The 12 Coolest Dollhouses Ever (Most Of Which Are Worth More Than Your Actual House)

Dollhouses are a very weird phenomenon. What's so likable about a tiny replication of our own dwellings — or very different ones — in 1:12 scale? But dollhouse popularity is assured: they've been bestsellers in toy stores since their beginnings as "baby houses" in early modern Europe, where they were meant either to teach young girls how to run a household, or just to show off the elegance and taste of their owners. How much cooler are you with a tiny Faberge egg than you are with just a full-sized one?!

But if you're looking at your Fisher-Price model and thinking it might need a bit of an upgrade — let's say a wine cellar, or a perhaps mother-of-pearl dance floor? — here are 12 of the most expensive, over-the-top, magnificent dolls houses in the world, belonging to artists, film stars, aristocrats and queens. Less "design inspiration," more "sigh and stare for a bit." Let's wish we could play with them, shall we?

Petronella Oortman's Dolls House

Petronella Oortman’s cabinet house is a demonstration of what dolls houses used to look like: displays of wealth and privilege by aristocratic Dutch ladies who used them as a way of collecting art objects. This cabinet-house, like most others of the time, was open to display its amazing interior — and was definitely not for kids.

The house is furnished with its own chapel, an entire set of porcelain plates, gold-flecked wallpaper, and a working spinning wheel. According to Petronella’s daughter Hendrina, she spent enough on it to buy a house.

Image: Rijksmuseum

Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle

Colleen Moore was actually a silent film actress, but her real claim to fame nowadays is as the patron of one of the most lavish dolls houses ever built. Her Fairy Castle, constructed in 1935, is extravagant: one room has a mother-of-pearl floor, there’s a working church organ and doll shoes made out of cast gold, and one chandelier is made out of diamonds.

Walt Disney himself contributed a painting to the collection of art inside, which also includes ancient Greek statues. The Castle toured America to cheer up children during the Great Depression, and is now valued at half a million dollars. Now that’s insane.

Image: Museum Of Science And Industry, Chicago

Queen Mary's Dollhouse

There are lavish dollhouses, and then there’s Queen Mary’s magnificent number. Currently residing at Windsor Palace with the Queen, it was built for King George V’s wife Mary in 1920 by the best English architect of the time, Sir Edwin Luytens, and an entire army of craftsmen. It has electricity, running water, and custom-made books and art in dollhouse-size by everybody from J.M. Barrie to Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle.

The level of detail is ridiculous — all the wine bottles in the well-stocked cellar are genuinely filled with the right wine. And here’s the best bit for dollhouse afficiandos: at the official website, you can “walk through” every part of the house.

Image: Royal Collections Of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of England

Sara Ploos Van Amstell-Rothe's First Poppenhuis

Sara Ploos van Amstell-Rothe, another one of the Dutch aristocratic women who created magnificent dollhouses (which they called a “poppenhuis”, or baby-house), actually has two in museum collections. Both were her life’s work, and they’re filled with tiny works of art, including an entire room of Chinese porcelain vases in dollhouse-size. This first one is the only one filled with a population of dolls, though unfortunately, what she called them hasn’t survived.

Image: Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem

Sara Ploos Van Amstel's Second Poppenhuis

It was in the second dollhouse that Ploos Von Amstel kind of went wild. It’s got gilt chandeliers, an entire working kitchen and scullery, mini oil paintings, a library, and built-in fireplaces. The second dollhouse is particularly fun because it features a post-birth lady of the house, a wet-nurse, and all the equipment of a “laying-in” room after you gave birth in the Golden Age in Amsterdam.

Image: Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem

Nostell Priory Dolls House

Sometimes, a dollhouse is a pretty cool historical document. The Nostell Priory, for instance, appears to be exactly what it would have been like to live in an English manor house in the 1730s. Right down to the velvet hangings on the beds, the “Amber Room,” and the particularly pissed-off grand ladies hanging around in bonnets.

The best part? Nostell Priory, where the house now lives, actually modeled some of its own furnishings off the dollhouse, to make things more authentic. Oh, and PS, all its tableware is crystal and it’s reputed to have been made by master woodworker Thomas Chippendale. (No, he’s unrelated to the dancers.)

Image: Nostell Priory Conservation Team, National Trust

Petronella De La Court's Dollhouse

This one is my favorite because it’s so completely, unabashedly bonkers. Petronella De La Court was — you’ve got it — another Dutch dollhouse lover, but hers goes to new levels of insanity. For one, there’s an intricately painted mural in a music room filled with genuinely tuned instruments (the harp is about three inches high).

It also has no respect for the usual principles of houses: the scullery and linen cupboards are on the top floor, and rather than the garden being outside, it’s instead in a fetching inner room, pretending to be a garden vista (complete with nice Greek statues). Because why should dolls with their own army of servants have to be deprived of a garden?

Image: Centraal Museum, Utrecht.

Titania's Palace

Produced by the Englishman Sir Nevile Wilkinson for his small (and very spoiled) daughter Gwendolen between 1907 and 1922, this is a labor of love like no other. Titania’s Palace is literally a lavish fairy palace, complete with mythology-themed murals, 3000 miniature works of art and 18 rooms. And yes, that is a real, very tiny, working cannon.

Image: Egeskov Castle

Tate Baby House

The Tate Baby House is insane for a number of reasons. One: it’s from about 1760 and was probably modeled on a real house. Two: it’s designed to be taken apart so it could travel easily by coach with its owner. Three: the Victoria & Albert Museum has built an entire story around its doll occupants, including a furore about a male midwife. And that’s aside from the issue of the working candelabra and the miniature display musket.

Image: V&A Museum Of Childhood

Amy Miles Doll House

This house was a bit more ludicrous at the time than it is now — but in the 1890s, when it was built, an actual house having running water, electric lighting, a bicycle, and a telephone was unusual, let alone installing them all in a place for your dolls.

It also, hilariously, contains a billiard-table and full set of balls, a whiskey decanter, golf clubs, an accurate world globe, and a bath with a hot water tank. Frankly, it’s more full of mod cons than my own house.

Image: V&A Museum Of Childhood.

Stettheimer Dollhouse

This is one of the most outrageous dollhouses ever made in modern times, not because it was particularly extravagant, but because of who contributed to it. The three Stettheimer sisters were queens in New York society in the early 1900s, and Carrie, whose dollhouse it was, convinced some of their more illustrious friends to give a little to the furnishings.

The result? Limoges vases, Marchel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending A Staircase” reproduced by the artist in miniature, and other works by Marguerite Zorach, Alexander Archipenko, Albert Gleizes and William Zorach. It’s a gallery the size of a shoebox. And Andy Warhol, predictably, loved it. Only in America.

Image: Museum Of The City Of New York

The White House In Miniature

The Miniature White House is exactly what it says on the tin: a peculiarly American labor of love by married couple John and Jan Zweifel. It reproduces every room in America’s first house in complete detail, right down to the furnishings — and, since it was built in 1962, it’s been updated to the decorating scheme of every successive president.

It tours America regularly, making stops at lots of presidential libraries, and has gone overseas too (though in 1982 it was partially destroyed by anti-American protesters in The Netherlands).

Image: Truman Presidential Library.