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Smallsea: an Edwardian Town in Miniature

In Carmel, California there resides a miniature town called Smallsea that represents what an Edwardian English seaport would have looked like in the 1900’s. The brainchild of Diane and Howard Birnberg the dollhouse town includes the basics of any town such as a church, shopping areas, a river, an old Mill, a brewery, town hall, bakery, and a farm. The tiny metropolis also includes
more than 1,500 dollhouse dolls, miniature horses, carriages, and examples of early cars and buses. A variety of miniaturists, artists and dollhouse vendors have contributed to this work of love. Located in the Barnyard Shopping Center in Carmel, the miniature collection can be seen Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5:00 PM or by appointment.

The display has drawn notice from around the world and has been written about by such publications as Dollhouse and Miniature Scene Magazine, American Miniaturist, Dollhouse Miniatures, Dollhouse Magazine (UK),
 Miniature Collector Magazine, Carmel Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Monterey County Herald.

Smallsea came about after one of the creators Diane Birnberg fell in love with miniatures on a visit to a dollhouse shop in London called the Singing Tree. Diane was in London for a business trip connected with her money management business in Chicago. During the visit to the dollhouse shop, Diane spent time talking to the owner of the shop about the world of miniatures and dollhouses and a new passion was born. She particularly became enchanted with an English Georgian dollhouse. After returning home she told her husband, Howard,

about her new enthusiasm and he promptly bought her the Georgian dollhouse for Christmas. The Georgian dollhouse became the inspiration for Smallsea. Nine new dollhouse buildings soon followed all created by Carol Olsen and Leon Pitt of Think Small in Chicago. Soon after, Diane who has a degree in art history and her husband, Howard who is an architect decided to try making the dollhouse buildings themselves. They started with renovating old miniature buildings and dollhouses then moved on to making them by hand from the start. Their first unique miniature is the Explorers’ Gentlemen’s Club which remains part of the Smallsea collection. In addition to creating the miniature town, the couple also created a story to add to the romance of the collection, about the inhabitants known as the Twelfths whose existence was discovered by nine year old Lady Anna Truloe Lamson in 1905.

After retiring from the financial world in 2008, Diane and Howard relocated to Carmel, California and they continued with their avocation for miniatures which now has 36 buildings. All of the miniature buildings are based on what real shops, homes and buildings would have looked like in the London area in the years from 1900 to 1905. The full collection contains newly constructed miniatures and a few antique dollhouses and buildings the couple picked up at auctions in England. Future buildings are expected to include a rectory, restaurant, department store and a schoolhouse. A virtual visit can be made to the town of Smallsea at At the website one can also read about the history of the imaginary miniature inhabitants of the town, the Twelfths who according to the website have lived in different areas of the earth since the beginning of time before coming to Smallsea.

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