A dollhouse or doll's house is often a toy home, made in miniature. For the last century, dollhouses have primarily been the domain of children but their collection and crafting is also a hobby for many adults. The term dollhouse is common in the United States and Canada. In UK the terms dolls' house or dollshouse are used. Dollhouses can range from the amateur miniaturist placing a few decorated boxes on top of one another to be enjoyed by one person, up to incomparable multi-million dollar structures viewed by millions of people each year (see Notable Dollhouses below).
Today's children's dollhouses trace their history back about four hundred years to the baby house display cases of Europe, which showed idealized interiors. Smaller dollhouses with more realistic exteriors appeared in Europe in the 18th century. Early dollhouses were all handmade, but following the Industrial Revolution and World War II, they were increasingly mass-produced and became more standardized and affordable.
Contemporary children's play dollhouses are mostly in 1:18 (or 2/3") scale, while 1:12 (or 1") scale is common for dollhouses made for adult collectors.
Miniature homes, furnished with domestic articles and resident inhabitants, both people and animals, have been made for thousands of years. The earliest known examples were found in the Egyptian tombs of the Old Kingdom, created nearly five thousand years ago. These wooden models of servants, furnishings, boats, livestock and pets placed in the Pyramids almost certainly were made for religious purposes.
The earliest known European dollhouses were from the 16th century, were each hand-made and unique, and consisted of cabinet display cases made up of individual rooms. One good example of this was when Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria ordered a miniature copy of a royal residence in 1557. Most other dollhouses of this period showed idealized interiors complete with extremely detailed furnishings and accessories. The cabinets were built with architectural details and filled with miniature household items and were solely the playthings of adults. They were off-limits to children, not because of safety concerns for the child but for the dollhouse. Such cabinet houses  were trophy collections owned by the few matrons living in the cities of Holland, England and Germany who were wealthy enough to afford them, and, fully furnished, were worth the price of a modest full-size house's construction.
Wealthy patrician families adopted the idea in the 17th and 18th centuries and had copies made of their own homes. These sumptuous individual pieces were miniature works of art. They were not intended to be used for play, but to demonstrate the owner’s prestige and standing. Series production of doll’s houses began in the second half of the 19th century when parents began to use doll’s houses to prepare their children for their role in society.
Smaller doll houses such as the Tate house, with more realistic exteriors, appeared in Europe in the 18th century.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, factories began mass-producing toys, including dollhouses and miniatures suitable for furnishing them. German companies noted for their dollhouses included Christian Hacker, Moritz Gottschalk, Elastolin, and Moritz Reichel. The list of important English companies includes Silber & Fleming, Evans & Cartwright, and Lines Brothers (which became Tri-ang). By the end of the 19th century American dollhouses were being made in the United States by The Bliss Manufacturing Company.
Germany was the producer of the most prized dollhouses and doll house miniatures up until World War I. Notable German miniature companies included Märklin, Rock and Graner and others. Their products were not only avidly collected in Central Europe, but regularly exported to Britain and North America. Germany's involvement in WWI seriously impeded both production and export. New manufacturers in other countries arose.
The TynieToy Company of Providence, Rhode Island, made authentic replicas of American antique houses and furniture in a uniform scale beginning in about 1917. Other American companies of the early 20th century were Roger Williams Toys, Tootsietoy, Schoenhut, and the Wisconsin Toy Co. Dollhouse dolls and miniatures were also produced in Japan, mostly by copying original German designs.
After World War II, dollshouses continued to be mass-produced but on a much larger scale with less detailed craftsmanship than prior structures. By the 1950s, the typical dollhouse sold commercially was made of painted sheet metal filled with plastic furniture. Such houses cost little enough that the great majority of girls from the developed western countries that were not struggling with rebuilding after World War II could own one.
As a hobby
Dollhouses are available in different forms. They range from Museum quality rare masterpieces, custom built houses made to the customer's design, to ready-made decorated house kits and finished products anyone can buy. Some design and build their own dollhouse. Simpler designs might consist of boxes stacked together and used as rooms. Miniature objects used for decoration inside dollhouses include furniture, interior decorations, dolls and items like books, couches, furniture, wallpaper, and even clocks. Some of these are available ready-made, some are kits but may also be homemade.
There are dozens of miniature trade shows held throughout the year by various miniature organizations and enthusiasts, where artisans and dealers display and sell miniatures. Often, how-to seminars and workshops are part of the show features. Miniature stores also hold classes. There are Internet forums, blogs and using other online social media concentrated in dollhouses and miniatures. Enthusiasts also share images online. Some miniatures are true treasures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are even miniatures that date back thousands of years.
In the United States, most houses have an open back and a fancy front facade, while British houses are more likely to have a hinged front that opens to reveal the rooms.
Children's dollhouses during the 20th century have been made from a variety of materials, including metal (tin litho), fibreboard, plastic, and wood. With the exception of Lundby, 2/3-scale furniture for children's dollhouses has most often been made of plastic.
Contemporary kit and fully built houses are typically made of plywood or medium-density fiberboard. Tab-and-slot kits use a thinner plywood and are held together by a system of tabs and slots (plus glue). These houses are usually light-weight and lower cost but often require siding, shingles, or other exterior treatments to look realistic. Kits made from heavier plywood or MDF are held together with nails and glue.
The baby houses of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the toy dollhouses of the 19th and early 20th century rarely had uniform scales, even for the features or contents of any one individual house. Although a number of manufacturers made lines of miniature toy furniture in the 19th century, these products were not to a strict scale.
Children's play dollhouses from most of the 20th and 21st centuries are 1:18 or two third inch scale (where 1 foot is represented by 2/3 of an inch). Common brands include Lundby (Sweden), Renwal, Plasco, Marx, Petite Princess, and T. Cohn (all American) and Caroline's Home, Barton, Dol-Toi and Tri-ang (English). A few brands use 1:16 or 3/4"-scale.
The most common standard for adult collectors is 1:12 scale, also called 1" or one inch scale (where 1 foot is represented by 1 inch.) Among adult collectors there are also smaller scales which are much more common in the United States than in Britain. 1:24 or half inch scale (1 foot is 1/2") was popular in Marx dollhouses in the 1950s but only became widely available in collectible houses after 2002, about the same time that even smaller scales became more popular, like 1:48 or quarter inch scale (1 foot is 1/4") and 1:144 or "dollhouse for a dollhouse" scale.
In Germany during the middle part of the 20th century 1:10 scale became popular based on the metric system. Dollhouses coming out of Germany today remain closer in scale to 1:10 than 1:12.
There are three major museum quality palatial dollhouses in the world where this art form has been taken to the highest caliber: Queen Mary's Dolls' House; the Dollhouse of Colleen Moore; and Astolat Dollhouse Castle. Each can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, officially appraise over a million dollars, and contains furnishings that are as true-to-life as humanly possible. One of the things you will never see in the interiors of these world-class dollhouses is a doll. The inability to precisely replicate the human body and face in miniature would detract from the accuracy of these perfect miniature settings, whether they be reality themed or fantasy.  Even viewing a high quality precision photo of the interior of these magnificent structures will not reveal the photo in fact, is of a collection of miniatures. 
Queen Mary's Dolls' House is part of the Royal Collection Trust and is on display at Windor Castle England. When first put on display it was visited by 1.6 million people in seven months in Wembley England. Moore's dollhouse is called the "Fairy Castle" and would cost $7 million if built with today's dollars. It is visited by an estimated 1.5 million people each year where it resides in Chicago at the Museum of Industry and Science. The Astolat Dollhouse Castle is on display at the Nassau County Museum of Art on Long Island, New York. All were built to a one-inch to one-foot scale (1:12) although each vary in overall size. The Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is approximately 5' tall, contains 16 rooms, and required 4 years to construct. The Colleen Moore dollhouse is 7' tall, has twelve rooms, and took 7 years to construct. The Astolat Castle Dollhouse is 9' tall, has 29 rooms, and required more than 10 years to build.
Other popular dollhouses of note are Titania's Palace, Tara's Palace, and the Stettheimer Dollhouse. Titania’s Palace dollhouse is on display at Egeskov Castle in Denmark. , Tara's Palace dollhouse is on exhibit at the Museum of Childhood, located in Powerscourt Estate, near Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland.  It was considered one of Ireland's hidden gems after construction was complete.  The Stettheimer Dollhouse is located at the Museum of the City of New York and is known for its unique collection of artworks in miniature. Titiania's Palace is 5' 4" tall, contains 18 rooms, and required 15 years to construct. Tara's Palace is 4'6" in height, contains 22 rooms, and required 10 years to build. It was built under commission and completed in 1922 in Ireland but was won by Denmark in a bidding war in 1978 at a London Auction house. The Irish were so disappointed to lose Titania’s Palace that they built a replacement dollhouse and named it Tara’s Palace. All contain, or were retrofitted to include miniature electrical lighting systems encompassing tiny bulbs, chandeliers, lamps, transformers, and invisible wiring. Titania's Palace has no outside exterior walls. The others, have exterior walls which can be raised up, opened or removed in order to make the viewing of interior rooms easier. The Stettheimer Dollhouse is 28" high and contains 12 rooms. Only the Colleen Moore Dollhouse and the Astolat Dollhouse Castle were specifically designed with certain fixed contiguous exterior walls to create a 3-Dimensional viewing effect.
List of other notable dollhouses
- The Amsterdam 18th century dollhouses of Sara Rothé; one is in the Frans Hals Museum, and one is in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag; while the dollhouse of Petronella Oortman is in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum estimates that P. Oortman spent twenty to thirty thousand guilders on her miniature house, which was nearly the price of a real house along one of Amsterdam’s canals at that time. All three dollhouses shows the linen room (laundry room), kitchen, and bedrooms in great detail.
- Uppark Baby-house (ca. 1730), on exhibit at Uppark, West Sussex, owned by The National Trust.
- Nostell Priory Baby-house (ca. 1730), on exhibit at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, owned by The National Trust.
- The Tate House (1760), on exhibit in the Museum of Childhood in London, England.
- In Egeskov Castle in Denmark, Titania's Palace is on display, a miniature castle that was hand-built by James Hicks & Sons, Irish Cabinet Makers who were commissioned by Sir Neville Wilkinson from 1907 to 1922. The palace consists of 18 rooms and salons.
- Queen Mary's Dolls' House was designed for Queen Mary in 1924 by Sir Edwin Lutyens, a leading architect of the time, and is on display at Windsor Castle. The house has working plumbing and lights and is filled with miniature items of the finest and most modern goods of the period. Writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling contributed special books which were written and bound in scale size. Queen Mary's purchases brought media attention to specialist furnishers such as Dorothy Rogers, whose needlework miniature carpets continue to beguile collectors.
- Colleen Moore's Fairy castle has been on display since 1950s at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois.
- The Stettheimer Dollhouse was constructed in New York City by Carrie Walter Stettheimer between 1916 and 1935. Many contemporary artists made miniature copies of their art for the dollhouse, including Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Archipenko, George Bellows, Gaston Lachaise, and Marguerite Zorach.
- The 68 miniature Thorne Rooms, each with a different theme, were designed by Narcissa Niblack Thorne and furniture for them was created by craftsmen in the 1930s and 40s. They are now at the Art Institute of Chicago, Phoenix Art Museum and the Knoxville Museum of Art on Long Island.
- Astolat Dollhouse Castle is a palatial dollhouse inspired by Alfred Tennyson's poem Lady of the Lake and created over several decades by Elaine Diehl. It is now housed in the Nassau County Museum of Art.
- In Tampere in Finland, the Moomin Museum displays the Moomin house, a dollhouse created around the Moomin characters of Tove Jansson. The house was built by Jansson, Tuulikki Pietilä and Pentti Eistola and later donated to the town of Tampere. The museum contains also dozens of roomboxes with Moomin characters, all made by Tuulikki Pietilä.
- The Dollhouse Museum (German: Puppenhausmuseum) in Basel is the largest museum of its kind in Europe.
- Tara's Palace is located in the Tara's Palace Museum of Childhood in the grounds of Powerscourt Estate near Enniskerry, Ireland. It is a 22 roomed dolls palace, built by Ron McDonnell in 1978 after he failed to secure the return of Titania's Palace to Ireland. It is furnished with miniature antiques.
- The Forster Dollhouse is at one and the same time a family heirloom and a visual record of a Canadian family going back to the mid-19th century.
- Doll's house - Rijksmuseum Amsterdam - Museum for Art and History
- Tate Baby House - 1760
- A Brief TinyToy History
- Lampton,, Lucinda (2010) THE QUEENS'S DOLLS'HOUSE: LONDON ENGLAND: Royal Collection Enterprise. pp. 79-80. ISBN 978 1 905686 26 1
- Bloemink, Barbara J., and Florine Stettheimer. 1995. The life and art of Florine Stettheimer. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Clark, Sheila W. 2009. The Stettheimer dollhouse. San Francisco: Pomegranate.
- Thorne Miniature Rooms - The Art Institute of Chicago
- Shattuck, Kathryn (2005-07-31). "FOOTLIGHTS - NYTimes.com". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-08-29.
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