Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House

Antique Dolls House
Killer Cabinet Dolls’ House England, 1835-1838. [Picture: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London]

The V&A Museum of Childhood’s major exhibition Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House will reveal the fascinating stories behind some of the UK’s best-loved dolls’ houses.  Through the stories of 12 dolls’ houses from the past 300 years, visitors will be taken on a journey through the history of the home, everyday lives and changing family relationships.


The small stories of each house will be brought to life by the characters that live or work there. Day-to-day life will be illuminated through tales of marriages and parties, politics and crime.  Each house will be displayed at a particular time of day and visitors can use buttons alongside the showcases to activate the narration and light up each character as they talk. The exhibition encompasses country mansions, the Georgian town house, suburban villas, newly-built council estates and high-rise apartments. Displayed chronologically, the houses will also show developments in architecture and design.

Antique Dolls House
Tate Baby House England, 1760. [Picture: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London]

The Tate Baby House dating from 1760 was owned by five or six generations, passed down from mother to eldest daughter. It includes original wallpapers and painted paneling in the style of Robert Adam and a lying-in room for a pregnant doll. The story of this house centers on the rising status of three generations of Georgian women.

Antique Dolls House Kitchen

Kitchen in the Killer Cabinet Dolls’ House England, 1835-1838. [Picture: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London]


The Killer House was a gift from surgeon John Egerton Killer to his wife and daughters in the 1830s. This Chinese-style cabinet is lavishly appointed with gilded wallpapers, four-poster bed and liveried servants. The story centers on the servants’ ongoing struggle for cleanliness and hygiene in the industrial city.

Antique Dolls House
Whiteladies House Moray Thomas, England, 1935. [Picture: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London]

Whiteladies House was designed by artist Moray Thomas and was built in the 1930s. It corresponds to the handful of Modernist country villas emerging in Hampstead at the time. The story centers on a house party and the house features chrome furniture, a cocktail bar and artworks by British Futurist Claude Flight as well as a swimming pool and loggia.

Antique Dolls House Bedroom
Childrens’ bedroom Hopkinson House (set in 1940s) England, 1980s-1990s. [Picture: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London]

The Hopkinson House is based on the houses of London County Council’s 1930s suburb, the St Helier Estate. The interiors show a Second World War-era family in intricate detail, poised for an air-raid, with miniature gasmasks, ration books and torches for the blackouts.

Dolls House
Kaleidoscope House Laurie Simmons, Peter Wheelwright and Bozart, USA, 2001. [Picture: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London]

Kaleidoscope House’s multicolored translucent walls are filled with miniature replicas of Ron Arad, Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger furniture and artworks. It is home to a design conscious step-family living in the new millennium. The house was designed by Laurie Simmons.

Many of the houses, their furniture and dolls have been specially conserved for the exhibition. Around 1,900 objects in total have been restored over the past two years in the V&A conservation department. A further 20 dolls’ houses dating from 1673 to 2014 will be on display within the Museum’s permanent galleries. The latest research will enrich the interpretation of old favorites, and introduce new acquisitions. In total, the V&A Museum of Childhood has a collection of around 100 dolls’ houses.

The exhibition runs from December 2014 through September 2015. The exhibition will tour around the UK, to Europe and the United States. More information at