With the rise of lifestyle bloggers and sites like Dezeen and Apartment Therapy, interior design and architecture are increasingly popular obsessions — and the tiny house movement draws a huge number of its devotees. One Shapeways community designer has taken that obsession to a decidedly awesome place: hyperrealistic miniature homes that would be catnip for Dwell readers. Marion Russek is the mastermind behind Modern Dollhouse. The talented model maker leaves no detail unnoticed in her modernist miniatures. We recently caught up with Marion to chat about her process, and how the connections she’s made on Shapeways have helped her bring her vision of TRULY tiny modern houses to life.
How long have you been working with models?
About five years. I couldn’t find modern miniature furniture in 1:12 scale on the market, so then I started producing them for my own needs. The logical next step was to offer the designs I worked on in a Shapeways shop to other modern mini enthusiasts as well. That is how my Modern Dollhouse shop came about.
How did you learn to make 3D models?
Ha, that is something I still haven’t tried yet! I’ve taken classes, but I decided find help for this part. My strengths and interests lie in building these doll houses manually. So I find full-size files from sites like TurboSquid, Design Connected, and others. I then have them reduced to 1:12 scale by a designer I was connected with here on Shapeways — Vijay Paul of Dotsan. I do have a local friend that I work with sometimes, but Vijay always gets it done right and we’ve developed a great rapport over the years, so we’re usually on the same page, and his pricing works perfectly for me. Even if we’re not, we always get it sorted after a couple of emails. However, I do look forward to the day that we can talk in person.
Which project are you the most proud of and why?
Probably the antler chandelier. There was a lot of detail in that piece, and it took quite a few talks with my designer to get this just right. But I’m really happy with how that one turned out. Another tricky one was getting the the corner pieces for the shipping containers to fit together just right. [Check out Marion’s Instagram slideshow of the incredible completed shipping container home, above. -Ed.]
Your models are incredibly lifelike. They look like they’ve been ripped out of an interior designer’s portfolio. Do you have experience in the professional architecture/interior design space?
Architecture and interior design are things that have always interested me. I’ve never done anything professionally, but I have renovated a few houses and apartments in my time. Through those experiences I developed my own style, which is pretty lean and uncluttered. But I have to admit… even I had a Laura Ashley phase at one point in my life!
Do you feel you’ve kind of become an interior designer by proxy?
If you ask my friends they’ll tell you that they rely on my advice and the designs I do in my spare time. When working on a new design, I use Live Interior 3D Pro for both full-size and miniature houses.
Where do you find your inspiration for your models?
Together with some friends, I do architectural trips all over Europe, and they’re totally inspiring! I still have plans for some Bauhaus and Corbusier models. Honestly, the list never gets smaller. Eventually I will have a storage issue, though…
Take us through your process. How do you decide what to make?
Let’s say I want a specific chair for a setting: I track down a 3D file somewhere, send it to the designer, and give him the size specs. He then reduces to spec and from there, we see whether they’re fit for printing in the Shapeways material I want. Then I order a prototype to make sure that the scale is perfect. If not, we adjust and reprint until it’s just right. I then polish and paint it, take photos and then offer it for sale to others in my shop.
And after all the time you spend to get your product just right, how does it feel to finally hold that finished piece in your hand?
I am always totally excited when the parcel arrives from the Netherlands! Is the size right? Do I have to do a lot of polishing? Did nothing break?
How has 3D printing changed how you operate?
3D printing gives me the possibility of designing an interior exactly how I visualize it. In those rare cases that I can’t find a design, then I have to find alternatives. However, I’ve found that most companies are really helpful. For instance, I wanted a washing basket and contacted Rotho, a company that produces them in full size. In a flash, they sent me a file for a model they’re not producing any longer — just like that!
How has Shapeways helped you do business?
Running my shop has always been easy and uncomplicated. The first time Shapeways did a little feature on me really made an impact. However, most of my customers see my work via my other social media sites or my blog. Most mini builders work in Victorian or similar styles, so I like offering the things I like to use personally.
What would you say is the best thing about Shapeways community?
Exchanging ideas, suggest improvements, even voicing disappointment! I personally would love to see Shapeways somehow help us deal with shipping logistics to Australia: trying to get a couple of my files printed and sent there was prohibitively expensive.
What do you strive to bring to the scale modeling space? When do you feel you’re accomplishing that goal?
The most important thing is true scale. My quality standards are pretty high — if it is not good enough for me, I would never offer it to others. My aim is that my models look like the real thing and you only notice that it is a model house when you really analyze tiny details.
Finally, what does the future hold for you? What plans do you have moving forward for your model-making?
More house models! Different contemporary styles requiring different kind of interiors.
You can find Marion’s storefront here, and don’t forget to check out her website for her adventures around Europe. She’s also got a Pinterest, an Instagram, and a Facebook, all centered around making and showcasing amazing 1:12 miniatures.
All Photos courtesy of Marion Russek.