It All Starts Here

Sometimes our ideas flow from an existing kit to bash, a house style to scratch (aka custom) build, or from an interesting doll who needs a place to live. Our settings are always modern-day (ca. 2001 when we started this hobby). We try to create things that will make people smile and feel good.

We think that if we had to build the same house twice, we literally could not do it! Fortunately, we have very unique little people who have definite opinions and so far, no one has wanted a house “like so-and-so” has.

We work as a family unit: my wonderful husband, my beautiful sister, and I. We don't always agree as to the direction of the build, but I think that we end up with a better dollhouse because of all our grumblings -- and we do have a lot of fun!

The Purpose of this Blog

We needed a place for all we wanted to say about the background of the build and the nuts and bolts of the design and build process. Thus this blog.

All our dolls' homes have families living in them and a story is built around their personalities and lifestyles. This story is an integral part of our building process. We would like to share these stories -- actually, the little people insist upon it!

Many of our houses are located in Fredericksburg, Virginia because that is my sister's favorite place.

Also, we have started a Rouges' Gallery with photos of our little people and information about the dolls.

If you would like to start with the dollhouse that "started it all", it is the Original Rowbottom Manse; if you would like to see the scratch-built Georgian that our first build gave us the confidence (or fool-hardiness) to do, it is Sunnybrook Farm.

Let the stories begin!

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sunnybrook Farm- (aka The Big "G") the Georgian home of Rebecca & Derek Rowbottom, Fredericksburg area, Virginia

Rebecca Margaret Randolph & Derek Robert Rowbottom: Biographical Information

They meet:
Rebecca, with a nice supply of pocket money (since she since had just finished a few free-lance photography assignments) decided to head out to Arizona to try her skills at taking photographs and painting watercolors of the desert. In the late winter, she found herself at the Grand Canyon. Derek had been working at an architectural firm in Richmond when he decided it was time to look closely into the very different architecture and landscape of the American Southwest. Thus he took a late winter vacation in Arizona. He started at the Grand Canyon.

Rebecca was watching a lightening storm travel from the North Rim towards her spot on the rim of the south side. She was trying to decide how many photos she could take while keeping her feet ready to turn and run to a safe spot. As she was juggling her camera (facing forward) and her feet (starting to turn backward), she heard a chuckle behind her. She turned to run and was about to glare at the owner of the chuckle when she realized that he had very kind and smiling eyes. So she replied instead: “Maybe, we both should find a safer spot?”

They spent the rest of the evening in the lounge of El Tovar discussing their amazement at two Virginians,and at that, one who grew up in Charlottesville and went to college in Williamsburg; the other, growing up in Williamsburg and going to college in Charlottesville, meeting at the Grand Canyon. Then they went on to discuss their hopes for the future.

Their family life:
The Big "G" is the home of Rebecca Margaret Randolph Rowbottom (38) and Derek Richard Rowbottom (40), and their children Antony Richard (12) and fraternal twins Victoria Jane and Jeremy Alan (10). They are a fun-loving family with eclectic likes and are very much aware of what is happening in the world today. Their family motto is “Commitment”.

Derek and his partner (cousin-in-law George Wells) decided to base their architectual and landscape design firm Potomic Landscapes in Fredericksburg -- an area steeped in history and not too far from DC. Rebecca and Derek were lucky to find a wonderful first home -- an 1891 Second Empire Victorian and just outside of Fredericksburg's Historic District. (The house is now owned by Martha and George Wells. See Webshots album and this blog for "The Original Rowbottom Manse".)

As they were still settling in the Victorian, Derek and Rebecca were already planning the Georgian home of their dreams. They soon realized that they would need a farmland location for their rambling Georgian since they wanted to raise sheep and crops (this would be a working farm) and wanted to have landscaped areas with flowers and ornamentals.

After long months of looking and worrying, they found almost 70 buccolic acres not too far from Fredericksburg. Derek quickly named the property Sunnybrook Farm. "After all" he said, "where else would a Rebecca live except at Sunnybrook Farm?"

Thus started their great endeavor. Their favorite movie quickly became Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House!

The Rowbottoms are part of a large extended family. They are also involved with many civic and cultural groups besides running their own businesses, and they do a lot of entertaining. The farm is a family endeavor. Crops and flowers are raised for home use as well as sold. They also raise sheep and sell the wool. The whole family helps out, and even their Old English Sheepdogs, Bertie, Algernon, and Jeeves , learn a work ethic. The children also help with the sheep, all learning together.

Their Parents:
Rebecca’s parents are Grace and Graham Randolph. She has three younger siblings: Arabella , Cecelia and Joshua (fraternal twins), and an older brother Thomas . (Arabella is married to Daniel James MacPherson . They live at La Malcontenta, a Spanish Eclectic-Art Deco home in Georgetown, DC.)

Derek’s parents are Anna and Reginald Rowbottom, and he has a younger brother Richard . Aunt Winifred (Reginald’s sister) and her husband Uncle Willy Carter often visit. Those two are really cut-ups! Their children, Laurence and Rachel , are more sedate (sometimes).

Rebecca is an FFV (First Families of Virginia). Her father’s family is descended from Spencer Randolph who arrived in Virginia in the 1670s. Her mother’s family (the Trents) arrived in Virginia in the 1720s. Both familes settled in the Charlottesville area. Rebecca downplays "this FFV thing” (as she calls it) and wants to be known simply for her accomplishments. Rebecca graduated from William and Mary with a degree in Fine Arts. She is an accomplished pianist and like Derek, has eclectic musical tastes. Rebecca is an incurable romantic and always cries at the end of La Boheme.

Derek’s ancestors -- the van Eycks from Holland and the Rowbottoms from England -- arrived in the early 1800s and settled in Gloucester. His parents moved to Williamsburg when they married. Derek graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in architecture. Derek is a great guy and hostesses love him – he can always be counted on to keep the parties lively and he plays a mean trumpet – anything from classical to jazz. His musical heroes are Al Hirt and Louis Armstrong. Derek was very fortunate a number of years ago to be a participant in a White House gala and to play a duet with Al Hirt.

Rebecca is a free-lance wildlife photographer and her profession takes her around the world. This means time away from her family, although sometimes she can arrange her work into a family vacation. Her main interests are photographing and documenting endangered wildlife and habitats, and the resultant effects on society. She is an expert in her field; her works are well-known and she gives many lectures. Her focus of purpose, nicely merged with her charm, makes her a valued fund-raiser, also.

Derek is an architect and senior partner of the esteemed firm Potomac Landscapes. Potomac Landscapes builds homes as well as municipal buildings, and also designs landscapes. Derek’s pet projects involve neighborhood restoration and historic preservation, and he does much of this work pro bono and with Rebecca's help. The firm is doing very well – which is a good thing since the Big "G" has become a money pit!

Rebecca and Derek love ballroom dancing, quiet times at home with their family, and working the farm.


  1. Judith, I love how the stories come together! Especially the 'FFV' touch- few know about that except the natives of Old Dominion! ~Lisa Neault, gsolfot

  2. It's obvious that you spent a lot of time on the bio's of your "little people". Very imaginative. I like the way you included pictures of the families and friends.

  3. I love this story! I like that you added photos. Everybody looks so real.

  4. I love this family. It must be fun to have them as "friends". I love their home also.

  5. I would like to be "friends" with these fun people. You must have a wonderful time with your hobby.

  6. This is amazing. I think I'm biased because I'm from Charlottesville and your little people derive from my neck of the woods! Fascinating how you put the story together!

  7. Thank you very much. I love to root my little people in "reality"! --I love Virginia and have family there. My husband and I keep talking about retiring to Charlottesville. My sister's favorite place is Fredericksburg --thus many of our little people just had to live there!

  8. Wow, Iris! You go Deep! I LOVE the history of all your people! You have put an incredible amount of Work and Vision into your buildings! VERY Inspiring!
    I Just LOVE it when Big people "Get Real" with the Little people! You have a Fantastic "Collection" (And I do recognize one or two of the "types"!)

  9. Daydreamer,
    Thank you for those nice comments. We couldn’t imagine life without “the people little”. We have at least 100 by now, and I am always looking for others. Even my “ever-patient-partner”, my husband, gets into it. Of course, he thinks that it would be nice if the little people Would contribute to the building and upkeep of the houses! It’s a great hobby—we love every aspect of it.