Housing Dollhouses at B&B

Miniature Collector
February 2008
Scott Publications

Housing Dollhouses at the B & B
by Barbara J. Aardema

“People know I collect dollhouses and they call me.”

Diane Forde and her husband, Henry Ruthinoski, needed a house to house their houses. The New York natives sought a dwelling large enough to shelter a dwelling large enough to shelter a collection of over 50 dollhouses, roomboxes, dolls and related ephemera when they decided to open a bed and breakfast. Walterboro, South Carolina, afforded the couple the place and the space.

Diane, a portrait artist and former window designer for a number of well-known East Coast department stores, carried a childhood fascination with dollhouses into adulthood. One year she included a dollhouse in a holiday display in her art gallery, and kept the house for years afterward. Gradually, she began finding dollhouses at yard sales, then she and Henry built several kits together and Diane crafted a conservatory from scratch. Finally, Diane, who loves full size antiques, determined her miniatures focus would be antique dollhouses.

Diane and Henry culled most of their eclectic structures-ranging from Bliss and Gottschalk houses to homemade structures and 1950s tin houses-from antique shops, from the Internet and through word-of-mouth. “People know I collect them and call me”. A few come with a provenance or identifying marks. Most have been empty.

“Recently I found a 1/2-inch-scale size. The seller knew that the person who had made it was born in 1813 and had built it for his little girl.” Diane consults her extensive library of dollhouse books and Miniature Collector’s “Auction Report” to identify makers of the houses and to help her buy appropriate furniture to fill them. “I’ve done so much reading, I’m able to spot them.”

In 2005, the couple made the move south. They installed the dollhouse collection and opened the bed and breakfast for business 40 miles from Charleston in early 2006. Miniatures that originated in Korea, Germany, Japan and the United States now invite inspection in the original living room of the 1912 dwelling they’ve named Hampton House Bed and Breakfast.

Beyond overnight guests, the couple invites the public to make appointments to view the collection or to tour the house, then enjoy lunch in the lush gardens of their historic home. Several doll clubs and miniatures clubs have taken advantage of the invitation. The tour is ever-changing because Diane keeps collecting. There will always be something “new” among the antiques at the graceful manor in lovely South Carolina

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