Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For The Love Of Doll Houses

Published on Patch Nov 22, 2011

While the shop is now open in Lawrenceville, one event is taking place in Old Town in the final days of my lease there.
Local resident Mary Bentley shares her love of dollhouses!
A collection of tiny treasures by local resident, artist, and gardener, Mary Bentley, proves that childhood dreams never grow old. Mary Bentley loves dollhouses! She has been playing with dollhouses since Santa brought her one in the 1950’s. It is a beautiful blue Victorian gingerbread house with white windows and trim.  Mary kept that dollhouse, and in the 1990’s, decided it needed a facelift. 

“I renovated the house with new carpet, floors and wallpaper.” Mary smiled as she showed me her childhood toy. “But I’ve been remodeling it, and building furniture for it since the 1970’s, when my daughter, Susan, was old enough to play with it. Now Mary’s granddaughter, Haviland, is enjoying this family keepsake.

Mary makes most of the small items in her dollhouses. Her original dollhouse is filled with handmade treasures. The bed in the attic bedroom was made from a kit. The yo-yo quilt, bedding, and dust ruffle were handmade using fabrics Mary collects. Mary completed the needlepoint rug that her mother had started for the house’s sewing room. Visits to antique shops, thrift stores, and specialty dollhouse shops yield many treasures that Mary uses also. Her collection of vintage wallpaper and recycled fabrics turn each room into a one-of-a-kind fairyland. Mary decorates the inside and outside of her houses and adds windows, doors, porch rails and other architectural details.

Each house in Mary’s collection has a story and characters that live there. The blue Victorian house is home to Abigail, her Grand-mama and sister. Abigail spends most of her time in the attic bedroom dreaming, while Grand-mama and her sister put finishing touches on the gingerbread house they are making in the kitchen. The house has a sewing room, where Grand-mama is making a red Christmas dress for Abigail. 

Some of the dollhouses in Mary’s collection (which number ten plus, I lost count!) are for display only, while others are in the playroom upstairs, in the charming attic room, similar to the room Abigail dreams in, for Haviland and her friends to play with.

Another treasure of Mary’s is a dollhouse she entered in a contest during the “National Dollhouse Month” a few years ago. This one room was designed to honor Mary’s mother, Catherine Moye Hatcher, who had just passed away. She designed a yarn and notion shop, one that her mother might have owned, and called it “Kit’s Knits and Notions”. Her mother’s nickname was Kit. Mary used yarn and various items of her mother’s in the house. 

The 2006 Roombox Contest brought forth the “Haviland’s Teddy Bear Tea Room”, named for her Granddaughter. This contest called for constructing the entire house from a kit, including roof shingles. Pastries are handmade from Fimo Clay for the bakery cabinet. Mary has entered the Roombox Contest many times over the years. 

In 2009 her entry was “Driving Miss Daisy To A Special Place”. The “special place” was named “The Quilt Garden” where Miss Daisy went to pick up her fabric order of fabrics for the holiday season. This is the first house she wired for lights. 

Mary loves to share her collection. Recently, over Veteran’s Day weekend, she had a tea party in Old Town Lilburn with a display of her dollhouses in the grey house on Main Street. The Little Shop Of Arts And Antiques had just moved to its new location in Lawrenceville and this event had been scheduled before the location change. Mary, with the help of a few of her friends, held a mother-daughter princess tea and brought many of the doll houses from her collection to share with the local community.

The showpiece of the day was a tall dollhouse purchased by shop owner, Barbara Barth, at a local thrift store and given to Mary to turn into a dream house. For weeks Mary visited the shop and worked to turn the plain house into a storybook house with every room brimming with holiday cheer. The house is being donated by Mary to “The Butterfly House”. Her wish is that children will be able to play with the dollhouse over the holiday season. 

Mary’s spirit and love of life are infectious. Her dollhouses bring magic to everyone who seems them.  Enjoy the photos of the Princess Tea Party dollhouses and some of Mary's other creations.




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