Tiny Tin Dollhouses: A Retro Nursery Accessory

Back in the 1950s, the average home size was under 1000 square feet. Since then, homes have more than doubled in size with the average new American family home being above 2,300 square feet. Is bigger always better?

This illustration from the National Plan Service, courtesy of Indiana Coal and Lumber company, portrays an idyllic version of what was considered the American dream home in the 1950s. This depiction is charming and lovely!

While visiting a vintage store, I happened upon an item that I have become obsessed with looking at and admiring. This is what I share with you in this post—a piece of that perfect American dream: the tin dollhouse.

Above we see the original packaging for a mid-century metal dollhouse; they came complete with wall treatments and unbreakable plastic furniture! First made popular in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, these dollhouses are currently easy to find on eBay and range in price from $25-$450. Most I’ve seen are in the $30-$70 range. Wouldn’t they make the perfect addition to a nursery?

This white, center entrance dollhouse features cherry red shutters and flowering shrubs—so charming!

This dollhouse’s emerald green accents are so pretty and crisp. I would love to see one of these as a nursery accessory on top of an armoire or dresser!

This quaint ranch-style dollhouse with its “moss-weathered” green roof comes complete with a sharp blue carport! Now, that is deluxe! Imagine pulling your wood-paneled, chrome-trimmed station wagon into that.

Looking at these tiny interiors is akin to looking into a magical little world, sort of like a snow globe. The detail is rich and layered. This bedroom looks cute and cozy with its mantle, wall art, floral drapes and oval area rug.

This child’s room is so cute! I love the animal wall murals and the accent wall of pink stripes. I also spy toys in the shelves. Details! Details! Details! I can get DOWN with a good detail.

I am definitely a modern man. Heck, my movies stream instantly to my flat-screen TV. I have an iPhone, an iPad, and my ice cream is usually soy-based. However, there is a part of me that loves and longs for some of the presumed innocence of the nostalgic ’50s and ’60s. This perfection is alive and attainable in these little tin houses. Would you add one to your nursery design? Snatch one up before this retro real estate is sold to the highest bidder!


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    Sam, so great to see your first post live on PN! I’m a total dollhouse fanatic and still have one from my childhood. Something about all things mini that always makes me smile. Thanks for sharing these sweet tin dollhouse finds with us. – Pam

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    I love the tin dollhouses. I love the retro kids stuff so much. My little girl’s room is vintage furniture with bright paint on the walls. One of these might have to get onto Santa’s list.

    Thanks for the post.

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    Loved my wood doll house as a child and kept painting and repainting it all the time. Now Lauren has a fabulous one that I love to play with her. LOVE those old ones. So beautiful. Welcome to PN!!

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    Love the idea. In fact, I envisioned my youngest daughters’ room filled with tiny houses to create a village nursery theme. I didn’t see anything I liked so I started collecting Delft houses for her! They look fab! These would’ve been awesome as well!!!

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    I remember those houses–I was younger, but some were still around when I was a kid (I had a wood dollhouse and a Sunshine Family house.) Anyway, the problem with those that I remember is that they often had some very sharp edges, and I’m sure many have rust these days. Not really something you’d use except as decor.

    Speaking of cute retro toys as decor, my local thrift shop had a ridiculously adorable 50s(?) Sears rocking horse in the window, in incredible shape. I looked at it and thought, “fab decor for a boy’s red or blue nursery.” I saw one on eBay but it was in no where near as good shape: http://www.ebay.com/itm/BUDDO-ROCKING-HORSE-VINTAGE-HAPPITIME-SEARS-ROEBUCK-COMPOSITION-WOOD-22-TOY-/170831989251?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27c6614a03

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    Dear Pam, Thank you for the welcome! I have never personally owned a doll house, however I too think when anything becomes miniaturized it also becomes sort of magical and even more charming!

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    Dear Rebekah- Oooooh. If when I was a kid I had a wood doll house- you KNOW I would be painting that sucker over and over too! Obviously we are cut from the same redecorating cloth! hahaha! xoss

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    Dear Pencils, (First of all… I love your name! So cool!) Good thinking about the sharp edges- I noticed that too- I do subscribe to the belief that some things are for playing with and some things are for looking at. Because these are antiques and not made with the same safety regulations we have now- they are more decorative art objects for sure.

    That rocking horse is amazing. I could totally use that to get around NYC on….just rock on down 3rd avenue to pick up some art supplies… Imagine the looks I might get! Haha! THank for your comment! GREAT! xoxoxss

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    LOVE all of these cute little dollhouses! I’ve been in the market for a dollhouse for my 16 month old. Actually, the day we found out that we were having a girl, I started looking for the perfect one. So far, I haven’t found one that was just right – they’re all either too bland or too hideous, there isn’t a happy medium.

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    I can’t believe at the level of details on these doll houses! I definitely would want one!

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    Sam Simon,

    I agree with you that some of these vintage stuff are not made with the same safety standards that we have now. But really these doll houses are really to die for.

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    I used to have similar metal dollhouses growing up, but my favorites were those wooden ones that my grandfather made. This post surely brings back a lot of fond memories!

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    Dear KellyJoya- Yes- not so much for play anymore….but a wonder to look at. I think it’s ok if children have a couple special items just for looking and not touching. What do you think? xoSS


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    Hi my brother had a Bako set ,it included plans to build several different houses ,I loved it. That was in the 50s ,about ten years ago I found two set together in one box ,
    at a jumble sale ,I think I paid £1 for them .I think it,s great .

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    I don’t think that you could expect your kids to have something this beautiful and not play with it. Case in point, my 8 year old said that she won’t open her Monster High doll that she got for her birthday because she’s old enough, instead she said that she’d just display it. It took her a day before she broke that promise and we just saw her combing its hair :)

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    Martinique thats a funny story! Children not playing with certain items certainly is a challenge. I guess its really based on the situation and item. When I was a kid my mom had many “just for looking at” items, and in a way it taught me restraint and respect. Not everything is for touching. However – these Tin Dollhouses were originally made as toys. They were also made in the 50’s when safety standards were very different then they are today….hence why I wouldn’t recommend kids using these as toys. THanks for the comment! Keep ’em comin! xoxoxsamsimon

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    My brothers used to mess with me when i was a little girl.. so the first time i saw my metal house the first thing i said in my mind was–Woow now they wont botherme more..They saw this thing on their heads ..But then..They didn’t want to play with me anymore..So this doll house is now in a cold corner of my mom’s closet in her home.

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    Believe it or not I still have my dollhouse with Emerald Green Accents with some of it’s furniture. I got it one year for Christmas when I was about 5 or 6 years old. It’s nice to see it on here. I’m so glad I still have mine even though it has some rust but never the less I still have it! :)

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