An East Tennessee woman who had a shop for years is now working out of her home. She's made a career out of something she first loved as a child: doll houses.
An East Tennessee woman who had a shop for years is now working out of her home. She's made a career out of something she first loved as a child: doll houses and miniatures.
"You get an idea and it grows. It tells you what to do. It's to take something and make it useful or fun. I love to get my hands on an old house built by somebody's grandfather or father that needs a little cleaning up, a little revitalizing. It's wonderful what you can do with these things," Paula Barham said.
She does a remodeling job on a 1/12th scale.
"There's choosing wall paper and there's choosing fabrics and there's picking the furniture. I have one house that I worked on with a little girl and she now has a cat on her bed that is named Barham." After you. "After me," she said.
Paula Barham says 1/12th scale is standard (one foot equals one inch) but 1/24th scale or half scale is also acceptable.
"And getting very popular. Because it takes a lot of room. Some of these houses get pretty big," she explained.
Her career as a miniaturist has spanned more than 30 years. She and her husband ran the Miniature and Dollhouse Shop in Homberg for decades. Her first doll house when she was a little girl was a cardboard box. Her next one was a two story orange crate.
"Built my first pair of steps then. Staircases have always been fun," she remembered.
Paula Barham's parents encouraged her enthusiasm for doll houses.
"Plenty of Kleenex. That was my first fabric. How many Kleenex sheets those dolls had to sleep on," she said with a laugh.
She uses much better fabric now to create pleated curtains for her doll houses. It's all about the details.
A few years ago she moved her shop from Homberg into her home and her long time customers stepped in to help.
"When I moved and people found out I was moving, they moved me. Customers came, people came that I hadn't seen for 20 years or more and they came," she said. "People who worked and couldn't come in brought empty boxes. It was wonderful."
Working out of her home is a more intimate setting that the shop.
"When they come here it's by appointment so we have some time all set aside and we can talk about it," she said.
Customers like to talk about ideas for doll houses, and Paula is happy to help. She and a customer built a miniature castle complete with dragon.
She remembers a mother and daughter leaving with a doll house one year at Christmastime.
"She said as we went out to the car she looked up at me and she said are you quite, quite sure they aren't Mrs. And Mr. Claus? That was the dearest thing. And of course my husband did have a beard," she said.
She isn't Mrs. Claus but she has shared her gift for creating doll house with a lot of people.
Paula plans to keep her doll house business going, though perhaps on a smaller scale. Seems appropriate for a woman who specializes in miniatures.