Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg
Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

This Dollhouse Costs $8.5 Million. Let’s Take a Tour

This extravagant home has a weaponry room, a dovecote, a wizard’s tower, and an appraised value of more than $2,000 per square inch—all good hints that it’s not a traditional abode but a 9-foot-tall miniature called the Astolat Dollhouse Castle. Built by the artist Elaine Diehl around 1980 and decorated with 10,000 teeny-tiny items, the $8.5 million dollhouse is the world's most expensive and will be on display from Thursday through Dec. 8 at the Shops at Columbus Circle, in Manhattan’s Time Warner Center.
Welcome to Astolat Castle
Welcome to Astolat Castle

It took 13 years for Diehl, a celebrated miniature artist, to build the dollhouse, which has an appraised worth of $8.5 million. That works out to about $288,000 per square foot—a number that could make the luxurious apartments at the Time Warner Center, which can run about $5,000 per square foot, feel like servants' quarters.

 

 

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Literary Beginnings
Literary Beginnings

The dollhouse takes its name after the castle in The Lady of Shallot, a 19th-century ballad by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

The Grand Entrance
The Grand Entrance

Is that a fountain we spy out front? Why yes, it is. And some amazing topiary flanking the front door, which leads into a grand entrance hall.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

All the Trappings
All the Trappings

Suits of armor abound, which is a neat feature and the secret to the castle's overall worth. The dollhouse's lofty appraisal is based on its valuation as a work of art and on the price tags associated with the thousands of tiny objects collected therein. A silver flatware set, for instance, is said to be worth $5,000.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Luxurious Finishes
Luxurious Finishes

Here, with the hinges open, you can see the detail involved. As with any stately home, there are finishes like real parquet floors, marble bathrooms, and gilt trim—giving the sense that the castle was inhabited by a Victorian dame married to a medieval warlord.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

The Salon
The Salon

Some of the finer touches include hand-stitched tapestries, vases in real lapis lazuli, and replica 18th-century oil paintings—such as the postage-size reproduction of Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie, displayed on the wall of the salon shown here. Come have a cocktail and sit for a spell.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

The Library
The Library

The library contains tiny books with tiny letters that can be read under a magnifying glass. The book collection includes a bible considered one of the world’s smallest. A drop-leaf secretary bookshelf is valued at up to $2,500; a miniature Hebrew Torah was worth up to $2,500 at the time of purchase.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Why Not?
Why Not?

Sure. A miniature rock collection.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Moving Day
Moving Day

The castle was shipped to the Time Warner Center in 66 boxes and took more than 20 hours to assemble. It stands 9 feet tall and weighs more than 800 pounds. Because it spent its life indoors, the copper roofs haven’t developed a green patina. 

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

The World's Smallest Hunter
The World's Smallest Hunter

Tiny taxidermy. That is all.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Care For a Tipple?
Care For a Tipple?

The bottles in the castle’s bar contain real liquor. We spy Jameson, Bailey's, and Gordon's Gin, not to mention some wine of an undisclosed vintage. Anybody for a drop? 

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

A Visual Feast
A Visual Feast

The food, on the other hand, is probably made of polymer resin, said curator Dorothy Twining Globus—recalling Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice, about two rodents who trash a dollhouse after discovering that the food on the dining room table is made of plaster. 

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Functional, Practical
Functional, Practical

The dumbwaiter is said to be in working order.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

(Not) Child’s Play
(Not) Child’s Play

The first dollhouses date back to the 17th century, according to Twining Globus, when they were seen not as child’s toys but displays of fine craftsmanship acquired by wealthy families in Holland, Germany, and England.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Hallway
Hallway

Dollhouses were mass produced beginning in the 19th century, said Twining Globus, and soon became a children’s staple. Today, Toys R Us sells dollhouses for as little as $29.99 and as much as $329.99.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Fortune Before Fame
Fortune Before Fame

The world’s most famous dollhouse was built in 1924 for Queen Mary by the architect Edwin Lutyens and has been displayed at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England. Although with "The World's Most Expensive" title, Astolat Castle is nipping at its heels. 

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

A Decorator’s Dream
A Decorator’s Dream

The owners of Astolat Castle have a collection of 30,000 items that can rotate through the house on an ongoing basis.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

In the Bedroom
In the Bedroom

“Most dollhouses are never finished,” Twining Globus said.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Toiletries
Toiletries

The bathroom is stocked with a hand towel and actual, usable toilet paper (for a very tiny bum).

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Child's Room
Child's Room

The view through a window into a child’s room …

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Playtime
Playtime

… containing rocking horse and fairy princess.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

The Opium Den
The Opium Den

Thanks to the chinoiserie wall hanging and plush low-slung bed, this room is known as the Opium Den.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

The Armory
The Armory

A weaponry room, for fighting minor wars.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Castle for a Cause
Castle for a Cause

After the current exhibition ends, the owners hope to tour the dollhouse to other locations to raise money for children’s charities.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

The Dovecote
The Dovecote

Here, a shelter for domesticated pigeons.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

Meet the Wizard
Meet the Wizard

The lone doll occupying Astolat is a wizard perched in a castle spire—Merlin, we presume.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

To Scale
To Scale

Curator Dorothy Twining Globus standing next to the 9-foot-tall castle, which has an exterior wall opened on its hinges.

Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg