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Kinder Realm - Exquisite, whimsical environments and educational tools for children and adolescents.

Whimsical environments, fine furnishings and learning tools for the young at heart

James Carlin

After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1975 with a BFA degree in studio art, I settled easily into a career as a furniture designer and builder. This came about after giving some friends a wedding gift of a coffee table I had designed as a sculpture project. For the next seven years friends and acquaintances ordered custom hardwood pieces of furniture and I was greatly honored that nearly everyone gave me the basic parameters of size and function but left the overall design to me.

My love of interacting with kids became apparent while working out of my small shop in the town of Berthoud, Colorado. Several neighborhood kids, a few living in apartments just above my shop, came to visit regularly. I found I enjoyed showing them how tools are used and helped several of them to build some simple projects.

After my own kids were born, in 1980 and 1982, I realized my methodical approach to building furniture was not supporting us. My wife suggested going into teaching as she could see my enthusiasm brighten whenever any kid was around to play with!

From 1985 through 1993 I taught classrooms of middle school students, second and fifth graders in Saguache and Steamboat Springs - Colorado mountain towns.

Finding a natural connection with the most creative students, I left Steamboat in 1993 and entered a master’s degree program in Gifted Education at the University of Northern Colorado. After graduating, for the next seven years, I taught at the Summer Enrichment Program at UNC, working with gifted middle and high school students in a residential program. I taught ‘home-bound’ students (unable to attend school for either medical or discipline reasons) in the town of Fort Collins for two years before deciding to finally make use of my newly won graduate degree and take a job at the Logan School for ‘Gifted’ students in Denver. A year later I moved to Colorado Springs and took a position at The Colorado Springs School teaching math and science to fifth graders. My greatest joy - and the students as well - at CSS was the 'chain reaction project' in which groups of students built simple mechinical devices that spanned the room, each triggering the next into motion.

During this and similar projects I began imagining the concepts and drawing the first designs for this grand Kinder Realm endeavor. I retired from teaching in 2007 and began building the first prototype of what I now call a ‘Gateway Cottage.’ Over the next two years, I completed the first full set of a break-apart cottage with a simple forest scene for the loft railings, and the interior furniture pieces. I moved into our current location just west of downtown Colorado Springs in 2009.

I now live in Manitou Springs and maintain the shop near downtown Colorado Springs.  I've shown my work at two American Craft Council shows in San Francisco (2015) and St Paul (2016 - awarded best booth design) and I was also selected to exhibit at the Smithsonian Craft Show in April, 2016 in Washington, DC. 

I have built four complete sets of cottages, each with a different theme, and furniture pieces for both inside the cottage and for more standard uses.

I have also branched out and have begun designing science apparatuses (spinning tables, giant balance scales, a tilting platform and a grand collection of spinning tops) intended to inspire young learners to experiment and play creatively with the basic natural forces. I am stretching once again and designing both science equipment and furniture pieces intended for outdoor use.  Work is underway on an outdoor cottage structure, as well.

Today, Kinder Realm presses onward…new furniture pieces and new science based equipment are being designed and modified continuously. A realm of possibility, of creativity and wonder for the young at heart of all ages has no bounds. I’ll keep exploring, experimenting and teasing new concepts into form.

  • BFA fine art (CU-Boulder, 1975)
  • MA Gifted Education (UNC, 1993)
  • Furniture Designer and Builder 1975 – present
  • Teacher (1985 – 2007)
    • Elementary and middle school classrooms,
    • Jr and Sr high homebound students,
    • Jr and Sr high gifted students
  • Father of two children – grandfather of one