After Hours - The Miniaturist

UCLA Today, January 19, 2005

By Wendy Soderburg

Photos by Reed Hutchinson UCLA Photographic Services

Leslie Evans, Web site and publications manager for the International Institute, threw an open house so friends and colleagues could see his completed German dollhouse. It has five fireplaces, including the one in the library (below).


Welcome to a new series about UCLA faculty and staff who balance their work lives with fascinating, all consuming hobbies. This second installment features Leslie Evans, who spent the last 15 years creating an intricately detailed German dollhouse, complete with tiled kitchen, stained glass window, shingled roof and its own music system.


NAME: Leslie Evans
TITLE: Web Site and Publications Manager, International Institute
HOBBY: Miniatures

WHAT ARE MINIATURES, EXACTLY? "There's a whole hobby industry of miniaturists. Most of them make dollhouses, but some specialize in crafting miniature furniture, miniature food items, miniature photographs, all kinds of objects. Many of them sell their crafts. The standard scale is 1 inch to the foot."

WHEN STARTED: "In the late '80s, I went to a couple of miniature shows. Some of it was extremely well made ‰ÛÓ very believable miniatures ‰ÛÓ and some of it was just for kids. I was attracted to the believable, three dimensional miniatures, and I started to study how miniatures were constructed, how you did electrical wiring, how you got the right kind of textures, how you made things look aged."

WHY A GERMAN DOLLHOUSE? "Some people who are extremely good do Louis XVI French, but it's too difficult. You have to be such a perfectionist. There are a lot of people who do Victorian and Tudor English. But just because they're done a lot, I decided not to. I chose German because I had never seen anyone do a German dollhouse."

HAPPY COINCIDENCE: "I chose a picture of a real building out of a book on German Renaissance architecture. When I started my project in 1990, I had no idea if the building still existed. When I was almost done with the dollhouse and the Internet arrived, I did a search for it. It was supposed to be in a town called Bacharach, on the Rhine in Germany. And the building is still there. It's called Altes Haus, which means "old house." It was built in 1368 and today is a functioning restaurant. And my dollhouse is also a restaurant, an inn. It has the same function as the original, although I didn't know that then."

DOLLHOUSE DIMENSIONS: "Five feet tall, 2 1/2 feet wide and 3 1/2 feet deep. It's got 14 rooms, but it also has walkways, a mezzanine and a balcony. It has a big kitchen and a hall where the food is served. It has a library, a bedroom for the innkeeper and his family, a very fancy guest room and a tower with a game room and a music room. It has a garret room for a student and three little alcoves with beds in the attic for very poor people. If it were a full sized house, my guess is that it would be about 4,000 square feet."

MOST TEDIOUS TASK: "The longest job on the house took three months, and that was the shingling of the roof. There are 3,000 individual shingles, and they all had to be hand glued."

WHERE IS IT KEPT? "In our dining room, in the bay window."

LEVEL OF PARTNER INDULGENCE : "Jennifer likes the dollhouse. She shows it off. We're old house buffs, so it's the same sort of interest."

NEXT PROJECT? "There's no other place to put anything that big in our house. If I do more miniatures, I'm going to do room boxes or dioramas, little scenes that can be kept in a fairly small box and put on a shelf someplace."