I was presented with an unusual opportunity around Thanksgiving 2016 when out of the blue, I received an email from the son of the late Gretchen Deans.
If you are a newer collector, you may not know that Gretchen was one of the three founders of the original Nutshell News magazine back in 1971 and served as the East Coast editor for some years.
My collection currently numbers thirteen nine dolls' houses - I used to have over forty houses but have been steadily streamlining the collection and in over the last eight years I have sold off all my commerical antique and vintage houses but two.
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In the meanwhile, I spent a lot of time just studying the layout and the details of the house before deciding what I would retain and what I would change to make the house more to my taste.
For example, the ground floor's staircase was very compressed and steep to fit in a small space, and the kitchen's Victorian wainscot was coated with blu-tac adhesive blobs that would never come out...
It was both a first and a last for me, I can assure you.
In any case, it arrived safe and sound along with a large container filled with vintage building materials and all sorts of odds and ends from Gretchen's stash, including some components I used in the renovations to the house.
In an eerie coincidence, the day it became mine was both my wedding anniversary, the also the anniversary of Gretchen's death five years earlier, so the day was colored by some emotion on both sides.
Her son said he thought she would have been glad I got the house and I like to think so as well. I won't upset you with a description of the way we brought the house home to New Jersey with everything still in it!
She often added her own embellishments to the commercial items.
Gretchen had sold all her other houses by the early 2000's (I knew her Howard Hartmann colonial house had been sold to Jane Haskell) but Gretchen kept this one because it was so deeply personal.
While in storage, the house had accommodated some squatters of the rodent variety and they had left ample evidence of their capers throughout the entire house.
Some furnishings had to be tossed away, some things were cleaned and kept, and the entire house was scrubbed and cleaned with disinfectant - more than once.
The ground floor masonry was molded from plaster and then painted while the upper floors feature applied half-timbering and textured paint that started out as white and had turned yellow over time.