Duluth home business now designing creative toys for children
Most homeowners fantasize about it from time to time: that one wall which, if moved, would reveal the perfect floor plan. Shari Bradt knows that feeling well from her former work as an interior designer. Now, she's developing a new business selli...
Most homeowners fantasize about it from time to time: that one wall which, if moved, would reveal the perfect floor plan.
Shari Bradt knows that feeling well from her former work as an interior designer. Now, she's developing a new business selling modular children's playhouses.
The various panels that children can use to build the playhouses are stored in a tote bag and can be carried anywhere.
Children have the freedom to arrange the entire structure. Panels and posts differing in size and material serve as floors, walls and ceilings.
Children determine for themselves where certain rooms such as kitchens and bedrooms should be. They can select décor from wallpaper to camel paper or use foam board panels or Plexiglas panels that allow them to put their own paper designs or cutouts into a transparent panel.
"I worked in interior design, so I have an interest in creating spaces," Bradt said. "I wanted to give my kids an opportunity to create a house where they could build their own rooms or design their own spaces."
Along with business partner Denny Hovde, Bradt has named the new company "MOD playhouse", with the slogan, "Creative toys make creative kids!"
Bradt's three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter enjoy their roles as product testers for the houses and accessories.
"It's an ideal situation with a three- and a five-year-old to test everything out on," said Hovde, whose own children are now grown.
With the help of Dean Hauge, who is a detail man, the group of three continues to build. Hauge often brings an eye for figuring out how to make smaller parts such as fixtures, and he knows the art of crafting small holes so that other parts can connect in a keyway-and-peg style.
"I enjoy woodworking, and this is one more aspect of it," Hauge said. "I thought this would be a fun project to be part of."
For Bradt, it was important that the new design challenge the imaginations of both boys and girls.
"There's not a lot of creativity required from children playing with most houses because they are a set box with a set of rooms," Bradt said.
Bradt began searching for a traditional doll house for her daughter last year for Christmas but was disappointed in the prices, quality and style of what was available on the market. She bought a router and spent about 60 days working on her first house in her own basement.
Bradt's art and design background, which includes a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Kansas-Lawrence with a specialty in mixed media installation, made it possible for her to come up with her own ideas before beginning work. She has also worked in a shop and understands tools.
After some construction, Bradt came to a technical block that required another set of eyes. She turned to Denny Hovde.
"I built the first prototype," Bradt said. "It looked good and met my design requirements but didn't stay together very well. Denny helped by figuring out a better way to make it structurally more sound."
Gail Watczak is a customer who has made a purchase from this brand new business for her grandchildren.
"I'm going to buy the basic package," Watczak said. "The house idea is very creative and open, not limited like other products on the market can be."
Bradt points out that the homes can be purchased piecemeal as kits, which allows someone to start small and add on as children grow. The design also appeals to both boys and girls. These two qualities make the modular house easy on the budget.
Visit the company website at www.MODplayhouse.etsy.com for more information.