23 July 2021

LEGO® Friends review + MOC: 41449 Andrea's Family House

Eero Okkonen (@eerookkonen) casts his critical eye over the architecture of LEGO® Friends 41449 Andrea's Family House today, before creating a brand new model inspired by some of its parts. Buying this set? Consider using our affiliate links, New Elementary may get a commission: USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop | UK LEGO Shop/for Europe 'Change region'. Products in this article were provided by LEGO; the author's opinions are their own.


41449 Andrea's Family House - released in January 2021 - adds a new building to the series of homes inhabited by the main characters of Friends. Let's analyse its architecture and interesting parts before getting creative with the parts.

The house


The building seems to be a postmodern mix of vaguely classical features, rationalistic bay window and romantically manifold roof. It is something that, stereotypically, an architect hates and “common” people love. Trust me, I know this. I think the pilasters at the main door fit the Friends aesthetic well, and the bay window is very charming… but overall, it’s too random and oddly balanced for my liking. The roof shapes do not work well with each other, and being very two-dimensional doesn’t help at all. In general, the massing and the facade lack hierarchy. I’m also baffled by the roof of the bay window, which almost completely obscures the arch window behind it, under the right gable. I thought I had made an error during building but that was not the case.


The back view has even less serenity. Maybe it isn’t a problem; it’s fine for a play set to have all sorts of things around. But still… the walls, which consist mostly of light aqua bricks and 1 x 6 x 5 panels, cry for some uniformity, something for an eye to rest upon; and the roof, which ideally would be the symbol of comfort and shelter, is reduced to mere gables and eaves. This, too, is likely due to playability and budgetary reasons, but it severely cuts the homeliness of the building. The architecture feels incomplete. 


It’s not all bad, though. The selection of rooms is nice: there’s a kitchen with a swinging sink, a garage for band practice, living room, bathroom (curiously behind the big window above the entrance - but that’s okay as we get Transparent Brown Opal/Satin Trans-Black window panels) and a kid’s room. Omitting the stairs works well, but a door to the balcony would have been nice. This family is also actively cutting their carbon footprint: They have a couple of solar panels where the roof would be, if there was a roof, and they have given up their personal car for rock’n’roll. Great! The garage door function is smooth and satisfying, as always.


The best parts of the build are these sub-assemblies: I especially like the bread!


Aside from the main residence there is also a heart-shaped pool as a side build. Transparent Brown Opal 1 x 4 tiles (more about them later) work nicely as the air mattress, but the essential 4 x 4 plate in the pool is more than jarring; I would have preferred this structural element under the pool rather than within it.


It is also worth noting that I didn’t apply the stickers, which affects the look of the interior. Some of the stickers are nice and useful, and I’ll surely use these later on, but I dislike the big stickers designated for 1 x 6 x 5 panels. Their size makes them hard to repurpose on other pieces; for example the “Liv” poster on 1. would have been useful on a 2 x 4 tile. Also adding details like loudspeakers as a mere image of them feels dull.

Minidolls


There are five figures: Liz, Donna, Martin and Andrea plus one wee bird and, as a special guest, Andrea’s Friend Stephanie (in the middle). Liz is a microdoll, similar to the figures in Disney Storybook sets; she felt a bit creepy at first, but now I think she’s fine. Her hands are 1.5mm pin-sized, which means she can mostly just terrorize the garden by pulling out grass stalks. 

Overall, it’s good to have more non-white minidolls available. Minifigure users may find their hairpieces exciting.

Parts in LEGO Friends 41449


The unique pieces in this set (not including the minidoll parts) are:

  • 2 x Wall 1x6x7, W/ Arch/Door, Frame 1 x 6 x 7 Rounded Pillars with Top Arch and Notches in Bright Bluish Green/Dark Turquoise (6250111|40066)
  • 2 x Brick W. Bow 1x8x2/Arch 1 x 8 x 2 Raised in Bright Bluish Green/Dark Turquoise (6326000|40296)
  • Plate 6 x 10 in Bright Reddish Violet/Magenta (6328952|3033)
  • Stop Lamella For Rolling Gate/Garage Roller Door End Section with Handle in Bright Reddish Violet/Magenta (6325964|4219)
  • 2 x Brick 1x2x5 W. Groove/Brick, Modified 1 x 2 x 5 with Groove in Aqua/Light Aqua (6325965|88393)
  • 9 x Brick 1 x 2 x 3 in Aqua/Light Aqua (6328085|22886)
  • 2 x Brick 1 x 14 W. Groove/Brick, Modified 1 x 14 with Groove in Aqua/Light Aqua (6325960|4217)
  • 2 x Flat Tile 1x4/Tile 1 x 4 in Transparent Brown Opal/Satin Trans-Black (6323618|35371)


However, the real stars of this set are the 12 new-for-2021 bay window segments, aka Frame 3x3 W/ Bow, No. 1/Window Round Corner 3 x 3 x 2 in White (6329420|73878). 


Their curve matches the classic macaroni bricks perfectly. They are designed for usual small pane Glass for frame 1x2x2/Glass for Window 1 x 2 x 2 Flat Front (35315), or alternatively Bars For Frame 1x2x2/Pane for Window 1 x 2 x 2 Lattice Diamond (38320) as used on the only other current set that includes the White frame - 41447 Heartlake City Park, containing 4. Reddish Brown ones appear in 76389 Chamber of Secrets and 31220 Medieval Castle. We’ll return to the architectural possibilities of this exciting part in a later article. 


Speaking of window panes, this also includes six in Transparent Black Opal. They make a return from 43179 Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, where they were used as film panels. They have a sort of purple-ish glitter glow… in certain lighting. Against light they appear muddy brown. They’re quite cool.


The set also includes a substantial assortment of Aqua/Light Aqua pieces: 70 in total, including the grooved pieces. (Due to a humorous error by your author, 1 x 2 x 5 groove bricks are not in the photo.) It’s a definite starter kit for those who have always wanted to make aqua buildings!


Pieces pictured above are unusual, rare or interesting, but not unique. Remarkably the white garage door panels, 7 included, last appeared in 1994, in the Town set 6571 Flame Fighters.


I was also pleased to find 19 x Plate 1x1x2/3 Outside Bow/Slope Curved 1 x 1 Double in various cool colours. They’ll prove useful for sure.

Eero Okkonen's MOC: Virva Staccato

You could have expected an architectural model from me with this set, but my urge to build characters was too strong. So here’s Virva Staccato. 


She’s a drummer, part of a series of large-scale musicians I’ve been building recently. The MOC was inspired by the subtle musical theme of Andrea’s family home; there is even a small drum kit in the set! 

Often action figures - including custom brick-build ones - are some sort of warriors with little plastic weapons of destruction. However, violent themes feel a bit overused in figure builds, and I constantly try to find alternative ways of defining characters. Musical performance is a great way - instruments, despite being gadgets of sound, are very visual objects and in an intrinsic contact with their players. The drum set here consists of floor tom, snare, hi-hat, bass drum - using Aqua bricks and Dark Turquoise round bricks from the set - and two crash/ride cymbals.


Theme aside, I took inspiration from some of the colours of the set: Aqua, Light Bright Orange, Dark Turquoise and Magenta. I think those colours work better on this vibrant performer than on a family home. But I’m not complaining - I’m happy that the set included these colours! I also applied the stickers of (cosmetic, non-functioning) window shutters to the jacket as their golden pattern is so good.


However, the original idea was just to use Satin Trans-Black window glass panes as sunglasses. I think they work very well, showing enough of the eyes behind, while feeling unique. They’re connected snugly with lever bases.

Conclusion

41449 Andrea's Family House is a playset, and fits this function just well: The spaces are diverse and the details numerous. I’m delighted by the garage housing musical instruments instead of a personal car. But as an architectural work - or a display piece - it lacks serenity and hierarchy of elements. It doesn’t feel quite finished. However, I believe that the main target audience is not disturbed by this.


As a parts pack, 41449 is a good set. The new round window frame is the main attraction and the steady supply of aqua could attract some buyers. The recolours are not revolutionary but nice nevertheless. The colour scheme makes the house a bit chaotic, but I can’t complain: the colours are somewhat unusual and packed with energy, freshness and other adjectives associated with Heartlake City!

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READ MORE: LEGO® Creator review of 31115 Space Mining Mech plus alt builds by Thorin Finch

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8 comments:

  1. Good review!

    On a real-life architectural level, I get the criticisms of the borderline-"McMansion" style of this house. However, to a certain extent what interests me in a Lego set (like having a wide variety of unique features) can run contrary to what would be considered tasteful in real-life architecture (in which having consistency in its features is generally preferable). So for me a set like this with features like the varied windows and eaves appeals to me a bit more than a more realistic and restrained architectural style would (I especially love the use of Trans-brown Opal for "frosted" window glass on the bathroom window). I also think I'm more of a fan of the interior than you are—including my favorite simple-yet-effective feature, the brick-built tiled wall that's shared between the kitchen and the laundry area in the garage.

    Parts-wise, the new bay window pieces are just genius. I love how they've been designed to accept existing window glass and how their 3x3 size is uncommon. It's already been used to great effect this year for features including not just windows but also railings/fences and a water wheel, and I expect to continue to see clever uses for it in the future.

    As always, I love the brick-built figures you come up with! This one really does a great job adapting Andrea's signature color scheme and musical flair, and apart from the parts you used from this set I love the use of tires as poofy afro-textured hair!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, real-life architecture can be hugely dull to build in LEGO form - and to look at too sometimes!

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    2. Thanks Andrew!

      It's not having wide variety of features that bugs me here. Many of my favourite buildings, such as Finnish "malleable" plastered architecture of 1900-1905 or Amsterdam School expressionism are full of oddities and elements! Also it is logical for such set to have many features due to floor plan, and all three - garage door, portico and bay window have good reason to be here. I just wished the elements had more hierarchy and some more serene, balancing areas in-between. Of course, it is hard on set of this scale, without busting the budget.

      Looking back it now, I think the biggest issue is the gable above the bay window. It is almost identical to the gable above the garage, but bit different - and its round window is oddly behind the bay window roof. I don't have the set built, but I made a little experiment with photoshop. I think it could look decent, only if the dome above the bay window was bit larger:

      https://brickshelf.com/gallery/pate-possu/avad/testi.jpg

      On other topic, I think McMansion is logical style for Friends houses, as both are plastic and with limited lifespan! I wish +18 range would include set with real wooden log bricks and cheese slope shingles, natural stone burps and ceramic roof slopes for us to build real corps de logis worth of Arts & Crafts ideal of real materials! Until then, plastic is the way.

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  2. LOL I was waiting for the "lawyer foyer" but instead we get a sensible bathroom above the entryway!

    I can appreciate the lack of roof and the swing-out kitchen parts as they will really increase playability. I know this is an AFOL site, but having a kiddo of my own who is starting to play with Lego really makes me appreciate how much they put into making these toys that are fun -all the side builds and little accessories really work with that goal too.

    Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh a lawyer foyer would have been hilarious!

      Yes, our adult critique of this set is just a bit of fun.

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  3. This is just lazy design. Yes it is playable but it looks like something that was knocked up quickly from a pile of spare parts in an oddments drawer. It's ragged and unrefined, first prototype rushed into production. Good design need not be boring, plenty of other Lego sets score on design and playability.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This seems... incredibly harsh. Even for sets I dislike, I would never imply that the designers were lazy just because it doesn't suit my particular taste. All design is a matter of priorities and often the ones that an AFOL might consider important are secondary to factors like a simple and satisfying building experience for kids and a structure that's conducive to role play rather than realism. None of that means that any less care or attention was devoted to its design than any other set.

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    2. Yes, +1 on that... I don't speak for Eero but pretty certain his stern architectural critique was tongue-in-cheek! And the idea that TLG would put out anything that was a first prototype is bizarre

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