From sectional sofas to French settees, children’s furniture matures faster than the tykes who will inevitably spill juice on the chic pieces. But creative couple Phil and Casey Green build chairs and toy boxes that make kids never want to grow up.
For seven years, the Lakewood neighbors have transformed premade wooden items into dinosaur chairs and toy chests shaped like tigers, boats and school buses. Instagram fans rave about the products, but you can’t find them for sale anywhere except charity auctions for Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocates.
“It’s our shared hobby,” Casey says. “It feels like something special we get to do. It’s not a chore, and we think it’s good for our kids to see you put in hard work to raise money for someone who needs your help.”
In 2012, CASA volunteers approached Casey, senior creative director at Fossil, about donating her design talents to the organization that advocates for abused children in Dallas County court. With Phil’s carpentry skills, the couple created a latticework kid’s chair modeled off a mid-century modern look. The next year, they made chairs with a Lucite back and lacquered, rose gold seats.
In subsequent years, the designs got younger and more elaborate thanks to creative assistance from their children: 8-year-old Zoey, a third-grader at Lakewood Elementary, and 6-year-old Miles, a kindergarten student at Geneva Heights.
“The first two years were clearly for me, thinking it was hilarious to have mini adult furniture,” Casey says. “Now I usually try to pick something they’re interested in so we can get their help on it.”
When Zoey was obsessed with the Dallas Zoo, her parents made a striped toy box with a tiger’s face on the end. They built a school bus the following year when Miles learned the school bus song at day care. This year’s design was a “monster Muppet” with giant googly eyes, polka dot sock-puppet arms and painted feet. The toy box lid served as the giant green mouth.
The Greens’ creations aren’t just fun — they’re functional. With two kids, they know the safety features that must be added to protect little fingers from getting pinched. The first year they made a toy box, they installed safety latches to ensure the lid would never close too quickly on unsuspecting toddlers.
Most projects can be built for less than $100 and resold at auctions for up to $1,000. But not all projects go swimmingly. Making the boat-shaped toy chest almost ended in a shipwreck.
The couple tried to modify the premade box, but it became clear they’d have to start from scratch. The piece, which was expected to take 10 hours to complete, took 40, and the family had to rush to finish before the deadline. Zoey chipped in by picking out paint colors, and Miles helped his dad sand the wood so it could be decorated.
Although the project was the hardest the Greens have ever tackled, they say it’s also their favorite.
“There’s nothing like it that you can really buy,” Casey says. “Sometimes we’re trying to figure out something that doesn’t exist.”
The desire to push their creative boundaries motivates the Greens to attempt a new project each year. CASA has tried to recruit them for its annual Parade of Playhouses at NorthPark Center, but the family prefers to perfect its craft of building one-of-a-kind children’s furniture. In the future, neighbors might see a table and chair set or a train-shaped chest they’ve toyed with building for years.
“It’s always a fun project to do, but at the end of the day, we never forget what it’s for,” Phil says. “There are children right here in our own city who need so much more than a chest or toys. They need someone to stand up for them, and Dallas CASA stands ready to do that.”
For more information about CASA, visit dallascasa.org.
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