Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who won the Paul MacAlister minis on ebay?

I am really regretting not bidding higher for the Paul MacAlister dining room set. I have a feeling that the winner of both sets, probably still would have outbid me, but I fell in love with those chairs and wanted to build a house around them. Sigh. I hope to see pictures of them in their new home.

From what I can gather, these pieces were quite unusual and most likely one of a kind at their 1:12 scale. Paul R. MacAlister died in 1986 but these items along with many of his trademark "Plan-a-Room" sets were sold at auction last month. These pieces were from his personal collection, so I'm guessing it was from the estate sale of a close relative.

From the ebay listing: The mid century modern living room and dining room sets were entirely hand crafted in wood and hand painted by important mid century interior designer Paul MacAlister. All of the pieces are meticulously crafted and made in the manner of the actual furniture. Note the careful attention to detail in construction and surface finishing of the woods. The chairs have a hand painted abstract hand painted fabric as well as the sectional which also sports tiny taper brass legs.

MacAlister was an accomplished artist, as well as inventor, craftsman, industrial designer, and world famous decorator. These pieces were made to populate miniature rooms that he presented to clients and also showed on TV. These pieces are from his estate which was recently disseminated. All pieces are in near mint condition. These rank far above any mass produced miniature furniture of the period in design, faithfulness, construction, materials, accuracy & craftsmanship. All pieces are entirely handmade and one of a kind.

MacAlister produced one of the first TV shows on home design in Chicago in the mid-1950s. The majority of his work was in half inch scale (1:24), making the above sets quite unique. He developed and mass-produced "Plan-a-Room" kits with scale furniture and room layouts that could be used to plan and organize home spaces for consumers. The kits were used by 1500 schools and colleges as a visual planning device. Below are a few that were auctioned last month. If anyone ever saw Paul MacAlister's TV show, or has more details on his work, I'd love to learn more about him.

(All 1:12 images from seller decoray on ebay, for items here and here. All 1:24 scale room images from


  1. Sigh...these are all so lovely. I, too, did not go for the pieces given how high the pricing went. After I saw the pieces listed, I did a little digging, and found the auction house and catalogue here It would have been the February auction, but they are updating their catalogue webpages, so no pictures or pricing now. Thanks for posting!

  2. Great minds think alike. ;) Since the site was down when I posted, I couldn't compare these Plan-A-Room photos with Bunte Auction's list to see if they are the same or if there are more. But I couldn't find any others so I think these are the only ones. I would have loved the dining / sunken living room. I'd love to know what the sold for.

  3. I love these pieces too.
    I allways safe the fotos for a later try to rebuilt them. but there are a lot of fotos and so less trials....
    thanks for sharing!

  4. Totally amazing. And clearly some dedicated bidding by people who know how great those pieces are. The little raised edge on the desk blew my miiiind. It would be nice to see more photos of them turn up somewhere once the buyer has them in hand.

  5. Nice post Mini Dork! Yes, I think several modern miniaturists had tears. Egad--we always end up bidding against each other in the end. When will this madness stop?? Can someone, please, just mass produce more modern miniatures with quality detail...sigh.

  6. gotta save up so I can actually "bid" for once! haha

  7. Holy Smokes!! This is fabulous!
    I am prompted to look for more info. on Paul MacAlister because of this post. These pieces are fascinating! I work in 1:6, but could easily imagine these pieces in that size. Thanks for the info. Lucky is the winner!!
    Maryann :)

  8. Just curious....I search ebay all of the time but for some reason I don't "hit" on the items you find! What are you using on ebay as the search and are you looking under "Dolls and Bears" for a more advanced and precise search? Thanks! Melissa

  9. Oese - I know what you mean. I have so many ideas of projects I'd like to build or copy, but trying to find the time is the tricky part. :D

    Hillary - I really hope to see more photos. The craftsmanship on these is stunning. Hey did you win the Mid Century Modern dollhouse on ebay? Someone got it for a steal at $57.53.

    Modern MC - :D Thanks, and yes please, universe, please mass produce more quality modern miniatures. Please!

    Minnie Kitchen - start small, you can buy a lot of great modern miniatures without having to bid on the auctions. Check out etsy and the list I've started. There are some great prices and great pieces to save up for. :D

    Maryann - Too funny, I actually thought of you when I saw his work. Reminded me of your style.

    Melissa - I usually search for modern, vintage, mid-century under Dolls & Bears. Sometimes there is a ton of stuff to sort through to find the gems.

    Mini Smiles,

  10. I just saw 2 of these rooms for sale at the Gurnee Antique Mall by Great America. They are a before and after kitchen...not in these photos. Where would I look for more room photos to possibly authenticate them before I buy them? Thanks!

  11. Hey Anonymous,
    I think you will be hard pressed to find photos to authenticate the rooms. I scoured the internet and I've posted all of the photos I could find. With the proximity of Gurnee to Chicago (where the auction was held) and the timing, there is a good chance they are legit. Are there any markings on the items? Plan a Room label? All of the pieces I have seen have no markings or signatures on them. What is distinguishable is the level of detail and high quality of craftsmanship. Paul MacAlister constructed most of his pieces like actual furniture and not just typical dollhouse furniture, which really sets his work apart. Plus, if they are rooms from his estate they should be in really good shape as they were part of his personal collection, were gently used for design purposes (or his TV show), and have been in storage for at least a few decades (he died in the 80's).

    You could also send me pictures and I'll let you know if they match the work I've seen of his.

    If I didn't live in California, I'd likely run out and see i myself. ;P

    mini smiles,

  12. Thanks! There are no markings on anything, but the detail is incredible! Some of the pieces are hand-made, like a chest freezer and an old fashioned sink. The after version has moveable cabinets on rails and even the draperies can be re-arranged. The paperwork with the rooms say they are his, but you can't always believe what you read. I'll drive by today and send photos. Thanks again!

  13. Ooo, please send photos to my email

    If there is paperwork it should totally be legit. One of the sellers of the ebay items also received paperwork with no pictures of authenticity, as I don't believe there were many photos that survived. So it seems like the same situation. I am DYING to see the pieces.


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