Chloé Leguay was a sculptor and prop stylist before becoming a mother. Endless blanket and pillow forts with her daughter encouraged her to think about play and sculpture in a new way and launched *iA Playhouse: a lightweight, expandable play structure for children to create anything from their imaginations. Parisian born Leguay is now based in San Francisco and her years of experience using her hands to bring ideas and emotions to screen lives on in *iA Playhouse. Anyone looking for holiday gifts for their littles should look no further!
What is your earliest childhood design memory?
One of my first memories was as a baby, sitting under the tent made out of the sheet (or blanket?) of my parents’ bed, the mast was a leg. I remember feeling that I had my own special hiding place, and it was big enough to explore.
Where and how did you hone your skills in sculpting and set design?
Two of my teachers from art school had a modeling studio called TrucMuches, and
I was hired as an intern and continued on after graduation. I worked on big event sculptures and tiny models for animation movies. It’s still my comfort place.
What were some of your most memorable projects in set design?
Working on movies like La Vie en Rose or Hugo were amazing experiences. I love being involved in such big productions surrounded by so many talented people. Teamwork is a blessing; *iA on the contrary is a more solitary endeavor.
What do you enjoy most about being able to work with your hands?
I like to put my brain on the side for a moment. When you finally know what you want to do, you switch off the thinking part and switch on the “make it right” part.
Nothing is more satisfying, seeing time transformed into a shape.
How did you arrive at the brand name, *iA Playhouse?
For the brand name, I wanted to find a name for the construction system more than the playhouse itself.
*iA is made of Connectors, Sticks and Triangles. Three elements to build anything.
* for the connector
I for the stick
A for the triangle
Having children of your own must make for great impromptu focus groups – how much were they involved in the design process and product testing?
My daughter is of course the reason I create *iA. After 1000 playhouses built in every part of the house, in all kinds of shapes, made out of anything available, it seemed a good time to create *iA system! When I was at the beginning of the process, she was 5, and played for hours in it, bringing all kind of props—light, pillows, books or dolls. That was so fun to watch. But, it is too hard to build alone at this age, moms and dads need to figure it out. Around 7 she started to like the construction game, trying to build new shapes. The boat for example, was her idea. Thanks, Lili! Now she’s 9, and loves to build playhouses for Max, her little brother who just turned 1.
What kinds of materials are used in the overall design of the playhouses?
The idea was to use only natural materials. Wood, cotton, natural latex basically. I might need to add a tiny piece of plastic to hold the connectors better and it’s killing me 🙂
Since moving from Paris to San Francisco, is there anything you miss about the Parisian way of life – have you found many similarities?
Honestly I miss culture, beauty and sarcasm. In the meantime the lack of similarity is the reason I left.
What is the most surprising lesson you’ve learned in juggling the responsibilities of both a mother and entrepreneur?
I learned that you can keep on playing anytime, anywhere, at home or at work. I’m just a 41 year old kid who doesn’t want to grow up. And it seems to work pretty well with the life I have.
What are we most likely to find you doing on weekends with the family?
We usually never plan anything on the weekend, always last minute trips to surprising places. Otherwise you might find us crafting, painting, cooking, gardening. I’m thinking to plaster cast my kids’ hands and feet, cheesy, isn’t it? But they’re growing up so fast, time needs to stop running.
Can you let us in on any exciting upcoming projects for the brand?
Before the next project, I want to see *iA in shops, but I’m having a hard time producing a bigger quantity. As a designer my part of the job is limited, I need to find a business partner. To whom it may concern…