Design

An abstract playhouse encourages imaginative fun

If a baby’s arrival is cause for celebration, the unexpected appearance of twins doubles the joy — and compels mum and dad to rethink how they use their limited living space. And so it was for Lucy Hargreaves and Jay Lim, who were already parents to Jackson, then two, when Penelope and Amelia arrived in November 2014. “A year in, our three kids were taking over our entire upstairs space. We needed to contain them!” says Lim with a laugh.

The architect began to sketch, brainstorming a renovation of their 750-square-foot unfinished basement that included a guest bedroom and bathroom, laundry and workout room and, most importantly, a family room with a compact corner play pod.

Lim calls the pod a “non-specific” space. Some days it may be a space ship, others an ice cream parlour. Photo: Marc Fowler
Lim calls the pod a “non-specific” space. Some days it may be a space ship, others an ice cream parlour. Photo: Marc Fowler

Measuring just 8 by 16 feet, this is the playhouse you wish you had had as a kid: cozy, modern, and indestructible. And, yes, the wonky perspectives are intentional. Lim deliberately designed the asymmetrical play pod, with its eccentric cutout door and windows, as a “non-specific” space.

“I wanted a form that was dynamic and encouraged the kids to use their imaginations,” he explains. “So far, it has been everything from a pretend spaceship to an ice cream parlour.”

Architect Jay Lim designed this modern playhouse to encourage his three small kids to relocate from the living room to the basement. It’s made with plywood and stained pine flooring — scraps left over when the house was built
Architect Jay Lim designed this modern playhouse to encourage his three small kids to relocate from the living room to the basement. It’s made with plywood and stained pine flooring — scraps left over when the house was built. Photo: Marc Fowler

While the kids play, mum or dad can lounge on the couch — the rectangular window slot is set at the perfect height for lazy supervising. Lim admits that he actually ordered the couch before designing the play pod, then pencilled in the window at eye level.

The pod itself is made from simple materials that were left over when the family home was built a few years ago. “It’s basically a bunch of pieces that would have gone into the scrap heap,” says Lim, pointing out that the interior is made up of four sheets of plywood, while the exterior uses extra pieces of pine flooring stained a dark grey. The interior walls and floor were intentionally left rough “so the kids can go at it and scuff it up,” with one wall set aside for chalk-drawing.

The rectangular slot is set at the perfect height for lazy supervising. Lim ordered the couch before designing the play pod, then set the window at eye level. Photo: Marc Fowler
The rectangular slot is set at the perfect height for lazy supervising. Lim ordered the couch before designing the play pod, then set the window at eye level. Photo: Marc Fowler

As his kids grow up, Lim hopes the pod’s abstract nature means it will change with them, becoming whatever they wish it to be. Perhaps it will one day be a video room or a hangout filled with beanbag chairs, or even a quiet place to do homework. “What’s most interesting to me is that it will probably morph into something I never even thought of when I first designed it.”