In 1924, work was completed on a new house for Queen Mary, the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. The four-storey Palladian villa was designed by one of Britain’s greatest architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens. He employed 200 craftsmen, 700 artists and 600 writers to work on it. The house had running water, working light fittings, a flushable toilet. It was furnished with working clocks, marble floors, a wine cellar, artworks by famous artists and a library stocked with books written by well-known writers exclusively for the house. Limousines were parked in the five-bay garage and the garden was designed by Gertrude Jekyll.
None of this may sound surprising for a house belonging to the British Queen consort until you understand its scale. Known as Queen Mary’s dolls’ house, the structure and everything in it was built to a 1:12 scale. It is in effect a fully functional five foot tall house. The library contains works by W. Somerset Maugham, Aldous Huxley, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, J. M. Barrie and M. R. James (Virgina Woolf and George Bernard Shaw declined to contribute). Arthur Conan Doyle’s shortest Sherlock Holmes story is also on the shelf. The bottles in the wine cellar contain real wine (Chateau Lefite and Veuve Clicquot). The toilet is equipped with miniature toilet paper.