The House of Miniatures offered five different vignette boxes during the first five years of the brand. They were wonderful settings for the heirloom miniature furniture. We’ll look at the features of each.
Dollhouses or Vignette Boxes?
In 1977, I found an insert in a craft magazine my mother had and ordered a kit for a dollar. I was fourteen and had no income, so committing to monthly miniatures orders was a childish move, but I loved them and built the chest-on-chest right away.
Meanwhile, my final project for eighth grade wood shop at school was a dollhouse for my sister, who wasn’t yet four. Mom and dad were separated, so I felt like a part-time father. Plus, we were buddies and I thought it would be fun to amaze her with the dollhouse.
Dollhouses are big. They take time and skill to build. And they take up lots of room. When I received the flier offering the Shadow Box Room Kit (#41200), I was amazed at the great idea. But I could hardly afford the kits, never mind the exorbitant price of the room kit. I had to give up the notion and continued to struggle with the dollhouse project.
The original kit must have been popular. The House of Miniatures soon came out with a display shelf and four new, smaller Vignette Boxes in a special flier that offered kits with or without the furnishings. I’ll cover them in part number order.
Vignette Box Kit – 41205
There were two boxes by this name, but they differed greatly. 41205 was a shallow box with a window cutout in an optional corner section. There was a front frame for the box, but no trim and the window was not included. The floor was grooved to look like planking. This was the least expensive box at $19.95, plus $4 for shipping, as of 1979. Dimensions for all the later vignette boxes were 16 3/4″ wide by 10 5/8″ high by 4″ deep.
Tidewater Vignette – 41206
This was the same basic box as 41205, with the addition of a working window kit (41210), interior moldings (43001, 43002 & 43003), and two sheets of blue on cream damask wallpaper (41049). The price jumped to $29.95, but that was a good price with the included extra bits in 1982.
James River Vignette – 41207
With the included fireplace, I think this was the best bargain in the batch of Vignette Boxes. They swapped out the window and corner wall for the James River Fireplace (41220) from the Tidewater Vignette, while leaving the moldings and wallpaper, and gave it the same price of $29.95. The fireplace added so much interest to the room.
Vignette Box Kit – 41208
Although it has the same name and features as the 41205, this room is 9″ deep, giving it more than double the floor space of the other vignette boxes in this series. One catalog offered this box as a complete dining room setting, including the Chippendale Breakfront (40048), Chippendale Dining Table (40045), Chippendale Sideboard (40025), two Chippendale Cabriole Leg Arm Chairs (40027), two Chippendale Cabriole Leg Side Chairs (40026), a Hepplewhite Candlestand (from 40047), the Chippendale Looking Glass (42403), and several miniature accessories, including three Williamsburg Collection pewter pieces! The “sale” price was $176, though, considerably more than the $26.95 price for the bare box kit (with flowered wallpaper, 41010).
Which Vignette Box Would You Choose?
Those were the days, I’d say. Just shipping these kits is a big investment today. If I had to choose just one, I think the 9″ deep box captures my imagination more than the shallow vignette boxes. But my favorite is still the first one from 1976, the Shadow Box Room Kit. It had cutouts for three windows and an interior door. It was 23 3/4″ wide and over 15″ deep! To scale, it had a 10-foot ceiling like a grand Georgian house. There was a hallway and room in the back for an outdoor scene and it was meant to be lighted.
It was an amazing room box, but the price was about forty dollars without any accessories or trim or windows. That was too much dough for a kid in 1977. And even though I have owned this one in the picture now for nearly fifteen years, I still haven’t figured out how I want to finish it. I definitely want to put the Tidewater Fireplace (40020) in it and a Straight Top Highboy (40022) in the hall, but the rest of the furniture still changes around in my mind. How would you do up this grand room?