Midcentury-miniature design for Barbie, from Maryann Roy


WE FIRST MET MARYANN ROY when we interviewed Pat Henry, publisher of Fashion Doll Quarterly magazine, in honor of Barbie’s 50th birthday. I so loved contributor Maryann Roy’s miniature retro interiors that I asked her for an interview, too. Read on…for details on what it’s like to create mid mod looks for Barbie’s dream house… and 8 photos in all, with plenty of ideas to consider for our own, fullsized homes.

midcentury furniture for barbie

Midcentury furniture for Barbie — Maryann, how did you get into that?!

Quite simply, I was contributing articles and photos about vintage dolls for Fashion Doll Quarterly Magazine. If you’ve ever had a chance to glimpse this glorious periodical, you know that the photos alone are stunning and the writing, superior! Having the opportunity to contribute was an honor, but when I looked at everyone else’s contributions, I felt that mine were not up to snuff (so to speak). I wanted my photos to have as much punch and interest as everyone else’s. I wanted – dimension! I started to add props in the photos, and then when the occassion warrented, I looked for furnishings to include in the sessions, giving the pictures and the subjects more life. When I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I decided to just make the pieces and props I needed. – Oh, I know…that sounds quite simple! But, it did take practice and since I was only making one or two things for myself, I was only trying to make them look good in photos.  A few of my friends took an interest and then I decided to try making a few more pieces, and then pretty soon, suites of furniture and well, it kind of took off from there! “Welcome Home” (Neo-retro furnishings for fashion dolls) was born!

midcentury furniture for barbie

I hope you don’t mind my saying, but it gives me a headache to look at all that teeny tiny detail within your interiors and imagine trying to do it. Tell us about the process of creation and how you manage to do such beautiful work – in miniature. It must be ‘some therapy’.

LOL! I will tell you, that designing and creating in miniature is definately therapy for me! I have ALWAYS had a fascination with anything miniature. The designing of furniture came totally out of the blue. I did not even realize what a passion I had for it until I started building. Then I found I couldn’t get enough! I started reading and purchasing all kinds of books and magazines that had to do with mid century modern design. It was a completely eye opening experience to have a new found love. And, of all things – furniture design!

In miniature, I actually find that less is more. What I mean by that is, you don’t need three vases in a room setting or 8 magazines on a table. A few carefully chosen accent pieces is what truly makes the room seem more like reality.  If you enjoy what you do, it’s a labor of love, not just labor. 🙂

midcentury furniture for barbie

Where do you get your inspiration for your interiors? Do you have any “design gods or goddesses”?

This question may depend on the day you ask it! I find inspiration in alot of ways. Sometimes I will actually “see” a room in my head that I want to create. Other times, I may come across a certain kind of material while I’m supposed to be shopping for a current project and think: “I’ve GOT to make something with that!” Some days it’s a look in a magazine or trying to recreate pieces that other designers have made years ago even.  I read a fabulous book on William Haines (actor, turned interior designer for the stars in 1940’s through the 1960’s). The book was called Class Act. It’s a wonderful coffee table book filled with inspirational stories about his life and how he became an interior decorator. It also has fabulous photos and some of his actual drawings of furniture that he designed. LOVE that book! Pat Henry, Editor of Fashion Doll Quarterly,generously let me write an article on William Haines and recreate some of his furnishings in miniature. “The Glamour of William Haines” was featured in the FDQ summer of ’08 issue. I am also of the belief that – Everything old is new again. And so, since I am taken with MCM, I guess I just decided to start from there.

midcentury furniture for barbie

Can you tell us about your own home and your personal aesthetic.

My home is quite traditional. Comfortable and not stuffy, but casually nice (is that a style?) 🙂 Right now we are in the planning stages of a new kitchen addition. I am trying to convince Hubby that we really should go Retro with it. He’s not too keen on the idea yet, but I have ideas that will help him realize it doesn’t have to be a total throw back. You can incorporate retro with traditional – it’s called “transitional”! Ssshh, let’s not tell him. 🙂

I kind of think of myself as having a split personality when it comes to design. My house is traditional yes, but if I had another, say, waterfront home, I’d love to design the entire thing in MODERN furnishings! Fabulous bright colors, wild looking lamps, sleek sofas and curved chairs – a motif wall here, a room divider there – delightful!

midcentury furniture for barbie

You also restore Barbie dolls – can you tell us about that?

I began restoring vintage dolls,about 13 years ago. I was looking for a way to work from home so that I could be there to raise our two children. I worked in the corporate world before then.

I was always artistic, and did do free lance work, but that never put enough food on the table.  When I came across my old barbie dolls, which of course were played with by 3 girls in the family, they were less than perfect. I thought I could at least clean them up and do a little restoration to make them look the way I remembered them as a child.  Since this came easily to me, I chose to offer my services to other collectors. It took a bit of practice, even for an artistic person like myself. But, once I gained experience and word of mouth travelled, I became quite well known in the doll world as a professional doll restorer.

midcentury furniture for barbie

Finally, tell us about your customers. Are people who collect Barbie also likely to collect or be interested in midcentury interiors – circa 1959, as when Barbie was born?

I will tell you that my furniture customers may have noticed me because I work with dolls and that’s what they happen to collect. But, they are an entire audience of people who love and enjoy many different things. I’ve found that most who enjoy furniture to go along with their dolls have a connection in some way to the mid-century modern style. Either their homes were this way as they grew up, or a realitve’s home. I do actually know of several who have their own homes decorated in some sort of retro style.  If any are like me, they might not be able to have THEIR homes look MCM, but, at least their dolls can live that way – for now. 🙂  It’s a nostalgic connection when you think about it. Dolls from their childhood and furniture that they remember. A way to go back and enjoy, at any time.

barbie dream house accessories

Is there anything else that you’d like to share that would interest and fascinate RetroRenovation.com and SaveThePinkBathrooms.com readers?

I was recently asked by Integrity Toys/Jason Wu, famed Fashion Designer and creator of Michelle Obama’s Presidential Inagural Ball Gown and makers of the Fashion Royalty Dolls, to create several room settings, backgrounds and furnishings for their 2009 Doll Line.  You can see the results on my website at: www.maryannroy.com. Like RetroRenovation.com that caters to life size retro decor, Jason Wu also caters to people for fashion! And now, “Welcome Home” has crossed the barriors to the REAL world as well.  It really IS a small world after all! 🙂

Thanks so much, Maryann, for sharing your time and designs with us!

See Maryann’s website at: MaryannRoy.com

Categoriesmeeting readers
  1. Maryann Roy says:

    Good Morning Pam!
    Thank you so much for the chance to share my work on your site!
    RetroRenovation.com is a very insipirational place for me. I hope your followers will enjoy the interview and feel free to ask questions.
    Much appreciation!
    Maryann Roy 🙂

  2. sumacsue says:

    I always enjoy reading about people who do something they love and it evolves into a multi-faceted career. While my love of Barbie isn’t this in-depth, I love it that someone else has taken it to this level. The stagings shown here are delightful and intriguing. What is best is, Ms. Roy sounds like a very warm, humorous, and talented person. Congratulations on your success!

  3. RetroRuth says:

    Fantastic work, Maryann! Growing up, my sister and I used to make food, artwork, quilts and furniture for our dollhouses, and I know how challenging working in miniature can be. I am fascinated and impressed with the “perfectness” of all your room scenes. I remember our stuff was never even close to perfect, we just arranged it so you didn’t notice the “mistakes”. 🙂

  4. Anita says:

    I want a full size pink chaise and the blue Draper-esq dresser/buffet! Gorgeous work. Thanks.

  5. Pat says:

    Thanks Maryann and Pam, for the wonderful article! Maryann is so incredibly talented, and has been a fabulous asset to our magazine. Her attention to detail is incredible, and she has outdone herself again for our upcoming Fall issue, in which she recreates some famous TV Land homes. Didn’t everyone want to live in Samantha Stevens’ house? I know I did!

  6. pam kueber says:

    Oh my, Pat — we LOVE LOVE LOVE Samantha Stevens’ house here! Was Maryann able to fabricate a miniature Frigidaire Flair for the kitchen? Be sure to let me know when the issue is out and if you are game, we’ll post a photo and send subscribers your way!

  7. pam kueber says:

    Oh, and I have a little challenge to regular readers. Does anyone recognize the colorful diamond-wall in the very first photo? Show your knowledge!

  8. Marl says:

    I have known Maryann for many years and she has always inspired me! Her new line of furniture for 12 inch dolls is both stunning and creative. She is very talented individual with spirit, commitment and dermination. I know how difficult it must of been to accomplish this successful mission. Many good wishes to her!

  9. mer says:

    I’m game! The diamond wall in the first photo is from the Wilson house (of WilsonArt Laminates) in Round Rock, Texas (just North of Austin). I’ve always wanted to make a pilgrimage there…

  10. Anita says:

    If I could just sprinkle some water on these miniatures and furnish my bedroom! I’ve been on the hunt for stuff to redecorate my MBR in exactly this style. Anyone have any ideas on what to do with a flat panel TV in a MBR that is decorated like this?

  11. PugFreek says:

    Quote:I hope you don’t mind my saying, but it gives me a headache to look at all that teeny tiny detail within your interiors and imagine trying to do it. Tell us about the process of creation and how you manage to do such beautiful work – in miniature. It must be ’some therapy’.: well, I take photos of minature scenes with those little yellow easter chickens and it is relaxing

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