Welcome to the doll house

This fantasy world in Ra'anana is every child's dream.

dollhousereal88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
"I have no limits," admits Etty, the vivacious owner of this villa in Ra'anana. Not quite knowing what awaits you beyond the front door, the first reaction is that you have somehow strayed into a museum of childhood. It's a fantasy world, dominated by dolls of every size and shape. But on closer examination, dolls are only a part of it. On the coffee table I notice a half-finished cup of tea and a cookie on a plate. I apologize to Etty for interrupting her and arriving for our interview in the middle of her tea break, and then wonder why she bursts out laughing. On closer inspection, I see that the tea-cup, tea and cookie are all made of plastic. If anything gets in the way, Etty has a simple solution - she just moves it to the side. So when I get out my notebook and sit down, the clown is unceremoniously removed from his seat and dumped somewhere else. For formal dinners on Shabbat and other days, the dolls which appear to have taken over the dining area are similarly removed from their perches - but put back as soon as dinner is over. Just occasionally Etty's husband and two grown children have been known to complain as more and more plaster cast figures and curious objects take over their living space. They have been known to wonder if their wife and mother suffered from doll-deprivation as a small girl. "We live here too," they have had to tell her on more than one occasion. Etty began collecting more than 20 years ago, when she and her husband lived in a small apartment and began to build up their business. "We bought the house 12 years ago and I thought it wouldn't look so crowded and overdone if I moved everything into a larger space. But of course I've added loads of things since then and I can't seem to stop," she says. The small front garden gives some clue to the house interior. Garden gnomes line the paths as they do in many other gardens. But with Etty, the gnomes are only the beginning. She also has full-sized animals, a gurgling gargoyle, a traffic light found in a Jaffa flea market and an old granny figure with a mop to welcome you into her home. Once through the front door, having run the gamut of dozens of weird and wonderful objects on the way, one notices that all the dolls and curiosities she has accumulated are displayed on English antique furniture, including late Victorian sideboards and Edwardian hall stands. I counted eight altogether, and was not surprised to discover that Etty frequents the flea-market on a regular basis and is known by all the dealers there. Dividing the open kitchen from the rest of the room is a small, ceramic tile-topped table groaning with more dolls and miniatures, plastic fruit and a toy bicycle. Suitably kitchen-like mannequins have been stationed there, a baker boy holding hallot and a chef with a huge iced cake. There doesn't appear to be a square centimeter of marble-topped counter left available for food preparation, but Etty cheerfully assures me that it is a working kitchen from which she manages to cook and feed her family. Dolls sit on the counters and look down from the window sill. A crate of eggs (plastic) takes up half the gas hob. "If I need to cook I just move things aside," says Etty. The magnet collection on the refrigerator is also just the beginning. More magnets decorate the metal sides of the glass-walled conservatory off the kitchen, which is furnished with an English oak table and chairs with barley-sugar legs. Etty is a great admirer of all things English, and she was thrilled to discover that the "businessman" sitting on her patio next to Marilyn Monroe might actually be Winston Churchill. Informal meals are taken in the small television room off the lounge, where every chair is a different pattern - "I don't like sets," says Etty. There, a radio in the shape of a petrol pump overlooks the scene. Two elegant dolls, a man and a woman, stand at the foot of the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. The master bedroom has a rich red fitted carpet, white lace over the bed and dark wood furniture. Out in the garden many more figures stand around, frozen in time. Bougainvillea grows rampant over the sun shade. "In this house you can never be lonely," says Etty. "You can feel the soul here."