Little Architecture by Emily Boutard

It has always been about the details for Melbourne-based miniature-maker Emily Boutard. She spent her childhood collecting the smallest shells along the beach and, at the age of eight, constructed her first tiny cardboard house using knick-knacks and pillaged garden plants for furnishings. “At first it was just a bit of fun,” the 28-year-old says, “but over the years it evolved into more of an obsession.” Indeed, even in the midst of a taxing law school course-load, Boutard found the time to complete her first Victorian-style dollhouse. However, when her work schedule as a corporate lawyer couldn’t accommodate her craft, she left the profession to pursue a Bachelor of Architecture and in 2015 established her brand, the aptly named Little Architecture.

Though Boutard left her nine-to-five job (“or 9 11 p.m., which was more common”), she has remained involved in the legal world by teaching courses at her alma mater and working part-time for a start-up law advising company. “I got an overwhelmingly positive response from my colleagues when I quit,” says Boutard. “It seems there are a lot of people who study law that are creative thinkers and problem solvers.”

This creative and analytical mindset has proven to be a driving force behind her immaculate, pint-sized delights. Between her studies, teaching, and advising, it’s a wonder Boutard has any spare time, but her prolific Instagram gallery boasts otherwise. The weeks leading up to the actual assemblage of a piece are occupied with research on the architectural structure and time period—flipping through books, scouring the Internet, wading through antique shops. In the name of realism, Boutard constantly adapts when certain materials don’t scale down well. “The goal I have is to fool the eye and fool the camera,” says Boutard. “I don’t discriminate [materials] as long as I can create the illusion.” Painted card, for instance, is substituted for marble and embroidery.

Boutard has crafted everything from working theatres to historically-accurate Victorian furniture sets to a thumb-sized ice cream cone. When it comes to working on such a small scale, she cites crafting furniture as the most difficult endeavour. “Mistakes are easily spotted because everyone is intimately acquainted with furniture; everyone has sat on a chair,” she says. “They might not know why, but most everyone can see if a chair looks wrong.” At this point, Boutard needs only an hour to construct a seat, whereas an object as complex as a violin can take four days of work. Boutard even offers online tutorials for pieces like the violin, while her shop teases furniture kits soon to be available for purchase.

There’s an undeniable charm to miniature figurines, delicate pieces of a greater world. Boutard puts it best when she speaks to their tangibility: “Building an object or building helps me understand it in a different way—you appreciate the physicality in a more real way than just looking at pictures.” The appeal to Boutard’s creations, of course, is their pinpoint realism, which she attests “can never be achieved without observing life very closely.” Since she was a little girl, Boutard has understood the importance of collecting. Little Architecture provides worthy selections, an invitation for others to follow in her footsteps if willing to take a closer look.