Theme: Creator Expert
Release Date: Jan 1st, 2020 –
Why I bought this set
Before founding my city, I purchased this set as I knew I’d integrate all the modulars. Therefore, there was little debate about buying the bookshop. I loved the colors of this building and how it is a 2-in-1 build with a bookshop and an apartment, which is an attractive option for customization.
The 2504-piece set has eight build stages – split equally between the bookstore and the apartment. This set is ideal for co-building as there are two instruction booklets – one for each building. Indeed, this set is two modular buildings packaged as one.
My first decision was debating the color of the apartment’s basement floor on my MILS plate. The set comes on green baseplates, but a green basement floor makes zero sense to me, so I had to select a more suitable color from my inventory. I went for medium nougat plates and kept both baseplates the same, even though most of the color does not matter. I retained the green at the back as some plates are left exposed. I could have made one large baseplate; however, keeping them separate will allow greater versatility when placing these buildings in the city.
Stage one through four of the build constructs the bookshop, and Toodles inspects the first bag dutifully.
Placing a layer of tile and outlining the building’s interior is the focus of stage one. The front of the shop has the standard modular building color palate – with a light grey border, dark grey pavement, and an infusion of dark blue for decoration. The footprint of the building is minimal compared to the baseplate. Half the length of the baseplate (16 studs) is used for the establishment, which is wasted real estate.
The bookshop floor is a grid pattern of light yellow, gold, and bright yellow tiles. At the rear, reddish brown tile outlines the doorway and the staircase. The main entrance uses macaroni gold tile to generate a curved step.
The first mini-build is the counter, with a till and a couple of books (tiles) ready for checking out. Beside the counter, at the rear, is the start of a bookshelf.
The subsequent mini-build is a small bookcase for the shop’s exterior. While petty crime must exist in the Lego city (after all, some sets are based on stolen donuts, etc.), it’s not unusual for stacks of books to be outside bookstores, so this is an excellent nod to reality. While the books are mostly 1×1 tiles, there is also a Once Upon a Time print piece.
Exterior details are where modulars tend to shine, and the subtle part usage and textures around the book display did not go unnoticed. Using the half-round tiles and the fence element is nuanced and appropriate.
The tree’s fence is constructed at the front of the building. The use of black hotdogs (the first time seeing this for me) is an inspiring way to achieve a curve. In the center, a reddish brown technic brick awaits the tree. Autumn-colored leaf elements are tacked to the ground. Moving forward, this will pose a design dilemma – do I change the tree to fit the rest of the city or keep the autumn appearance? Either way, by the end of stage one, the outline of the building is rendered.
Stage two contains many 1x medium nougat bricks and a few window panes, as this section focuses on building the first floor’s walls. First though, generating a bookshelf at the rear of the store. I adore the part usage of mixing ingots, plate with rails, and tiles to generate a textured array of books. While in reality, such a display would drive me mad, it’s ideal in this Lego setting.
Next is the construction of the spiral staircase, an aspect of this build I enjoyed immensely. To make this, you anchor each step on a single column and add a stud at the bottom of each stair tip to separate them. The use of basic parts and the limited footprint highlight the brilliance of this method.
Beside the staircase, there is a tall bookshelf. Once again, the plates with rails help sell the design. The walls are made from layering medium nougat bricks, and the rear door hides behind the staircase. There is little to this ground-floor interior, and it does feel empty.
The exterior design continues with mounting half-curved tiles to generate textured columns to mark the building’s edges. At the rear, there are two white window panes with green paned windows. In not convinced the green matches the medium nougat – it may look all right once the build is complete, though.
When I added the large front windows, I realized I’d placed my exterior book display in the wrong place, so it is in its correct position now! The large windows make this building immediately identifiable as a store. Both windows have two transparent green cheese wedges on top that look like stained glass when the surrounding pieces are in place. Two transparent green bricks will also be placed above the door to create the same effect.
Small light grey tiles generate smooth columns around the door frame matching the building’s edges. There is also a detailed build to create the curved entranceway with a clip in the center to hold a light. The windows are finished with white rail plates and curved elements typically used for car wheel trims. A large arch is placed above the entranceway to complete the blending. I like the effect here, as the stained glass adds something interesting. It works beautifully above the door but looks odd above the windows, as you can see the brickwork in the frame too.
Two further layers of medium nougat bricks enclose the windows at the rear to provide the height needed for the sign. The sign has two printed elements (no stickers in the modulars) with a 2×2 jumper tile separating them. The 1×1 gold tiles and the lantern are gorgeous.
The top of the medium nougat bricks is tiled with light grey pieces, with a connection on either side to hold it in place. On the left wall, inverted slopes have been integrated that will be anchor points for the staircase. A layer of light grey plate breaks up the medium nougat brickwork.
From the rear, you can appreciate the parts that make the entranceway spectacular from both sides — a white arch with a slope on top aids in generating an exciting interior.
Stage three looks like an excellent selection of bricks, plates, and some smaller pieces that will add detail. Continuing the staircase is first up and uses the mounting of a 6×10 green plate between the stairs and to the inverted studs placed earlier. This creates a landing, almost a mezzanine, with a small bookshelf in the corner. The staircase continues with a classic brick and tile design, with slopes generating the banister.
A selection of light grey plates frames the floor of the second story. At the front, plates with rails are used to generate texture. Once flipped, a small exterior reading section is rendered. This design choice is odd to me as there is no space for a minifigure to navigate the area. Further, where are you getting a beverage to enjoy while reading these books? A small barista section would have made perfect sense and added something more to this build.
Losing four studs to the balcony results in a tighter interior that’s outlined with medium nougat brick. At the front, a series of jumpers will support the windows. The same spiral staircase design is continued; next to it, macaroni and circular tiles make a rug for the floor.
An impressive black reclining chair sits by the rug, constructed from many small parts to achieve the appearance of luxury and comfort. In the corner, next to the chair, is a floor lamp and a table (once again, with a coffee mug). The staircase continues with a white paned window with green inserts next to a full glass door to access the balcony. The final interior element is a beautiful grandfather clock beside the coffee table. It includes a print piece for the clock face. For the pendulum, a window frame holds a gold stud. It looks awe-inspiring and is one of my favorite mini-builds in this set.
The front of the building receives a classic window look with four small windows topped with a window arch. The light grey curved tiles are used heavily on this floor, continuing the design from the ground floor. Overall, it’s a classic look, and I can’t fault it, though I am not inspired by it. The part usage is typical and something I could have MOCed myself. Nothing is illuminating about the rear, either. The door and window are bland, and the fence work is classic. The top of the floor is coated in light grey tile with a couple of studs on either side for taking down the third story. Once placed on the first floor, the building looks cohesive and charming from the front and dreadfully dull and generic from the rear.
Stage four has all the elements for the top floor and the tree, so this should be fun. First up is constructing the floor base with light and dark grey plates. Once flipped, the front uses wedges to infuse a splash of dark red into the design. A layer of medium nougat brick is placed before the rear is tiled white. Two 2×4 and 2×2 bricks are placed symmetrically in two corners.
On the bricks, mirror images of the same build are constructed, with sloped features creating the roof design. Into the wall, studs not on top (SNOT) bricks are placed, and a technic brick with a connector. In the center of these builds lies a bed. Now, I can only assume this is the bed of the shop owner. It’s a weird design choice, and I have no idea what a bed is doing here. It’s almost like the designer said, “Eh, I have a third floor. Let’s put a bed there.”
Despite the absurdity, the bed looks fantastic – I particularly appreciate the microphones used in the headrest. Next to it is an aquarium with a chameleon. This is a new piece for me, and I love the look of it.
The front of the roof has a lot of design elements that are placed on SNOT bricks. First, though, a grand window, consisting of six small windows, resides behind the bed. Light grey microphone elements inserted into inverted cones at the edges create a unique sculptured design. Behind that, six connectors placed in line on the red roof give the building a metalwork feel.
All the SNOT bricks are covered in light grey tile elements, including macaroni, quarter curves, circles, and rectangles. Once filled in, the window becomes the centerpiece, and the roof looks polished. The light grey tiles generate a cohesive exterior when placed on the rest of the building. The rear of the roof can be removed to allow easy access to the floor, and the roof build is remarkably straightforward as it’s a covering shell. A series of red sloped are stacked and held together by plates that are supported by black wall elements.
Once in place, you fully appreciate how awful the back of this building is. There is nothing overly favorable to say about it. Maybe I’ll leave it at that for now.
The final element of this half of the build is the tree – one of the set’s marquee features. A tree with a white trunk is not common, but the Japanese white birch could be the inspiration. I appreciate the tie-in with the store’s name and wonder which came first – the tree or the name. It is a fantastic build, complete with a bird in a nest, adding a lot to the set overall.
Starting the small house feels like a separate set. As with the bookstore, the first stage will build the base/foundation of the house before the next concludes the first story, with the final two stages having the parts of the top floor and roof.
Once again, I am starting with my half MILS base plate, and later you will see why I wanted to change the green. The tiling at the front of the house is similar to other modular buildings with a one-stud line of light grey tile, a grill piece for a drain, and dark grey tile for the pavement. A 2×2 dark grey plate sits at the corner as the anchor for the lamppost, and a jumper tile is placed too.
Light grey tile renders the bay window outline. The house’s footprint is brought to life with 1x light grey brick, with technic bricks with holes for connectors at either side – enabling you to securely join this building to any other modular.
The front of the bay window is nicely decorated with leaves and flower elements. Is this in contrast to the autumn tree next to it? Probably. The stoop takes shape with tan bricks, modified black plates, and a light grey 2×2 jumper. The staircase is a classic construction of tile covering plate, but it incorporates technic bricks for connectors to attach the banister. Notice the connector sticking out on the right of the bottom stair? Why is that there? I wondered if I missed something – perhaps a tiny banister on that side? Alas, no; instead, the designer left an awkward, foolish element. Other than this, the stoop looks incredible, and using a shield for a tile is excellent part usage.
At the rear, I’m pleased to find something here, unlike the barren landscape behind the bookstore. In the corner, we have a small pumpkin patch (keeping with the fall theme) and a simple brick and tile staircase. The basement is four bricks tall (well, one plate shy) and has a small door on the left. The top of the floor is tiled with white and has a couple of exposed studs to provide a stable connection to the next floor.
The interior of the basement could be more impressive. First, there’s a ladder that can be used to help the kid get his plane out of the tree (as shown on the box). Why, oh why, though, is it placed right next to the door, so you cannot get inside without crashing into it? There are plenty of available studs to move it down the wall, so I’m moving mine. At the front is a cute mousetrap build, but no mouse is included. Along the wall, we have a small bench with a sack placed on top and a pair of shears clipped to the wall. What a phenomenal waste of space this basement is. My floor is medium nougat rather than green, as I chose this when I made my MILS plate.
I have seen reworkings of this building where the basement has a bathroom and a kitchen, which is something I will look to do. I can use the extra depth offered by a MILS plate to help with this.
In the next stage, I was excited to see the turquoise bricks – as vibrant as the pictures suggest. The first part of the build is generating the floor with white and tan plates. The ground floor layout is quickly apparent with the staircase at the left rear and a back door. The bay window uses a lot of parts for its foundation, including triangle tiles, jumpers, and modified round tiles. Macaroni and quarter tiles make a vibrant doormat that matches the colors used on the bookshop floor.
At the right rear of the room, we construct a counter to house a few essential food items in jars. A jumper on top of SNOT bricks creates the look of drawers. Across from the counter is the start of the staircase using plates and tiles. Inverted slopes provide the support needed for the next layer. By the bay window is an orange cushioned bench.
A small black round table sits in the center of the room, with two chairs. On the table is a teapot with two cups and a newspaper. In the corner, a plant adds decoration. The table sits in front of a delightful fireplace that is finished with white wedges, tiles, and grill pieces. In the center is a transparent orange flame. A plain reddish-brown door sits in front of the basement stairs. Next to that, integrated into the wall, are black coat pegs that are home to a hat and umbrella.
The bay window is filled in with three window panels. Each panel has a white plate with rails as the base, onto which two window frames are stacked. At the top, the two side panels have a modified L, whereas the central set has a jumper. Stacks of candlesticks pop on top of the modified round tiles and clip into modified plates at the top to fill in the gaps. Macaroni tile finishes off the window.
The front door is reddish brown with a four-panel window design. The door frame is inset and given a grander exterior by covering it in white tile. Above the door, stacked clear transparent plates provide a frosted glass look. On either side, lamps are fitted that use transparent 1×1 bricks with pyramids on top. They look spectacular and match the architectural style of the building. The rear door is about as bland as possible, with a blue door in a white frame with a black quarter tile as the door knob.
The main floor is completed with three more stairs, and all the edges are tiled off. The small kitchen section is finished with doors on the cabinet, which are hard to open once closed.
Once placed on top of the basement, the back door lines up with the staircase, and the front aligns with the stoop. Overall, it looks lovely from the street.
Onto stage seven of eight for the build, and these parts are for constructing the upper floor of the house. First, an 8×16 light tan plate and a 6×8 round white plate outline the footprint of the upper floor. The alcove above the bay window isn’t used as living space (shame, as a writing nook would have been delightful for a house next to the bookstore). Instead, it is covered with two large dark blue curved pieces surrounded by white tile. The walls of the upper floor are in the same vibrant turquoise as the floor below.
Behind the dark blue covered alcove is a luxurious double bed, with attractive part usage to give the bedframe a lovely design. Beside the bed is a chest of drawers with used curved slopes to soften the edges. A lamp mini-build and a simple pot of flowers decorate the surface. A printed picture hangs on the wall.
With the threadbare interior completed, the detailed exterior becomes the focus. The trimming on the roof is a combination of technic plates with quarter-round and rectangle white tiles. Arches and plates encase the blue dome. Above the front door, there is house number 107 – which is a designer Easter Egg. White wedges and a flat tile in the center surround that printed triangle tile.
The back wall is white inside the bedroom, and two small blue-paned windows give the room some natural light. Like the main floor, the window frames are bordered with small columns of candlesticks. The offset nature of the building also adds an exciting quality to the building.
The final stage of the build will focus on the roof and the rest of the top floor. First, the tops of the window frames are prepared for their final design, with blue connectors in technic bricks covered in white plate and dark blue slopes placed on top.
The roof looks like a mess of plates and bricks, but it’s all structural components. To each wall, two 1×16 bricks are positioned (one technic) that everything else can attach to. The critical design elements are the five black clip brackets covered with a light grey jumper tile. These will be used to anchor the coverings for the top floor.
A strip of blue corner tiles mounted onto a blue plate is attached to each of those black clips. You can see the five of them in the picture, with the central one being a double piece. With a blue tile placed on top to hide the mechanism below, the effect is a clean and beautiful design. It is an excellent way to get a tiled roof when the roof space is small or staggered like it is here. The use of plain tile strips is probably the correct choice to give the roof a polished feel, but it does make the roof look fragmented. Dark grey fencing and a chimney made from light grey masonry bricks complete the front of the roof.
Once placed on the main level, you can appreciate the terraced feel of the building. Alas, the three layers of plates on top of the bay window look horrendous. It is bulky and clunky and needs to look better. Putting a different color as the middle layer would have worked better. In its current state, it’s all my eyes can see, which is s shame because there is so much to like about the exterior of this building.
Time to finish the top floor which needs stair access and a roof. On a 6×10 light tan plate, turquoise bricks generate a wall with a large window inserted next to a door. To the right, dark blue slopes create a nook that will get a skylight that sits above the stairs.
The bedroom has a rear balcony which uses black fence elements and 1×1 studs tiled with reddish brown to create the guardrail. A couple of flowers on the fence are a nice touch. I adore the skylight to the right, which nestles in nicely to the roof design.
This panel sits on top of the main floor and allows easy access to the bedroom as the decorative roof at the front is not modularized. While this is the most stimulating floor at the back of the house, it still looks bland. The three layers of white separating the two floors don’t look right, even if it is the same height as a brick.
When placed together, the set does look stunning from the outside, which is all most people will appreciate 99% of the time. The set does come with five minifigures, each with fairy standard city people torso printing. The young man on the right with the flowers is holding a Moby Dick printed book, an ideal accessory. These minifigures have new printed faces, a departure from the generic faces the modular building minifigures used to have (this changed after Assembly Square).
In my “city,” I popped the building next to Assembly Square, and it does look gorgeous.
Modular buildings are my favorite type of builds so far. I enjoy them as they open up for playability, have excellent designs, and I can learn a lot about Lego building during their construction. Disappointingly, though, this build fell flat for me.
My delight was minimalized by the interior design choices, which felt unfinished and disjointed. The main floor of the house wasn’t tiled, so that added to the incomplete feel. I need help explaining why the bookstore has a bed on the top level and an intimate reading set on the second floor. They also have coffee cups but need somewhere to buy coffee and a balcony that is too small to use.
The house isn’t much better as it has no kitchen or bathroom, yet it does have an empty basement. Lego doesn’t need to make sense in the real world all the time; after all, it is a toy. But these design choices are weird.
While there were a few mini-builds in the set, with the grandfather clock a standout example, there was little to the interiors to get excited about building. Most of what was made were simple elements, like beds, chairs, and counters. Therefore, all interesting part usage was restricted to the exterior only.
Luckily, their exterior doesn’t disappoint and is where the designer spent most of their concept time. Both buildings have a cohesive flow and work well side by side. Instead of trying to do everything (which Assembly Square tried at times), the design showed more restraint and tried to capture a specific style rather than overly impress with parts and techniques. Yet, there were enough exciting styles that kept it engaging.
My favorite part of the build? The tree and it’s probably not a good sign that the best part of a modular building is the tree on the pavement.
Luckily for this building, people won’t look inside too much or at the rear. The front facade is typically the focus, and where this set has all of its glory. First, it is a nice feature that it’s constructed on separate half-base plates, so you can move this set around to suit your city. This can assist if you have a main street that covers the seasons – an idea I am playing with so you can put Birch Books in the autumn section.
The street is packed with life, with the tree, bookshelf, and stoop, so there are plenty of storytelling opportunities. Versatility is invaluable when you want to put your stamp on a set,
Frankly, the design is understated yet gorgeous simultaneously.
The bookshop comes in at $199.99, as it wasn’t part of the price increase that some sets were subject to in 2022. That puts the price per piece (PPP) at 12.5 cents. This isn’t spectacular value, but respectable. Is this price fair, though? Are there a lot of luxury pieces or significant elements that invariably push the PPP up? Eh, not really. A few large red slopes on the bookstore roof and tree limbs are included. The five minifigures aren’t going to increase the price too much on a set of this size. There are print pieces in the collection, but not many that would account for the price point.
Overall, the lackluster interiors do not make this PPP an outstanding value. Many pieces are small, such as the numerous quarter-round tiles and the round slopes framing the bookstore. Most of the parts are 1x bricks and small tiles.
Overall, I’d want more for my money as for $200, Lego should deliver a more polished set.
While this is only my second modular building, I have read that this is the most disappointing entry to the theme, and I hope I can never argue with that assessment. While it looks good from the front, the build feels unfinished, and it needs a lot of extra work and pieces to make it feel complete. That is disappointing.
Should you get the set? If you are a city builder or collect the modular series – yes, you will want this to complete your collection. It just won’t be your favorite addition. If you casually collect the modulars, you can skip this one and won’t regret it later.
It is scheduled to retire at the end of 2023 and is already hard to find.
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