How does one live in Art Nouveau style?
Dolls’ houses and rooms
Dolls’ houses began to be produced in roughly
the 17th century. They were handmade, and
mostly were not intended for children’s play.
As the replica or reduced copy of an estate,
they served to demonstrate the owner’s wealth
and social status. Alternately, they served as an
instructional tool for girls in aristocratic families
who in future were to run the household with its
complexities, numerous strict social conventions
and multitude of servants. These little houses
were mostly of the “cabinet” type with opening
doors simulating the house’s façade.
Houses constructed in the form of open interiors
of rooms were intended for children’s play. In
their development, one can trace the history
of interiors relating to changing lifestyles. Later,
some of these little houses were even electrified
and had running water in the bathrooms. With
the arrival of artificial materials, there appeared
plastic furniture and the like. Despite the
expansion of factory production, the tradition
of handmade doll houses produced at home
never completely disappeared.
Today, little rooms appear, for example, as
accessories for dolls or as separate furniture
sets. Mostly, however, they do not copy a specific
historical style or contemporary trend.
curator of the toy collection, UPM
Clifton-Mogg, Caroline, The Dollhouse Sourcebook,
Abbeville Press Publishers, New York – London 1993.
Pasierbska, Halina, Dolls’ Houses, V & A Publishing, London 2008.
Models of furniture
The existence of models of architecture, interiors,
ecclesiastical and profane structures, their statuary,
and even furniture and interior furnishing
accessories has a long tradition. The conception of
these structures and their interiors reflected the
period style and its index of decorative elements.1
Three-dimensional models of interiors and furniture
were used by architects in the 20th century in
order to verify their ramifications in the given
interior, but also to present their idea to the client
During the Baroque period, models or modelletta of church
altars and their statuary (individual sculptures or groups) were
made by sculptors and builders themselves to test their impact
on the given interior.
and thus to win the contract.2 Especially after the
shift to mass machine production at the turn of
the 20th century, the path from a design to the
definitive form of an object for production was
long, and the model underwent a complicated
course of development. At the beginning of this
path was a miniature model on a scale of 1:20, for
example; at the end was a 1:1 model – or, rather,
a prototype of the object. Sometimes it remained
merely a prototype. During the production of test
series, the model was then further refined to
a greater or lesser extent.3
Models of furniture in and of themselves can
be of great significance for studying the work of
architects and designers, and are also of interest
With the advent of digitisation, which makes
possible the simulation of a three-dimensional
representation, the demanding production of
three-dimensional models has receded into the
background. Yet virtual space remains virtual,
and working with a real miniature model, its
construction and materials cannot be replaced
by virtual reality.
How does one live
in Art Nouveau style?
curator of the furniture collection, UPM
Karasová, Daniela, The History of Modern Furniture Design,
UPM and Arbor vitae, Prague 2012.
2) The model of an Art Nouveau dining room from 1908 is
reminiscent of the furniture sets designed by Jan Kotěra, but also
those by other Art Nouveau architects (the horseshoe armchairs
by the dining table are similar to the armchairs from the dining
room for publisher Jan Laichter, while the folding serving table
is similar to part of the interior for Karel Hoffmeister, which
is deposited at the Museum of Applied Arts in Brno). The two
sideboards also have analogous features. The alcove window
connecting the interior with the garden was a characteristic
feature of Kotěra’s villa designs (e.g. Trmal’s Villa, Sucharda’s Villa,
3) The resulting changes could be significant, as was often the
case in the large-scale mass production of the enterprises of
Socialist Czechoslovakia. Sometimes, the designer could hardly
recognise his own design in the final form. During the 1980s at the
Institute of Interior and Fashion Design in Prague (ÚBOK), work
was performed on a state task involving the model design and
comprehensive colour schemes of residential interiors. The contents were schematic models of furniture and their integration
into the rooms of apartments in panel housing estates, including
the colour schemes of individual parts of the apartment, the extent to which they could be combined and their mutual influence.
Fragile wire models of the furniture executed by Jan
Rothmayer owned by the Archive of Architecture of the National
Technical Museum in Prague are, in addition to sketches, original
evidence of the author’s work. International companies which
have focused on reproductions of top furniture designs by
leading designers (e.g. Cassina, Vitra Design Museum and others)
produce and successfully sell models of furniture icons.
Take a seat at a school desk where pupils
were taught circa 1900 and do a bit of
Have a thorough look at the object
in the large vitrine.
What do you think? Is it a model furnished
interior for special-order production or
a little room for dolls?
We’ll give you a little hint – turn the page.
© Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, 2014
model × toy
Mark the kind of textile that you would not find in today’s interiors.
– indications for a dining room:
sideboard, serving table
– indications for a salon:
alcove window, flower stand,
Type of room: combination
of a salon (representative room)
and a dining room
2) What kind of activities was the room used for?
(For a hint, see the photographs of the inhabited room.)
drapes, curtains, pillows, carpets,
rugs, tablecloths, doilies…
What kinds of lighting fixtures are missing here?
What kinds of indoor flowers were cultivated?
(you will find them in the interior)
Write them down or draw them.
asparagus fern, cyclamen
1) What kind of room is it?
3) What social status did a family
that could order such an interior have?
4) Carefully examine the individual furnishings:
Write down or draw the individual types of furniture
and compare them with the objects in the exhibition.
Where do you see the greatest difference between them?
Which of these would you procure for your home today?
functionality of folding parts
Examine the large table and folding nested table.
What do they have in common?
Decorative objects and family memorabilia
Write down those objects which you have discovered
in the interior, and add those which are missing.
What have you discovered? Is it a model furnished interior or a little room for dolls?