Upon close inspection, it resembles a house like any other.
A grand house too — a three-story dream house with a sprawling spiral staircase, eight rooms and tasteful furnishings. Evidence throughout the house tells a story of an owner who is a passionate musician, a bookworm or an artist, or perhaps of a talented family that utilizes the music room, the art room or the well-stocked kitchen.
But take a step back, and the illusion is broken. This mansion is only three feet high, despite its detailed, lifelike rooms crafted with the smallest of features that only an dedicated builder with a obsession for details would think to include.
The artist and creator of this miniature dollhouse is Emmalyn ‘lyn’ DeShong. She crafted it as a labor of love over many years.
Now that she’s passed away, her close friend Shirley Viall is looking for a good home for the tiny house. Viall has undertaken the enormous task of sorting her friend’s possessions and cleaning DeShong’s house, and so far the trickiest question is what to do with the dollhouse DeShong had been working on since 2001.
“People who’ve seen it know it’s really not a toy,” Viall said. “It’s a work of art.”
That’s why she wants it to go to a place where it can be admired, viewed, preserved but not touched.
Selling it doesn’t feel right, so Viall said she wants to donate it to a place such as a seniors’ home, library, children’s hospital or museum.
Ideally, the house will stay on Whidbey Island, Viall said.
Along with the challenge of preserving DeShong’s work, Viall has had to deal with the loss of her good friend.
DeShong’s friends describe her as faithful, passionate, strong, artistic, humorous and unique in every sense of the word. DeShong loved her son, her cats, her church and her friends, they say.
DeShong’s self-reliant nature and knack for building meant that in her own home one is always within arm’s reach of something she built or designed. She constructed the floor tiles, sewed clothes, crafted pillows, created stained-glass windows and framed her own artwork. DeShong even drew and designed the blueprints for her life-sized house, being sure to add ramps and walks all along her walls for her cats to roam wherever they pleased.
Friends who witnessed DeShong weather many of life’s challenges and tragedies became close to her, including Joan Bowers, who knew her for over 35 years.
Bowers said she introduced DeShong to the hobby over 20 years ago. It became a partnership and way to pass time.
Bowers used to bring visitors by DeShong’s place to see her dollhouse, telling them they’ve got to see it.
“She said, ‘I never thought anyone would want to see it or anything,’” Bowers said. “I said, ‘Honey, they’d love to’.”
- Organizations interested in preserving the dollhouse for public viewing can mail “Dollhouse: C/O S. Viall –P.O. Box 1216, Coupeville, 98239.” The dollhouse is not for sale.