Well welcome to the grand opening of Harry’s Hardware, Gas & Auto! I’m sure you’ll agree it’s about time this small e-neighbourhood had a one-stop shop where you can refuel, choose a can of flamingo-pink paint for your kitchen and have a cup of the kind of coffee that makes your hair stand on end. We thought so, anyway….
This was Harry’s main Christmas present, and is based on an old bookcase I found on ebay for a few pounds. Like many 3yr old boys, Harry is a devoted petrol-head and delights in all things auto. Given the domestic backdrop of our home renovation, he’s also a big fan of power tools, screwdrivers, hammers and all other dangerous hardware. Thus, a hardware store and garage seemed like a good idea, and is proving a hit so far. I was lucky enough to find a second-hand wooden kids’ cupboard in the style of a gas pump, but everything else is customised and made from household junk and recycled bits and bobs. So park at the rear, would you, and come on inside for the tour. Let’s start you with a cup of coffee…
Not just any coffee, but Harry’s Coffee, the brand that knocked Starbucks out of town and became a rapid hit with truckers. The coffee ‘machine’ is an black cardboard jewellery box that housed my Christmas necklace (thank you, Santa!), with two cheap pump dispensers glued onto it (from pound-store pump bottles). I made branded signage for the coffee machine and cups on my home printer, and then simply glued a sheet of black card stock behind to form the back and tray. Because the jewellery box is hollow, the pumps do actually press in and out, making for some convincing pretend play and the addition of so many caffeine shots that you’ll be bouncing off the ceiling if Harry has his way. Tiny wooden donuts appropriated from Harry’s play kitchen offer an additional hazard to your teeth.
Whilst you drink your coffee – carefully – come browse our paint selection, made from portion-sized bean cans covered in a paper wrapper. Some of these are empty cans, used and washed out, others are still full; my domestic skills are haphazard so it’s quite foreseeable that I’ll be visiting Harry’s hardware store for dinner ingredients before the month is out..
Alongside the paints are cans of brushes and ‘wallpaper’ – rolled up offcuts of gift wrap and decorative paper. Whilst it’s fun to look at, it’s also helping with naming colours, identifying letters and words, and counting. I fear that Harry is not born to be a customer services professional though; dithering over your choices is not encouraged, and if Harry disapproves of what you’ve chosen, you’ll be given something else entirely and sent on your way. Such is life.
Crime can be a problem in any neighbourhood, even one as lovely as ours, so there’s a section of the store dedicated to discouraging robbers. Harry is passionate about law enforcement, having recently fallen under the spell of Lego City, so most of our games involve Policeman and Naughty Men. I’m quick to assure callers to the house that the various sets of handcuffs left lying around are all from Harry’s toy box and absolutely nothing to do with me or the global phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey. The store offers sliding locks to try out, and a set of devilishly small padlocks and keys that test Harry’s dexterity and patience to their limit and beyond. They do also bounce, when hurled to the floor dismissively. The glued-on keys come from an embarrassingly large bowl in our house which stores all unidentifiable keys from our last 5 house moves and the myriad of lost bicycle locks and chains – no doubt one of them will prove to be crucial, and I will have to chip it off from the board – but until then, they serve a more decorative purpose.
I used a jumble of small cardboard boxes to make these faux wooden draws – most are boxes from candles or the lids of various things. I found a graphic of an old shop chest and simply printed and glued the images to the front of each box, adding text for the contents. Once again, the contents have simply been borrowed from elsewhere in our house, but are satisfying to play with and count out. A small set of nesting zinc boxes from our shed completes the selection of handyman bits ‘n bobs.
In other parts of the store you can buy birdseed, choosing amongst varieties depending on which birds you want to attract to your garden, and even find pocket-sized birdhouses to house them (these came straight from the Christmas tree…).
Budding gardeners can choose real seeds from our store list, and Harry’s own tools hang alongside. Pint-sized bundles of firewood and a couple of Halloween-costume prop brooms complete the outdoor maintenance section.
The ‘Parking’ sign rests on two miniature tyres which are actually dog chew toys, found cheap at our local DIY store – we’ll use these in all kinds of projects come the Summertime, I’m sure.
I made the main store sign using off-cuts of skirting board and pasting on home-printed signs. If you look closely, you can see the joins where I’ve pasted pieces of regular-sized paper together to make the super-sized storefront sign.
And finally of course, you can fill up with gas from the pump. Harry’s pedal car has been regularly topped up, as has everything that moves in the household, and many things which do not.
So, a Christmas hit, for now at least, appealing to all of Harry’s manly instincts and providing lots of opportunity for play and interaction – and when the attraction begins to fade, I can simply return the bookcase to its component parts and reinvent it again. Or maybe – and here’s a novel thought – actually place some books on it, who knows?