Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of my fascination with small space living–or at least the idea of it. Related to this is my abiding love of dollhouses and their furnishings. From childhood, I have adored them, which doesn’t seem unusual–many young children like to create their own small worlds. Now I never had a “real” dollhouse like my friend Suzy Vass (three stories high and big enough for her Barbies!) but I did create my own on a bookshelf in my bedroom by cutting walls out of cardboard, decorating these with wrapping paper, and filling the rooms with furniture that I constructed from things lying around the house as well as the much more expensive manufactured pieces that I received for birthdays and Christmas. Most often the inhabitants were paper dolls that I’d colored and cut out to scale–and you can bet that such enterprises absorbed hours of my time.
I am also a big fan of museums and one of my favorites is the Art Institute of Chicago. Here, you will find wonderful collections of textiles; European painting and sculpture; Asian, African and Native American art; Medieval and Renaissance armor and weapons, and one of the best collections of modern art anywhere. As well, the Institute boasts the Thorne Miniature Rooms collection which is a must see for any lover of dollhouses and miniatures. Narcissa Niblick Thorne was an artist who devoted most of her career to constructing miniature rooms fashioned on various historical interiors. Vivid and accurate in detail, the 68 rooms are stunning. Check them out here. And next time you are in Chicago, be sure to pay a visit to the Thorne Rooms yourself. It is well worth it. As a side note, Thorne never asked for or received payment for her rooms even though they were quite expensive to produce.
While you’re in Chicago, don’t miss another labor of love–Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, which is owned by the Museum of Science and Industry. Moore was a film star of the silent era who had loved dollhouses and miniatures throughout her life. As an adult, she decided to use her substantial financial resources and her influence as a major Hollywood star to commission the dollhouse of her dreams. The Fairy Castle is nearly nine feet square and exquisitely detailed–from the tiny copper pots in the kitchen to the wee harp in the bedroom of the Fairy Princess.
Other famous dollhouses include Queen Mary’s Doll House, which is on display at Windsor Castle in England, the Miniature White House now housed at the Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont, Florida, and The Dolls’ House at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago by The Art Institute of Chicago
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House by Mary Stewart-Wilson
For more interesting dollhouses, be sure not to miss The Ultimate Dolls’ House Book by Faith Eaton and The Miniature House also by Eaton. The first book features the beautiful photographs and informative text that the publisher, Dorling Kindersley, is known for. The second showcases several of the finest examples of miniature houses and rooms, including the Thorne Rooms and the Fairy Castle. Also included are exhaustive histories of each house and detailed photographs (although not as many color ones as I would have liked). Both these books are highly recommended to any lover of dollhouses.
Do you love dollhouses? What have been some of your favorites?