A display collection of Paul Gruenberg’s miniature rooms recently opened on Aug. 22 at the Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences.
The collection was donated by Gruenberg’s daughter, Paula McGlamery.
Before the Industrial Revolution, furniture was custom made and very expensive to produce.
Furniture stores could not afford to keep inventory nor could they keep display pieces because of floor space limitations.
Compensating for the lack of space, retailers used scale models of furniture pieces to give customers an idea of what they were ordering.
Traveling salesmen easily carried the models to show during door-to-door sales.
Paul Gruenberg owned and operated a rubber stamp business.
His family lived on the floor above the storefront, and his workshop was located in the basement.
He was inspired to start making scale models of furniture after being presented with an old cabinet maker’s sample by his daughter.
In 1967 Paul Gruenberg started making miniature pieces of furniture in his basement workshop.
Gruenberg’s first miniature was modeled after an antique hunt board, which is a type of high-rise buffet that he kept in his house.
“It struck a cord with him,” said Paula McGlamery.
Gruenberg handmade all of his furniture and most are replications of actual furniture that he observed.
“We would have dinner at home every evening above my father’s rubber stamp business in downtown Memphis. Later my siblings and I would do our homework upstairs while our father would work on pieces in his shop in the basement where his tools were located,” said McGlamery.
After successfully modeling his hunt board, Paul Gruenberg began to recreate other pieces of furniture.
Paul and his wife, Lu Gruenberg, collected many antiques during their marriage. In fact, many of the pieces Paul Gruenberg manufactured were replicas of furniture in his home.
Interestingly, Paul Gruenberg made most of his miniatures from the scrap wood of furniture donated by family friends.
This allowed Paul Gruenberg to replicate antique furniture down to the type of wood contained in the modeler’s subject.
As Paul Gruenberg’s collection of miniature furniture grew, Lu Gruenberg channeled her husband’s passion into creating complete interior dioramas to display his furniture.
She designed the upholstery, needlework, and wallpaper of the rooms.
She even coordinated the curtains, drapes, wallpaper, and rugs of the rooms with similar patterns.
Paula McGlamery donated five miniature rooms to The Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences. The collection includes a Parlor, a Formal Eating Room, a Family Eating Room, a Sleeping Room, and a Keeping Room.
The Paul Gruenberg Miniature Rooms exhibition, was previously installed for 25 years at the Art Museum at the University of Memphis. It is now on display in the Elam Alexander Gallery at the Museum of Arts and Sciences until Oct. 28, 2012.