The Sahlberg: Artists collaborate on a grand display of miniature proportions

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By Heather Collins

Majestically placed in Room 3 of the Museum of Miniature Houses and Other Collections in downtown Carmel is The Sahlberg, a one-of-a-kind, three-story miniature house crafted by nine of the top miniature artisans in the nation.

A miniature 3-D sculpture of Carl Sahlberg reading “Dracula” is placed in the middle of the library. (Submitted photo)

The floors include 3,000 pieces of laser-cut parquet flooring and real marble in the entry hall. The dome in the grand foyer was created with 10-inch lead glass, costing $1,000. More than 2,100 books are placed on the libray shelves, each individually titled with classic stories. A three-story spiral staircase is showcased in the center of The Sahlberg, which is encased in a custom-cherry cabinet.

The house’s architect and designer, Jimmy Landers of Huntingburg, collaborated with eight of the top miniature artisans in the nation to create custom pieces for The Sahlberg. He said it is the largest group of master miniature artists to work on a single project.

“The best artists were willing to share their work with me in my work,” he said. “This really is a one-of-kind piece that will really never be replicated.”

The Sahlberg House is on display at the Museum of Miniature Houses through mid-April. (Submitted photo)

Landers said he believes in giving serious miniature collectors large rooms that can be lavishly decorated and accessorized while still showcasing the craftsmanship of the house. He said he began working on miniatures in 2000 after he retired. His wife was a miniature enthusiast and asked him to build a dollhouse.

At the time, Landers said he had never built a dollhouse but taught himself how to create his first, a Colonial miniature called Brandywine, Maryland, for his wife.

“It’s just a relaxing hobby,” he said.

Landers said he’s an oddity in the miniature world. He doesn’t copy designs from magazines or put anything on paper.  He said he often wakes up at 3 or 4 a.m. with an idea.

“I design in my own mind and I build from that,” he said.

Landers spent 12,000 hours in two years working on The Sahlberg, his 19th dollhouse. He said he frames out his stick-built pieces just like someone would frame out a home. The Sahlberg is 49 inches tall, 72 inches wide and 20 inches deep.

Landers said the most magnificent features in The Sahlberg are the custom, made-from-scratch three-story spiral staircase and the library, replete with custom-made 10-inch tall stained glass windows created by Florida artist Barbara Sabia.

Elaine Mancini, executive director of the Museum of Miniature Houses, said The Sahlberg is exquisite.

The staircase of the Sahlberg House. (Submitted photo)

“It’s just extraordinary,” she said. “Everything is top of the line.”

The Sahlberg came to Carmel through the connection of miniature electrician Carl Sahlberg, the namesake of the piece and owner of Creative Reproductions 2 Scale. Sahlberg is the designated miniature electrician and does lighting for the Museum of Miniatures Houses, which is at 111 E. Main St. in Carmel.

Sahlberg, a Bedford resident, installed a chandelier, sconces and baseboards for plug-in lamps in The Sahlberg. The sconces and three-story chandelier, designed by Linda Orleff of Tennessee-based Lighting Bug Ltd., are valued at $3,000.

Sahlberg makes dollhouse calls throughout the nation, wiring electricity and installing lighting in miniature houses. He even installs tiny wall switches.

“You’ve got to use your fingernail to turn them on and off,” Sahlberg said. “There’s a multitude of options in the electronic side of these miniatures.”

Sahlberg said he found his niche in creating electrical wiring for dollhouses. Uniquely, The Sahlberg runs on 12 DV of DC power instead of an AC circuit and is hardwired basically the same way as a full-sized house.

“I developed a whole series of components for wiring dollhouses,” he said.

Sahlberg said that wiring dollhouses and miniature houses isn’t a problem, but it’s tricky to configure ways to conceal the wiring throughout the houses.

The walls of The Sahlberg are permanent, so Sahlberg had to make sure all of the connections last a lifetime. He placed at least two paths to each light and constructed a 1/8-inch ribbon of LEDS through the front lip of each room to provide natural lighting. The sconces and chandeliers utilize incandescent lighting. Sahlberg said the incandescent lighting of the chandeliers, paired with 500 pure light LED bulbs, makes the rooms crystal clear and clean.

Landers said Carmel’s Museum of Miniature Houses is a treasure and one of the top miniature museums in America. The Sahlberg is expected to remain on display at the museum through mid-April.

“I will never build anything greater or finer than this,” Landers said. “This is the ultimate piece for me.”

Landers and Sahlberg, both in their 70s, said they spend 90 percent of their days working on miniatures.

For information, visit museumofminiatures.org.

UPCOMING MUSEUM EVENTS

Feb. 23 and March 30 – Breyer Fun Day.  11 a.m. to 2 p.m., regular admission applies. Enjoy the Breyer horses in our permanent collection, enhanced with manes and tails made from real horsehair, handmade bridles and saddles and costumed riders suiting each type of horse. Paint your own Breyer 4-inch “Stablemate” horse with materials provided.

Feb. 27 – Celebrations of Creativity and Craftsmanship, noon, free admission. Brynn Tryska, who recently moved to Carmel, will perform  jazz classics and contemporary favorites. Brynn has toured nationally with NETworks and ArtsPower productions and has enjoyed working regionally with Geva Theater Centre and Playhouse on Park.

March 13 – Celebrations of Creativity and Craftsmanship, noon, free admission. Gloria Schotter, jewelry maker, began her art career by joining the Air Force as a graphic artist and continued as a Dept. of Defense Navy employee as a visual information specialist in Hawaii.

March 27 – Celebrations of Creativity and Craftsmanship, noon, free admission. Professional storyteller Sally Perkins will present “Stories of Our Songs.”

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