Small is beautiful for Chislehurst dolls house store
PUBLISHED: 09:34 18 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:34 18 January 2013
On any given day shop owner Lyn Thompson finds herself single-handedly lifting sofas, carrying bath tubs and moving entire houses.
Though her efforts are not quite super-human as she deals in the world of miniatures from her Chislehurst store, Dolls House Parade.
Packed with pristine Tudor, Edwardian and Victorian architecture, her scale models are intricate enough to include toilet roll, dog bowls and even plates of roast dinners.
Lyn’s first dolls house was a Christmas gift from husband, John, 54. The couple were unaware that it would turn into a hobby and, eventually, a business.
Lyn said: “I had just given birth to my son and wanted something to occupy my time, so John got me my first dolls house.
“Eventually I was ready to go back to work and my retail background made opening a shop the obvious option. That was just over 20 years ago.”
Opened in 1992, the store in Royal Parade was so successful that further branches were opened in Dorking and West Byfleet, Surrey.
However, both locations were hit by the recession and the Petts Wood couple decided to cut their ties and focus solely on the Chislehurst branch.
Lyn, 52, added: “We got out when we could and just didn’t renew the leases. Obviously the Chislehurst store has been affected by the recession but we are still here.
“We have regular customers and people travel 30 to 40 miles to come to us. We have a great reputation but also there just aren’t dolls house shops on every high street.”
Still keeping her original dolls house going, given to her in 1985, Lyn has added a second that she has in the store and has been a work in progress for the past 16 years.
She admits she is guilty of neglecting her own homes as she spends time building and decorating customers’ houses to their specification.
“It’s a joint effort,” she explains. “When people come in and say ‘I have a Georgian house, what can I put in it?’ I just tell them to take their time and furnish it with what they like, not what they think should go in.
“People like to keep things to the period of the house but it really is all about taste. My biggest tip for people new to miniatures is to not rush it.”
Over the past decade the store has established itself as a major industry favourite online and has a logo that enthusiasts can immediately recognise.
The internet came about at the right time for Lyn and John, who now sell an estimated 70 per cent of their stock to customers across the globe.
“We started with the internet at the very beginning,” said Lyn. “We dipped our toe in the water and now sell to customers everywhere. It really took off.”
Not content with just selling and furnishing mini homes, Lyn has also dabbled in designing and her own wallpaper is on sale in the store – though her own items are not her favourite on offer.
She said: “We have a miniature pop-up book in stock at the minute, it unfolds more than it pops but it’s really great.
“I don’t know how someone has the patience to sit there and make it. I certainly wouldn’t.”
n To start your own miniature household, visit www.dollshouseparade.net.