woman shares passion for doll houses
In 1989, Barbara Whitters was out with her
friend, Shirley Adams, buying furnishings for a doll house
that her friend just had made, when Barbara decided to
purchase a farmhouse kit of her own. This purchase would
lead Barbara to discover a passion she hadn't known could
exist in her hobby of crafts.
Twelve years later, Whitters is still actively pursuing
her love for the craft of building and decorating doll
"I had always been a tomboy, playing with cars and
trucks, not dolls, so my girlish childhood didn't surface
till late in life," stated Whitters.
Whitters, who has created various crafts from water and
oil color paintings to macrame, has found doll houses
to be her greatest hobby.
"Working with wood has given me more satisfaction
than anything I've done," said Whitters.
On Sept. 26, Whitters spoke to over 30 women at First
Christian Church in Platte City regarding her love.
She explained how the first kit (the farmhouse) bought
with her friend cost Whitters $156 and took her 107 hours
to build. While Whitters followed the kit as far as the
architectural aspect, she made certain revisions to the
house which weren't included in the kit.
"I furnished the house completely and dressed it
up for Easter, complete with ham dinner on the table,
and an Easter egg hunt in the yard," explained Whitters.
To this day, Whitters has built 10 houses and three room
boxes. Her biggest adventure came with the purchase of
a southern mansion kit. Whitters decided to disregard
the kit instructions, also known as "kitbashing"
and design the mansion to her imagination.
She explained that the windows went from bay type to
long windows, typical of a true southern mansion, the
balcony was extended the entire width of the second floor,
a side addition was installed for a kitchen and a study,
as well as a grand curved staircase. Throughout the mansion,
you can see Barbara's personal touches such as a needlepoint
rug, counted cross-stitch bedspreads, and wicker furniture.
Whitters had invested $5,200 in the mansion during its
construction. Today, she estimates that the mansion would
value $8-10,000 on the market.
"My decision to make the bedspreads and wicker furniture
is all a part of the challenge. When you get into buying
those items they become expensive and there's not a lot
of variety," said Whitters. "When you do it
yourself, you're able to have more options and it's more
gratifying when you add your personal touch."
In each doll house, Whitters has her signature item placed
at a various spot throughout the houses: A mouse.
"It just popped into my head one day. I had a mouse
laying around and thought how cute it was and decided
why not use that," explained Whitters.
Other projects that have been brought from a kit to reality
include a haunted house, Santa's parlor, which was donated
to the local historical society, a summer cottage, and
Auntie Malia's fruit stand.
In 1994, Whitters ventured into the unknown and built
a log cabin without the use of a kit.
Following the log cabin, Whitters decided to build a
1930's style road diner and filling station from scratch.
"I don't hang around filling stations very often
so I went down to Eddies Filling Station (Bud's 66) in
Platte City to get ideas on what I could duplicate,"
She purchased two gas pumps and filled them with "gas"
and built a telephone box that was placed in between the
two buildings. The diner is outfitted with three booths
upholstered in red leather, a counter with stools, a jukebox,
a back bar housing the grill, hot pots, sink and a chef.
Each of the models Whitters has built is a scale of one
inch equals one foot.
After building the diner and filling station, Whitters
continued to use her imagination to build a bunny rabbit
bakery in a small roll-top breadbox and Whitters Gallery,
which is a book box, made from a volume of books entitled
"The Book of History." She bound the books with
glue, added a door and windows, and turned it into a gallery
carrying fine china, silver and objects of art.
When Whitters was asked how she found items for each
project she responded with a smile, "your junk is
Whitters stated her next project is a 200-year old English
cottage. She will begin building the cottage once the
materials she ordered from England have arrived.
Barbara's husband Paul has given her constant support
in her hobby since day one.
"He supports me 150 percent and always has. He gives
me encouragement to do it and do it well," said Whitters.
"He lets me play with my toys."
Recently, Whitters traveled to St. Louis for a doll house
show to participate in a workshop. Throughout the years,
Barbara has traveled to 15 shows across the U.S., including
her annual visit to the international doll house show
in Chicago every year.
Barbara concluded by saying, "I plan to do this
as long as the good Lord lets me."