Nine years have passed since the brilliant LEGO Ideas theme was introduced and this range has become increasingly ambitious, contributing an outstanding assortment of larger models which began to appear during 2017. 21318 Treehouse surpasses earlier sets in this regard, containing 3036 pieces!
This model appears remarkably detailed within official images and differs quite significantly from previous sets, providing an extraordinary selection of plant elements. Furthermore, the price of £179.99 or $199.99 seems reasonable and this should therefore prove to be an exciting addition to the growing LEGO Ideas series.
Box and Contents
LEGO Ideas packaging varies considerably and this design is excellent. Its bright green colour scheme certainly stands out beside other sets, conveying the inherent natural environment of a tree house. The generous collection of colourful leaves is displayed along the top of the box while the reverse shows its alternative autumnal appearance alongside some images that demonstrate the interior details.
Opening the box reveals 21 bags that are numbered between one and nineteen while ten further bags contain the summer and autumn leaves. The instruction manual is notably substantial, comprising 428 pages, but no stickers are included as any decorated elements are printed. This has become standard practice for the Ideas range and will hopefully continue.
Several pages are devoted to information about the Plants from Plants initiative along with comments from Kevin Feeser and César Soares, the creator of the original Ideas project and the LEGO designer who produced this model. César mentions an interesting personal connection with tree houses as two such structures were included in his design portfolio when applying to join LEGO.
Four minifigures are provided to populate the tree house, presumably representing a family. The male figure features a textured hair piece with an alternative hat while his shirt was initially created for 60202 People Pack - Outdoor Adventures. In fact, the torsos for each of these four minifigures have previously appeared in the City People Pack released last year.
That seems appropriate given their shared outdoor theme, although greater variation might have been beneficial. Nevertheless, the female minifigure looks superb, wearing a detailed medium nougat jacket with a sand blue shirt underneath. Her double-sided head also looks great and I am delighted to see a female character with relatively short hair.
A couple of children are included as well. Once again, their torsos originate from 60202 People Pack - Outdoor Adventures but both designs are lovely so I welcome their return. The boy features a smiling head with glasses while the girl includes some subtle freckles. Moreover, this minifigure sports a dark blue cap which is moulded together with her ginger hair into a single component.
In fact, both children include ginger hair, demonstrating pleasing consistency. Exclusive elements are always appreciated but I think these four characters are perfectly satisfactory to inhabit the enormous tree house. Numerous accessories are provided but they are distributed throughout the model, hence none are shown here.
This model stands on a simple base which is assembled around a Technic frame. It therefore appears somewhat reminiscent of 71043 Hogwarts Castle during this phase and incorporates several colourful pieces which are surrounded by green slopes. Fortunately, these are subsequently concealed as dark green plates are laid across the frame.
However, one area of the base consists primarily of dark azure and trans-clear plates which form an interesting water texture. This building technique is quite effective and has not appeared in an official set before. Dark green wedge plates are also used perfectly around this stream, creating a curve that appears natural.
Tree houses are inherently top heavy and this structure is accordingly anchored to its base with white Technic beams. These are surrounded by a frame with studs on each side and layered reddish brown and dark brown plates represent the bark. Furthermore, 1x2 brackets connect these parts to the base, providing additional support which ensures absolute rigidity.
Exposed studs also dominate the next layer of the tree trunk and I appreciate the inclusion of colour-coded elements which are helpful during assembly. Some larger branches are also constructed here and they will eventually brace the cabins. One such branch makes exceptional use of a 1x2 palisade brick and a 1x1 round tile with vertical shaft which maintain its angled position.
While the base of the trunk features a Technic core, this section instead relies upon plates that cover multiple pieces. The resultant structure feels remarkably robust and the angled bark is attached using 1x1 round plates with horizontal bars, some of which remain visible in the image below. There are tiny gaps between the plates enclosing the trunk but the brighter pieces inside are completely hidden.
Having completed the largest section of the tree trunk, attention next shifts to the three cabins. Their construction occupies almost a third of the instruction manual which surprised me, although there is sufficient variation between them to maintain enjoyment. For example, the interior furnishings differ significantly and assembling these items reminded me of Modular Buildings.
Moreover, the integration between these interior accessories and the walls is impressive, exploiting every corner of the available space. The walls are assembled in eight sections which are connected using hinge plates at the top and bottom. For that reason, they feel rather fragile until construction is completed, at which point the walls are secure.
Similar building techniques are employed when assembling the second cabin, although this structure includes a greater number of windows so feels even sturdier than its predecessor. In addition, a small rope bridge is constructed immediately after the cabin and is among my favourite aspects of the entire building experience, using the curved shape of 1x1 rounded plates with clips to form a structure that is twisting in two directions.
The final cabin features similar octagonal walls but its interior is unique. I like how the lantern outside the door has been constructed, including a piece that was originally designed to form Black Panther's ears. This brilliant technique is reminiscent of 71040 Disney Castle where the Witch King of Angmar's crown fulfilled the same role.
Dark blue roofs for each structure are assembled next. These are deceptively complicated, featuring small ball joints that enable their shallow conical shape. Nevertheless, they remain quite rigid as the roof panels are intended to slot into place around the central beams, as demonstrated in the image below.
Technic pins secure the uppermost section of the tree trunk and I believe this is the most impressive. Click hinges are positioned diagonally using a 4x4 turntable and they also protrude from each side of the trunk, providing connection points for numerous branches. This part of the model also differs from lower segments as the reddish brown plates remain separate from those underneath, allowing the top to be removed with ease.
Focus then returns to the base of the model, where several flowers and some nice furniture is placed. An attractive staircase is also installed at this stage and makes great use of two bar elements, around which the curved steps are positioned. Similar techniques have appeared in other sets but completing these spiral staircases is always very satisfying.
Unfortunately, the construction process concludes with its most tedious component as attaching nearly one hundred leaves is not particularly enjoyable. The results are excellent though and I like how bright green plant stems have been used to strengthen the leaves. Alternative flame yellowish orange stems are provided for the autumnal foliage.
The Completed Model
Varied possibilities exist when designing a tree house and this rendition appears reasonably faithful to the original creation that Kevin Feeser submitted to LEGO Ideas. The model measures 37cm in height and includes three large cabins around the trunk. However, its colour scheme has been changed quite dramatically so the revised structure includes much brighter shades than its source material and looks fantastic on display.
For example, the dark green base is remarkably detailed and contrasts with the central tree. I love the medium nougat picnic table with its realistic wooden design and the elegant candelabra is a wonderful reference to Kevin's model, cleverly incorporating a white lipstick component! The pumpkins are lovely too, especially since the larger one features a piece that was only recently introduced.
Another modern element forms petals here, with a flame yellowish orange flower at their centre. This technique is remarkably effective and using wands to create the teepee fire is ingenious, even though three logs seems inadequate. Nevertheless, I like the pearl dark grey cooking pot suspended over the fire and the tree trunk is beautifully printed with a message from the fan designer.
The textured stream looks magnificent too, consisting of dark azure elements which appear distorted through a layer of trans-clear plates. Its gentle curve is attractive and I like the dark tan rocks that are sprinkled across the model. In fact, removing one of those rocks reveals a trans-yellow gem hidden in the ground which is fun. The swing is similarly impressive, although I think suspending this from string might have been better than using chains.
Reddish brown plates dominate the trunk but they are accented with dark brown and dark tan pieces. Furthermore, a small bird house is situated below the cabins and this includes a white bird which has only appeared twice previously. The wooden staircase looks superb as well, featuring elegant curved sections and medium nougat treads that contrast with the surrounding reddish brown parts.
Climbing towards the first cabin seems slightly dangerous towards the top as the balustrade becomes rather low. Nevertheless, this area of the model is delightful. There is plenty of space for minifigures to stand around the edge behind the railings and the medium nougat colour scheme is perfect. I like how bricks with varying profiles have been combined and the scattered exposed studs look great.
Each cabin includes a removable roof and their respective interiors appear as detailed as the exterior. The wooden furniture certainly suits this environment and I am particularly satisfied with the miniature wall clock. However, its face could be improved as this round tile was originally created to represent a speaker. The printed ship in a bottle looks marvellous though, presumably making reference to 21313 Ship in a Bottle.
In addition, this room is furnished with a dark blue bed that looks realistic, albeit rather short. Scissors are kept underneath while the windowsills feature some golden binoculars, an envelope and a printed compass. The reddish brown hat rack beside the door is similarly appealing, providing storage for the aforementioned hat that belongs to the male minifigure.
Foliage extends beneath these cabins and looks reasonable, although they feel extremely fragile and the leaves shown below sometimes twist under their own weight. The lamp hanging underneath looks wonderful though. Moreover, I like the round window that is visible here and the dark brown water butt nestled between these two structures is an outstanding detail, catching rainwater from the roof.
While the staircase is appropriate for minifigures to access the upper level of the tree house, carrying heavy accessories up those steps might be dangerous. A simple winch is accordingly situated beside the second cabin, lifting some cherries, fish, an apple and a carrot. There are plenty of exposed studs for minifigures to stand here which is ideal for display.
The interior, on the other hand, is completely covered with sand green tiles. Removing the roof reveals some unusually dark bathroom fixtures, including a toilet, a basin and a shower. They consist primarily of reddish brown pieces which conform to the natural aesthetic of a tree house. The subtler details are particularly enjoyable, including a dark green toilet roll and medium blue soap beside the shower.
Minifigures must be able to travel between the different platforms and a bridge is accordingly provided. This looks fantastic, comprising five horizontal 1x4 tiles that are positioned in a curve around the trunk. The bridge does seem rather steep and I think a figure may struggle to clamber onto the next platform but such scaling issues are relatively minor in my opinion.
Previous cabins have been octagonal and the third structure is no exception, although it does feature an interesting balcony. Its rounded shape is somewhat unusual given the overwhelming prevalence of straight edges throughout the tree house but this design looks great and I like the pearl gold telescope placed out here.
That scientific theme continues inside where an insect specimen is kept on the windowsill along with a charming model cottage. However, such details are overshadowed by the colourful bunk beds that are designed for the children. Reddish brown oars surround the beds but the top bunk is actually attached to the wall for support. Fortunately, this connection point is almost entirely obscured by a bookshelf.
Moreover, the opposite wall includes a flower beneath a bell jar, a pair of binoculars and an excellent microscope. These tiny accessories certainly bring the environment to life and the microscope seems especially notable as many comparable models have been produced before but this traditional design is unique and looks quite realistic.
Accessing each cabin is obstructed by the branches above them. Fortunately, these branches can be removed. Their connection with the trunk feels absolutely secure but they can be separated with ease which is impressive. The dark blue roofs include some nice texture and I like the dark azure highlights too, although there are numerous gaps that reveal colourful elements beneath each panel.
Bright green and dark green leaves have been combined to outstanding effect, creating a reasonably dense canopy. The branches certainly remain visible through the leaves and more leaves would have been welcome but I think this structure looks nice, particularly in combination with the olive green and dark brown elements sprinkled among those branches.
I am equally impressed with the apparent randomisation of the leaves. Their colours and shapes look fairly inconsistent which is great for an organic model, although certain patterns are actually repeated. Of course, these leaves are made from a slightly softer material than many other LEGO parts so they often droop when not properly supported. That is evident here and may disappoint some people but I consider this fitting for a tree.
Many trees change colour during autumn and that is reflected here as 55 new flame yellowish orange leaves are provided to replace the bright green components. Meanwhile, 35 dark green leaves should be swapped with the same quantity of dark orange leaves, creating a resplendent autumn tree house! This version changes the entire atmosphere of the model and appears cosier to me.
Swapping between the different leaves is rather tedious but that would be impossible to avoid, unless an entirely separate branch assembly was included. I think the autumn leaves alone are sufficient and definitely appreciate their presence, although the brighter green design remains my favourite. Even so, this is a lovely addition to an excellent creation!
21318 Treehouse is an outstanding LEGO Ideas set. It looks absolutely spectacular on display, featuring exceptional detail across its exterior and similarly intricate highlights inside each cabin. Furthermore, the harmonious combination between organic design and fabricated structures works beautifully and I think the enjoyable building experience reflects that.
Comparing this model with Kevin Feeser's original project reveals certain differences, the most notable being its more colourful design. The mysterious atmosphere of its predecessor was fun but I think the official set represents an improvement, particularly given the addition of autumn leaves which provide a perfect alternative for displaying the tree house. Its price of £179.99 or $199.99 feels reasonable too so I am delighted with this set.
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This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.