Master Dollhouse Maker Hits the Big Screen
Rick Maccione of Woodbury could hardly believe it. There he was, in the movies.
Well, it wasn’t actually Maccione on the silver screen when he viewed 306 Hollywood at Real Art Ways in Hartford. But his connection to the acclaimed documentary thrilled him as much as if he had a cameo in a “Star Wars” flick.
Maccione is a master dollhouse builder who has been plying his craft with loving detail for over 28 years. He builds and restores perhaps seven or eight custom dollhouses a year. These aren’t dollhouses you may see at a big box retail store. They are small, sometimes not so small, skillfully detailed replicas, replete with authentic wood floors, windows, stairways, roof shingles, siding, doorways, chimneys, and other aspects of a real life dwelling. Maccione toils hours upon hours, day after day in the basement of his home to bring the dreams and fantasies of a child, or an adult, to life.
The title of 306 Hollywood refers to Annette Ontell’s house at 306 Hollywood Street in Hillside, N.J. A dollhouse built by Maccione is actually a main “character” in the film. The movie’s co-executive directors, sister and brother and loving grandchildren of Ontell, Elan and Jonathan Bogarin, got wind of Maccione’s skills and contacted him about building a miniature house that is central in a most unique manner to the telling of a touching story about their late grandmother. The movie cuts from scenes in the real home to those shot of the inside of the dollhouse.
Maccione, a former teacher and real estate broker, built his first dollhouse as a gift to his daughter when she was 12 years old. It was the house the family lived in. Maccione had a long career in teaching, worked in real estate in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and also operated an antique/dollhouse shop in Woodbury for about seven years. He has sold his dollhouses to patrons around the country, many customers coming to him by referral and through his website—dollhousemansions.com. “At one time, there were 25 dollhouse shops in Connecticut alone,” he says. “Now, I believe, there is one in Greenwich.”
The dollhouses are sometimes quite grand replicas of houses, replete with authentic wood floors, windows, stairways, roof shingles, chimneys, and other aspects of a real-life dwelling. Maccione’s crowded basement has at any time up to two dozen dollhouses he has completed, is working on, or will work on.
Maccione is meticulous in his work. He points proudly to a chimney on one house that is made from real stone, very small stones, that took him hours to complete. On another house he hand-cuts each tiny wood roof shingle—several thousand in all— gluing them one by one to create a most realistic appearance. “It is all very time consuming, and the work is very detailed. I don’t skip steps.”
One of his favorite projects was a Victorian dollhouse that was donated to the American Cancer Society’s annual auction when he was a technology teacher at Kennedy High School in Waterbury. He and his students won the “Celebration of Excellence Award” from the state Department of Education for the year long project. “All the students that built the dollhouse had someone in their family that had cancer or died from cancer,” Maccione said.
Now, of course, his second favorite project is his role in 306 Hollywood. “I asked my wife what if it gets nominated for an Oscar?,” said Maccione with a smile. `“Are we going to go to the Academy Awards Show?’ I guess we will have to.”