Let me just say that starting a day at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens is a rare treat and privilege. For about the last month, I have weaseled my way onto the exquisite grounds early in the morning, before crowds arrive, to glimpse progress of Cheekwood’s Storybook Houses exhibit, which opens to the public today.
For the last three weeks, The Wills Company and four other creative architectural teams have been constructing children’s playhouses, based on beloved stories, that will be on display throughout the summer.
The Wills Company playhouse is inspired by Charlotte’s Web, so there has been a life-sized pig sculpture on our conference room table all spring, and we’ve seen windmills, weather vanes and spider webs spinning in the office, as lead designer Ridley Wills and lead draftsman Mike Hoff masterminded a barn full of fun.
Wills Company carpenter Toby Tyler (pictured here as a cheerful brown cow) led a team of builders, including a volunteer corps from my alma mater, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, in constructing “a veritable smorgasbord” of kid-friendly farm-style activities. Not to give too much away, but Zuckerman’s barn on the lawn outside Botanic Hall has a swing, hayloft, selfie wall, climbing web, and a spiral slide down the silo.
The Wills Company’s Charlotte’s Web is just one of a library of whimsical and interactive Storybook Houses dotted throughout the Cheekwood landscape. Among other exhibits, Pfeffer Torode architects brought Mister McGregor’s garden to life next door to Zuckerman’s famous pig, and Tuck-Hinton is staging a Wild Rumpus down the hill. Wandering through Cheekwood’s 56 acres this summer will be like exploring a favorite bookshelf come to life.
And while I’m sad my early mornings on the tulip-topped hillside have come to an end now that construction is complete, I’m delighted I still get to start my workdays with these talented characters.
Cheekwood’s Storybook Houses exhibit is open Tuesday through Sunday, May 1 through September 1.