Miniature worlds: PB company builds custom dollhouses and other tiny items
by Adriane Tillman
Dec 03, 2009 | 4606 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michael-Sue Nanos, owner of Ms. Peggie’s Place, revels in making highly-detailed miniatures like this dollhouse. Photo by Paul Hansen
Michael-Sue Nanos, owner of Ms. Peggie’s Place, revels in making highly-detailed miniatures like this dollhouse. Photo by Paul Hansen
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Grandma’s kitchen is quintessentially cozy. She’s stained the oak table and Hoosier cabinet an ocean blue and painted dainty flowers across the drawers. Her lace curtains are pulled back to let the sunshine in, and the thick yellow stripes on the walls are cheery. The wooden floor has been brushed clean and the cat is curled in a corner napping. On the cabinet, a thick chocolate cake is cooling.

The only caveat is that the room is not large enough for a person to enter. In fact, the whole room is the size of a shoebox comprising intricately hand-carved furniture that is only inches long and perfectly proportionate to create a tangible reality on a very small scale.

Grandma’s kitchen is one of the many miniature scenes at Ms. Peggie’s Place at 5063 Cass St., a small store that sells dollhouses, shadow boxes and vignettes, as well as a wide variety of hand-carved miniatures, from a jar of canned apricots to an old-fashioned soldier’s truck opened to reveal a folded flag, uniform, love letters home and yellowed newspaper clippings. The hand-carved trunk is a collector’s item at $145 but the store also sells more child-friendly pieces.

“The field has come a long way from the clunky houses where the dolls were too big for the furniture,” said store owner Michael-Sue Nanos. “Now artists pay much more attention to the proportions and it’s become more and more precise.”

Collectors take hours to browse the shop to discover its tiny marvels like the dainty spinet piano fit for a 16th century palace, or the miniscule toasting goblets. Browsers can also find themed designs for a special occasion, like the bridal shower shadow boxes wherein the wedding cake and colors replicate the real bridal shower – or a historical piece that tracks clothes washing through the ages from the washboard to the Maytag electric.

“When I take a picture and it looks real, I know I’ve done a good job,” Nanos said. “When working with miniatures you can almost lose your sense of perception, it looks so real.”

Collector Elissa Gillespie called the miniature world “an escape.” She visits often from Phoenix and just purchased a fireplace for her haunted house in the works.

“It started when I was five-years-old as an environment that I could control,” Gillespie said. “Even now, it still is. It allows you to create things you can’t create in real life.”

The face behind the curtain

Ring the bell if no one is in the store. Michael Sue Nanos and her assistant are in the back gluing pine needles onto tree trunks for a wintry scene. Hobbyists who have become friends flock to her store to perfect their craft and garner advice from Nanos.

Yes, the work is painstakingly time consuming but Nanos enjoys the craft. She calls the back room “the largest lumberyard on the West Coast” because the walls are lined with building materials – diminutive wall paper, flooring, light fixtures, fireplaces, glues and paints. Nanos buys many of the pieces from specialized artists around the world.

Nanos worked for Lee Ward’s craft store on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard for 20 years before taking over Ms. Peggie’s six years ago. She also works a second job making teeth at Perfect Smile.

“I work seven days a week because I love both jobs,” said Nanos, who resides in Lemon Grove.

Children and adult classes

Ms. Peggie’s Place offers a free class to teach children to create miniature scenes on the second Saturday of every month. The lesson costs $5 for materials.

Adults are welcome for a casual work gathering on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m.

Ms. Peggie’s Place is located at 5063 Cass St., open Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5 to 8 p.m.; Fridays, noon to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call the store at (858) 483-2621.
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