Spotlight - Greenleaf Dollhouses

I had been promising you all a surprise for a while now and here it is.

Everyone that has been reading my blog for a while knows that I am a big fan of tab and slot/die cut dollhouses. I believe they offer the richest architectural details and the truest to scale representation of real life houses. They also come in so many styles that it is impossible to not find a kit that suits your taste and needs. Not only do you have many styles to choose from, but tab and slot dollhouses are affordable and come in many price ranges to accommodate any budget.

Greenleaf Dollhouses is the leader of tab and slot dollhouse production and they have recently been introducing innovative new materials and accessories for their dollhouse kits. They are really taking dollhouse kits to the next level so I knew I had to get more information on just what Greenleaf is up to and what has inspired them to bring such much needed excitement to the tab and slot dollhouse world.

Luckily I was able to tear Dean Roberts, owner of Greenleaf Dollhouses, away from his busy schedule, for just a little while, so he can give us a first hand look at all things Greenleaf.

Gina - Greenleaf carries a wide array of dollhouse kit styles, Victorian, farm houses, Tudors, cottages, half scale models and even a lighthouse. Everyone is wondering what inspires all of these beautiful dollhouse designs?

Dean - Well Gina, we're lucky to live in an area of Upstate NY that has a wide variety of real life architecture that is very inspiring. For instance, the Westville Dollhouse is an exact replica of a house in Westville, NY (pictured below). This is the only house that we've copied exactly, but if you took a drive around the country you would see familiar features that we've adopted into our dollhouses. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the talented designers that we've been blessed with over the years. A combination of local designers and our own design staff brought it all together into a wide range of styles and price points that will satisfy even the most demanding miniaturist.

The Real Life Westville

The Westville Dollhouse

Gina - Many beloved Greenleaf dollhouse designs have been out of production for some years but recently we have seen the comeback of many of these beauties. What has inspired Greenleaf to bring back some of their discontinued dollhouse kits and can we expect more of them in the future?

Dean - Many of your readers might not be aware of the fact that for a time, the Greenleaf Dollhouse line was out of my family's control. An opportunity presented itself in 2003 for us to reacquire these dollhouses and we jumped right in. The brand itself had been greatly diminished by the previous owners and we had our work cut out for us. Honestly, I would have loved to re-release all the dollhouses that first year, but it just wasn't possible. We had to focus on the most popular houses first. We are releasing two die cut models this year, the Willowcrest Dollhouse which is already available, and the Country House which will be out this fall. Of course, we have the new laser cut line which now consists of ten products, all which should be released be the end of August. I'm particularly excited about the new Beaumont Dollhouse which will be the flagship of our laser cut houses. The laser cut line will remain our focus for the rest of the year. We have a few Greenleaf Classics on the table, one of which is the Van Buren Dollhouse. Greenleaf also owns the Artply/Radmark designs and there are a few houses in that line we've been considering. Also, let’s not forget the addition of this year’s Spring Fling Contest house, the Loganberry Mill, which is one versatile little house!

Gina - Greenleaf is always thinking of new ways to make dollhouse building easier and more enjoyable for the miniature enthusiast. What different types of materials is Greenleaf currently offering for their dollhouse kits?

Dean - Wood is good! That's been my personal mantra. I've been tempted by MDF, but we're a wooden dollhouse manufacturer! The problem is, there is a mantra in the production department that's quite different. Wood is inconsistent! We go to great lengths to find the best wood possible for our products. Not all plywood can become a Greenleaf Dollhouse. The fact is that when we get a truck load of wood, we sort through every sheet sometimes labeling over half the material as unusable for our dollhouse lines. Luckily, we have other outlets for this material, but we are forever diligent in the search for the perfect plywood. We have been experimenting with birch plywood in our select line of houses and the Half Scale Lighthouse. The birch has been well received, but it's not suited for the rest of the line. We have been experimenting with a product that is more environmentally friendly. It's a 2.7mm material made of recycled paper and corn starch. I tried laser cutting a Buttercup Dollhouse out of it and it doesn't seem ridged enough, but we'll continue testing. So for now, no big news on materials, Gina.

Gina - There is a big buzz right now in the miniature world over laser cut technology and the release of many Greenleaf models as laser cut kits. Can you briefly explain what laser cut technology is?

Dean - It's a pretty straight forward process. There is a table that looks like a honeycomb, but it’s made of steel. We set a piece of plywood on this table and the laser follows instructions to move along an X/Y axis (think north, south, east and west) and shoots out a laser that cuts through the wood.

Gina - Laser cutting has been seen before in some optional architectural add-ons for dollhouses but never in a full one inch scale size kit. What brought about the idea of a laser cut kit?

Dean - It all started when I saw Star Wars III- Revenge of the Sith. That Chancellor Palpatine/Yoda battle at the end inspired me to get a lightsaber off of eBay and that's when it all began. Seriously though Gina, Greenleaf is a company that has always embraced technology. I've been a long time admirer of laser cutting; we've been using it on our dies for over a decade. I've been itching to apply this process to our actual products, but Greenleaf is committed to keeping miniature collecting an affordable hobby and the cost of laser cutting was just too pricey… until now! We've not only added our in house production laser, but we've also revisited our pricing model to keep these products affordable.

The Laser Cut Tennyson Dollhouse

Gina - Considering how unique a laser cut dollhouse kit is, what difference can dollhouse builders expect from a kit featuring this new technology?

Dean - I hate to say it this way, but laser cutting removes all of the unpleasant tasks associated with die cutting. There is a clean cut that requires almost no sanding. By contrast, the die cutting process involves forcing a knife through the wood which stresses the material and sometimes results in crushing. Additionally, prep time is further reduced by an easier stripping process. Let's put it this way Gina; I use to have a Bass Boat that would top out around 65 mile per hour. My pop use to ask me why I need to go so fast when I was supposed to be out relaxing. My answer was I wanted to spend less time going fishing and more time fishing! I wanted to get to my fishing spot fast and get on with the fishing part. He would argue that getting there was half the fun. My point is, some folks enjoy the prep work associated with the die cut houses while others want to get on with the building. If you are part of the latter group, our laser cut houses are just what you need.

Gina - Greenleaf also offers siding, shingles, flooring and other accessories for their dollhouse line. Besides dollhouse kits, will Greenleaf be incorporating laser cut technology in any of their other products?

Dean - We're hoping to improve on some of the products you mentioned. For instance, we've just released our new laser cut shingle strips. They don't just look great, but you'll be able to shingle your dollhouse over twelve time faster! Believe me Gina, when you get around to shingling the Garfield Dollhouse, you'll want this product. I would like to come out with some new flooring products as well, but what I'm really looking forward to are dollhouse additions! We've been working on a bunch of add-on rooms that are custom made for specific dollhouses (picture of the Tennyson addition below). Another product we've been kicking around is dollhouse trim. I've been playing around with this and I'm not sure if we should just offer these products bulk or have upgrade kits for specific houses. Either way, to keep the prices down, the additions and trims will be a retail only product sold exclusively through the Greenleaf Company Store.

Laser Cut Tennyson Dollhouse Addition

Gina - So many wonderful products have been recently released by Greenleaf that everyone is wondering what’s next. What else does Greenleaf have in store for the miniature community in the future?

Dean - We have a ton of projects on the back burner. One of the advantages of laser cutting is the initial investment in new products is much less than die cutting (no tooling cost). So, this lower risk factor will allow us to test the water with some cool ideas we've been sitting on. For instance, Castle Greenleaf (pictured below) has been sitting in the die shop for years. We advanced through the prototype phase, but the initial response from our focus group led us to believe that even though it's half scale, it just isn't a product for our customers. I happen to love it, so now we can push forward knowing that if I'm wrong, it won't destroy our new product budget. Another example is the Greenleaf Express (pictured below). Someone mentioned a train on our blog and before I knew it, there was a half inch prototype sitting in the die shop. I was worried that we might already have too many transportation themed miniatures, so we put it on the shelf. As you can see, we've already started moving forward on a laser cut version. As far as more conventional miniatures, don't be surprised to see more of the new laser cut models in half inch scale. I've also sampled some of our furniture kits in half inch scale, but that would be way down the road.

Castle Greenleaf

Greenleaf Express

Gina - Is there anything else that you'd like to mention, Dean?

Dean - Just a heartfelt thanks to you for the exposure you give Greenleaf on your blog. Many people forget that all though Greenleaf is a giant in the miniature industry, we are still just a small business. We are always grateful for this kind of coverage. I believe that the Internet is a miniaturist best friend. Between blogs like you and online communities like Greenleaf's, miniature collecting is no longer restricted by distance. We can share ideas with someone halfway around the world almost as easy as we can with someone who lives down the street. Still, we should always support our local miniature shops whenever possible and remember to always ask if they carry Greenleaf Dollhouses.

So there you have it folks. Greenleaf Dollhouses is really on top of their game when it comes to releasing new products and new ways to build dollhouse kits.

Many thanks to Dean for being so kind in taking the time to participate in this feature.

Don't forget to check out all of Greenleaf's available and future laser cut dollhouse releases here.

Greenleaf Dollhouses not only offers great products but this company is made up of some of the friendliest and most helpful folks you’ll ever meet. Just drop by their dollhouse forum and you will see what I mean.

And I know that you are all anxious to see me try out one of these laser cut beauties for myself and I am! I will be starting the assembly blog of the laser cut Rosedale Dollhouse in the upcoming weeks.