Miniature collections don't have to begin with a dollhouse. Miniaturist Kate Doordan Klaven, for example, prefers to display her pieces on bookshelves and in a plexiglass square. Other miniaturists create room settings or vignettes in three-sided shadow boxes and glass domes.

For further inspiration:

*Through the Looking Glass by Ann Ruble (Boynton and Associates Inc., $19.95) of Nutshell News -- a compilation of miniature houses, shops, rooms, castles, landscapes, furniture and accessories that have been featured over the years in the magazine.

*Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago (Abbeville Press, $29.95) -- the history and creation of 68 miniature rooms (conceived and commissioned by miniatures collector Mrs. James Ward Thorne of the Montgomery Ward family), which detail views of European and American interiors from the 16th century to 1940.

*The Washington Dolls' House and Toy Museum, 5236 44th St. NW, 244-0024; Tues.-Sat., 10 to 5, Sunday, noon to 5. Founded in 1975 by dollhouse historian Flora Gill Jacobs, the museum boasts a collection of antique dollhouses, as well as toys and games. The museum also has two miniature shops featuring a wide assortment of furniture, accessories, dolls, building and wiring supplies, kits and books.