Miniature rooms were conceived in a one inch to one foot ratio by Narcissa Niblack Thorne (1882 – 1966). They were executed by her craftsmen in an Oak Street studio including Eugene Kupjack between 1932 – 1940. She is responsible for the 68 miniature rooms on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. The rooms enable one to glimpse elements of fancy interiors from the 18th – 19th centuries.
These miniature rooms come from the tradition of the dollhouse. The tradition of the dollhouse is a toy home made in miniature. For the last century dollhouses have primarily been the domain of children but their collecting and crafting is also a hobby for many adults. The miniature home, furnished with domestic articles and resident inhabitants, both people and animals, has been made since the Old Kingdom in Egypt. The earliest known European dollhouses were the baby houses from the 16th Century which consisted of cabinet display cases made up of individual rooms. Dollhouses of this period showed idealized interiors complete with furnishings and accessories and were solely intended for adults. They were owned by the wealthy matron living in the cities of Holland, England and Germany primarily. With the Industrial Revolution, factories began mass producing miniatures for dollhouses. By the end of the 19th Century American dollhouses were being made in the U.S. by The Bliss Manufacturing Company. Germany was the manufacturer of the most notable houses and furnishings until WW I when the war seriously impeded both production and export. Production started up in other countries including America. After WWII dollhouses were mass produced in factories on a much larger scale with less detailed craftsmanship than before.
If you are in London, go see Queen Mary’s doll house on display at Windsor Castle. It was designed for her in 1924 by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. It is five feet tall and contains 16 fully outfitted rooms. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling contributed special books which were written and bound in scale size. When first put on display, it was visited by 1.6 million people in seven months.