THE LOWER PART
The ground floor comes naturally as a surprise when one opens the lower doors with the crossed bars which is a very French Directoire effect. The overall style is utterly enchanting. The surprise is greatly due to the fact that nothing on the outside front of the house indicates the presence of rooms, the only windows of this level being placed in the back (they are also the only ones to open). Since it is low, adults are obliged to sit on the floor to see all the details, especially the ceilings and the wall corniches lavishly decorated with plates. I find this level particularly magical, each room having its own peculiar mood. They reveal the heart of a house: the kitchen, and in this case, the dining room and the pantry.
But first, let’s stop on the two doors which are particularly noteworthy: The inside is decorated with original daguerrotype-style chromolithographe scenes, most probably from Switzerland or Austria or even Bavaria. We were not capable to identify the naturalistic sites yet. Unfortunately, the doors have suffered from heat and water damage and the glass is slightly broken. However, regardless of this accident, the effect is altogether lovely, refined and dreamy
The kitchen is filled with a thousand details that are exquisite. This room is now than just very full, it is actually overcrowded as kitchens should be in doll’s houses, at least according to BillyBoy*’s taste, to which I can only agree. Let’s be honest, too much is barely enough! The room is cream coloured with substantial wainscoting and a "real" fake door (meaning it does not open).
The floor is made with ceramic tiles in blue and white with checkerboard motif and the walls are also blue, a colour traditionally used in the old days before window screens and insecticides, to keep flies away. Have you ever seen flies buzzing around a blue cow? Of course not, which is a rather good proof that it works!
The sink is a tin toy with a real reservoir by Marklin or Bing and the the cooker is in lithographed tin in a smaller scale. The walls are covered with all kinds of utensils, pottery and tools, all very charming and authentic, ranging from different decades. The table is covered with cakes and food, and the other cat of the house, a white plaster one, is waiting, like a sphinx, in a seemingly sleepy haze. Something tells me that there’s a mouse in the house!
To be noticed also, the bell hanging above the wall, to call the maid (who is nowhere to be seen). Near the open window, which is enhanced with lovely blue and white provencial Vichy (french gingham) curtains embroidered in red cross stitch smocking, is a nice chest of drawers which is made in waxed cardboard and boxes of matches with all its drawers opening and probably dates from the early 1900s. Think of all the little secrets a child could have placed in those!
The Dining Room
The dining room
Next room is the dining room, which is quite stunning. The “real fake” door on this side is oak brown, topped with a decorative carved wood device. The room has a definite Bavarian mood, though the fabric in the dark brown lacquered paneling is authentic early 18th-century French fabric. It has altogether a warm and inviting atmosphere, perfect to enjoy a delicious Sunday lunch. Here we feel the true effect of Mrs Vivienne Greene's word for the mood - "gloomth".
The floor as well as the ceiling are in early painted linoleum. This room has a double door opening, (this type of disguised door in panelling is called a jib door). They lead to the pantry, which usually is placed between the kitchen and dining room, which is not the case here. The window, which opens, has a simple curtain treatment, embroidred lace and "broderie anglaise", which is the French word for English eyelet.
The dining room furniture is composed of a classical German extension table, surrounded with an amazing set of chairs and armchairs, upholstered in petit point embroidery and edged in two-tone trimming, all matching to the carpet.
The table is set for a lunch for two with a big lobster waiting on a cardboard embossed plate, complete with vegetables and shrimps, "consommé" (soup), extra fish on a plate... a very nice meal if any. A buffet displays a fine set of dining wear and Germanic mugs as well as a very delicate white metal liquor set on a tray. It also has s set of three candelabras, all with birthday cake candles, which are not antiques. On the other side of the window, decorated with lace curtains is a wooden “Grandfather’s” clock, called comtoise in French.
The visit of the Lala House has now come to an end and I hope you enjoyed the visit as much as I enjoyed being your guide. It has been a pleasure for me to share this house with you and to express my passion for this cultural subject. There are many wonderful historic and ancient doll houses in the world, in museums as well as in private collections, as shown in some of the books I have selected below. This one, as you may have understood, is especially dear to me.
Before closing the doors, if you look very carefully, you will notice, after the white mouse, another tiny grey one hiding somewhere in the kitchen. She hasn’t much to fear, because, except for the risk of being broken, there is not so much to worry about in the magical secluded world of a doll’s house: Steiff cats and plaster-moulded cats do not eat mice, they just stretch endlessly or lazily dream their life away; ducks in ceramic baskets never end as gourmet food and plaster lobsters do not scream when they’re put in a mould. They just look awfully decorative, which is a good reason enough to let them live in peace, as long as possible.
Lala Jean Pierre Lestrade
Text and photography © September 2003/october 2012
PS: Instead of naming this once anonymous doll's house "The Yellow House" or any other name, BillyBoy* named it "The Lala House", as a loving attention to his "long-time companion and soul-mate" and now husband as of February 6th, 2012 (30 years together), a very touching and loving attention. Now I know which doll's house to pick as a shelter if, like in the cult movie, I ever turn into an "incredible shrinking man".