A world of miniatures where those who build doll houses ask, "Who is going to live there? You?"

Doll house builder finds furnishings and "people"

OLMSTED FALLS - The rooms are filled with furniture, some of it ornately carved and well-upholstered. In the kitchen, there are boxes of cereal on the counter and a bowl of eggs on the table. But the observer must get within inches to see the items well. No problem with that. These items are made to be seen up close. This is the world of doll houses.

"We build houses normally in one-inch scale," said Dawn Reese.  "One inch equals one foot in real life," added the owner of Dolls and Minis, a store in Olmsted Falls which sells items for those who passion is doll houses. 

Her shop on Columbia Road is filled wall-to-wall with doll houses she has built or ordered. On shelves through the store are items which are dwarfed by the human fingernail. A bowl of eggs, which could be placed in a kitchen setting, is about the size of a thimble. The eggs inside it are significantly smaller.

Reese, who came to the U.S., from England 27 years ago, became interested in life in miniature when she was a girl who overlooked her father's shoulder as he built model airplanes. "I used to be in his shed where he used to build his airplanes playing with bits of wood," she remembered.

Now she works with bits of wood, plastic, fabric, wallpaper and a myriad of other items as she builds doll houses, some of them standing three feet high. That would include three floors of "living" space for the people who live in the doll houses. Although she sells figurines which can fit nicely in her creations, she finds many of her customers choose not to buy the figurines of humans.

She always asks for whom she is building the house.  That is a key question because Reese wants to get into the mindset of her customers. "Sometimes the house would be built for someone from their imagination that lives there," she said matter-of-factly. "Other times, the house is the house they've always wanted to live in," she added.

This is the world of imagination. Most of the people who have doll houses as a hobby are adults. Many recreate the house in which they grew up. Sometimes the house is the one they wished they had bought. Whatever the customer needs, Reese feels she can supply it. She is both architect and decorator. The doll houses can even have electricity to light small lamps which are on tables next to beds or in chandeliers in the ceilings of dining rooms.

Outside Dolls and Minis on Columbia Road, there are other small shops which sell a variety of items. Within a few steps are the railroad tracks on which freight trains lumber through regularly. The world of the freight train pulling many dozens of boxcars is far removed from the small, intricate world of doll houses. Standing in the shop looking at the doll houses while at the same time peering through the window at the freight trains is like standing on the cusp of two different worlds.

The world of the doll houses is Reese's passion. So, too, is the world of dolls which she also sells. On the racks of doll clothing are dozens of different kinds of dresses and outfits which will fit the dolls. In her basement, she works at repairing dolls which have grown old with age. Like a surgeon, she repairs legs, arms and even gives the dolls new hair, artificial or human.

Reese agreed for the customer who brought in a 100-year-old doll for repair. "For her, this doll is like a baby almost," she said. "It's got very much a sentimental value."

It is the world of the miniatures where customers bring their imaginations. That is the world of the doll house and the doll.

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