A Dolls House project for kids with disabilities

A Dolls House project for kids with disabilities


20 of the world’s best architects & designers present their unique dolls’ houses in an exhibition & auction at Bonhams in aid of KIDS

The only design requirement was the integration of a unique feature to make life easier for a disabled child.

edwin luytens dolls house 1922

Inspired by the dolls’ house that Edwin Lutyens designed for The British Empire Exhibition at Wembley between 1921 and 1924 – using a very traditional children’s toy to display the very best of modern British architecture, craftsmanship, art and interior design – Cathedral Group asked 20 contemporary architects and designers, in collaboration with artists and other creatives, to design and build a dolls’ house for the 21st Century.

dolls house designers


The dolls’ houses will be exhibited publicly at Bonhams, London on the 11th of November 2013 and auctioned at a high profile evening event in support of KIDS.



You can pre bid here

The online site will be frozen at 12pm on Monday 11th November and further bids taken only at the auction event that evening.

Highest bidders will be invited to attend the event or offered the opportunity to make a proxy bid.


kids charity logo

KIDS is a UK charity supporting disabled children, young people and their families.

They run home learning programs, specialist nurseries and crèches, short-break programs for disabled children and a series of inclusive adventure playgrounds.

They offer a wide variety of services to parents of children with disabilities and programs for siblings of disabled children and young carers.



Some of the Dolls House concepts  

Haptic House: Dexter Moren Associates


The Haptic Houses’s series of boxed rooms, treated with different interiors, colors and sensors and stacked on a mirrored base, creates an illusion of height, Dexter Moren Associates’ Christopher Leonard says.

“Unlike conventional doll house designs the 360 degree access means there are no defined rules of how it should be played with,” he says. “We focused on sensory play encouraging children to look, listen, touch and feel, bringing the house to life by stimulating the primary senses.“

The sleek design comes complete with ring-able doorbell and motion-activated light panels.


Coral House: Studio Myerscough, Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan

MORAG MYERSCOUGH AND LUKE MORGAN In collaboration with artists Ishbel Myerscough + Chantal Joffe + poet Lemn Sissay

The coral reef Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan’s dolls’ house stands upon took 42 hours to 3-D print; to add to the magic all the rooms in the house hold tiny replicas of furniture and items the two designers own in real life.

“One day I just sat down, got my pens out, and made the sketch of our house and Luke wrote the poem (about a coral reef). Then we started making it,” says Morag Myerscough who commissioned artists Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough, poet Lemn Sissay, and even her mother, textile artist Betty Fraser Myerscough, to create objects for the house.

“We like telling tales,” she says. “Every piece has its own story but was ready to have a new story made about it.” Myerscough spent three days non-stop hand-painting the outside of the house–the floors rotate around a central plastic tube creating a dynamic structure.

“The height of the house was important so children can reach all of it at all levels,” she says. “Kids can make their favorite things to put in the space and make their own stories.”


A miniature domestic world: Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

LIFSCHUTZ DAVIDSON SANDILANDS In collaboration with Azur-MGM Modelmakers

If you hang out in Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands tiny house for too long you might meet a neighing horse in the garden or get attacked by the bathroom’s bubble machine.

The agency posed its own design question for the project: “What if a wide spectrum of young children–children with learning disabilities and those with sensory impairments–were able to play with a miniature domestic world which they created themselves?”

They answered with a modular design that allows kids to pick, stack and negotiate where their three-sided rooms should be placed within the structure.

Sensors within the rooms react to movement, touch and sound and were built-in specifically for kids with disabilities.


Outside/In House: ShedKM in collaboration with artist James Ireland

SHEDKM In collaboration with artist James Ireland

ShedKM’s Outside/In House rotates mid-air around a spiral staircase and each room has a hinge and slide.

Vistas and reflected views can be reset within the design against backdrops of artificial sunsets and bright blue skies.

The design’s about celebrating the sensory experience of being in a landscape and looking through and beyond according to ShedKM’s Greg Blee.

“Outside/In has been designed as a place of escape for a visually impaired child,” says Blee. “The house can be played with like a large Rubik’s Cube puzzle.”


Elvis’s Tree House: AMODELS


Elvis’s tree house is a deliberately dangerous design, based on a real playground in Southampton, England

“The Danish concept was to make the park as physically challenging and literally deliberately dangerous as possible, because kids learn for themselves faster that way,” says AMODELS’s managing director Christian Spencer-Davies.“Spark Park includes a rope bridge with no hand rail and a whole hill of polished stainless steel to slide down, all wheel chair accessible.”

Spencer-Davies wanted his dolls’ house to be something an adventurous kid would dream up rather than an architect. He decided on a treehouse and used a Playmobil doll to dictate scale.

“I took an intern to Argos (a British retail store) to buy some figures but they come in a surprise bag and we ended up with a pirate, an American Red Indian and Elvis,” he says. “

Inspiration struck: Elvis was a big kid with so much money he could have anything he wanted,”–hence the cars, motorbikes, planes, swimming pools, televisions, and guns in the final design


Jigsaw House: MAKE


MAKE’s an employee-owned business so the company broke their jigsaw-style house into over 20 individual rooms, each designed by a member of the company, and each addressing an aspect of disability.

“The only thing we didn’t attempt was taste although I suppose you could taste the herbs (in the herb garden),” says John Prevc, MAKE’s lead architect on the Jigsaw House project.

MAKE created a pitched-roof shell for the interlocking modules to sit inside made with laminated timber.

“The repetition and componentization also became an illustration of 21st century building industry but with the potential for individuality and uniqueness,” says Prevc.


Tower of Fable: FAT Architecture, in collaboration with Grayson Perry

FAT ARCHITECTURE In collaboration with artist Grayson Perry

FAT Architecture shrunk their inspiration–London’s Balfron Tower, designed by Emo Goldfinger–to toy-sized proportions:

“It’s big, concrete, and, well, brutalist,” says Sam Jacobs from FAT. “But remade as a dolls’ house it brings out qualities that might not be so obvious at full scale. In addition to being giant and abstract it’s also as fantastical as a castle, as texturally dense as the surface of a space ship and as romantic as a country cottage.”

The process of sandwiching laser-cut layers to build up the dolls’ house surface was painstaking Jacobs says, but it was important for integrating design features for a disabled child.

“It’s a very textured thing. What we’re suggesting is that design can appeal to a range of senses, and one of those might be how something feels as much as what it looks like,” he says.

FAT collaborated with British artist Grayson Perry who designed furniture, decorations and obscure little characters


The Play House: DRDH, in collaboration with Anne Katrine Dolven

DRDH ARCHITECTS In collaboration with Norwegian artist Anne Katrine Dolven

Center stage of DRDH’s design are a series of king crab claws made by Norwegian artist Anne Katrine Dolven that echo the interior palette of the concertina-style Play House.

DRDH based the design on 18th-to-19th-century paper-style theaters that were popular before television.

The black MDF shell sits “mute” until a kid opens it up to reveal the high-contrast interior colors, chosen to stimulate partially sighted kids.

“The theatre features working scenery hoists and curtains in the fly tower,” says DRDH’s Richard Marks. “The back-of-house and front-of-house lifts can be raised and lowered, making all floors accessible to its actors and audience


The Grimm House: RAAD, in collaboration with artist Lara Apponyi

JAMES RAMSEY RAAD STUDIO In collaboration with artist Lara Apponyi

RAAD’ was invited to participate one week before models were due.

Creating a tactile version of an illustrated fairytale was the core of Ramsey’s design.

“The experience of reading an unnerving Grimm’s tale late at night by yourself is so central to so many childhoods,” Ramsey says.

“We thought it would be amazing to share that strange sensation with children without sight. The MDF and plaster structure is covered in a film of embossed paper where Ramsey’s punched a braille rendition of Hansel and Gretal onto the surface and if you dig around you’ll find some creepy bones hiding inside the structure. The Grimm House is a blank canvas by design, he says.

“We asked, ‘how can we create an object that is not meant to be seen? How can we communicate the sensations of an illustrated fairy tale book, simply by engaging the finger tips.’”





About Queen Mary’s Doll House at Windsor Castle

queen marys doll house 2

Among the highlights of a visit to Windsor is Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest, most beautiful and most famous dolls’ house in the world.

Built for Queen Mary ( consort of King George V ) by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924, it includes contributions from over 1,500 of the finest artists, craftsmen and manufacturers of the early 20th century.


The house is filled with thousands of objects made by leading artists, designers and craftsmen, nearly all on the tiny scale of 1:12.

From life below stairs to the high-society setting of the saloon and dining room, no detail was forgotten. Among the most striking features of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House are the library, bursting with original works by the top literary names of the day, a fully stocked wine cellar and a garden created by Gertrude Jekyll. The Dolls’ House even includes electricity, running hot and cold water, working lifts and flushing lavatories.


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