Tuesday, October 2, 2012


NOTE: I have added instructions for a table lamp using the picture frame room box at the end of this project.  

A popular & very informative, world-wide, online miniature group (CAMP, owned by Den Mother, WMarie Werth THECAMP-subscribe@yahoogroups.com ) has requested instructions for my concept of using simple wooden picture frames to construct room boxes. I believe it was in early 2000 that I developed the idea and have since used it many times, in different ways and sizes, to house a wide variety of miniature settings.  The Frame Boxes have become a standard in the hobby because they are easy and inexpensive (shopping around one can find nice quality wooden frames for just a few dollars each) to construct & require no power tools.  Den Mother suggested I put the instructions on this blog to share with as many miniaturists, around the world, as possible, so here you are:  (please pardon the quality of the photos herein; they were scanned from the magazines they were published in, not giving the best results.  But they should give you a visual idea of the frame method)

-For an approximate 8” wide x 10” high box with a raised base use five identical, 8” x 10” glass fronted, wooden picture frames Remove everything from the frames & set aside.  Assemble the box by gluing the long ends of two of the frames to the long face of two more of the frames.  Make sure all inside corners are flush and all is squared-up

                       These two photos show IF THE SHOE FITS from 2001.  It is 8" by 10" and 
has a solid back wall and three glass walls..

-For an approximately 10” wide x 8” high box follow the directions above but glue the short ends of the frames together. If desired a 5th frame of the same size may be glued to the bottom of this size box to act as a base.

It uses four 8" x 10" frames, with the 10" being the width and the 8" being the depth.
In this piece the back wall is the only solid one, the other three being glass.
You can also see how a selection of holiday postcards were used to decorate the 
outside of back wall.   This used wooden chess pieces as feet.

-5” x 7” frames may be used for smaller displays, for either smaller scale settings or to showcase one special piece.  
-10” x 13” frames may be used for larger/deeper displays or a two sided display box which would then be divided down the interior center.

 A PILGRIM'S PAGEANT  uses four, 10" x 13" frames.  It is a 2 sided piece with the play viewed on one side and back stage on the other.  The down-view, photo below shows how the box was divided in half.  The small section the the middle hides the wiring.

-Four, 8” x 16” picture frames may be used in a slightly different way than the others. Place a  bottom frame face down and then glue another frame to the top edge for the front and backs and then glue the 4th frame to the top of the assembly.  This assembly should be glued and pegged or screwed together for strength.  The two ends of this box will not be glassed.

An Art Deco New Years Eve Celebration from 2003 uses four 8" x 16" frames; one each on top & bottom and front and back.  The end walls between the frames are filled in with mat-board    the outside decorated with an outdoor scene and the inside papered to match the inside.

- Suggested but not essential: Once the glue holding the frames together has set you may reinforce the box with counter-sunk nails or pegs inserted in pre-drilled holes.  To do this, on the rabbet section of the two inset frames, drill holes (two each, spaced centered, side to side and approx. 2” up from the bottom and 2” down from the top) no bigger than the thickness of bamboo skewers.  There will be a total of eight holes. Drill through the one frame and on into the one it is glued to, being careful not to disturb the face of the frame.  Glue pieces of bamboo skewers into the holes, snipping on any excess flush with the frame.  If necessary, use a sharp knife to make sure the pegs are flush with the frame.  Paint or stain the exposed ends of the pegs to match the frame. 

-Depending on what will be displayed, housed or the setting, you have the choice of having no solid walls, just a back wall, two or three adjoining walls, or two solid walls opposite each other.  The glass walls and glass top will let in plenty of light.  Permanent access to the box will be from a removable top.  

-The outside of the box may be left as is or painted as desired. It may also be accented with various cut-outs/jewelry findings/stickers, etc. to go along with the theme of your setting.

This little Easter themed store, THE GOOD EGG, from 2004, with a solid back wall and three glass walls shows how the frames can be decorated to go along with the theme of the box.


-Measure and cut a piece of ½” thick foamcore or wood for your floor.  If you do not have foamcore or wood you may choose to glue thinner pieces of other materials together for a ½” thickness.   Finish the floor as desired, before or after gluing into box.

For the solid walls decide what you want to be seen from the exterior of the box.  This can be as simple as plain or patterned paper, or you can decorate them with words or poems, a collage of pictures, or a photo, all to go along with the interior’s theme.  Face it with a piece of set-aside glass.  Cut a piece of mat-board or something similar and cover it with your interior finish…wallpaper, paneling, etc. Between the out-facing piece and the interior one fill in with mat-board or whatever, so the finished walls will be flush with the frame corners.  Glue the assembled wall/s in place.  Add thin decorative molding to edges if appropriate to your theme.

Back view of THE GOOD EGG

Back view of a MATTERS OF THE HEART, a valentine store, using a vintage valentine card.
-Insert a piece of frame glass into the other openings and hold with a bit of tacky glue or tiny glue dots. You may choose to wait until you have designed the interior before permanently adding the glass wall/s and then adding the furnishings, etc. from the top opening.

-Using ¼” square stripwood to make a ledge around the interior top of the box, to support a protective piece of glass that can be removed for easy access.  The corners of these pieces can be mitered or butted to each other.  Paint to match the frame.  Glue them in place so they will sit down 1/8” down from the top of the box.  Cut or have cut the one of the extra pieces of frame glass a scant smaller than the top opening.  Sand edges smooth.  

-Turn the box over and measure and cut a bottom cover piece of art paper scant smaller than the box bottom.  This can be in a color to match the frame or painted to match.  Glue stick in place to bottom.  A decorative peg, button, wood turning, piece from a small wooden chess set, etc., may be glued or nailed to each corner for a finished look or to lift the box high enough to add a thin transformer/battery to the underside, if lighting is to be added to your setting.

   This is Happy Trails, a 2004 child's cowboy themed bedroom.
                  It uses four 8" x 10" frames making it approx. 10" high and 8" square
 It  has two solid walls and two glass walls. 
  You can also see the wooden feet on the bottom corners

This setting from 2004, celebrating women's right to vote, has two adjoining solid walls and 2 glass walls.

These two photos of a boy's nautical themed bedroom show how much can be shown in a little space without seeming cramped because of the two glassed in sides.

The lamp and base are easy to assemble and the supplies nead not be pricey.  Construct the framed room as instructed above, using six 5" x 7" picture frames., four for the sides and one each for the top and bottom.  The top and bottom frames are glued, centered over the top and bottom of the frame structure, flat edges to flat edges.

You should be able to find the wiring supplies at a lighting specialty shop or online.  Measure & cut a beam from a length of 3/4" x 1/2" wood, fitting the beam snugly from the front to the back of the box on the frame just above the back wall (see figure below).  Paint or stain the beam to match the frames.  Drill a hole through on 3/4" side of the beam, centered side to side, that is slightly smaller in diameter, than the brass post.  Screw one of the threaded decorative brass pieces on the bottom of the post and then screw the post into the hole.  Use the nut to secure it from the bottom.  The nut may be recess into the bottom of the beam by drilling a larger hole from the bottom.  Tighten the decorative thread-cover down onto the top of the beam.  Cover the nut with tape painted to match beam.  

Assemble the socket and wire per manufacturer's instructions, following all safety precautions (see figure below).  

Insert the 2nd decorative thread-cover onto the top of the post threads, insert theharp, and screw on the socket.  As you screw it on, make sure the wire extends the back inline with the wood beam.

When the assembly is done, use  a combination of Tack glue and cyanoacrylate glue (Super/Crazy etc.) to adhere the beam ends to the inside of the frame box, centered side to side, and in line with the inside of the of the front and back frame.  Let glue set before attaching the shade.  The shade is secured to the harp with a finial.  A 40-watt bulb is recommended.  

-4" brass lamp tube/post, threaded at both ends with brass nut to fit post
-3/4" x 1/2" wood, approx. 5-1/2" long
-Two threaded decorative brass pieces to cover threads of lamp post
-Brass socket with hole to take wire (Note: Most sockets sold have the wire coming down      through the bottom of the socket and into the post.  You will need the type sold for bottle and jar lamps with the wire coming out of the side.  If you can not find this type sold separately, purchase a kit for bottle lamps).
-8" to 10" harp
-Lamp shade approx. 9-1/2" high, with approx. 13" diam bottom.
-Electrical cord with attached plug
-Off & on switch for cord (optional)
-40-watt bulb 

Note:  A quick online search came up with this site http://www.lampshop.com  that should have the wiring supplies you will need for the lamp.  Interesting...the clamp-on-style, which I had not seen before, could work out nicely and not be as fiddly to install....I will have to investigate!

I hope I have answered the questions concerning the use of picture frames to construct room boxes for those that asked and have inspired you and others to try this method.  I think you will find it fast and rewarding with many options for displaying your miniatures.  

So many of you have wondered why I did not add more projects to fill the AMERICANA CART and expressed your concern...well, all I can say is that it was a long, hot summer here that seemed to extend into fall.  And living on the beach nice weather means lots of 
company.   Not complaining, as it also meant lots of hugs and kisses from grandchildren, many a bonfire and oodles of s'mores & ghost stories, delicious pots of clams and crabs and good times had by all.  But it did not leave me time and energy to even think about miniatures...and truthfully, that isn't always a bad thing. 

So, with a crispness to the air, leaves beginning to fall, pumpkin patches full, I think I feel a bit renewed and ready to jump back in to this blog.  I am working on a Halloween project and if all goes right you will "see me" soon.

Happy Fall to all of you who follow this blog,.. I am amazed at the traffic here and the amount of new followers even without my presence.  A special hello to all of you who have visited from Russia in the past month.   



  1. Hi, Joann
    Well...I'm a Swanson too! I married one! Anyway, I really like your instructions for these 'frame rooms'. Whenever I find a very informative blog, I usually write a specific post about the blog and also put a link on my sidebar to the blog. I have been a follower for a while, but this one post you have made will inspire a lot of my blogging friends. It is nice meeting you!
    Teresa in California

  2. Well Teresa, I married into Swanson too...a lot easier to pronounce than my maiden name! Nice to hear you enjoyed and are sharing the frame info....please make sure that your friends realize that the poor quality of the photos is not my usual style. Thank you for commenting.... Happy Blogging!

  3. Hi Joann, I'm your fan and follower of your Blog, I loved this idea of the frames. It is very creative and practical.
    Thank you for always sharing your talent.

  4. Hello Joann,

    Just a quick note to let you know how glad I am to see your latest post. I really think the world needs more people like you who are kind and generous. Your talent and energy never cease to amaze me. I am always intrigued by each of your projects and all the creativity you exude. You have unknowingly encouraged me many, many times, and not just with minis. I have also created a few of your projects, giving credit to you when noticed by others. Thanks so much for all you do in our mini world, as well as in the 'big' world as an extension of your being...you.

    Lori in Houston

  5. Hi Joanne...Glad to see you are back online. Your post is, as usual, inspiring. I completely understand how you got distracted from the 4th of July cart over a long, hot, busy summer. But maybe you'll find some time to post a photo of the fully decorated cart? I'd love to see it.

    It will be fun to see what you've got up your sleeve for Halloween but, personally, I'm anxious to see what you'll do for Christmas! Happy Fall...Sharon

  6. Thank you so much for this post. You have answered my prayers :) I was looking for ideas on how to do a roombox and then you do your post lol. Your work is always wonderful.
    Hugs Maria

  7. Hi Joanne I am always excited to see your new posting. So far I have done two of your projects (Valentine memories and winter chores)and I love when you use frames! Now I am getting ready to do a christmas room box with just a framed front. I have another framed project started, it's one you used with lamp and it was framed with a fire place and chair scene. I don't have the instructions becasue it was from a picture I saw online never had the article. I was trying to figure it out. I am doing something in memory of my late MIL.
    Thanks again you're wonderful!!! Blessings!!!

  8. Joann what kind of glue is used for these framed roombox projects?

  9. Hello Chris...As to what glue to use...I like Crafter's Pick Incredibly Tacky. Wood glue would work if your frames are bare wood. Funny you asked about the framed lamp project because when I get a minute or two I am going to add it to this posting...I had forgotten about it & it was very popular.

  10. Thanks Joanne! I have some minis that I had planned to use in one of my houses. I changed my mind about that and now have a few things that would be perfect in a room box. I've wondered how to make a room box. Using picture frames is the answer I was looking for! I will add this to my list of projects to do soon. Thanks for sharing this helpful information!

  11. I just love these frame boxes. Really a nice touch. Love that lamp....

  12. thanks for posting..

  13. Love the frame scene and will be making some. I have used frames for the front and top of a scene but not for an entire scene. When you put your wall paper up, do you do it over the glass on the frame or do you first put a piece of foamboard or similer item on the frame/glass. Also if you leave the glass under the wall paper what kind of glue do you use?

    1. Leilani...I have never glued anything over the glass, I usually remove it. But sometimes I put the glass over the paper...without glue of course. Should I ever need to paper over glass I would use a quality glue stick.
      Thanks for looking....Joann

    2. That makes sense! it's a better idea than gluing paper on the glass, thanks Joann.

  14. The information you are providing is good can you give me more details about decorative chess sets

  15. Hi Joann,
    I've loved your how-tos since the days of tiny Nutshell News.
    But I don't quite get this one. You say to use five 8x10 frames. But when you glue the long sides together on 4 of them to make the sides, the top and bottom will be 8x8 square, not 8x10.
    Am I missing something?

  16. hi Joann, I ran across your blog today & fell in love with your frame boxes! These are perfect & don't take up as much space as my 3 houses. I would love to make a shoe store since my grand daughter & I love Barbie shoes. May I ask how did you make the shoe boxes? Thank you for sharing your amazing talent!

  17. Hi Joanne, I have three questions. On the frames where you have wall paper, do you put the wall paper on the cardboard that comes inside the frames, then the glass put the wall paper over the glass? and also what do you use for the bottom or floor/base? and is the top open or does it have glass as well? Thanks for all your help.

  18. Such a great idea, thanks for sharing with us. So beautiful.

    Display Boxes

  19. Hi Joann

    Very clever idea. My I ask what do you use on the top and bottom?



  20. Its okay I think I know now :)

  21. I have one question when you remove the backing from the photo frame won't the glass fallout and what kind of glue to use

    1. I have not completed mine sorry I believe you glue the glass on

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to start my own Blog Engine blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine example of it. picture frame moulding

  24. The Custom-Packaging-Boxes provides a wide selection of display boxes USA. It is the best way to show your products so that people can know more about them. It will be used for promotion of your product.
    best: Display Boxes USA

  25. Aren't you just sick of living in a mess all the damn time? Why can't others just place things were they belong for a change! I understand your pain completely and you might not like what I'm going to say next...Jianxin corrugated

  26. Great Idea to make custom display boxes
    in a very innovative way you can customize them according to your need. It can display your product in a very creative way and make them more alluring for customer

  27. Display boxes are used to show the product. for more info about display boxes click here

  28. Customer can get the complete information form display boxes before they are going to buy. Display Boxes

  29. thanks for sharing this helpful article about display boxes

  30. Wow! :)
    This is an awesome collection of new ideas!
    Eagerly waiting for more valuable articles.
    You would feel more happy to read similar one from here-

  31. If you are in the food business and you are facing tough competition, you would know the importance of good Cardboard display boxes. Packaging is something that most of your customers will recognize and remember you by. Customers, these days, look for boxes that are sustainable, reliable, and allow for attractive presentation of the food inside.

  32. Thanks for sharing this article, please keep sharing such kind of articles.
    We are providing high-quality cardboard display boxes are customized in unique shapes and designs with color printing and logo printing as per to the demand.
    Display box cardboard
    burger boxes
    french fries boxes,

  33. Wonderful article! We are linking to this great post on our site.Keep up the good writing.8x10 Frame

  34. Thanks for sharing with so detailed tutorial! That will be a lot of fun!

  35. Joann You mentioned that you use a smooth artist paper on dollhouse walls you dont want to paper so they will be smoother. What kind of paper is it? Thanks Lin


  36. Hey if you are a manufacturer or have any local business. Than you need to have custom display boxes because it boast your client and do left a good impression on your clients and force them to choose the product. Here we are to supply those things on commercial level.

  37. I don't skills you're Branding apparel boxes. the rationale is that the buyers have several options and lots of websites show an inventory of templates for this purpose. Thanks for sharing such an exquisite piece of data . The above information is directly relevant to grease Packaging Boxes which will help the buyers learn more about packaging options.
    by: high end packaging boxes


  38. Thank you for writing such a great informative article for today's modern readers. Two thumbs up for great content and interesting views. I could only aspire to write like this. Counter Display Boxes

  39. Thanks for sharing this informative article. For more info about display boxes cardboard very beautiful article nice use of pics.

  40. This is the best post I have ever seen. Very clear and simple. Mid-portion Is quite interesting though. Keep doing this. I will visit your site again. Fun Ghoul Jacket

  41. Counter Display Boxes that are design elegant are the perfect way to showcase your lipsticks and it’s been a practical approach to throw a persuasive first impression to every client.

  42. This is a very well presented post, my compliments. It has a lot of key elements that truly make it work. And I love the outline and wordings. You really have a magnetic power that catches everyone in to your blog. Good one, and keep it going. custom candle boxes

  43. great site
    visit our website for customize boxes

  44. I am very much pleased with the contents you have mentioned. I wanted to thank you for this great article.
    deadpool shearling jacket

  45. great site visit our website for customize boxes

  46. great site
    visit our website for boxes

  47. I just found this blog and have high hopes for it to continue. Keep up the great work, its hard to find good ones. I have added to my favorites. Thank You.

    vape cartridge boxes
    custom vape cartridge boxes

  48. You make so many great points here that I read your article a couple of times. Your views are in accordance with my own for the most part. This is great content for your readers.
    Cardboard Display Boxes
    Display Boxes

  49. Thankx for sharing this article. Its really informative article. I really enjoy your site I am waiting for new article.
    cigarette boxes
    vape cartridge packaging

  50. Thanks for providing this informative article. Are you looking for exceptional packaging services? We provide durable, protective, and alluringFood Trays

  51. Vape cart Boxes are available with free shipping services across all state of USA. Custom vape cart boxes are made at OXO Packaging with free design support. So just visit the OXO Packaging and gets the Vape cart boxes.

  52. Bakery products play a significant role in our day-to-day life. The hygienic, healthy and fresh bakery items are preferable and liked by all. For the preservation of bakery items, PackagingNinjas is fabricating bakery display trays boxes. They design in a fine quality material that preserves the food items in an appropriate way. We are making custom bakery display trays boxes that look beautiful in dissimilar sizes. The apt size according to the product enhances the strength of products and avoids them from mishaps.

    Custom French Fry Boxes
    Bath Bomb Packaging Boxes
    Custom Cake Boxes