Play sofas have taken the parenting world, and the internet, by storm. These modular pieces of furniture are made up of separate shapes, which can be assembled into different configurations – a cubby house, an obstacle course, a homework station – with ease.
But there’s one brand in particular that is making waves here in Australia.
Like so many things, NooK – Australia’s answer to the USA’s cult-favourite play sofa, the Nugget – is a business born from COVID. Having spent so much time at home entertaining and homeschooling their three kids, founders Olivia and Patrick Rudomino were looking for a way to get more out of their space, keep the kids busy and find furniture that filled what they saw as a gap in the market.
“We were looking for something that bridged the divide between adults’ and kids’ furniture – something that would suit our youngest, who’s six, but also our oldest, who’s 15,” says Olivia. “We realised whatever furniture we chose would have to work for school work, sleepovers and play, and there just wasn’t anything like that on the market. So, we made it ourselves.”
With their combined knowledge in buying – Olivia for gift stores, Patrick in luxury brand management – the couple began workshopping their ideal play sofa. They asked their children which shapes it should feature and began prototyping different versions at home.
“Then Patrick lost his job in mid-July, and we decided to just take the leap,” says Olivia. “We’d been living with the product since April and had feedback from a number of our family and friends who wanted some for themselves. We officially launched NooK in October, and we’ve been so overwhelmed by how popular it has already proven to be.”
Thousands of NooKs have been shipped out to families, childcare centres and commercial locations – including physiotherapy and occupational therapy centres – all over Australia, and the product has been a sell-out success since day one.
“We sell out very quickly and it can be frustrating for our customers – while I’m sure that makes some people want it even more, there would be others who just say, ‘Forget it’,” says Olivia. “I always assure people that almost all of our customers get their NooK on their second go, and if they have any questions, they can join our Facebook group and ask our existing customers – they really are our best spokespeople.”
Since launching, Olivia and Patrick have increased their quantities almost monthly. But, with every product being handmade in their Sydney factory, there are only so many NooKs they can churn out at once.
“Making these products here in Sydney is really important to us, so we would rather keep our batches small and be able to employ locals than go big,” says Olivia. “I’ve seen first-hand what happens when someone loses their job, so supporting the local economy is very close to our hearts – we’ve lost so much in the way of Australian manufacturing, especially in sewing and upholstery, so we’re training and re-training people to create as many jobs as we can.”
Despite the sometimes long waiting times, and the price – each NooK retails for $595 – it seems that one NooK simply isn’t enough for many customers. Olivia says she has had people come back for second, third and even fourth NooKs, to transform various spaces in their home or to put in each of their children’s rooms.
“It’s a testament to the fact that the product becomes more appealing over time, which I think is a bit of a foreign concept these days,” Olivia says. “The other thing about NooK is that it’s built to last – we use commercial grade fabrics and zips, and the concept itself is truly ageless. Whether you’re six, 16 or 46, you’ll love how versatile the NooK is.”
Unlike many similar play sofas available internationally, NooK is the only one that can be easily (and comfortably) transformed into a double bed – it uses two identical pieces of thick, quality foam, which can be laid side-by-side to create a sturdy floor mattress.
“Early on in the development of NooK, we looked at the Nugget and asked ourselves, ‘If we took it back to square one, what would we do differently?’,” says Olivia. “Beyond the building, creation, self-regulation and fitness benefits that all come with NooK, being able to turn it into a bed was one of the most important things for our family.”
Much like its US counterpart, the Nugget, the NooK has attracted quite the cult following. There are more and more Facebook groups popping up, full of parents sharing their latest configurations as well as advice, questions and ideas.
“I think what parents love about it is that it allows them to be kids again, to engage with a toy in the same way their kids do,” says Olivia. “Even Patrick, who was always travelling and working late before he lost his job, feels as though the NooK is helping him bond with our kids in a way he might not have been able to. People tell us, ‘It’s brought out my inner child.’ Knowing how isolating it can be to have young kids, I’m delighted that we can give a bit of entertainment to parents, too.”
So, what’s next for NooK? Olivia revealed their plans to release a velvet range – made from durable Warwick performance velvet, which can be spot cleaned or thrown in the machine – and a series of extension packs, to increase the configuration opportunities even further.
“We’re learning that this business is very much a balancing game, and we have to keep ourselves in check – our excitement can quickly outgrow our factory and development line,” says Olivia. “We see this as a product that is very much in development. It’s not static, and we’re excited to see where we can go.
“This is only the beginning for NooK.”
Feature image credit: @learnandbloom