How a Dutch dollhouse mania explains U.S. housing bubble - MICHELLE CHIHARA ->
At the same time, the Dutch were conflicted about showing off. These same families hung "vanitas" paintings on their walls — expensive oil paintings of gold treasure next to skulls. The bones reminded them how sinful and dangerous luxury could be. The dollhouses were like little stage plays to reassure a deeply Protestant society that all this investment in home — financial and emotional — was morally upright.
Displaying your mini-silver was a way of demonstrating your embrace of everything the home was coming to represent: family, community, nation.
The house, then as now, was one of the family's greatest assets. The after-dinner dollhouse show reassured the Dutch that their homes could, and should, absorb all that capital. Like the cabinets of wonder, the dollhouses brought order and sense to a wild new world of abundance.
They were also investments in themselves. They were commissioned and sold at auction, in the same way as oil paintings and other luxury crafts. Collectors tracked their worth as investments in account books. They were listed as assets in dowries. One collector charged admission to visitors. A dollhouse owned by an Amsterdam merchant's wife named Petronella Oortman, which is displayed at the Rijksmuseum, was worth almost the price of an actual canal house.
It's hard to imagine 20th-century Americans putting up skull pictures to remind themselves not to get too rich. But just like the Dutch, we started to feel anxious about how much we had invested in the wild new housing market well before it crashed. Prices in some metropolitan markets, such as Los Angeles and Miami, increased 60 percent or more from 2001 to 2006.We expressed our anxiety in after-dinner rituals involving a different kind of standing cabinet.
During the housing madness, tens of millions of Americans watched a sentimental reality show called "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Each episode featured a deserving family that was down on its luck — facing illness, disaster or other hardship. An army of friendly neighbors and local businesses would come to their aid by building a lavish, all-American vision of home. The show's peak popularity coincided almost exactly with the peak of the real-estate bubble.As housing prices ticked up beyond rational levels, "Extreme Makeover" reminded us how much home was worth emotionally. When the helpers finished, we got a tour of the house on our little screens: its seven perfectly appointed bedrooms, its granite counters, its private motocross track or carousel or spaceship room
. We wanted those hardworking, innocent, injured people to have that beautiful house. We wanted it so badly. Every week, we reassured ourselves: Home is priceless! These people deserve those mansions!there is more
The article struck a thought that Izzie and Duncan Stewart were the people doing up the 'dollhouse'