Style and Design
A brilliant little wooden playhouse with decent headroom internally to allow larger children to stand up easily. The Charlie features quality build with pressure treated timbers, three windows, an apex roof and a split, stable style door. Smaller sibling of the Frankie, the compact Charlie is ideal if you don't have quite so much space to play with. New to the market for 2016, the Charlie - which is also marketed as the Sage or Giraffe - is proving to be a popular addition.
The Charlie is constructed throughout - walls, roof and floor - in 12mm tongue and groove cladding on robust 44 x 44mm framing. The windows are glazed in styrene for safety and peace of mind.
The playhouse is a generous 5'1'' (1.56m) high at the apex of the roof with an eaves height of 3'8'' (1.11m). The door opening is an accommodating 3'4'' x 1'7'' (1.02 x 0.48m) while the playhouse footprint is 4'1'' x 3'8'' (4'10'' x 4'1'' including the roof overhang).
The Charlie comes with pressure treated timbers and a 15 year guarantee against rot. The pressure treatment should avoid the requirement to renew treatments on a regular basis and will thus keep maintenance to a minimum.
Optional scalloped fascia boards, window boxes and shutters are all available for a small additional cost.
The playhouse is delivered flat packed ready for assembly by the purchaser.
See the details of sellers and prices given above.
We think the Charlie - or Sage if you prefer - is a great little playhouse. There's no doubt as to the quality of the build with the 12mm tongue and groove boarding and 44 x 44mm framing used in the construction giving a solid robust feel. The tongue and groove floor is an improvement over the solid sheet flooring often found in budget playhouses which is more open to deterioration if exposed to damp ground. The real bonus though is the pressure treatment applied to the timbers at the time of manufacture which should ensure a long life for the Charlie even if you carry out very little further decoration or maintenance. Indeed, the playhouse normally comes with a 15 year guarantee against rot which demonstrates the manufacturer's faith in the process.
Notwithstanding the pressure treatment though, we would still recommend that you apply a decorative finish at the time of assembly and keep this well maintained throughout the life of the playhouse. Although the wood should already be well protected against attack by rot, even pressure treated timbers will quite quickly take on a worn and weathered appearance when exposed to the elements and the application of a decorative finish should avoid this. The illustrated example has been decorated in an attractive blue and white which we think is far preferable to bare wood.
Another definite plus for the Charlie is its height. At 5'1'' it enjoys a height advantage over several similarly sized playhouses and this should help avoid children outgrowing it too quickly. There's a reasonable amount of internal space and this is helped by the playhouse having windows to both the front and sides which plenty of light to the interior. The presence of the three windows also allows children inside to be observed easily and unobtrusively and the stable style door, adding another dimension to play, is a feature absent from most of the Charlie's competitors.
We also like the playhouse's traditional appearance which can be enhanced by the scalloped fascia boards, shutters and window boxes often available as optional extras. Whether you purchase these is of course a matter of individual preference but we think the fascia boards in particular complement the playhouse's attractively framed windows nicely. The window box too can be useful to help children learn about the responsibility of looking after plants and flowers. If you do opt for this extra we'd suggest you keep the plants in pots or a small trough to help prolog the life of the wood of the box.
Safety too is addressed with the playhouse featuring virtually unbreakable styrene windows, magnetic door catches to allow the door to be closed without children running the risk of becoming trapped inside and door gaps to prevent little fingers becoming trapped. The wood has also been planed smooth with round edges to help avoid bumps, scrapes and splinters.
In addition, we don't see any difficulties arising with assembly which looks quite straightforward to us. All necessary fittings and instructions are supplied at the time of delivery so it shouldn't take long at all to get the playhouse up and running. Just remember that if you do intend to decorate your Charlie you should do this at the time of assembly before the wood takes on a weathered look.
In conclusion then, we don't really see any reason not to opt for the Charlie if you're in the market for a 4' x 4' wooden playhouse. It's true it tends to cost a little more than many of the economy models available in this category but in our view it's probably worth paying a little extra for the pressure treatment - if you have the budget of course. It might also be worth having a look at BillyOh's Child's Log Cabin though. It doesn't have the Charlie's wooden floor or pressure treatment - which costs it half a star - but the payback is a solid, chunky 19mm interlocking tongue and groove construction which we think probably just about beats the Charlie's 12mm framed tongue and groove.
That said, taking everything into account we're awarding the Charlie an exceptional 5 star rating and would suggest it's well worthy of consideration. It's readily available but prices and the availability of the optional extras can vary quite a bit so we'd certainly recommend you check our price guide above to make sure you get a deal that suits you. And by the way, there's also a tower version - and, if the Charlie is a little small for your needs, the slightly larger 5' x 5' Frankie - both worth a look too. Oh - and look out for free accessory offers and delivery charges with the Charlie too. When these are taken into account the cheapest headline price isn't always the best deal.