Nadine has been creating magical miniature homes since 2017. After a family project to create a whimsical garden getaway for their own child, the requests for bespoke playhouses like hers came flooding in.
These luxury and playful environments are perfect for forging beautiful memories and heirlooms that will last and be treasured beyond this generation. Out of Nadine’s own wish for her daughter to enjoy a recreational but also educational space in their own back garden as she had, Wallgarden was born to cater for other families and their dreams too.
Tell us about the playhouse you had as a child, and what made it so special?
My parents built our playhouse all those years ago to keep us occupied whilst they renovated an old house, it makes me laugh that we have a project house too – but I’m too busy building playhouses to do anything about our own project at the moment.
The thing that really sticks in my mind the most was the window, it was only small but it was stained glass and I just loved the colours and texture. I used to cosy up on the floor with lots of soft things (I don’t remember it having any furniture, it was up a ladder in a huge old apple tree!
Not only are your playhouses like tiny, high-end mansions to enjoy, they also provide an educational purpose. Can you tell us about how you incorporate this into your design?
I try to make sure they completely reflect the family they are being created for. It is the same for the families we work with, we spend time getting to understand their passions, interest and history – and source things for inside and out that make everything relevant to them. We put them together in such a way that the collection can be added to, so when the family find things together they can include them so they own it and it evolves over the years personal to them
Everyone finds this interesting, the suppliers, the parents and most of all the children. The things we built and collections we put together cement in their mind because they have context. That’s how we all learn isn’t it, through relevance, and creating memories. The gardens we create to go with the playhouses are a further extension of this.
There’s a lot of talk in the media about children not spending enough time outdoors, do you think stirring up interest in the garden and nature at a young age is important in combatting this?
Absolutely! It is the world around us and so important for everyone to understand. Appreciating the things we could so easily take for granted by understanding them and taking care of them means we protect them for future generations too. My stepfather was a Groundsman so for me it was mown grass and the smell of chalk lines being painted, and my Granddads tomato plants, warm in his greenhouse that did this. Getting close to nature by being outside in even the smallest of spots means there is something to observe and to learn every day
We love that you have worked Jim Lawrence products into your designs. Do you tend to work on a brief when it comes to the interiors or do you have free creative reign when choosing fabrics, lighting and accessories?
It completely depends on the client. Some people have a really strong view of what they want and I get a really good brief. Others ask me to replicate something they already have, or have seen and liked. I am often asked to come up with a scheme for them, being able to gain a sense of their family and lifestyle is really important to be able to get things right.
Its really important to know the quality of what you are recommending and working with, I wouldn’t do anything for people that I wouldn’t be happy with myself in terms of quality and design. I have used Jim Lawrence for many years, and have lots of things in my own home so I know about durability of the whole range as well as function and form. Everything we do is about craftsmen – contemporary or traditional, and Jim Lawrence combines both.
How would you describe your interior style in your own home? Are your bespoke playhouses small extensions of this?
We live in a really interesting house. It was once an old gardeners cottage but has been subject to a lot of change in its history. It’s another reason for loving Jim Lawrence, I know you will always have something suitable – whatever the task and if it isn’t something you stock, your team are able to make it for us. My last count of Jim Lawrence lampshades I think we had more than 20…
Some of our rooms are more rustic with worn fabrics and wood showing its history and story. But we combine that with more finished and finer elements – there are no schemes as such! I also prefer things unrestored. Once you have done too much to something its impossible to get it back to how it was. I like to see the history, signs of use and love, and for things not to be too precious to sit on or use. Of course we all have those super special things, granny’s old vase or similar items that are irreplaceable but a home should be beautiful and useable. That’s our business philosophy too.
Where do you look to for inspiration?
Everywhere around me. As much as we all use technology and social media, that’s the last place I look to for inspiration though for many its the first, again that’s about balance. Nothing quite beats the experience of feeling and seeing things first hand. I’m quite a visual and tactile person.
Our builds start with a collection of items and snapshots, images, pieces of material (not necessarily fabric – I mean in the literal sense, it could be a piece of metal!), tiny scraps of colour. It really could come from anything – a book binding, a plant, an architectural detail – something sets the tone and we build from that. I have a little inspiration bag of things too which includes all kinds of weird and wonderful things. And I do love a catalogue over magazine! I always have a little wish list of things to turn to and ideas to include in the next project.
What has been your most rewarding project to work on so far?
It was actually a build for a confined space, not everyone wants a big playhouse. In this instance accessibility was also really important, so being able to create a tiny bit of magic on a more restricted scale helped challenge our thinking. There were elements that we all really wanted to include, but had to think carefully about priorities and safety. Seeing the little boys eagerness and the biggest of smiles, that was the biggest reward from my perspective, I know that will remain with them forever.
Which has been your most challenging?
Our projects are always challenging, as no two are the same. One of the most challenging projects was actually a delivery challenge. We pride ourselves on getting the right result and not compromising. For the playhouse to be in the most perfect location for the family we had to lift it over a huge wall, then get it into place where machinery was unable to access – this ended up involving methods employed by prehistoric man…rolling it!
At the moment we are working on our busily for RHS Chelsea. I have had lots of the components together for many months but won’t relax until I see it all together and know it works. It’s a journey seeing the different phases of how these things come together, being able to adapt along the way when things need to change, then the anticipation of how it is received by others. Every project is like that for us and the same amount of effort goes into each.
Tell us what your dream project looks like.
There are a couple of materials we haven’t worked with yet that I would love to have the opportunity to do so. Interestingly they are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum! I have a real passion for stone, its fascinating, old and full of history – and its reflection of the region in which is comes. I would love to use more in the next project – either inside (some fabulous fossils and lighting!) or outside a rustic gnarly old stone roof. I recently saw some beautiful glass pantiles and thought what a stunning light they would cast, so a more contemporary building is on my wish list too – simple construction but coloured light. Children love watching light and enjoy colour, those images will imprint on the mind.
Last but not least, what is on the horizon for Wallgarden in 2018?
A diverse portfolio of work, every build is so unique. We all love seeing the reactions of everyone when they see what we have create. We have some plans around our products to compliment the playhouses too, a couple of our finds have been really special and lots of people wanted them, I would like to find a way of recreating those for others to enjoy too and am working hard to find the right team to do so. We have a couple of really special things in the RHS Chelsea playhouse to share.
We can’t wait to see what Chelsea has to offer – you will find Nadine and her playhouses there as well as the Jim Lawrence team in our own barn! Learn more about Wallgarden on their website, and follow them on Instagram for stunning photographic updates @wallgarden.co.