Daydreaming of Dolls Houses with Cary Goodrich.

Updated: Aug 20, 2019



Earlier this year I went to Amsterdam, a trip I have been meaning to write about but have yet to do. While I was in Amsterdam, very much believing that this was the city for me, I went to the Rijksmuseum – a pretty unusual choice. I am sure you will agree.


While walking around with my mouth half open in admiration, I came across the doll’s house of - Petronella Oortman of Amsterdam. These are by no means toys, as they describe them, they are hobbies. They were the female equivalent of the cabinet of curiosities kept by men. Much like the cabinets they have helped us understand the behaviour and lives of the affluent Amsterdam residents. Petronella Oortman of Amsterdam was so very proud of what she had created she commissioned a portrait of it, the portrait flanks the dolls house. An early nod to the idea of Instagram.




Instagram, plays a significant part in this next dolls house. Cary Goodrich a former antique dealer in Boston caught my eye with her love for Dolls Houses, hers to be exact. On her instagram she shows her talent for interior design on a mini scale. I was so fascinated by her instagram, design and patience I felt I had to ask her some questions to figure out what made Cary so good at the Dolls House game.


You mention in your profile that you were an antique dealer, how long did you do this for and what was your focus?


I recently stopped being an antique dealer after loving every single minute of it for 20 years. I simply woke up one day and realized I didn’t want to do it anymore. I primarily sold smalls. Anything that appealed to me, I would buy it. Everything from China, books, items to frame, to sewing buttons! I had a reputation as being the “queen of smalls!” If it was tiny, I wanted it! I was in a very charming shop in Concord, Ma. And did large antique shows (Brimfield) as well. I especially loved ephemera (collectable memorabilia that was for a short term purpose) and framed a TON of things to sell.


Have you always been interested in dolls houses?


Truly, I have been searching for an antique dollhouse for a long time. I had always thought it would be fun. I have three grown sons, so there were not any “girl” toys in our house! I never quite found the one I loved, so I continued my search. Lo and behold, my first granddaughter, Charlotte, was born last May and I finally decided I had to make my own! I searched online and purchased a kit. After having read the instructions a million times, I finally dove in. I had never done anything like this. Always handy with my hands and love to make things ( I was an art major in college) but never any woodworking. I guess you could also say I had an interest early on having visited Mrs. Thorne’s Miniature rooms since I was a child at the Art Institute of Chicago.


The institute’s Thorne Miniature Rooms collection comprises 68 deftly dwarfed and obsessively detailed re-creations, on a scale of one inch for every foot, of English, French and American household interiors ranging from the 13th to the 19th century.

(All Photos from James Casebere for The New York Times - Do have a look at Casebere's work, quite a take on the dolls house)


Clearly, from your pictures you are keen on interior design, I would like your dolls house to be my home, Who are your top interior designers?


I have several decorators I am fond of. Charlotte Moss, Bunny Williams come to mind. I am pretty eclectic in what I like but also very traditional.



Have you been collecting for this house, for a while? 


If only I had kept all the wonderful dollhouse items I had sold over the years!!!! I am quite fond of 19th c. Items for dollhouses and I can’t tell you how many grand things have passed through my hands. I am literally starting from scratch with this house! I had a few small things that I had kept over the years, but basically everything you see is new to the house. 



What is your favourite piece that you have bought for the house? 


Besides building the actual house (which took about a month!) almost everything you see in the house I have made myself, framed, or reinvented. I have actually purchased very little besides materials to make the furniture, etc. It’s interesting, all my years as a dealer I was always tucking some of my favourite bits and pieces away...not quite knowing what I would do with them. I haves boxes and boxes of objects...marbled paper, trims, fabrics, ephemera, beads. The list goes on and on. I have been trying very hard to make everything look  “old” while using all these wonderful finds. Makes me so happy to put them into this house!


Have you had any inspirations for dolls houses, perhaps from history?


I have tried to incorporate a lot of my passions. I have started to keep a ledger describing what is in each room and it’s significance. For instance, I have always loved anything to do with Natural History, hence the room with their collections in the attic! The conservatory is a favourite at the moment...as a young adult, I worked at a greenhouse for several years and am quite fond of indoor gardening. I cannot tell you the gifts that I have received for this house!! It is incredible! Tiny little seahorses for the Natural History Room, a miniature painting from a dear friend of mine who is an artist. I am receiving gifts through Instagram from total strangers as well! It is so heartwarming.


Have you had any inspirations for dolls houses, perhaps from history? 


I am completely inspired by Liza Antrim and her two books on antique doll houses. I remember vividly when an article about her books appeared in World of Interiors. I was spellbound! I have both of these books and pour over them for ideas for my own house.



Are your grandchildren interested in the dolls house?  ( I would be fascinated!) 


I only have two grandchildren so far, a 3 year old boy and a 10 month old girl. Charlotte is much too young to appreciate it at the moment! I intend for the dollhouse to live at my home and my hope is that when she visits, it will be something we can work on and enjoy together. I have another son getting married this coming summer, so hopefully there will be more girls in the future! My heart is so full being a grandmother and every object I make for this house, I think to myself, what would a little 4 year old mind like? My goal is to keep it naive, whimsical and nothing too serious. I can only hope I have achieved that so far.



I am in awe of Cary's undertaking, her patience and eye for detail is something I strive for. If you want to follow the journey of her dolls house do follow her instagram - @cpgoodrich - All images are Cary Goodrich unless otherwise stated.


P.S - If these have peaked your interest, have a nosy at - Mulvany & Rogers, Petronella Oortman of Amsterdam would approve.