Treehouse Indoor Play is a startup company based in Bournemouth, Dorset. They asked us to design the coffee shop part of the business, and due to the landlord of the first site having a last minute change of mind we got to design it twice in two very different buildings.
The first site was a large shop-style unit with the junction between the coffee shop morphing gently into a children’s play area as you worked your way through the building. The second site was a grade 2 listed former Masonic lodge which had been used a ski shop for 30 years. This came with an unusual alpine lodge-style ceiling!
The challenge for us as their interior designers was to come up with a solution that would work well as a coffee shop, within the council’s restrictions and the client’s limited budget. In the end we opened up some of the ski lodge to expose the full-height windows. We left the ceiling, whilst shoring it up and repairing the roof to prevent more rain damage. As indoor play centre designs go it’s pretty unique and has worked well for them.
Claire Tillitson / Co Founder
Treehouse Indoor Play
“We are a startup company with an ambition to change the face of indoor play. Having 3 children we had too many years of grubby plastic, dirty toilets and undrinkable coffee. There are a small handful of exceptional indoor play facilities across the UK but not, unfortunately, in our locality.
We had passion, heaps of ideas, a clear gap in the market and half of our funding. But we didn’t have a premises or any idea how to push forward. Neither of us had any direct experience in the play or catering industry. Chris has been in the property industry for more than 20 years, and I had just retired from 17 years of teaching. Because of our lack of experience I approached the owner of one of our favourite cafe’s in South West London.
Karen ran a number of courses for people wanting to start their own business. This course was better than I could have hoped for, and introduced us to a number of key ingredients – including the importance of interior design. She also helped us to get in touch with Crispin Williams of Engaging Interiors.
From the outset Crispin was our knight in shining armour. I am the creative brain and Chris the realist. I was buzzing with years of research and ideas. Chris was very budget aware. We often tackle things from opposite sides and Crispin helped us meet in the middle. Most importantly he listened. He considered every idea we threw at him and helped us devise a strategy.
Engaging Interiors aren’t just exceptional designers. They guide you in all areas. Every one of their clients are unique with their own individual needs. Our particular project possibly needed more support than most, and we were on a tight budget. Crispin guided our concept, we discussed target audience and played around with design ideas. He also put us in touch with other specialists we would need (roofers, carpenters, planners, surveyors etc).
During the design process we eventually found the right premises, and then we were into the minefield that is planning. Our building is also listed so we needed advertising consent, building consent and listed building consent. Being on a limited budget I took this challenge on solo, and I can honestly say would not have got through it without Crispin on the other end of the phone. Sometimes all you need is a quick two- minute chat (though they rarely were) to clear the mind and guide you through the next hurdle.
With the premises secured we then got onto the fun part. All of our ideas and Crispin’s designs started to become a reality. I still walk into our building first thing in the morning when no one else is here and get that adrenaline rush and warm sense of pride in what we, with Engaging Interiors’ help, have achieved.
Our venue is truly stunning. We wanted customers to be instantly taken aback by the beauty of our cafe. I love it when someone walks in and gasps in surprise. The colours are muted (not garish). The cafe is grown up and incredibly sophisticated. Natural wood, high ornate ceilings, beams, parquet flooring and perfectly balanced light features all sit cleverly with quirky bird box shelves and a bee hive bar. The main cafe then leads into our play frame. This is all natural wood and grass, with rope and grip climbs covered in ivy and natural greenery.
Our ethos is all about wholesome play paired with great, locally roasted, organic coffee and locally sourced produce. The interior design perfectly matches this ethos (you simply could not serve chips and chicken nuggets in an environment like this!).
Building The Treehouse was probably one of the best things I have ever done. We are a genuine independent business with the scary budget constraints of most startups. Some may have thought (and in fact have said) that spending money on a professional interior designer was madness. However, without investing in Engaging Interiors the rest of our budget would have been wasted.
With Crispin’s guidance we could confidently make budget decisions without affecting the quality of our build. Thanks to Crispin’s eye we could use cheap Ikea lights and make them look incredible. We could get a local carpenter to make tables out of cheap scaffolding boards, and because of their sizes, positioning and finish create a simply breathtaking effect.
Crispin literally turned our vision into reality and I will be eternal grateful and thankful for everything he has done for us. We can’t wait to use him again when we feel ready to role out Treehouse number 2!”