by Neometro

Vardo Hut by Doherty Design Studio

Design, Ideas - by Open Journal

Local interiors practice Doherty Design Studio has crafted a structure that draws children to the outdoors, eyes to the sky and attention to an important cause, writes Hannah Bambra.

When conceptualising their entry for the Kids Under Cover Cubby House Challenge, Mardi Doherty, studio director of Doherty Design Studio, said the studio set out to capture and celebrate the whimsy of our escapist outlook as children. “I’m really just a big kid at heart,” she says. “I have always loved cubbies and have had a lifelong fascination with nomadic architecture.”

With its curved roof, timber features and striped outer walls, it’s easy to image Doherty’s design, the Vardo Hut, in a forest or similar nomadic landscape. Its place, however, will increasingly become the garden. Small nooks and planting ledges jut from the walls and encourage flora to slowly takeover and blend the hut into its surrounds.


Mardi Doherty (L) in front of Doherty Design Studio’s Vardo Hut.


The hut was designed for Kids Under Cover’s Cubby House Challenge, an initiative that raises funds to prevent youth homelessness.

“We’ve planted a passionfruit tree and herbs inside so kids can feel like nature is a big part of this space,” says Doherty. Half made of clear acrylic, the hut’s roof also encourages interaction between kids (or big kids) and nature. Climbing up and into a mesh landing gives immediate access to the sky, where children can lie on a supportive net and find characters in the clouds.

A lot of the materials sourced for the design, such as pine cladding, marine grade ply and low-VOC paints, can be found in backyards, Doherty points out. “The cubby is made from common garden materials and will integrate itself into the landscape once all the plants start to grow.”

The petite three by three metre structure has multiple entry points, windows and hatches to allow the breeze to pass through as children play inside. With the romantic vision of a childhood spent outdoors slipping away with each technological advancement, incorporating these multiple connections to nature was an integral part of the process.


Click to view images full size.

Doherty personally remembers her childhood as being one of a wanderer. Her family moved a lot, allowing her to play in a range of terrains and live a gypsy like life. A surprise to the designer today is how the process of designing and constructing a cubby house has spurred other people’s memories of childhood refuge points.

“The joy on kids and adults’ faces, reconnecting with their own cubbies and treehouses, has been beautiful.”

Following a weekend of public display at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, the Vardo Hut has been auctioned off at $9,000, far exceeding its reserve of $6,500.

Since inception in 2009, the Cubby House Challenge has helped raise tens of thousands to aid the prevention of youth homelessness.

Visuals Builders kindly donated their time to collaborate with Doherty Design Studio for the building phase.






Doherty Design Studio

Visual Builders

Cubby House Challenge

Kids Under Cover


By Hannah Bambra


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