Friday, September 9, 2011

A visit to the Phoenix Thorne Rooms

Over Labor day weekend, I went on a quick trip to Phoenix, AZ.  One of the highlights was visiting the Phoenix Art Museum and it's Thorne Rooms.

The Thorne Rooms in the Phoenix Art Museum are part of the original 30 rooms that Narcissa Niblack Thorne helped create and displayed at the Chicago Historical Society for a benefit for the Architectural Students league in 1932.  Mrs Thorne went on to help create almost 100 rooms.  Most of which are located in the Art Institute of Chicago. "Miniature Rooms" is a great book that has detailed photos and information of the Art institutes current rooms.

Edited to add: I wanted to clarify that though Mrs. Thorne had the inspiration and money to create these rooms, she had many artisans to do the work.  She also collected miniatures from around the world and this partially inspired the rooms to house her collection.

The Art Institute sold the original 30 rooms to IBM in the early 40s to be toured around the country.  Twenty years later,  Mrs. Thorne's son saw the rooms and noticed that they were "the worse for wear" for the lengthy travelling. Mrs. Thorne received the rooms back to repair and refurbish.  She then donated 20 of the original rooms to the Phoenix Art Museum as a tribute to her son's late wife in 1962.

The Art Deco rooms were particularly inspiring because of my work on the glam townhouse...
Art Deco Entry (detail)
Art Deco Entry (full-size)

Art Deco Living Room (Detail)

I loved the Louis XVI bedroom.  So beautiful....

Louis XVI bedroom - today

Mrs. Thorne with Louis XVI in the early 1930's (before refurbishing)

 The chest in the bedroom is replica of replica of a 1:1 sized chest that artisans would carry with them to show their work...
Louis XVI detail

 I also loved the use of lighting from the outside making the rooms so realistic.  I must try this sometime...

Mrs. Thorne in her Chicago studio in 1962.

 Brought home a little souvenir.  Nothing as detailed and delicate as Mrs. Thorne's collection, just a little piece of pottery I picked up in the airport...

Now my goal is to see the Chicago Thorne Rooms!


  1. Those are incredible. I'm nowhere near that kind of perfection. Very inspiring! I think you will be able to make a gorgeous Art Deco room. Love your pictures.

  2. Heather, I have been drooling over the Thorne Rooms in Phoenix since they were first installed there. I spent many hours looking at them even before I started making minis. They are wonderful. You picked out some of the same ones I did as favorites. The Art Deco Livingroom is the top of my list and the kitchen interior with the light streaming in the windows is another favorite. I to am wishing to see the ones in Chicago someday. Even though Eugene Kupjack did most of the work, she still should get credit. She did the collecting all of her life that inspired it all. Thanks for showing them to me again. This may call for a trip to Phoenix again soon.

  3. Gracias por compartir las fotos
    Un abrazo

  4. Casey, thanks for pointing out that Mrs. Thorne surrounded herself with artisans to do the work! I've edited my post to note that. You are so lucky to live close enough to visit the rooms often. Here's to visiting Chicago!

  5. Very beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Beautiful! I know I've seen the rooms here in Chicago, but it has been so long ago...and not since I started doing minis. I should make a point to go soon! When you make it to Chicago, let me know! :D

  7. behold, this is the thing that I envy you in America! to have such beautiful places to see!
    I go to Chicago, from Italy, I spend a lot of money, I did not ... So many thanks to you, you showed it!
    for me it's a pipe dream!
    kisses and good weekend!

  8. Hi Heather! Thanks for this reminder about the Thorne Rooms in Phoenix. Next time I'm there visiting family, I want to go see this. You took some lovely photos and tell a good story here--love it!

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