Set to be an instant heirloom, Twig Studio’s creations were born from a need for open-ended play
Their own children may be past the days of playing with dollhouses, but that doesn’t stop artisans Tim Harold and Nia Moschopoulos from pouring time, love and care into their high-end creations.
He’s a mechanical engineer by trade. She’s a lawyer. In their downtime, the federal employees are Twig Studio’s founder, designer and woodworker (Harold) and business administrator, seamstress and creative consultant (Moschopoulos). Their handcrafted, Waldorf-inspired dollhouses, made using all-natural materials, are “designed to encourage open play, imagination and creativity, and have the look and feel of things close to nature,” Harold says.
These dollhouses are like no other, says Moschopoulos. “They are unique, beautiful and the stuff of fairytales. That’s what makes people stop and stare. They have dreamt of houses like these, but no one has ever made these before. They are not only charming, but really durable.”
The result? “No two days of play are the same,” she says. “This is worth a lot when kids will discard a plastic toy after one day, or when it breaks or the batteries run out.”
A builder from an early age, Harold designed go-carts, treehouses and skateboard ramps before graduating to decks and eventually, an entire house. “I have always taken great pleasure in designing and building,” he says. When he had children, he found an opportunity to make something special for them.
Understanding the importance of open play, Harold saw a gap in the market and decided to make something to inspire his kids to be imaginative. He even sold a few dollhouses on Etsy, but it wasn’t until he met Moschopoulos years later that the business launched in earnest. They decided to start up Twig Studios again, but this time, incorporating Moschopoulos’s ideas.
Located in the garage-turned workshop of their Nepean home, Twig Studios currently offers two sizes of dollhouses, the playhouse and the smaller birch tree cottage. Each model features slotted construction (which means no tools are required for assembly), with all-natural and non-toxic ochre-stained roofs, and is set on a green base. The houses have many access points for little hands to reach through, and all the doors open and close with leather hinges. Last spring, Twig Studios added hardwood furniture, all handcrafted with classical joinery, moving parts and accessorized with organic fabric coverings, to its lineup and already, the partners are working on expanding their offerings.
Their products, says Harold, are for children ages three and up. “They offer a platform for kids to create limitless stories and imitate adults as they often do,” he says. “The wood textures are nourishing to the senses. The natural stains, dyes and beeswax are beautiful to behold and these are characteristics conducive to inspiring imagination.”
For Moschopoulos, the toys harken back to “the old days, when kids had a chance to be bored and discover the world around them,” she says. “Open-ended natural toys are conducive to developing children’s personalities, problem-solving skills and interpersonal skills, whereas battery-operated toys with buttons, lights, sounds and screens saturate the senses and leave little space for creativity and appreciation for the real world around them.”
Because the dollhouses are made in small batches—each batch can take up to several weeks to complete—the toys are more expensive than mass-produced ones. But they’re an investment; heirloom pieces that may be used as décor once the children they were intended for have outgrown them. “We often get comments that parents and grandparents would buy them for themselves and wish they had one when they were little,” says Harold. The toys are sold via Twig Studio’s website and Etsy, and for U.S. customers, through Bella Luna Toys.
Although the current goal is to fund their hobby, both Harold and Moschopoulos hope to run Twig Studios as a post-retirement venture. “It would be really nice,” says Harold, “if our hobby inspired one or some of our kids (while “past the target age for this toy,” the five children in the couple’s blended family, Henry, 10; Annie, 12; Holly, 12; Maddy, 15; and Jasmine, 17 have helped with the business in the past) to undertake a spinoff or make it a stepping stone for their own business venture.”
For now, Harold says it is their “shared dream to encourage open play and make sure that as many families as possible can share in this beautiful toy.” Moschopoulos agrees. “It provides families with an ability to connect between generations,” she says, “with the toy and the memories attached being passed down.”
Advice from a local entrepreneur
Artisan Tim Harold, one-half of Ottawa’s Twig Studios, shares his business tips
- Keep it fun…
- … but be practical and remember that sound accounting and business administration practices are important regardless of whether it is a hobby business or a multi-national corporation
- Don’t underestimate the cost and effort associated with the business end of a venture
- Sometimes things can get challenging and complicated. Planning and commitment, as well as the moral support of family and friends are needed to ensure success
“We are endlessly impressed and respectful of the creative power in the National Capital Region. Our contemporaries set a high bar and inspire us to make nothing less than the best for our clients.”
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