“The Nation’s Finest Dollhouse”, Knole Cottage, Restored
by Madelyn Rzadkowolski, Director of Curatorial Services
Dubbed “the nation’s finest dollhouse” by press when it was first gifted to Frances Dodge in 1926, Knole Cottage was restored so that guests can step back in time. Many projects were undertaken simultaneously so that the little playhouse in the woods could be recognized by Frances herself.
Linoleum floors were conserved and/or replicated and the walls were painted or wallpapered according to their original condition.
The living room is noticeably different, with the removal of the green carpet and pink walls and the restoration to the original glazed walls; the floors were covered in a linoleum pattern that matches the rest of the playhouse. If you’ve ever been on a Behind the Scenes tour of Meadow Brook, you may recognize it as being the same pattern that is in the staff areas of The Hall! We were a little worried that removing the pink walls would leave the room dreary, but the final effect is warm, inviting, and most importantly, accurate.
The wallpapers in the nursery, bedroom and dining room had been replaced with similar examples but we were able to replicate the originals and have them installed by Denielle of Armstrong Wallpapering. The new diamond-print in the bedroom is identical to the scrap left behind the sconce when the room was re-papered with a blue stripe in the 1970s.
The replicated pink nursery wallpaper looks similar, but the restored bassinet looks worlds different than it used to! One of our dedicated volunteers worked for 65.5 hours to replicate the original satin and lace cover on the bassinet. Using photographs and remnants of the original for clues, she created something that Frances would have recognized when coming out to play.
Though we were lucky to have extra rolls of the bedroom and nursery wallpapers, we were missing the one from the dining room; since photographs of the room weren’t good enough to figure out the pattern and we thought we were out of luck. Luckily, during renovations, a small swatch of the original wallpaper in the dining room was discovered and a local artist volunteered to translate it into a wallpaper pattern. The green damask pattern looks stunning and will be perfect when the sea green taffeta curtains and jade green portières are installed!
The new Knole Cottage can be viewed the Walking Estate tour now. Thank you to the generous donor who made this restoration possible and the dedicated volunteers who worked to make it happen!