Photos by Brian Kaehler
A peak inside the attic of West Seattle resident Dolores Kaehler's unique miniature home she built with her mother in the 70s. PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE OR SEE BELOW THE STORY FOR MORE.

The smallest home in West Seattle

Editor's note: Wife and husband Wendy and Brian Kaehler have been visiting Brian’s aunt Dolores in West Seattle for many years, and they always look forward to a very unique staple in her home.

On their most recent visit, Wendy and Brian decided to document Dolores’ prized miniature figurine house and share their story and photos with the West Seattle Herald (and of course our wonderful readers).

Now, this isn’t some plastic store-bought doll house made oversees and found in thousands of homes. It’s one of a kind, and made mostly by hand by Dolores (now in her 80s) and her mother in the 1970s. The detail is exhaustive.

Here is the story of Dolores’ home by Wendy and Brian:

1970 Miniature house treasure
By Wendy Kaehler; Photographs: Brian Kaehler

In the modest West Seattle home of Dolores Kaehler lies a surprise: a fully furnished and electrified miniature house decorated in 1970’s motif, a labor of love project by mother and daughter.

The two-story mansion, captures the married son with his wife and two young sons visiting his elderly parents at Christmas. Working electric lights illuminate the subtle details of real Kaehler portraits scattered throughout the one-inch scale house and hand painted china sets that match the family’s own place settings.

The project began during the 1970’s when Dolores and her mother, Alvaretta, frequented the popular miniature shows coming through the region.

“We started with a display on a curio shelf, but when it was filled and we started on the next, Donald decided we needed a miniature house,” Kaehler explained. Donald Kaehler, Dolores’ younger brother built and electrified the house designed by his mother. Dolores’ grandfather, a carpenter, taught his daughter how to design houses.

“We initially thought it would take two-to-three years to finish, but we spent all our spare time on it and had it completed in a year,” Kaehler confessed. “It was a labor of love.”

The figurines are German puppeteers, some in their original outfits, however, many of the items were handcrafted: Alva made the grandmother’s dress and the bedspread comprised of 205 squares; Dolores made the perfume bottles in the bathroom with tweezers, many of the lighting fixtures - as they were not available at the time- and sewed the curtains. Even Dolores’ oldest nephew, Steven Kaehler, added to the house putting together a flickering fireplace. Though some of the furniture was bought, others were made from kits.

Some personal touches also appear: a picture of Steve and his brother, Brian, display in tiny frames atop a bureau in the bedroom and a couple family portraits grace the walls in the dining room and at the base of the stairs.

A few of the items in the house represent miniature versions of her own home: the living room bay window displays glassware on shelves, just like the house in which Dolores lives used to have prior to having the windows replaced. In the kitchen, a little tureen on the top shelf was custom made and hand fired by a miniature craftsman to resemble a piece of their own crockery. A light fixture in that room resembles the one in her brother’s house.

All the rooms are wall papered, befitting the times, and all the rooms are carpeted except the kitchen’s linoleum. A stairway leads to the second floor.

Upstairs in the sewing and crafts room, an image of Norma Zimmer, who was on the Lawrence Welk show, displays on the television set. And at the very top of the house, an attic window provides a peek at stored treasures.

There is a Christmas tree in the formal living room that used to be put up and down each Christmas season but now Dolores leaves it up year round.

Although both Alvaretta and Donald have passed away, Dolores cherishes the house and the memories it invokes, and whenever her nephew’s families visit, they all clamor to see the house lit with all its Christmas magic and charm, illuminating the love poured into it.

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