I remember the dollhouse I got for Christmas when I was a little girl. That beautifully decorated and furnished house was three stories and made from a wooden bookshelf.
“I wanted one so bad when I was a little girl,” said Betty Strait. “By the time I finally got one I was really too old to play with it.”
“But then when I turned thirty I decided I wasn’t too old after all,” continued Strait.
That was when Strait started designing dollhouses.
Her brother Glen built the first dollhouse that she designed. It was a two-story house that he built totally by hand. He cut each individual piece of siding by hand one at a time. The roof was made of real roofing shingles. The whole thing took him a very long time to build, but according to Strait, he spent the most time building the stairway.
Once her brother had finished the house, it was up to Strait to furnish it. That’s where she had lots of fun finding all the miniatures to fit into the rooms. One of her most unique finds was a set of salt and pepper shakers that she purchased from an antique show. They are the perfect size for the dollhouse and look like a real washer and dryer.
Strait also has a Victorian era dollhouse. The first floor is made up of a living room, dining room and kitchen. The second floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom. The third floor has boy’s bedroom on the right side and a girl’s bedroom on the left. The girls’ room has a canopy bed, lots of toys, a Monopoly game set up on a table and cans of soda. The boy’s room is also full of toys. All of these things are miniature to fit to scale in the dollhouse.
The most unique thing about the Victorian dollhouse is the swimming pool in the yard that Strait purchased at Frayles Auction in Waverly. It was a salesman’s sample from a pool company and it came out of a salesman’s suitcase.
“I never thought I’d find a pool,” said Strait.
The store is Strait’s favorite of all the buildings. She filled it with miniatures from so many sources. According to Strait, it was the most fun creating the different rooms and filling them.
“I wanted to give it a resemblance to the mercantile store on Little House on the Prairie,” said Strait.
On the first floor three ladies standing in the front window are from her Avon collection when she was an Avon representative in the 1980’s. Strait had fun finding and filling the store with items including baked goods, pots and pans, tools, groceries, bolts of fabric and even a Coke machine – all in miniature. A man is sitting in a chair watching TV with his dog on the floor next to him.
The second floor of the store is a game room designed for the miniature customers to come up and have a good time.
The third floor is Strait’s specialty. One side is “Betty’s Boutique” filled with jewelry and hats. The other side is for the men customers – hunting and golf items, and a fish mounted on the wall. She placed a man sitting in a chair reading a book to a baby in a carriage. He was probably taking care of the baby while his wife shopped in the boutique.
The store has a front porch with a pay telephone on the side of the building. There is a button on it that makes a telephone ringing sound when it’s pushed.
“If you can’t afford to redo your whole house, do a dollhouse,” advises Strait. “Use your imagination. It can take you anywhere. It’s just fun!”
And Strait has certainly used her imagination designing and furnishing these miniature buildings.
“I get my craziest ideas at three or four in the morning,” said Betty Strait. “When I can’t sleep I get more creative.”