Case study: A Tim Burton-inspired kids centre opens in Dubai

The UAE’s parents are sure to have experienced the country’s endless supply of family-oriented fun, especially with themed interiors like Caboodle, which offers playful distractions and fun pass-times for children and a relaxing salon and cafe for parents.

The pamper-and-play centre, known from its Dubai Mall branch, has recently launched a new location in Duabi’s City Walk, the new, quickly-growing community on Safa Road.

The family behind Caboodle is also the one responsible for Sisters Beauty Lounge and Candella, providing it with plenty of pre-existing knowledge of the needs and tastes of Dubai’s high-end mothers and fathers. Hence, Caboodle’s managing director Hind Abdulrazak envisioned a place where stressed parents could take their children to be entertained while they themselves received pampering treatment.

Brand Creative, UAE-based design and branding agency, was asked to create the second branch of Caboodle and deliver a space that was unlike other play centres in the area.

Carla Conte, creative director, Brand Creative says: “The design was inspired by an ambitious brief. We were asked to create a child-friendly version of something that would come out of Tim Burton’s mind. Those words exactly. It’s a very contemporary, clean and colourful version of an enchanted forest with oversized birdcages, curling slides by the trees and sculptural cloud features.

“Carefully selected brand colours dictated the palette and were used in bold scale along with sweet brand messaging and graphics.”

The concept behind Caboodle centres on the space being a safe and relaxing haven for mothers and children alike. Part the space entails a cafe and salon where mothers can receive their ultimate pampering and catch up with friends, while the other part is dedicated to enabling the imagination of youngsters.

“Moms can actually take care of their own beauty needs in the full service beauty lounge area offering nail, hair and body care, while their children play in a private and secure section adjacent to the salon,” says Conte.

She adds: “The play area is conducive to imaginary play, which is the intentional way of keeping children active and moving. Dress up clothes, a trampoline, a cone shaped climbing tree house, two slides, a supermarket and kitchen, and a mechanic area by the built-in automobile wall are very key to the idea of a healthy play atmosphere.”

Brand Creative also aimed to introduce new play technology that had yet to be widely seen throughout the region. Such technology included the installation of five touch-screen stations where educational and motor developing games can be explored. Additionally, there is a motion sensor placed on the mezzanine that tracks the children’s physical movement and incorporates the motions into a projected LED display. So when a child waves his arms, splashes of colour appear on the wall.

Brand Creative stuck to materials that are child friendly due to the intention of the space. Conte explains: “The materials are very child friendly and boast low maintenance properties. The fabrics are anti-microbial, waterproof and stain proof.

“Safety was also a concern which is why a low VOC, vinyl, safety flooring product was used throughout. Any sharp edges or corners on locally made wooden items were rounded and sealed with a low VOC paint and topcoat.”

Caboodle contains two distinct spaces within the entire unit. These include the play area and a beauty lounge. The main spaces are separated in the centre via a reception area that provides an entire view of the play zone. The play area is further divided into various spaces including a computer section, a two-level playhouse, a slide and ball-pool zone, a reading nook, an infant-dedicated area and a kitchen for the parents.

Conte explains that the City Walk branch is quite different from the Dubai Mall one. Saying: “The Dubai Mall branch was the brand’s first location and was designed by a different team. I believe their brief was quite different.

“The cafe and food offering up front is meant to attract passing foot traffic. The salon component is a more child-oriented experience and the play area is a bit simpler, concentrating on imaginative play only. The only feature we were asked to maintain was the cartoon-like tree which is now a signature icon for the brand.”

Some of the new design’s main features include a custom made slide that twirls about the exterior of the ice-cream cone-shaped tree house, a mezzanine floor where a chalkboard and built-in imaginary car area and mechanic shop is located, a trampoline area, a projection wall and touchscreen area that boasts pink, life-sized push-pull pins, and a sculptural cloud installation.

The sculptural clouds appeal to be magical, as they’re suspended from the ceiling above the custom-made and moulded slides.

Caboodle’s new design boasts a number of technological-forward innovations which brought on a number of obstacles for the design team.

Speaking of the challenges, Conte notes: “The design process itself was quite difficult as the engineers in my studio worked on the technical package for the slide and mezzanine areas requiring precise calculations for slopes and safety codes. Besides that, once the project was finished, we went through one or two rounds of slight revisions to areas we felt required more safety precautions. It was definitely a learning experience for all involved.”

Some of the main suppliers for Caboodle’s City Walk branch include ASP Access Floors and Nora Flooring for the floors, Touch Magix for the projects and touchscreens, Anatex for the interactive play wall systems, Maharam Farbrics, and Dupont for the Corian solid surfacing. All other materials were completely custom built in Dubai aside from the twirling slide, which was sourced from Taiwan. The cafe itself sports original Eames chairs and Bongo stools.

According to Conte, Caboodle is an ideal attraction for Dubai’s VIP family crown. “We’ve heard a few impressive names as visitors,” she says. “We also know that the place is absolutely jammed on the weekends.”

Pleased with the resulting design, Abdulrazak concludes: “Our patrons are chic moms and dads for whom time is precious. Children don’t want to be taken around the shops, they want to be having fun and using up their energy. At Caboodle, parents can leave their children to play while they care of chores, or catch up with friends and the papers over a coffee…Together with Brand Creative, we feel we have created the ideal balance of fun, play and casual sophistication.”


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