGE THANK YOU Writing Sideways. It truly made my year!
I'll try not to drool on it too much before scanning all of the pages and posting photos tomorrow.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

And so it begins...

Well, it's a start. The first picture is just to show the room layout. The rooms are slowly coming together, but as soon as I photograph it, I want to change it. Half the fun I guess. Lighting is an issue, I'll be working on that. More to come.

Furniture: Le Corbusier chairs from; Blue Chairs - Ideal Petite Princess line 1964-1965; round plastic coffee table is $2 bin from TAP Plastics; TV - Hallmark ornament (Modern MC tip); TV stand is a Fisher-Price 1:16 scale coffee table; White couch is the Jasper Morrison sofa from "Bozart Kaleidoscope White Living Room" plus white coffee table in corner (check ebay for $45); clear glass coffee table is from "Bozart Kaleidoscope Green Living Room" (check ebay for $15); black/white lamps and pillows are from 2 "Bozart Kaleidoscope House Accessories" sets; metal and plastic end tables flanking Jasper Morrison couch - ebay find. Other Stuff: lamp in corner and circle rug from AG Mini's blue room and purple room (MC tip); glasses/trays/food from Mighty World Town Cafe (MC tip); red rug is hand painted canvas by Andi Neill - craigslist find.

Friday, January 8, 2010

More Steve Beebe

So Steve does sell directly to individuals. You can contact him through his website The website is currently under construction, but will have new photos when completed.

Pictured are two pieces currently for sale on SP Miniatures. I could just eat the 1 1/4" x 1" Gingerbread castle. I like the shape of the 1:144 scale French Riviera market.

Steve's goal is to craft one-of-a-kind pieces and design unique ideas. A lot of his pieces have ben custom orders. He welcomes special requests. He is currently in the process of finding someone to take his work (either purchase or consignment) on the show scene and for shops interested in showing his work. If you have any leads drop him a line.

(images from SP Miniatures)