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For several years now, CREATOR has carried the flag for LEGO housing; CITY dwellers are presumably meant to sleep in their caravans or fire engines unless they are lucky enough to have a Modular Building for a domicile, or only sleep in buildings that have snow on them. I suspect this is a deliberate move by The LEGO Group; the CREATOR 3-in-1 mantra provides versatility in design, and might perhaps provoke multiple purchases to enable a bit of variety in one's Town layout, or at least an affordable source of house parts. The last bona fide CITY residence was 8403 City House in 2010; this year's CREATOR range will boast no less than three minifigure-scaled dwellings, if you include the rather offbeat 31010 Treehouse; let's take a look at the first to be released, the modestly-named Small Cottage. Review: 31009 Small Cottage Set Information Name: Small Cottage Number: 31009 Theme: CREATOR Release: 2013 Parts: 271 Figures: 1 Price: GB £19.99 | US $24.99 | EUR 24.99 - 27.99 | AU $39.99 | CA $29.99 | DKK 299.95 Links ... Shop@Home ... Brickset ... Bricklink ... Peeron (not yet listed) The Box Click for a larger full-frontal image The CREATOR logo shamelessly obscures part of the model on this square box; the set itself is captured from its best angle. The usual blue CREATOR background is enhanced by faint bushes and trees, framing the cottage and setting the 'countryside' scene indicated by the official set description; it wouldn't otherwise be obvious. Two insets in the CREATOR yellow don't even try to frame the two alternative models. The box 'feels' like good value; it is larger than similarly-priced sets from many other themes, and weightier, though the latter may be due to the instruction manuals. More bushes flank the alternatives, which are showcased with their features on the box rear: Click for a larger image The box artist has done well to show all three distinctly without overlap; the space has been used very well. You'll notice that Thumbs are required to open this box. I used a knife; but, to be fair, this still required thumbs. Despite the inclusion of a minifigure, it's a three-part lantern that decides the scale on the box top: The troublesome gradient behind the inventory persists: why do they put the light-coloured parts in the light corner, and the dark ones in the dark corner? Of the other sides, the left-hand is the most interesting: The two lesser models feature here, with a multi-lingual explanation of '3 in 1' if it weren't already clear. Unusually, the 'Small Parts' warning features on the right-hand side rather than the bottom. Out of the box fall four polybags, three instruction manuals ... and a 16x16 full-thickness plate in Bright Green. It's shown here because I forgot to include it in the Parts section. The Instructions Three smart manuals each have shiny, quality covers; no indication is given as to build difficulty or order, either on the covers or inside. The only information inside the front cover is the new 'sort your bricks!' cartoon. I've assumed that the model order is the primary build, the Small Cottage on the cover; then the Windmill; then the other house, which is called a 'Skater's House' in the official blurb which also uses this order. There's no other indication that this is the 'correct' order; in fact the box art might suggest the smaller models should be reversed; but for clarity and consistency I will refer to the models and their respective manuals as 1, 2, and 3 in this order. The other two manuals are similar: Click the thumbs for larger images More monochrome bushes feature on the covers; different in each case reflecting the change in perspective. The steps are clear and simple. Piece call-outs ask for an average of three to four parts per step: I only encountered one point where the placement of a brick wasn't clear, which will be indicated later; it was of no consequence in any case. Advertisements for other CREATOR sets feature prominently; book one promotes the excellent 7346 Seaside House and 31004 Eagle on their own pages, akong with a composite of several sets on the back cover; I was a little surprised at the choice of 31008 Thunder Wings for the full-page treatment at the back of book three, considering it has what I would consider a rather different market than the houses might attract. Manual one also contains the inventory; see page 1 and page 2. The Parts Hope you weren't expecting Technic. Actually, there are two Technic plates, but otherwise the inclusion is mostly basic bricks and plates. There is great selection of dark blue roof slopes: not quite as good as 5891 Apple Tree House (which, incredibly, is still available, in the UK at least) but still most welcome. Door and window parts are always useful. The bright green 6x6 plate hasn't been seen since early noughties Belville. The smaller part collection is dominated by basic red bricks. We used most of ours building a Toadstool, so I'm not complaining. I got very excited by the inverted bracket when I reviewed the new UCS X-Wing, not knowing I had one in this set which I've owned, unopened, for at least two months. Otherwise, the tiles will always be useful, and I appreciate the inclusion of earth blue cheese slopes. The Minifigure CREATOR houses have included figures since Log Cabin in 2011; they are rarely anything to write home about, and this one is no exception: I'd sooner have had a classic smiley, but I expect TLG have done their market research and presumably kids want more expression. Rather surprisingly, the face isn't that common: appearing only in a couple of basic brick sets, a seasonal CREATOR, and the Winter Village Cottage, along with a few promotional minifigure collections. The entire figure, replete with skateboard, is found the Watford UK store opening set. I'm going to call him Chet. He has an American Preppy look. Not sure if Chet is an appropriate name for a skateboarding, sausage-sucking, drink-spilling preppy, but Chet it is. Model 1 - Small Cottage The primary build is quite a beauty! A surprising amount of detail has been crammed into this cute little cottage. The colour scheme is pretty, with stripes of white and light bluish-grey adding texture and the appearance of height to the red walls; the dark blue roof is smart and features an attractive gable. The yellow door provides a further splash of colour, and is set off nicely by the dark blue cheesy awning. A SNOT-mounted lantern, tiled step and flowerpot - the last typically formed from colourful 1x1 rounds in CREATOR style - add a welcoming aura to the entrance. Note the dark tan plate with rail forming a neat sill under the gable window. I'd like to have seen the roof apex 'finished' with double-slopes - like on the venerable Apple Tree House - but the studded top does help to round it off in a more 'cottagey' style, I suppose. Another window sill sits under the double-height window on the right-hand side; this wall is otherwise featureless ... ... except for the plate-hinges which suggest an opening section for access to the inside. Click the picture for a straight view. The opposite face is far more interesting. Big full-length French windows are the main source of light into the modest internal space, and one slides open - in one of the rare instances of the 1x8 plates with wide rail being used for their intended purpose. We'll see the barbecue in more detail later, but this is a good moment to point out the chimney. Dark bluish-grey and tan are used to add texture to the stone, and slopes gradually angle the flue; the stack sits just off the centre of the roof, but the slopes imply that the chimney is continuous. It's rather pretty; sure, it doesn't use headlight bricks and tiles to add depth like we see on the Winter Village sets, but for a little CREATOR set, I think it's been done quite tastefully. The back of the chimney is squared off nicely, and forms the boundary to the opening rear wall: The dark grey plate with vertical pole forms a little handle, which allows the whole - and otherwise plain - wall to open. You can also see that there's another gable window - replete with sill - on this side. The wall swings back, allowing Chet to sit in his swivelly chair ... ... and preventing adult hands from having to squeeze through the narrow space afforded by the sliding window. In the opening corner is a little table - rather optimistically called 'drawers' in the promotional text - with a lamp of unusual design. It's basic, but at least there's furniture! Though I hope the chair is comfortable, as Chet doesn't appear to have a bed. If the opening wall isn't enough, the whole roof comes off easily: This is great for play access to the interior, even if there isn't that much to do in there. I'd quite like to have seen a bunk bed, or something. Sadly, there is too little space in the roof structure to add any features up there; this is partly because larger bricks have been used than is strictly necessary, in order to allow for the alternative builds. Maybe Chet sleeps in the garden; certainly the little pond obviates the need for a bathroom. The pond is incredibly simple, but still rather effective; the slopes and green plates are somewhat successful in providing an illusion that the pond surface is lower than that of the lawn. I do like the fence. Barbecues seem to be an essential feature of CREATOR houses: Seaside House, Hillside House, Log Cabin, Beach House, and Lighthouse Island have all featured outdoor cookery in various guises. The tradition continues: Chet enjoys his sausage with a cup of something. I'd have appreciated a little clip to attach sausage or 'fork'; you can clip the fork to the plate with bar under the grille, but then there's nowhere to put the sausage. I guess Chet can just hold it while he goes 'boarding. Cottage Verdict: This is a remarkably pretty little cottage, designed to look very smart despite a limited part selection. The opening door, window, and wall section; swivel chair, barbecue and skateboard provide minor play features, but it is in the creation of a beautiful house and garden scene from very simple parts and techniques that this model excels. Model 2 - Diminutive Windmill Hats off to the designer's imagination for including a windmill among the alternatives, even if the execution is a little too simplistic. To be fair, this isn't its best angle; the mismatched colours of the opening side look a little jarring here. I do like the design of the chimney flue, though. Not so on the opposite side with the door; the double white stripe continues above the door here. I'm not so keen on the use of red 1x1 round plates in the central stripe, but at least they are used symmetrically; I'd rather see normal 1x1 plates even is it would result in square flowers in the other builds! The big windows aren't used in this build; instead, four small windows let in some light. A 1x2 brick with frictionless pin - not used in the other builds - allows the windmill to spin ... ... which it manages to do for less than the eight second exposure of this shot. It might have helped a little if I'd built it correctly - the white tiles and red plates should have rotational symmetry. Of course, an effecive windmill would have sails that capture the wind; these barely extend beyond the face of the mill. I do like the minor landscaping detail which, coupled with regularly spaced tiles, makes an attractive path up to the door ... ... beyond which we see a hint of some inside detail. From the front, note again the dark bluish-grey brick which looks a little out of place, and the rather-too-short sails: The back is more interesting than you might imagine: here, the dark tan rail-plates make a little ladder - spaced a brick apart using a technique which might be instructive to less experienced builders - even if it doesn't really lead anywhere. Again a red round plate looks a little incongruous, but not nearly so as the trans-orange one at the bottom of the ladder. Again, the back opens, revealing the inside detail and a eyebrow-raising blue floor: If you don't like the floor, there's a bright green plate you can use instead; maybe blue is better. The white cones are, I presume, bags of flour, although you'd be forgiven for thinking they are milk bottles. It isn't clear from the instructions how exactly to place the SNOT 2x2 round brick onto the wall; I've chosen to use its centre anti-stud as it is a better connection, even though it's now off-centre to the other 2x2 round brick. Like the primary build, the windmill's roof is detachable: The roof section is a very uncomplicated stack of bricks. I'd have thought the black plate with bar at the top of the opening wall section would have been better facing out, at the top of the ladder. Windmill Verdict: A novel idea, though a little disappointing in the flesh. This is by far the weakest of the builds, though its spinning sails might appeal to younger builders. Model 3 - Modest House The final build is another cottage, but this one is long and thin, and there's a good reason for this: it folds! TLG calls this a 'skater's house' - that well-known phenomenon. We'll see why it's call that in due course (and not just because of the skateboard. ) With the house folded out like this, the chimney forms an attractive buttress adding to the 'cottagey' feel. In this and the first view, you can see that the large windows form the end walls; they are topped by the 1x4 arches, which I guess form an architectural feature, but it isn't entirely successful. I'm not sure why the arches were included in the set; apart from introducing a little variety to the red bricks, they don't really add anything to the designs at any point. From the front, you can see how again the wall-mounted lantern welcomes you, and this time there is a little garden tap, though it's a little close to the ground. I'm not sure why the doorknob is a dark blue cheese slope; there are plenty of black 1x1 rounds to do the job a little better, but maybe this is due to show that other parts can be used for this in your MOCs in the unlikely event you've run out of rounds plates. Now for the money shot: Closing the house brings the two large windows together; they look great, but this emphasises the oddity of the arches. I wonder if the blue 'pond' plate might have been better placed in front of the further window. The plain wall formed by closing the model again suffers from an incongruous round plate in its construction. The light bley bottom layer is nicely continuous; the chimney bley intrudes a little far into the wall, but I can live with this: it looks suitably rustic. Chet retains his swivel chair to warm his feet by the lounge fire, but he still doesn't have a bed. This time he does have somewhere to keep his fork (if that's what it is there), but it's all for nothing, because he doesn't have anything to cook. Not a sausage. And that's because his sausage has been employed elsewhere: Nice part usage!! the sausage forms the stem of an angled desk lamp. Super! Shame it's a red light. What do you get up to in the evenings, Skater Boi? Anyhoo, in daylight, he likes to practice his skateboarding tricks, and the house has a means to help him: The plate with rail is a ledge for him to do that thing that I've seen skateboarders do on MTV. Apparently, according to TLG, this is called 'grinding'. Who knew? Skater's House Verdict: There's something refreshing about this little house, which achieves far more than just the folding mechanism would imply. It's cute, it's quaint; it's ... somehow familiar, reminding me quite strongly of some old classics: Here we have the Skater House next to veteran sets 6370 Weekend Home, from 1985, and 376 Town House, from as early as 1978. They're really not too different. Stick a moulded tree and some flowers onto 31009, and you've got a Classic Town set in all but name. Conclusion You know, I really like this cute little set. It's simple, unpretentious; it looks great, with a pretty colour scheme, and there's a bundle of useful house parts for creating your own little town buildings, from homes for your myriad CITY workers to trackside structures for Train fans (I can see an opportunity for a signal box, though you might not want a blue roof). There may not be much in the way of technicality in the build, and play functions are little lacking; the skateboard probably appeals to the kids in this respect, but I'd rather have had a bicycle. As a standalone, it might not compete so well with the slightly cheaper 'action' CREATOR sets; however, it fills a niche that's been lacking now for years: an affordable home that will fit into any Town layout. Design & Build 8 A pretty though simple set, it lacks a little in the build compared to other CREATOR sets, but it's great to look at. Not so much the windmill, perhaps. I'm impressed with the effect of the simple landscaping to create garden features and gradients, and the smart use of colours in the two house builds. Parts 9 Dark blue roof pieces, including corner slopes; large and small windows; and a variety of basic bricks and plates in useful colours make this a great parts pack. I'd consider buying mutliples of this to make a big house. Figures 6 Chet isn't the most exciting dude to be included in a LEGO set. He has a rare-ish face, but I doubt you'd be buying this set for the figure alone! Playability 7 There are a number of good play features; I suspect this set might appeal more to girls than boys, unless they are all entranced by Friends; the somewhat anathematic skateboard might have been included to swing this appeal the other way. Couple the set with some CITY and the playability multiples. Value 10 Part for penny, the CREATOR range is always good value; at £20 for 271 useful pieces, this is a bargain. Couple it with two attractive houses, and ooooh so much potential, and it's a no-brainer. Overall 80% My Score 9/10 Classic Town lives on, in a modern CREATOR-fied form. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review. Please take the time to comment! Rufus My flickr Set Other CREATOR House Reviews 4954 Town House by Siegfried 4956 House by alex54 4996 Beach House by def 6754 Family Home by Matn 5891 Apple Tree House by def 5766 Log Cabin by The Brickster 5770 Lighthouse Islandby Pandora 5771 Hillside House by Rufus 7346 Seaside House by Pandora I you like my reviews, and would like to learn how it's done, please consider joining the Reviewers Academy: