Honey, I shrunk the house
PUBLISHED: 13:51 07 January 2021 | UPDATED: 14:52 11 January 2021
Macclesfield resident Lianne Kilroy has taken her love of interiors to a whole new level – a micro level, with her dolls’ house that downsizes her own home
Little things mean a lot to Lianne Kilroy. She loves detail and she loves difference and both those things are reflected in her own home and the miniatures she creates through her business, Big House, Mini House. She moved into her current home in Macclesfield two years ago, with her husband Daniel and son Jenson and has since been joined by son number two, Nico.
Lianne grew up not so far away, in Cheadle, before relocating to London where she worked as an art director on magazine shoots and television commercials. Knowing that starting a family was high on the agenda, and with both being able to work as freelancers (Daniel is a freelance television producer who can work from anywhere) the couple moved north to be near Lianne’s family for when the time came.
‘We initially bought a smaller home,’ she says, ‘but when Jenson arrived knew we’d need more room and a bigger garden, so moved here. The house itself was largely fine, it just needed a decorative update, but the kitchen was a difficult L-shape and the back garden a six-foot vertical drop from the patio, which had very steep steps in the centre. We created a square kitchen with bifold doors to the patio and added high rise beds to the rear of the patio, which act as a barrier to stop the boys just walking straight off. I was still really worried about the steps though, so the builder suggested we put in a slide – and we did. The boys use that to get into the garden and love it. After we had tackled those challenges, it was then just a matter of redecorating.’
Lianne’s style is eclectic, there is no consistent theme through the house, though you could say, as every room is a delight, that perhaps her quirky style is her consistency. I am thrilled by choices made in every room, but most immediately drawn to the dolls’ house in her bedroom, in which almost every room is a micro reproduction of the house in which we are standing. I have to ask – isn’t a dolls’ house a little... odd for a grown woman to have in her bedroom? Lianne laughs. ‘I didn’t have a dolls’ house as a child but I saw one when visiting friends and was fascinated. It was the start of an infatuation. When I lived in London I was in a very dull, beige, rented flat. I wasn’t even allowed to hang a picture. I adore interior design; even as a child I had very definite ideas on the décor of my bedroom, so I bought myself a dolls’ house and released all my design inspirations in that. It became a very colourful fantasy home, in miniature.
‘When we moved here I was gifted this dolls’ house by my father-in-law, who had inherited it and wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t do anything with it myself for a while, but when we moved in here, it became a way of working out the designs for each of the rooms in this house.
‘Some rooms I tried in miniature first and some rooms I knew what I wanted to do, and then replicated these in miniature later. I can be quite impulsive, so using the dolls’ house is a way to ‘live’ with a room scheme for long enough to know I like it. Daniel is quite minimalist by nature, which is a design style not reflected in our home. He’s very patient but I can only push him so far. The dolls’ house has prevented occasions of marital discord, without a doubt. He definitely drew the line at a bathroom design I came up with, with gold swan taps...’
As each room is so different, I wonder where she finds her inspiration.
‘Each room is a blank page,’ she says. ‘I then usually start with a key piece and build around that. In the playroom it was the Slim Aarons photo, Poolside Glamour, across Hampton stripes on the wall, then I pulled colours from that. I don’t like things too matchy-matchy but like to combine colours that work together.’
Lianne’s ability to recreate rooms from her own home has led to a burgeoning business, the creation of one-off pieces or ‘rooms in a box’ for people who have found her work on Instagram, @bighouseminihouse, and commissioned their own.
‘I started posting my creations on my Instagram feed, @BigHouseMiniHouse ‘ she says, ‘and started getting a lot of questions about what I was doing and this triggered the idea of shrinking entire rooms – the room in a box concept, one of which I have on my bathroom wall. I get lots of interiors influencers asking me to make pieces for their own dolls’ houses, or recreate a favourite room from their homes. The room in a box is like a piece of art, framed and ready to hang. I get requests to recreate gallery walls in the box, which is then placed in the gallery wall, and many from mums who want to save their child’s first bedroom, as you put such effort into that and they don’t last very long, changing as fast as the child grows.
‘A lot of pieces I am able to buy and remodel, paint or adapt, altering them to reflect what I want. Soft furnishings I make from scratch. I have the pattern digitally miniaturised onto fabric – cotton for cushions, wall-hangings and headboards, velvet for rugs. I can have artwork shrunk and then use matchsticks or toothpicks to create the frames.
‘When I am miniaturising something quite iconic, I always reach out to the manufacturer to ask permission – such as the House of Hackney Palmeral palm leaf cushions on my sofa, for example. They loved the idea, as did Smeg, who happily gave permission for me to create a mini version of one of their iconic fridges for a commission.’
When we meet, Lianne is just completing a bedroom set for one client and a hot pink cocktail bar for another, both of which will be delivered very carefully wrapped and boxed. She has a list of pending commissions too, enough to take her through the winter. But what next for her own home?
‘My home is constantly evolving. Next I shall be doing our main bathroom, which will reflect the one in my dolls’ house... possibly. The level of commissions is increasing though so I have less time to make changes in my own house. Working on my dolls’ house or making commissions really helps satisfy my need to be creative, it calms the ‘itch’. When I saw the Smeg Lemons fridge I really, really wanted one, but by the time I had made it the need was gone and I moved on.’
Much to Daniel’s relief, I would venture to say. Discover Leanne’s tiny masterpieces on Etsy.