Wider Horizons

Charmed Playhouses has found its niche where imagination meets design. Known for its extravagant, high-quality playhouses that populate backyards around the world, Charmed is embarking on a new adventure, and bringing Lethbridge College students along for the ride.

This summer, Charmed will expand its brand by opening a themed cottage resort in southern Alberta, bringing the magic of their playhouses to a new clientele, attracting families for a “glamping” experience. To assist in the design of the five cottages that will be built for this summer’s launch, Charmed hosted practicum experiences for 10 students from the college’s Interior Design Technology (IDT), Architectural Animation Technology (AAT) and Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) programs this spring.

Charmed Playhouses founder and CEO Tyson Leavitt and interior designer Audrey Leavitt (Nursing 2007), get into character, surrounded by Charmed staff and Lethbridge College students.

“Our company is all about creativity, we’re trailblazers in everything we’re doing,” says Tyson Leavitt (Business Administration 2007), Charmed Playhouses founder and CEO. “When we have the students come in, with fresh eyes and their excitement to be creative and tap into that fanciful side of their lives, it’s fun to see their spins and perspectives on how to do things. And when we give them a little bit of guidance on what we’re looking for, and what our vision is, it really is a great way to create some magic.”

The college’s IDT and AAT diploma programs have both focused on preparing students for careers in a rapidly changing industry. Students are introduced to the latest technologies, including 3D modelling software, and virtual and augmented reality. While many students complete practicums at traditional home and industrial contractors, working with Charmed presents a unique opportunity to use and expand their skills in a creative environment. “Because they’re just coming out of school, they have new ideas and they’re looking at things in a different way,” says Naama Tuckett (Interior Design Technology 2012), IDT and AAT instructor. “And our students are so familiar with new technologies in drafting, 3D modelling and animating that they can not only build these spaces on paper, but also bring them to life and really show and visualize what the spaces will look like before they’re built.”

The Leavitts look in on Architectural Animation Technology students Mark Nilsson (left) and Corey McQuaid during their work-integrated learning experiences with Charmed.

The partnership with Charmed was sparked by one request. Second year IDT student Kyla Hornberger was working with Charmed as a photographer and approached Leavitt about doing her practicum with the company. Leavitt loved the idea and wanted to open up the opportunity to as many students as possible. Hornberger was one of the 10 students who took part in the practicum with Charmed. “To be able to work with the Charmed team designing and drafting real-life cabins and seeing the process, knowing people are going to see it this summer, it’s pretty crazy,” says Hornberger. “But then there is accountability that comes with it,” she says. “It isn’t just a fairy tale; it is going to be real. So, I have to get my specifications right. I need a source of information and they’re looking to me to know where to find this information. So, it’s been nice for accountability.”

The Charmed Family Resort Experience began with a trial of one cottage near Waterton last summer. The expansion will eventually lead to numerous themed cottages in the Crowsnest Pass. Bookings for some cottages are already available on the Charmed website. Leavitt says some of the student designs will become permanent fixtures in the new area. “It’s kind of a full circle; I started at the college when I was 21 years old and I started my first business while I was in college,” says Leavitt. “And now I’m at a point where I have a need within my company to scale the resort side, and the college has what I need to be able to help do that. It’s a big demand on our company to be able to grow into this resort business, so we’re going to have to be hiring talented people. Fortunately for us, we have talented people right up the road at the college with the things they’re doing.”

Wider Horizons
Story by Paul Kingsmith / Photos by Rob Olson
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