You don’t need to be a kid to build a blanket fort, just your creativity, imagination, and Grackle + Pigeon’s (a.k.a. Nathaniel and Jessie Kressen) new book, Blanket Fort: Growing Up is Optional. This power couple combined their strengths to create enchanting forts for anyone who wants a little serenity or a fantastical escape. The best part is that you don’t have to be an expert fort-maker—Nathaniel and Jessie walk you through exactly what you need and how to set these blanket forts up in your very own living room, backyard, bathtub, or really anywhere!
The dynamic duo both studied the arts at NYU, where they started to collaborate. “We met in theater school. I was training as a set designer and Nathaniel was a writer, actor, and producer,” Jessie says. “We first collaborated together as Nathaniel was running a theater company, and I managed the production of that.” Little did they know that they were going to be collaborating together for a lifetime.
Although pitching up a small tent in your living sounds pretty simple, the Kressens take it to the next level by creating an artistic space that is still easy to make. “Because I trained as a set designer, I was really excited about getting back into building things with my hands,” Jessie explains. “I started doing a lot of research online just looking at the way people have built tents and shelters… I took a lot of inspiration from looking at a lot of design blogs, trying to make things approachable with minimal equipment.” Friendship is another important aspect of the creative process Nathaniel describes: “We are lucky enough to have friends that we consider to be part of our family and we kind of map the themes of the different forts to those friendships.”
Nathaniel says “it was definitely wonderful transforming [their] home space into something a little magical and unrealistic,” adding that they have eight or nine forts set up. Some of their absolute favorites are the outdoorsy blanket forts such as “Wild Things.” “Wild Things” was taken on location in a state park in New York with some friends on a weekend trip,” Nathaniel says. “We made a few with them that weekend, but with that one, you can take a leisurely afternoon nap in it afterward.”
These blanket forts are more than just something fun to have in your house; they allow you to reconnect with your childlike self and take a step back from everything. “There is something lovely just being able to step back and create your own little magical world,” Jessie says. “I just love the idea of taking anything in your ordinary house and making a space out of it.” Nathaniel adds that “no matter what discipline you work in, we always try to create a fully realized world for the audience to try and take part in and to invest and see themselves in.” These blanket forts are not just for aesthetics—the authors want to create somewhere people can escape to from day-to-day responsibilities. “Take time out of your day to take a quiet moment to yourself, or have an unplugged moment with family, and give yourself an opportunity to be creative,” Jessie advises.
Having fun and making blanket forts also translates into how they view themselves as husband and wife. “We did theater together for a little while: That sense of play and that sense of creation, and thinking beyond what is immediately in front of you, we kind of brought that over into our respective lives,” Nathaniel says.
Theater school is also why they never lost touch of their childlike selves. Even their author names, Grackle + Pigeon, were created as a reminder to not take them themselves too seriously, Nathaniel says. These creative names also reflect who they are as New Yorkers. “Birds are around everything, they see everything, they keep small details in their daily lives, but then they are also able to fly away and look at humanity in a different perspective and perch on ledges and look down,” Jessie says. “We just like the idea of that.”