Even those who felt fully prepared for the dollhouse reception at the Kaleidoscope Ball were overwhelmed and excited when they discovered what waited for them behind the lush palm fronds and polished doors of the Beverly Hills Hotel; ten miniature estates conceived, built, and decorated by some of the world’s hottest architectural and design talent and auctioned off to benefit the UCLA Mattel Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute.
Mostly grouped into teams of two, designers were provided floor plans of miniature homes from one of four architectural styles: Italianate, Modern, Contemporary Beach, and Georgian House, all created by Richard Manion and Robert Meiklejohn of Richard Manion Architects, for whom, like most of the designers, had never before worked at 1:12 scale. However, once Manion & Co. understood how to translate the structures into more compact forms, they were able to fully take advantage of the medium, especially with the natural, display-like form of the post-modern townhouse, “I think that the contemporary ones lend themselves in a different way to the medium because they have a lot more glass,” says Manion, “And you can create the great balconies and things that might not be present on the traditional house.”We thought, oh this will be fun; a dollhouse, easy. Little pieces of furniture – how fun!
Potential bidders, children and adults alike, hovered around each house, excitedly picking out the unexpected tiny details contained within each room. Like the pint-sized working flat screen television playing the 2012 motion picture, Les Miserables, in the sitting room of Chris Barrett and Woodson & Rummerfield’s Contemporary Beach House Two. “We thought, oh this will be fun; a dollhouse, easy. Little pieces of furniture – how fun!” says Barrett alongside co-collaborator Jaime Rummerfield, “And then the scope grew and grew, and size of the houses grew, and the variety of the houses evolved – we tried very hard to have a result that was liveable…if you were that small!”
As expected, there was a variety of creative interpretations to be found from house to house, floor to floor, and even room to room, from the opulence of Monique Lhuillier’s replication of her New York flagship boutique, complete with racks of potential bridal gowns to the tangible, textured art deco/pan-Asian artist retreat envisioned by Jim Magni and Joan Behnke with Modern House Two. For Mark Cutler and Cari Berg, it was all about layering original miniature pieces along with unconventional choices like novelty pencil sharpeners and colored beads, culminating in a whimsical, somewhat arch-feminine display, “We embraced that sort of dollhouse fantasy aspect of it,” Cutler explained, “We still wanted to create it like we would create a piece of interior design that we would do for a regular client, but we wanted to have that sort of fantasy fun element.”
Many of the houses featured miniature adaptations from the designers own eponymous collections provided by Paris Renfroe of PRD Miniatures and Doron Silverman of Bespoke Furnishings, who, while pointing out details like the sleek ebonized floors in Tim Campbell and Philip Nimmo’s Georgian House Two, remarked, “It was really interesting. At first I thought I was going to have to enlist some of my friends who are jewelry makers to do some of the more intricate work, but I was pleasantly surprised of the abilities of the amazing craftsman whom I employ.”
What I found and had not understood is as I shrank down the scale, the aspect of a real life project still held. Landscape architect Christine London also found it beneficial to use custom made flora when working with her mini-garden oasis, “What I found and had not understood is as I shrank down the scale, the aspect of a real life project still held,” London explained, “So, in order to get the right level of detail and sophistication, every plant was handmade by us in England.”
Even after choosing favorites and placing their bids, the pocket-sized tour of homes continued as people revisited each house over and over delighting in spotting details they hadn’t noticed before. “I do, too. Isn’t that funny?” cheered Adam Hunter when someone declared their love for a micro-sized iPad left carelessly behind in Italianate House One, that he designed alongside Lonnie Paul. “And a little condom box, right there,” he laughed, while pointing to the diminutive nightstand, “She’s a single mom – but she has a life!”
Click below to view photos of each house:
112th & Main is a LIVE Section series of articles featuring stories about where minis and the mainstream meet.