Peer into the miniaturized splendor of any of the Thorne Rooms and I dare you not to swoon. The near-hypnotic lure of these mini mundi comes from their magical intersection of scale and skill. When shrunk, even the most quotidian object—a vase, a lamp, a copper pot—is transformed into a precious talisman that inspires fascination and awe.

While these impeccably appointed rooms cry out to be a part of some lucky child’s world, they aren’t dollhouses and were never intended as playthings. They were instead the brainchild of Mrs. James Ward Thorne, an avid miniature collector and enthusiast. Thorne had no formal training in art, architecture, or design, but she had a good eye and an ambitious goal—to document the history of interior-design styles around the world. At first, she used miniatures from her own extensive collection, but as her interest in the project deepened, she hired craftsmen and artists to fashion perfectly scaled and (mostly) historically accurate replicas to feather the diminutive nests.