Tiny Rooms

by Sophie de la Mancha

One of the places where I’ve had the pleasure of pressing my nose to the glass in recent memory has been the world of Tiny Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Otherwise known as the 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms, as one Mrs James Ward Thorne created and commissioned these in the 1930s and 40s.

One of my fascinations with this sort of Tiny Room scenario, I think, is that I find its existence completely baffling. But utterly intriguing at the same time. Who did this?

Rich American society lady, and Tiny Rooms benefactor of old: What were you thinking? How did these Tiny Worlds make you feel? What possessed you to do this? If you were alive today – sans privilege – would you have a niche Etsy store to satiate this need? A blog? Would you be me? Am I a modern shadow of you?

Probably not. I’m not American.

Actually, like many things, one does not need to fully understand the rationale for Tiny Rooms to appreciate them on different levels. The main detail that sticks in my mind about these Tiny Rooms, that I keep coming back to singularly, is the textiles. The Tiny Rugs are eye blindingly handmade cross stitch works. Can you imagine? Unless you’ve made things with threads, probably not, but let me assure you – that’s just ridiculous. And mind-blowing.

Which leads me to suspect that if one was to fully appreciate all details upon details upon details in this collection of Tiny Rooms, one would need a serious lie down and a cup of tea.