The quality of the materials and the effort that has gone into Nancy McDaniel’s dollhouse are unquestionably noteworthy, but perhaps the most delightful quality of the house are the stories that accompany it. This is one of our favorite stories.
It may not come as a surprise that Nancy’s dollhouse was inspired by Queen Mary’s dollhouse in Windsor Castle. On a family trip to England in 1977, the McDaniel family was led past the dollhouse on a tour only to find that Nancy could not be torn away from it. Immediately upon returning home, she began the search for the perfect dollhouse maker. It wasn’t until 1984 that she found him, a dollhouse maker with a dozen helpers situated in a small town an hour outside of London.
Upon visiting his large workshop and seeing the quality of his work, she knew he was the craftsman she had been looking for. The only problem was the largest dollhouses he built were just 10 rooms, and Nancy wanted a “doll mansion.” After complex negotiations, the house was built and shipped in 1985.
Upon its arrival in Connecticut, she had the house fully electrified and a real slate roof added. She then began assembling the many rooms. While the house itself is not a replica of the queen’s dollhouse, Nancy did celebrate her original inspiration by having her dollhouse bathroom closely resemble the king’s bathroom in Queen Mary’s dollhouse.
Furnished with green and white marble bathtubs and countertops, Nancy wanted the master bathroom to be perfect. Nancy’s close friend and collaborator on the dollhouse, Jill Chase, recalls, “Nancy was having a hard time finding a nice looking mini roll of toilet paper. She rejected many as not good enough. We finally found one she liked and we got home and opened the house to put it in, only to realize that that bathroom didn’t have a toilet! We laughed and felt silly then decided that they must use a chamber pot.”
Stay tuned for more fun stories like this one in the coming weeks.
Post by Karissa Muratore and Amanda Kasman, University of Delaware Art Conservation undergraduates doing a summer internship at Winterthur Museum