Kwandaa Roberts, an ob-gyn at Holy Redeemer Hospital
s, has delivered thousands of babies throughout her medical career. But nothing has brought her more fame and media attention than her latest project
Not just any dollhouse, but one fashioned in the farmhouse-chic tradition of HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, whose Fixer Upper show ended earlier this month.
Although she only became interested in miniatures last December, Roberts has already attracted national attention. HGTV, People, Country Living, Southern Living and Buzzfeed are among the major media outlets that have written about her newfound passion. Even NBC’s Today, ABC News and the Daily Mail have taken notice. Roberts now has more than 33,000 followers on her Instagram page called “TinyHouseCalls,” And get this: She’s posted fewer than 25 times. I know a whole lot of social media “experts” who don’t have nearly that kind of following.
When I heard about her, I was fascinated. Who is this DIY “it girl” who’s also a medical doctor? And why were people so keen on following her? So I drove to her home in Elkins Park on Friday morning. The dollhouse was in a place of honor on a dark-wood dining room table. I leaned in for a look and was dazzled — there are working lights and the entire thing is done in neutral tones, a trademark of Fixer Upper’s style.
There’s a “copper” bathtub. A charcoal gray bookcase downstairs. Exposed wood beams in the ceiling. Subway accent tile in the kitchen and a marble island set with tiny dishes. A gingham living room chair.
Roberts spared no detail, even including scaled-down replicas of the couple’s signature Magnolia Journal magazine in a magazine holder not much larger than a postage stamp. Chip’s new book, Capital Gains: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, also has a place.
Roberts began her dollhouse odyssey in December after buying a wooden one from the Gaines’ Hearth and Hand collection from Target for her 3-year-old daughter for Christmas. But she wasn’t satisfied with it, so she redid it. Roberts enjoyed the process so much that she bought two more – one for herself and one for a friend. She always had a flair for interior decorating but never considered it a viable career option.
“As you can see, I love interior design,” Roberts said as we sat in her mint-colored dining room with dark furnishings, teal window curtain and pink, gold and white accents. “Usually my house is the culprit. Every few months, I’m changing it. I’m painting. My mom’s like, ‘You have another chandelier?’ I’m like, ‘I knooow!’ I can’t help it. I need projects.”’
Luckily, this new project, decorating dollhouses, is a whole lot cheaper than redecorating real-life houses. In addition to her Chip and Joanna Gaines-inspired farmhouse chic house, she has several other dollhouses in the works – one a lush, modern Harlem brownstone and the other a Hamptons beach house. She ushered me upstairs and into her dressing room/dollhouse workshop, where I oohed and ahhed over so much miniature fabulosity. Tiny Chanel purses. Hermes boxes.
Roberts is used to that reaction. As she worked on her first one, she got lots of similar encouragement.
“I would show it to ladies in the office and they were going insane,” Roberts recalled. “They would go, ‘You have to post that.’ And I was, like ‘really?”’
She put up her first social media posting on her birthday, Feb. 28. The “likes” started pouring in by the hundreds.
“By the end of the week, I was getting messages from New Zealand, Indonesia, it was just insane,” Roberts said. “It went crazy.”
Followers began tagging Joanna Gaines and using the hashtag #showJo. It wasn’t long before Joanna Gaines, via Instagram stories, was marveling over Roberts’ meticulous handiwork. And just like that, Roberts became a DIY celebrity. Roberts has even gotten requests to decorate real-life homes, something she’s always loved doing.
“I have a creative energy that I have to do something with,” she said. “I’m literally living my dream.”
Even if it is only an itsy-bitsy one.