Despite the general shortages in LEGO supply, sooner than I had anticipated an opportunity opened up to get Andrea’s Family House (41449). Yes, it was one of those unpredictable late Friday evening Amazon discounts that spontaneously made me make a purchase, but who’s complaining? I’ll take whatever I can under these circumstances.
Price and Contents
I snatched up this set for around 52 Euro, which equates to a 25 percent discount. If things ever get a bit more normal I would expect it to go below the 50 Euro threshold, but not by much, given that it’s actually a pretty large set with enough meat on its bones to warrant its price. The suggested retail price of 70 Euro is perhaps stretching it a bit, but in this particular case I think anything below 60 Euro is actually more than reasonably fair.
You get around 800 pieces, many of them large ones, and five minidolls, some of which are also pretty good. More importantly, however, you have to figure in that this set is a treasure trove of uniquely new or recolored parts, some of which could be ample justification alone to get this set – assuming of course you have a liking for the colors and/ or a specific use case. So without further ado, lets have a look at them.
New Pieces Galore
It is clearly going to be the year of Dark Cyan for LEGO with many sets featuring the color prominently or more to the point new or existing elements as recolored items. This set is no exception with several items being included in this color for the first time. Most notably of those is funny enough the most trivial one – the 1 x 1 round brick. It still surprises me that this simple, versatile element still does not exist in every LEGO color out there (Light Aqua, anyone?). It should be a no-brainer to produce at least some test batches and sprinkle them in in sets, be it just as structural elements in invisible positions.
Another thing that LEGO seem to go a bit crazy about recently is their iridescent coatings introduced last year, so there’s a number of elements featuring this optical trickery here as well. From this crowd the Trans Dark Pink dome pieces stand out that indeed look like pink pearls. However, most people will likely be more drooling over the Satin Trans Black 2 x 2 window glass parts. So far those have only been found in the Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse Buildable Characters (43179) where they are used as film frames, quite successfully mimicking this shimmery color shift effect that actual chemical film indeed has when held at different angles against the light.
In addition to those items there is a number of others. Again the most important one will be the curved windows, a completely new mold for 2021. In the past these kinds of bay windows were occasionally emulated using old train window parts. This didn’t necessarily look bad, but was still often unsatisfying. So now that they are here at last it really becomes a question of “What took you so long, LEGO?” In the interest of making it easier to follow, here’s a short, incomplete list for you:
- Tile Round Corner 4 x 4, Bright Light Orange
- Arch 1 x 8 x 2, Dark Cyan/ Dark Turquoise
- Brick Modified 1 x 2, Dark Cyan/ Dark Turquoise
- Brick Round 1 x 1, Dark Cyan/ Dark Turquoise
- Door Frame 6 x 7, Dark Cyan/ Dark Turquoise
- Arch 1 x 6 x 2, Light Aqua
- Tile 1 x 4, Satin Trans Black
- Dome Round 2 x 2, Satin Trans Dark Pink
- Window Curved 3 x 3 x 2, White
- Window Glass 2 x 2, Satin Trans Black
The above parts are further complemented by some more recolors in Magenta and Light Aqua, which are nice to have, but nowhere near as important or exciting. Would you really have been lost without a 10 x 6 plate in Magenta? I don’t think so, either. There would have been enough alternatives to piece things together or use a substitute in another color. Where things like those damned elongated 1 x 2 x 3 bricks and similar are included, I find myself wishing they’d just settle on the old way of doing things by stacking up conventional 1 x 2 x 1 bricks, anyway. I get that they are doing it for simplification (this is, after all, aimed at kids of a certain age), but this is one of those things where LEGO just doesn’t feel like LEGO to me.
As mentioned further above, this set comes with five minidoll figures, which sadly enough qualifies as a rare event in the LEGO Friends world these days. That they are actually good to a level that even satisfies me is even rarer, so it’s definitely worth noting. Even if that weren’t the case, there is yet one more significant point about this: It’s the first time we ever actually get to see Andrea‘s family. That includes her younger sister Liz, her father (Or much older step brother?) Martin and her mother Donna.
The latter is easily my favorite of the lot and reminds me of Michelle Obama or a young Oprah. Even without those references she simply looks nice in her Yellowish Green dress which against the darker skin really pops. The same applies to Liz‘ Bright Light Yellow dress as well, of course. As already noted, Martin leaves a bit of room for interpretation, since he’s somewhat too young-looking and too perfect for a dad fitting Andrea‘s age. It’s not as bad a fail as Marcel in the Heartlake Organic Café (41444), but still noticeable. Perhaps they really need to sit down and develop different head shapes to better accommodate older males.
Stephanie also stopped by, though she isn’t really worth mentioning, being that her figure doesn’t offer anything fresh or new and she’s just wearing one of her usual “Sporty Spice” outfits.
Before we move on to the actual build, one more thing. This set is without a doubt the one with the most stickers I’ve ever come across in the Friends universe. That’s why I had to include this in my review. The number and size of these stickers is insane and only outdone by bigger true premium sets like the Harry Potter Diagon Alley (75978) or various recent LEGO Technic sets plastered with renditions of sponsor signage and cheat elements like printed-on headlights.
My point here specifically is that this is a set for kids and you can’t simplify the build with large panels on one hand while expecting them to apply large stickers correctly. This doesn’t compute in my tiny little brain even if I work up the understanding for the rationale behind this. Yes, stickers are cheaper and there’s a whole lot of other reasons, but when you have them to use to this extend, I feel something is wrong. In a funny way this in fact harks back to my point with the parts earlier on – LEGO should be about trying to build as many details as possible, not faking them.
On that note: I unfortunately ended up with the older versions of the few printed pieces in this set, so I have a “milk” brick that still has the cow, not the more neutral newer version that also appeases vegans and the same goes for the letter in the mailbox. No big deal, it just would have been nice to get the modernized examples.
As usual, somehow LEGO can’t seem to go without those weird side builds that ultimately often are mostly useless and so this set has its own heart-shaped kids pool. Due to its super-simplified construction it’s neither here nor there, as they say, though. For a toddler basin it’s just not cute enough and for a deeper pool it at least would have had to have a second row of bricks to make it taller. This is, for all intents and purposes simply a forgettable non-effort on the designers’ part.
The main component is of course the house, which is actually quite a sizable villa as it’s indeed built on a full 32 studs wide and 16 studs deep array of plates. For Friends buildings, which usually tend to be a lot narrower and more shallow that’s really not bad, even more so since the space is used quite efficiently with lots of stuff being built onto the available surface area. Not exactly on the same level of Modular Buildings, but not bad, no matter what.
The building is divided into three (or four if you want to be super exact) visually distinct segments spread across two floors with the big garage and the tower-like rounded window front dominating and to some degree making the middle section appear narrower and less prominent. The top floor is then further divided into two separate modules, each containing two rooms, that can easily be removed to provide easier access to the facilities on the ground floor for play and exploration.
On the right hand-side of the building there is a small overhang with a balcony/ roof terrace on top and some space underneath, which in summer you would probably use to put up a table and some chairs for barbecue. Otherwise it is perhaps a bit underused in this set, as clearly they could have put some details in there like a swing hanging from the ceiling or at least a little bench. Might also have been a good idea to put some bicycles there or a lawnmower. as it is there’s only the vines to talk about, which have some blue grapes even similar to the Heartlake City Restaurant (41379).
The garage likewise feels a bit empty and underutilized despite the musical instruments being stored there and a tiny washing machine/ dry tumbler having been placed at the rear end. Something is simply missing and including at least a small scooter or something like that might have enlivened the scenery.
The central doorway directly takes you into the kitchen area, which at least from my point of view is pretty unusual. Living areas tend to be structured differently here, with most people preferring to separate their functional rooms from the hallway. The kitchen also exposes the one big problem I have with this set as a whole to a T: The ugly, dark colors abound here with Dark Purple stool legs, Dark Turquoise table base and the surrounding Magenta from the walls and chairs’ backrests.
On their own, each of the colors are okay when used in moderation, but I feel that for this model the designers went a bit nuts. Since they are very strong, dominant and contrast-y color, they are fighting for the spotlight and it makes the whole model unnecessarily noisy. This is then even further escalated once you add the Dark Blue for the roof into the mix. At least I have a mild psychological reaction to all of this and it feels kind of unfriendly, uninviting or even a bit depressing to me. At least one of the colors could easily have been eliminated (the Dark Purple, pretty obviously) and the others dialed down massively. There isn’t even a reason why the two arches used under the table would need to be in the teal color.
The other thing about this is the simple question of “Where’s Andrea’s Yellow?”. Bar the bed covers, the pool’s edge and the hairbrush it is nowhere to be seen except for the flowers (and some of the stickers which I didn’t use). It would have made things a whole lot friendlier if it had been used e.g. on the Window blinds on the first floor instead of the Magenta or some of the decorative striping. Then they could have used the flower elements in nice Bright Light Pink without losing anything. Or perhaps even adding a tree or hedge? So many options!
The rooms on the upper level feel a bit more balanced in terms of colors, though their use is kind of hampered by the large panel-based walls inbetween. I would have preferred if the living room was just as large an open space as the kitchen below it. The bathroom is acceptable, but perhaps not really necessary. The same could be said about the nursery/ sleeping room with the bunk bed. Both rooms feel rather lackluster compared to other, more richly detailed things. and yes, there’s of course the balcony/ terrace which is just as empty. It’s like they either didn’t have any more budget left to at least add a sun chair or they were really ignoring it.
Despite the weaknesses I pointed out and my criticisms that is actually a pretty nice set. Light Aqua is one of my favorite LEGO colors, anyway, and this set delivers plenty of elements in this color fur future creative uses. The same can basically be said for the Dark Turquoise/ Dark Cyan elements as well, though to a slightly lesser extent. And well, then there’s the obvious point: The new curved window elements and the tinted dark glass inserts for the regular small windows alone could make this desirable if you’re into building houses. That is, of course, until LEGO lump them into every set in more colors and they cease to be something special.
The sticky point ultimately is, that some things feels like they stopped at the 90% mark and the model could have used some more refinement. The many empty areas are kind of baffling and could have easily been populated with some small details and no matter what, I still would have loved to see a more educated, more balanced use of color. Something simply feels off. And then there’s this sticker excess, too… Suffice it to see that this set could likely have been my personal “best ever LEGO Friends set”, but due to its shortcomings and quirks falls just shy of that. I would still recommend it, but with this experience in mind would do some things differently, were I to build it a second time.