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5 Favorites: Storybook Twig Playhouses for Indoors and Out

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5 Favorites: Storybook Twig Playhouses for Indoors and Out

July 20, 2017

A stick house may not have been a viable option for the Three Little Pigs, but I’ve been dreaming of one for my own backyard. It all started when I happened upon a “twigwam” on Pinterest. Delighted, I started looking for other woven branch structures. That led to the discovery of a whole world of natural playhouses, all sturdy enough to endure plenty of huffing and puffing (and wind and rain, too). Here are five favorites, from simple to fairytale deluxe.

Twigwam

The Twigwam is one of a group of woven play structures from London garden accessories company Chairworks. This one is made in Russia of woven hazel branches. It comes in four panels that get cable-tied together (and are easy to disassemble for storage).
Above: The Twigwam is one of a group of woven play structures from London garden accessories company Chairworks. This one is made in Russia of woven hazel branches. It comes in four panels that get cable-tied together (and are easy to disassemble for storage).

The Twigwam is £179.95 ($234.51) from Chairworks; it’s also available from a number of other UK retailers, including Sophie Conran. The owner of Chairworks told us that due to US Customs restrictions (that require fumigating the branches), he doesn’t ship to the States. For an American version, consider Center Enterprise’s steel-framed Willow Teepee; $499.

Children’s Den

Another Chairworks design, the Children&#8\2\17;s Den &#8\2\1\1; W\1\20, £\299.95 (\$390.77), like the Twigwam, is composed of four woven hazel sections that are tied together. Add your own log stools and accessories—for festive bunting, such as this, see Remodelista&#8\2\17;s \10 Easy Pieces roundup.
Above: Another Chairworks design, the Children’s Den – W120, £299.95 ($390.77), like the Twigwam, is composed of four woven hazel sections that are tied together. Add your own log stools and accessories—for festive bunting, such as this, see Remodelista’s 10 Easy Pieces roundup.

Outdoor Thicket

Wanting to create &#8\2\20;a natural and enchanting play space&#8\2\2\1; for her young daughter, Kelly English ended up founding Cheeriup of Minnesota, specialists in what she calls Thickets.
Above: Wanting to create “a natural and enchanting play space” for her young daughter, Kelly English ended up founding Cheeriup of Minnesota, specialists in what she calls Thickets.

Cheeriup’s willow structures range from simple domed Fledgling Thickets, $595, to the substantial Outdoor Thicket, $4,200, shown here, with a cedar plank floor, diminutive door, and hook (for hanging things, such as a broom). English uses native wild willow, which she harvests and preps herself, and says it takes her from three to five weeks to produce each thicket: “It’s a simple idea, a house made of sticks, but there’s actually nothing simple about the process of creating them.” She is currently accepting orders for fall 2017 and beyond.

Dreaming Spires Playhouse

Judith Needham of Surrey, England, is another willow weaver who makes her own designs (including baskets), and came up with her first playhouse for her own daughter. Her largest construction, The Dreaming Spires Willow Playhouse, £\2,000 (\$\2,605) is scaled to accommodate parents as well as kids: it&#8\2\17;s 8 feet wide, 3 feet deep, and 6 feet tall. She also makes Onion-shaped Dens that start at £550 (\$7\16.65).
Above: Judith Needham of Surrey, England, is another willow weaver who makes her own designs (including baskets), and came up with her first playhouse for her own daughter. Her largest construction, The Dreaming Spires Willow Playhouse, £2,000 ($2,605) is scaled to accommodate parents as well as kids: it’s 8 feet wide, 3 feet deep, and 6 feet tall. She also makes Onion-shaped Dens that start at £550 ($716.65).
Needham’s willow comes from growers in Somerset, England: “It’s grown specifically for basket making; the method of cultivation, rather than the variety, is what makes the material suitable for weaving. The technique is called coppicing—each plant is cut right down to the ground during harvest in the spring leaving just a stump. New growth quickly springs from the trunk. These stems are long, thin, unbranching, and very pliable. Some plants are left to grow for two or three years to yield ten-f00t-long stems, which is what I need for playhouses, but most are cut annually making it the ultimate sustainable crop.”

For twig playhouses that are left outdoors, Needham recommends applying an annual coat of linseed oil, and says with this protective finish, they should last for six to eight years. Most of her customers are in the UK, but to date, she’s shipped three playhouses to the States.

Hocus Pocus

Chapel Hill, NC-based environmental artist Patrick Dougherty roams the country creating elaborate, site-specific woven sapling installations.
Above: Chapel Hill, NC-based environmental artist Patrick Dougherty roams the country creating elaborate, site-specific woven sapling installations.

One of his specialities is play constructions, most of which he builds on the grounds of museums, art centers, and colleges, but on occasion, Dougherty accepts private commissions. One such is Hocus Pocus, shown here, a willow structure at Bittersweet Farms in Ennice. NC. Photograph by Robyn Dreyer. Go to Stickwork to see more and learn about his process.

N.B.: For more fanciful children’s play structures, see:

Product summary  

Children's Play Structures

Willow Teepee

$499.00 USD from Center Enterprise
Children's Play Structures

Twigwam

£150.00 GBP from Sophie Conran

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