Emma Waddell, from Sudbury, is an interior designer … for dolls! From detailed silk walks to little apples, she has it all.
Have you ever wanted to make one of your hobbies the job of your dreams? Well, that’s exactly what Emma Waddell did.
Emma runs and owns Dolls House Grand Designs, a Sudbury-based company that specializes in the construction, design and renovation of dollhouses – to an incredibly complex and high standard.
After working as a corporate banker in the City, she left that life behind and spent the past 10 years renovating dollhouses for a living.
“It’s a bit of a change, but I like working better with my hands,” Emma explained.
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So when did his passion for all things miniature begin?
Like many young girls, Emma fell in love with the world of dollhouses as a child, having had one at the age of 10. “It’s a form of escape,” she says. “You can have a lavish Georgian mansion or a chocolate boxed cottage in miniature form if you want.”
Years later, she stumbled upon a boutique in Colchester which led her to rekindle her passion.
“I found a store in Colchester, which no longer exists, and found there was a market for someone to build, decorate and renovate dollhouses,” she said. Explain.
“Most people like to try it out themselves, but it can take time and expensive tools – something we don’t all have. “
And from there, Dolls Houses Grand Designs was born. Founded in 2010, Emma has since spent endless hours working hard and crafting hundreds of decorative homes for a range of clients.
So how do you go about getting a custom dollhouse created by Emma?
“Clients usually contact me with details of their home – either they have one that has been languishing for years, a family heirloom maybe, or an impulse buy on eBay or Facebook that has been put down, looking at them with sadness. Sometimes they just don’t know where to start. This is where I come in, ”she said.
Working alone from her Sudbury studio, Emma consults remotely and can work with clients to help them make the dollhouse of their dreams come true.
“I’m going to collect the house, room by room, design any period or feature they want in the house, from fireplaces and pillars to secret passages. Or I’ll just restore the original colors and repair hundreds of years of damage. It is sometimes a little varied. A consultation is free, and from there I make a quote and the work is scheduled. I can make a room, an entire house.
“I draw each piece and email it for customers to approve. They can change what they like and between us finalize what they want, ”she explained.
“With each person, I find that they have a dream in mind – it just needs to come true. It’s about getting to know them a little.
Once the consultation and design steps are complete, Emma then moves on to the physical restoration process.
“I use the same paint as the real houses,” she explained. “Matchboxes are excellent – the best quality ones I would recommend, like a real house. With the moldings, however, it must be the specialists.
“For fireplaces, cornices, baseboards and lighting there are incredible suppliers here in the UK and usually some brilliant local dollhouse fairs to go to which have unfortunately been postponed due to the coronavirus. It is a place to meet traders who will help you with your projects and sell you what you need to do it yourself. Hopefully in one form or another these will be back soon, ”she added.
While Emma doesn’t make any dollhouse furniture herself, there is an entire industry of people creating the components needed to complete a miniature house – much like a full-size house.
“I know the most talented artisans you could wish to meet,” she said. “From upholsterers and plasterers, to brass metal workers and miniature food geniuses. I even know a lady who can knit with pins to make miniature baby clothes, how smart is that?”
With a number of impressive projects to her credit, ranging from creating dollhouse storefronts for Jo Malone to appearing on The Alan Titchmarsh Show, Emma certainly has no shortage of fans around the world, with her artwork. awesome art reaching all corners of the globe.
“I received a message about a month ago from a lady in Italy when the coronavirus crisis was at its height. I post pictures of my projects on my company page and got a message saying: ‘Thank you for the pictures of the beautiful rooms. Here in Italy, we need to dream right away, and that gives us something to dream about. ‘ I was very touched by what she said, and it was the nicest comment I have ever received.
“I think that epitomizes what dollhouses do – they make people dream, wherever they are, no matter what is going on around them.”
For anyone looking to spark (or rekindle) a passion for the little things in life, Emma has some tips to help budding dollhouse enthusiasts get started.
“Get a used dollhouse from an auction site – if it’s a mess, you can’t do much worse,” she explained. “Practice, get ideas, and create a Pinterest page for ideas and inspiration. “
“What do you like? Georgian traits with an Edwardian family so you get the most out of everything? Or a modern house with iPads? You can even have it inspired by Harry Potter if you like – there’s a lot of wizarding pieces if you look.
Once you have a theme or idea in mind, it’s important that you take your time on it. “Don’t rush, and do one play at a time. It’s meant to be fun – it’s a collection after all.
“Sometimes the simplest room, from a decorating point of view, can be the prettiest if you furnish them properly. Just like with a real house.
For anyone who may not have the time or money to devote to an entire dollhouse, you can start small and narrow your interests down to a specific room.
“You can just make a chamber box, which is like that, just a box,” Emma said. “One of my clients has one – I helped her cook a colorful, nostalgic and hilarious 1950s kitchen.
“Personally, I like grocery stores, but you can also set up a tea room, bridal store, or department store.” The possibilities are truly endless, ”she added. “The only thing that stops you is your imagination. “
For more information and to see more of Emma’s dollhouses, visit www.dollshousegranddesigns.com