Hannah Brooks, co-founder of Creations, which makes beautiful kids’ playhouses and furniture, gives us an insight into the world of dreamy little designs…
How did the idea for Creations come about?
My husband Tom and I have three young children and a few years ago, when we had just two, we were looking for a traditional wooden playhouse for our boys who were then aged two and three. We found a British Carpenter, David Chidgey, who was making playhouses under the name Playhouse Creations, but he was working alone so the waiting time was long. We thought the idea was fantastic, however, as we are real advocates of active play, so we established a new business called Creations and David came to work for us. This allowed us to employ more carpenters and talented designers, increase our production and adopt some new technology to build a lot more creativity into our designs. We also do bespoke joinery and furniture and full villa fit-out through our main company Cherwell.
What have your favourite projects been?
We have built a number of wooden playhouses for play centres – we’ve made four for Cheeky Monkeys, for instance, with more are on the way. We also built the new Fairytales playcentre in Town Centre Jumeirah, two playhouses for Homegrown Nurseries and one for Jebel Ali Primary School, among others. These projects are great fun, but we also really love the magic of creating houses and children’s furniture for families. We always have happy customers and the moment they are completed we have children running to them and playing, so we often struggle to take pictures of the houses once they are complete. Both boys and girls gain so much from active imaginative play and we are always astonished by their creativity and suggestions.
Our children love to design playhouses and hand me drawings all the time that include incredible details like zip wires and a thousand windows, so we have some pretty tough customers to please. We have built some fantastic bunk beds too.
They look amazing, but can we afford it?
Often people hear the word ‘bespoke’ and think expensive but this isn’t always the case. Of course we have built some incredible houses where budgets were bigger, but we also pride ourselves on creating a great solution for all our clients. Our houses are built to last and we insist on using the right materials that can withstand the harsh weather conditions in the Middle East, so an element of that is reflected in the cost. For a house that should last years, however ‒ we often design some that can be adapted into dens for teenagers ‒ they are still good value.
We are just about to launch a range of standard models for the playhouses in order to reduce the order time and to create the most cost-effective high-quality houses we can. In the new range we have a ‘Half House’ which is perfect for smaller gardens or even inside a house or apartment as it goes against a wall, it is the lowest-priced house, too. We are also creating a range of standard beds and bed/playhouses and some children’s furniture including beautiful engraved toy boxes, all of which we will be launching in the next few weeks. Prices start from Dh1,950 for the personalised toy boxes and from Dh4,500 for the playhouses..
What special features can you build into a bespoke creation?
We can add different play elements such as swings, slides, sand-pits, rope ladders, climbing walls, fireman’s poles and the like. Many houses are two-storey and we often create safety glazed windows, some of which can open, dormer windows, clock or bell towers, shutters that are fixed or close, chalk boards, shop counters, play tables and benches, wrap-around verandas – the sky’s the limit! We have had clients add air conditioning to their play houses and lighting and we can make curtains and other furnishings too.
What are the most popular designs among clients with younger kids?
For younger customers we often build straightforward playhouses as this is a fantastic age for imagination, creativity and problem-solving. Youngsters can spend lots of time working out the functions of simple things like doors and windows and having something built to their scale is really rewarding. Children this age often like to play shop, so we offer counters and shelving and racks so that they can really get into it. Many of these houses can then be adapted for the next stage, and we have revisited some of our houses and raised them on to platforms to allow for climbing and swinging elements to be added later. We have also built a number of specialist beds for younger children. As we can create custom solutions we have allowed younger children to safely have raised beds with no risk of falling in order to really maximise space in bedrooms. This is fantastic for apartment living or for homes that don’t have a dedicated playroom. For one young child we built a ‘reading nook’ raised above their bed to really increase the use of the room without having the children sleep up there. It has a safety gate too, so the parents were confident the child would not venture up there alone.
How do you ensure safety standards are met?
As parents of three children ‒ our youngest is an adventurous 19 month old ‒ safety is always paramount. We could never produce a product we were not really confident was safe or that we would not let our children play on. The first safety consideration is the design. We have three designers who all understand the importance of rails, surfaces and hazards. As parents ourselves we know the appeal of things to climb or swing from, so have often amended designs to be appropriate for the age of the children using them.
Next is the material selection. We source the best, strongest timbers we can and we choose safe paints that also have UV qualities for durability. No screws are ever protruding from our playhouses and, knowing how kids play and explore, we ensure posts are strong, splinter free and very secure. Manufacture and installation are supervised by two British master carpenters with lots of experience and knowledge. If the houses and furniture are used as designed, we are confident they are safe. We use the same safety standards as we do for our commercial project installations and they adhere to strict guidelines. We also have full liability insurance.
To find out more, visit www.creationsuae.com