Room boxes or architectural boxes are a great way to display miniature collections. They can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. They are also sometimes referred to as shadow boxes; however shadow boxes can also be used to display mementos or other items of interest that are not miniatures. A room box provides a three dimensional area for decorating and can be used to display individual interior rooms or an exterior of a home or building. The most common scale for room boxes is the popular 1:12 ratio but room boxes can come in all shapes and sizes. Room boxes take up less space to display and can be attached to a wall for easy viewing.
You can purchase a room or display box or they are fairly easy to make if you are handy, however, any leftover box can be used to create dollhouse display from empty shoe boxes to orange crates to a shipping box. Dollhouse contests often require the contestants to submit a shadow or room box in lieu of an entire dollhouse. Room boxes are also a popular way to display an entire collection of miniatures as the miniaturist or hobbyist is not restricted to a particular dollhouse or style of dollhouse.
There are many famous examples of room boxes in the world but probably the most famous are the Thorne rooms created by Mrs. James Ward Thorne in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The Thorne Rooms are on permanent display at the Chicago Art Institute. In
total there are 68 miniature rooms for visitors to the museum to see. The first rooms were European in style and totaled 31 in number. These were completed in 1937. Mrs. Thorne then created 37 room boxes all done in historically correct detail of American rooms which were completed in 1940. All of the completed rooms were donated to the Chicago Art Institute by 1941. The American rooms include reproductions of rooms in historic homes and landmarks across the country including the Massachusetts Drawing Room and the Cape Cod Living Room. Many skilled craftspeople were involved in the creations of these rooms including Eugene K. Kupjack whose work appears in all 68 rooms.
If you are new to room boxes it is suggested to start with something simple such as a traditional bedroom display. The walls can be wallpapered or stenciled and the bottom of the box can be carpeted or provided with any other floor covering that could be used in a dollhouse. If you are using a sturdy wood box you can hang miniature items on the walls of the box such as heavy mirrors etc that you might not be able to use in a less sturdy dollhouse setting. Just like dollhouses room boxes can be electrified for electric lighting such as chandeliers, sconces and lamps. If you would rather leave the decorating up to someone else then consider the many room boxes or shadow boxes that are available to purchase completely finished such as those from Reutter Porcelain.