For the serious collector getting
the period details right may become an important issue within
their dolls house project / hobby. It is here that architecture
plays an important role. Whilst the most popular periods for dolls
house collectors - Tudor, Georgian and Victorian - were marked
by decorative and furnishing traits it is the different architectural
features, which will set your house most firmly in a specific
In this feature we will try to explain some of the more important
characteristics of the different styles.
were generally built with a timber frame (mainly oak, which was
plentiful at the time), which gave the support for the structure,
with infill panels of wattle and daub (created with woven twigs
and plaster). For most Tudor dolls houses the timber beams are
surface mounted and finished in a dark colour with the wall space
in between coloured white. It is best to use an "off white"
or a weathered finish to create a realistic look. In those days
roads were muddy so the bottom of buildings were usually quite
Roofs & Chimneys
In Tudor times roofs were either covered in thatch or small oak
shingles. These shingles were laid in a similar way to tiles.
Large and multiple chimneystacks were popular especially on the
grander buildings of the time. Decorous and ornamental designs
were common but circular chimney pots as we know them today did
not appear until later.
Windows in most early Tudor houses were unglazed because glass
could only be afforded by the wealthy. Later in the period casement
windows appeared and because glass was only available in small
pieces the "leaded light" look became popular. This
consisted of small square or diamond pieces of glass being held
together by lead strips.
It was also during this period that the "dormer window"
first appeared - so called because they were first used to give
light to the dormitory or sleeping quarters of a monastery.
An oak planked door was the most widely used - which consisted
of vertical planks on the outside fixed to three internal cross
panels. Door frames were usually plain and simple.
Georgian period actually covered a span of 116 years - from the
accession of George I in 1714 to the death of George IV in 1830
- which also included the Regency period. While classical design
was important the period also saw the development of the planned
town, where squares and crescents were favoured in towns whilst
terraces were common in villages. As building became more organised
and land more restricted buildings grew upwards to make better
use of land area. Like the tall but narrow buildings of the Tudor
merchant, terraced houses and town houses followed the same ideas.
In the town house the ground and upper stories were for the owner,
whilst the attic space was for the servants. If there was a basement
then quite often the kitchen would be situated here, together
with daytime servants' quarters (where space allowed). Railings
would separate the basement from the street with steps leading
Brick and stone was now widely used. Dressed stone was used for
the houses of the wealthier classes especially in the towns. If
brick was used it was most likely to be a red Flemish variety.
Dressed stone was more indicative of wealth and taste. However,
for those with brick buildings, but with grander aspirations,
the answer came with the introduction of "stucco" This
was a substance which could be applied to brick which imitated
stone. This was widely used by renowned architects such as the
Adam brothers and John Nash during this period. An easy way of
simulating this for the dolls house enthusiast is by the use of
a textured paint, such as Sandtex.
The abundance of large quantities of cheap softwood led to the
construction of timber-framed houses clad in what is known as
weatherboarding. This was quite a common form of construction
for small houses in country villages.
Roofs & Chimneys
Classical Georgian thinking decreed that the roof and chimneys
did not form an important part of the design. Therefore, roofs
that were shallow pitched or even flat, covered with grey lead
were common especially with town houses. Chimneystacks were small
and simple and sometimes topped with the circular chimney pots
which started to appear in this period.
The sash window developed into the most distinctive feature of
the Georgian house. Rooms were now higher so taller windows were
required and the sash window gave the regularity and proportion
which designers were looking for. Better construction techniques
allowed the use of larger panes of glass although because glass
was still expensive, smaller "leaded lights" were still
seen on the poorer housing, especially in the countryside. In
order to preserve the softwood used in the construction of these
sash windows, lead oxide was used as a coating and it was this
which gave the white finish which was common.
It was also during this period that the bay window become common.
These were usually seen on small shops but were also common in
small seaside terraces.
One of the most attractive features of a Georgian house facade
is its door. The door itself is usually of the standard raised
panel variety (unlike Victorian doors which have a sunken panel),
but the detail and grandeur is found in the surround. Projecting
canopies and porches were made of timber, although in the north
of England local stone usually replaced this. A fanlight would
also be common because the house design - especially in terraced
houses - meant that this was normally the only external wall (and
potential light source) on the hall.
Another feature of the Georgian house was the balcony. This was
sometimes used to emphasise a window or simply incorporated as
a safety feature. Because windows often extended to floor level,
a balcony made it safer for people standing or sitting near them.
a contrast to their Georgian counterparts who embodied regularity
in their designs, Victorian architects preferred variety and irregularity.
The requirements of the expanding middle classes demanded a house
with a number of rooms of differing sizes and designed for varied
uses. Ornamental detail on windows, porches and gables were an
feature of the period
Land values in cities and towns were high so terraced housing
was popular, with 2 or 3 rooms per floor. The grander "mansions"
for the rich were 4 or 5 stories high, whilst the housing for
the poorer classes consisted only of a ground floor and first
Virtually all Victorian houses were constructed of brick - now
machine made rather than the previously hand made variety. These
were cheaper to produce, easier to transport and therefore available
to everybody. The use of machinery allowed different colours and
types of clay to be used in brick production, therefore coloured
patterns could be created in walls. The Victorians preferred the
more lively finish of brick to the plainness of stucco, which
had been chosen by their predecessors.
Tile and terracotta was also used widely as a decorative feature
especially on walls and gables.
Roofs & Chimneys
Because of cheaper transport, Welsh slate was used throughout
the country on pitched roofs. These were topped off with ornamental
ridge tiles and fretted bargeboards on gable ends. Rolled, sheet
lead was still used to cover flat areas such as over bay windows
Chimney pots were popular as they gave added variation to the
roof line (as well as their practical function of reducing smoke).
Pots were often quite tall, i.e. 2 feet for this reason.
The sash window was still the favoured choice just as in Georgian
times. However, with different production methods available, large
panes of glass could now be used. In general, sashes were glazed
in either a single large pane or 2 smaller ones. Bay windows became
popular as architects realised that the outlook of living rooms
could be improved by designing windows with three aspects.
A typical design for the front door consisted of four panels
- two longer panels on the top half of the door and two smaller
ones beneath. These panels were flat and recessed (different to
the Georgian versions, which were chamfered and raised). Glazed
panels with brass door furniture enabled Victorians to create
a main entrance to impress their guests.
period was relatively short (1901 - 1910) so Victorian and Edwardian
styles are often lumped together as one indistinguishable approach
to housing, although there are in fact important differences between
the styles of these two eras.
Edwardian houses are simpler and less grand than their Victorian
equivalents. The decoration and variety of Victorian design was
replaced by a more masculine look. Houses were designed to be
functional rather than beautiful. The influence of historic revivals
was replaced by the desire to create buildings, which were more
suitable for the age they were built in.
Whilst the design retained many of the features of the Victorian
house, such as sash windows and bays, the exterior was altogether
more plain. Brickwork was simple and roofs lacked the fancy ridge
mouldings seen previously. Doors were often "half glazed"
and glazed porches ensured plenty of natural light for the hallway.
The development of the commuter town led to the creation of streets
of plain, red brick fronted, gabled semis which are characteristic
of this time. The first Garden Cities were also created during
this period as well as the "workers towns" such as Saltair
We have only covered a few styles here - but they are, we feel,
the most popular with dolls house collectors. It should be remembered
that there is no sharp division between periods, but rather a
gradual change and a blend from one style to another. Furthermore,
throughout the ages architecture has been influenced by "revivals".
For instance, during Victorian times (1837 - 1901) both a Gothic
and a Queen Anne (Stuart) revival were experienced. So some buildings
built in these years bore more resemblance to styles from an earlier
time. Add to this, the result of "foreign" influences
and you can see what a confusing issue choosing the right styles
for a particular date becomes.
I hope that this feature has given you a small insight into this
fascinating subject rather than frightening you with its complexities.
Above all, as we always say -
"have fun with your hobby and do not follow historic accuracy
out of necessity, but rather if that is truly what you want to
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