It's A Small World After All


Ginger Landon Siegal's domain is decidedly smaller and more festive than most people's.

"It's always Christmas in my house, 'cause I never take down the Christmas tree," she told Sunday Morning correspondent Rita Braver.

But house, she means dollhouses. Siegal began collecting miniatures and dollhouses when she was 8-years-old and over the years developed a passion for buying and making her own tiny treasures, sometimes using cast off items like this holder for razor blade cartridges. Her crowning achievement may be her rotating bridal boutique.

"Everything in it for your bride and groom," she said.

While the mini-mother chooses a gift, in the other room the bride is trying on some grown up shoes. There is even a little wedding cake and all the accessories one would need for a tiny wedding.

The earliest known American-made doll house is a pavilion structure dating from 1769. It was made by a 14-year-old girl. But Sara Henry, chief curator of the Museum of the City of New York, says most of the historic houses in the museum's collection were really designed by and for adults.

"I think people are intrigued by the opportunity to enter a world, a special world apart where they can imagine themselves in a special different place," she said. "But they are also a lens through which to see their time."

One of the most famous Dollhouses in the country was built by Carrie Stettheimer, who worked on for three decades, starting in 1916.

"And she was one of the three Stetthimer sisters, an important member of the social scene in New York, particularly in the period between the world wars when the Stettheimer sisters hosted a famous artistic salon at their house," Henry said.

Carrie Stettheimer hand-decorated almost everything, from the bedrooms the bathrooms. She even persuaded some of her artist friends to create miniscule originals of their impost important works.

The real standout is a miniature version of "Nude Descending a Stair Case" by Marcel Duchamp.

And though you may not be able to get your own Marcel Duchamp, you can buy almost anything else in miniature. Leslie Edelman has owned the Tiny Doll House in New York for 16 years, where almost everything is about 1/12 of normal size: one inch equals one foot.

Edelman carries lots of goodies for young collectors; plus some very serious stuff. One of her dollhouses goes for $1,450. She sold a handmade cabinet for $900.

They may be willing to spend some serious money, but Edleman says there is no way to categorize her dollhouse collectors.

"There really isn't, because my customers range from two to 92," she said.

Somewhere within that age group is Bebe Ventura. She is a former interior decorator who has created her fantasy apartment building with a sense of humor. While wealthy residents in their sumptuous parlor give new meaning to the phrase "all dolled up," one neighbor paints her toe nails while another is caught relaxing in the nude. And on the bottom floor, a psychic runs her shop.

Ventura has about 20 doll houses, including a house of ill repute - or a brothel.

There's also a somewhat more conventional country house, complete with indoor pool. She even has a Lighthouse. The reason she has become such a dedicated dollhouse collector is simple: it's relaxing.

"It's better than therapy," she said. "You lose yourself. if there are problems that you've got during the day or anything that goes wrong come play with the doll house."

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