GUEST BLOGGER | Megan Hornbecker, Designer Dollhouse Showcase

Back in February, I literally fell out of my chair when I found out about the Designer Dollhouse Showcase on Modern MC‘s blog. Ten impeccably designed homes hand-crafted and decorated by twenty prominent interior designers were going to be auctioned off in Los Angeles. I immediately started stalking tracking down all of the designers and blogging as much information on the event as I could find.

When the project first started, the committee for the inaugural Kaleidoscope Ball fundraiser had contacted a dollhouse company to manufacture ten identical houses for the charity auction. “After searching for pre-built dollhouses, we decided that we wanted to do something more innovative,” said event co-chair Amanda Brown-Chang, author of the novel Legally Blonde.

The committee contacted architects Richard Manion and Robert Meiklejohn of Richard Manion Architecture Inc. to design plans for five different styles of houses measureing 6 feet long in 1:12 scale: Modern, Contemporary, Georgian, Italianate and Brownstone. Builders Matt Barnes of Finish Rite Construction, Dan Hershman of Richard Holz Inc. and Steve Miller of Miller Woodworking all worked at a frenzied pace to build these designer dollhouses in time for the fundraising event.


Interior designer extraordinaire Tim Campbell gathered renowned designers to decorate the houses. The stellar line up included stars of the reality show Million Dollar Decorators on BravoTV and a past contestant on HGTV’s Design Star. The uber-talented interior designers included  Natasha BaradaranChris BarrettJoan BehnkeCari BergTim CampbellMark CutlerElizabeth DinkelWaldo FernandezAdam HunterMartyn Lawrence BullardJames MagniJeffrey Alan MarksMary McDonaldAlexandra and Michael MisczynskiPhilip NimmoLonni PaulEstee StanleyRon Woodson and Jamie Rummerfield and fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, who created a replica of her New York Brownstone bridal salon. The designer showcase also included two mini-garden oasis’ landscaped by Stephen Block of Inner Gardens and Christine London of Christine London Ltd. Patricia Benner of Patricia Benner Landscape Design also worked along with Stephen and Christine to design beautiful landscapes making the exteriors as enticing as the interiors.

At the end of last year the designers teamed up to work on the houses. The designers were originally partnered at random by literally drawing names from a hat, but after the different styles of houses were determined, some designers were able work with partners that shared visions of what their dollhouses could be.

None of the architects, builders, interior designers or landscapers had ever worked in 1:12 scale. They didn’t know the miniature world even existed. “There is a rather insane little world of people who make the most amazing replicas of real furniture,” said Tim Campbell. As they would all soon find out, building, electrifying and decorating a dollhouse in a few months would be more labor intensive and expensive than they originally had imagined.

Designers Adam Hunter and Lonni Paul estimated they spent $10,000 and more than two months on their Italianate House.

When asked how designing in miniature compares to designing in full scale, Mark Cutler replied, “It really is just as much work as designing in full scale.” Cari Berg said, “The detail I put in here was what I would put in a real house, and I used the same craftsmen I would for a regular project.” Chris Barrett commented, “It’s the same process. The biggest difference is the sources. It was a challenge getting up to speed on who and where the sources were.”

Many of the designers struggled to find exactly what they were looking for (all too familiar for miniature enthusiasts). Many turned to miniature artisans for custom pieces and solicited vendors they work with to make miniature replicas of their full-scale designs.

Mark Cutler commissioned Janet Harvie from Maggie Melinda Miniatures to build and upholster all of his furniture based on designs from his concept boards (the scallop backed pink chairs are my favorite). Mark also worked with Fuse Lighting to create a miniature replica of one of their popular chandeliers for his Italianate House.

Chris Barrett’s favorite items for her Modern House were the Barcelona bench in the entry (Reac Japan 1:12 scale version of Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Daybed) and the piano she had refinished as a favor by Phenoyd Inc. who finishes life size pianos. Joan Benke reached out to full scale potter Sara Petersen of Peterson Pottery to create unique furniture and pottery for her Modern House.

The designers shared all of the sources they found; Paris Renfroe of PRD Miniatures, Doron Silverman of Bespoke Furnishings, Doris Nathanson of minimodernistas, Elizabeth LePla of ELF Miniatures are all over the place. Also featured is the work of Peter Tuckerminisx2Gigi N StudioA Life in MiniatureMod Pod Miniatures, and Cufflinks Cowboy Boots.

The small scale challenged many of the designers to improvise. They found themselves looking at the world differently and repurposing items to work in miniature. Jewelry and beads for lamps and perfume bottles, napkin rings for table bases, fancy paper and sample fabrics for wallpaper, upholstery, linens and rugs, and drawer pulls for tables and stools (sound familiar?).

Many designers also created miniature versions of their signature style. Jeffrey Alan Marks created replicas of his new furniture collection for Palecek for his Contemporary Beach House. Chris Barrett scaled down her fabrics for the sling chairs and window coverings in the media room.

The designers had a lot of fun working on the houses and were excited to see everyone’s responses to their designs. The reception was glowing as with the sales of dollhouses and donations, the first Kaleidoscope Ball raised almost $1.8 million to benefit the UCLA Mattel Children’s Discovery and Innovation InstituteBungalow 1a has some fun coverage of the event with photos of some of the attending celebrities like LL Cool J, Jason Biggs, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. If the fundraising committee can put together another all star event like this next year, I’ll do whatever it takes to be there.

You can check out more photos of the houses and designer bios on my blog

Mini smiles,
Guest blogger, Megan

Photography by Jon Hugstad, Jeffery Alan Marks, and Mark Cutler

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