Liza Antrim, the doyenne of antique doll's houses, lives in a small village in the west of England surrounded by hundreds of magnificent miniatures that she's spent years collecting and painstakingly restoring. She tells Cabana about two of them: her greatest find and the piece she'll keep forever.



Display cabinet by Beatrice Hindley © Liza Antrim


My greatest find: A display cabinet of miniature plants by Beatrice Hindley

"I have had a love for the works of Beatrice Hindley - maker of miniature plants for Royalty, among others - ever since I was given one of her miniature carnations when I was about 12 years old. It was many years later that I pounced on one of her miniature gardens at an antique centre in London’s Bond Street. I have been collecting her treasures whenever and wherever I could since then, though they seldom appear.

"The thing I most regretted missing out on was a display cabinet of her pieces from an exhibition of her work held in London in 1927, which came up for sale at Christie’s many years ago. Although I bid “bravely” (foolishly?) I was still blown out of the water by a gentleman and his mink and diamond bedecked lady, which I rather resented. Anyway, scroll on down the years and I am wasting time looking through Instagram, when I type in “Beatrice Hindley” and what should appear, but another of those cased displays. It was in a sale in Ottawa, but sadly, already sold.


Miniature plants by Beatrice Hindley © Liza Antrim


"I miserably asked if they could send me some better photos, explaining how mad I was that I'd missed it, but it turned out I hadn’t; it was still available. So, after waiting so long - and going through the nightmare of trying to work out how to ship such fragile objects, which caused a great deal of worry - the plants were carefully packed in tissue, in individual polystyrene coffee cups, and the glass case in several boxes to protect it. It all arrived safely. Apparently some things do come to she who waits.

"Its history is a strange one. It had belonged to Enid Strathearn Hendrie Owen, who was a long-time friend of Patricia Ramsey, whose father was Governor General of Canada. Enid’s father was 11th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, which was how they knew each other. Patricia was the youngest daughter of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, the third son of Queen Victoria. Although there is no paper record, it seems quite possible that this quintessentially English collection was a gift to Enid from her Royal friend."


Bellamy's House © Liza Antrim, Family and Friend's Doll's Houses, Cider House Books


The piece I’ll keep forever: Bellamy’s House, 1762

"I saw an ad for this delightful little house in the Antiques Trade Gazette, being sold at an auction in Torquay. I thought it looked interesting, and early, so asked for a phone bid. The bids got quite high, to my surprise, but I was very happy when it arrived, and with an extra room box I didn’t know was included. This was also quite early.

"It turned out that a dealer I knew quite well was at the auction and was furious that I had bid against her. She said, rather sourly, that she would have offered me all the miniature foods within the house had she bought it. But this would have meant that the wonderful whole house would have been split up and sold piecemeal. That happens so often with dealers, and is why I am so happy that I have managed to save the whole house, and so many other houses.

"It’s the earliest commercially made box-back doll’s house seen to date. It has the name of the retailer written in pencil on the back, as well as in ink beneath the two window seats. The shop’s trade-card, dated 14 December 1762, advertises their wares “At the GREEN PARROT, near Chancery-Lane, Holborn”. Their shop went out of business in 1795, so this house can be reliably dated to the latter part of the 18th century."


Bellamy's House © Liza Antrim, Family and Friend's Doll's Houses, Cider House Books


"It is completely untouched, and in wonderfully fresh condition, looking as though it has never been played with. From the quantity of furniture that came with it, and the fact that much of it was vastly out of scale, one may surmise that this Bellamy’s house was not the only dolls’ house in the family, and perhaps another larger one bore the brunt of play. The other one has been lost, leaving just this little gem.

"It consists simply of two rooms, one above the other. It has a classic dolls’ house exterior, of red bricks outlined in white, with quoining down either side, and a wooden six-panelled front door with an enchanting brass urn-shaped knocker and open drop handle. The inside is papered in a pleasant grey with white flowers surrounded by little sprigs of green, the same paper as in the drawing room above the dado.

"An unusual suite of five chairs and a settee is made entirely of wood, the seats carved to give an impression of upholstery, and strikingly painted in red, black and white stripes, with flowery backs, looking very Regency in style but actually earlier Georgian. The kitchen has everything you could desire. It is painted in a vivid blue to repel flies and has a jolly red-painted tiled floor."


Liza Antrim's extraordinary collection, published in Cabana N20 © Antony Crolla



To see Liza's incredible collection, and read more about her restoration work, order your copy of Cabana Issue 20.

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Discover Liza's extraordinary book, Family & Friends' Dolls' Houses of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, in which the notable collector and expert restorer reveals original historic interiors and decorative schemes in miniature.  

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Camilla Frances is Cabana Magazine's Digital Editorial Director | Follow Camilla on Instagram: @housetowrite