68 Tiny Distractions

Those rooms you breezed through just now… they’re miniature.

Go ahead, scroll up, and take another looksie.

Incredible, right?

These pictures above are only a sampling of a permanent gallery of miniature rooms called The Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago. A few weeks ago, I read The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone, a children’s middle grade fiction book about two friends, who discover they can shrink themselves to the size of the miniature Thorne Rooms. It isn’t long before they also learn the Thorne Rooms are even more real than they appear.

Have you ever heard of the Thorne Rooms? I never had until reading this book. After I finished The Sixty-Eight Rooms, I immediately loaned Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, a large book about the rooms and how they came to be, to put their reality to what I had envisioned while reading. Per The Art Institute of Chicago:

“The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.”

The book is truly a fascinating story of Mrs. James Ward Thorne and her love off all things miniature. She collected many of the pieces while traveling abroad in Europe, and commissioned dozens of craftsmen to create rooms to house her findings. The rooms she sketched were inspired by historic castles, museums, and homes of Europe and North America.

After flipping through the book I went to The Art Institute of Chicago’s website to look through the rooms there, but I also came across Escape From Thorne Mansion, an interactive way to tour the rooms virtually. So fun!

Every person I talked to about the Thorne Rooms are unfamiliar with their existence, so I thought I would pass on my indulgence so you could explore their master and magic.

This one is my favorite…

South Carolina Ballroom 1775-1835, c. 1940, American, Created by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Can’t you see this room in candle light with a a waltz softly playing? The furniture pushed to the side and people dancing or mingling out on the terrace. A grand southern soiree with a warm breeze and flushed faces.

Then I remember this room is only a little larger than a breadbox….


image sources: thorne rooms:  Tennessee Entrance Hall, 1835, French Dining Room of the Louis XIV Period, 1660-1700, c. 1937, English Reception Room of the Jacobean Period, 1625-55, c. 1937, English Drawing Room of the Georgian period, 1770-1800, c. 1937, French Salon of the Louis XVI Period, c. 1780, c. 1937, French Dining Room of the Louis XIV Period, 1660-1700, c. 1937, New York Parlor, 1850-70, c. 1940,   Virginia Drawing Room, 1754, c. 1940, Massachusetts Bedroom, c. 1801, c. 1940, mrs. thorneSouth Carolina Ballroom, 1775-1835, c. 1940


3 Responses to “68 Tiny Distractions”

  1. Oh WOW. Just, wow! Incredible, I haven’t seen such detailed photos before. Truly, truly amazing!!

    • Rebecca says:

      I know!! I’ve never heard of the Thorne Rooms before and now I’m obsessed! In May of next year, my cousin is getting married in Chicago, so a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago is a must while I’m there.

  2. RD \\-olff says:

    I want all 68 rooms!!! damn, these are real nice!
    I had a wealthy cousin when I was a young child who lived on a large Long Island estate, she had a cool, housekeeper, gardener etc and I remember her formal library with floor to ceiling book shelves and a rolling library ladder to reach the top shelves.
    In the room on two large tables sat two large antique Victorian roomboxes with wood and glass cases, she turned the light on in one of them so I could see all the little furniture in it, it was so cool!
    She died a couple of years later, I never knew anything about the roomboxes or where they wound up other than passed along to a couple of female kin in the family.
    She had a lot of money, so the two would have been extremely high quality like these Thorne boxes. Her late husband/family was in the shipping industry- shipping as in ocean liners not package/UPS, they may have come from Europe even.
    I am building a roombox now in fact to see how it turns out.

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