Playhouse Ideas?

I'm about to consult with an existing customer on building a playhouse. They had been considering a kit (I'm not sure which one) that was $13K for materials, but they want to do something a bit less extravagant. I've already decided the playhouse should _not_ be a kit and should match the main house (on the exterior: simple ornamentation, wood-shingle sided, composition roof, two-story gabled 1917 with many windows).
The two kids are girls, and the older one is now about three +. The father is a surgeon and the mother has an artistic/cultural background. They already have a simple swing set but no additional playground equipment. We're in Kansas City.
Has anybody made or designed a successful playhouse? What features should it have?
-- ******************** * Nehmo Sergheyev * ********************
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try rec.woodworking
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- Nehmo -

was $13K for materials, but they want to do something a bit less extravagant. I've already decided the playhouse should _not_ be a kit and should match the main house (on the exterior: simple ornamentation, wood-shingle sided, composition roof, two-story gabled 1917 with many windows).
The kids are girls and the older one is now about three +. The father is a surgeon and the mother has an artistic/cultural background.
Has anybody made or designed a successful playhouse? What features should it have?
- Charlie Spitzer -

- Nehmo - You're right. I should have crossed to there too. I did it for this post.
-- ******************** * Nehmo Sergheyev * ********************
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Every summer in Santa Cruz California there is a playhouse competition involving local architects and builders. The eight or so playhouses that get built are displayed in Capitola Mall, where some are auctioned and one is raffled (or something like that). Designs range from miniature houses to things like spaceships and undersea voyagers. One year there was a submarine a la Jules Verne - quite impressive to adults with its simulated steel plate and rivet detailing and big wooden gears, but those features are probably lost on kids. And there have been castles and fire stations and garden sheds and houseboats and train cabooses.
One of the hard things to cope with is that children will grow, so what is a nice miniature scale for a 6 year old will be unusable for a 12 year old. The more successful designs seem to be those that are open to a variety of imaginative uses. The undersea voyaging vehicle doesn't lend itself to much of anything else - and being simulated watertight it gets stuffy and hot in there pretty quick. The most popular designs seem to be those that have two or more levels, slides, ladders, secret doors, swinging ropes, belfries, etc.
You probably won't have heating or cooling or plumbing, so it will be a spring and fall utility. You may want electricity - it might look pretty lighted up at night. You could put in some bunks so the kids and their friends can have sleepovers in it. Then you might have a mosquito problem.
--

jhaynes at alumni dot uark dot edu


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I built one a few years back for my kids. I didn't want an enclosed playhouse I felt that the inside would get filthy from mud, spilt drinks etc. . I wanted one that would get a good cleaning everytime it rained.
There are some very important design consideration that you must take into account when you are building anything that kids are going to play on. Some of the details arn't as obvious as you would think.
The superstructure on my playground is on the outside so that the kids can't climb up and over the top. Sounds silly but that's how most playgrounds are built. Every window, trap door, railing, bridge and swing poses a real damger and needed to be well thoughtout before you begin to build.

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Omigosh, that's one hellofa budget for a playhouse! When I was a kid, we had one. Amenities were a door, four windows, and an abundance of imagination.
Given that there are two girls, I'd suggest a kitchen counter made to small scale. But today, that may be considered improper and sexist. I'd have a "secret" exit that was a sliding board. Ed
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Sexist be damned! Throw a kitchen in there. At three, she's not going to care about p.c.-ness, but she IS going to emulate what she sees other people doing. In my house, the kitchen is the center of the house and my girl pretends to cook. Doesn't even have to be a "kitchen" per s...all it really needs to be is a raised counter with room for her to pretend it's a kitchen. If it makes you feel better, make a recliner and big screen tv out of MDF and throw that in the opposite corner :)
Me? I'd give it a "second" level...not necessarily a second floor, but maybe a window you could look out of if you were standing on a bench - pretend could make it a second floor. When I was a kid - and my daughter, who is the same age as your clients', is the same way - I loved levels. It made for more interesting play. (we're in the KC area too, btw...)
-- William Morris, Tailor Seamlyne Reproductions http://www.seamlyne.com

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Nice idea.
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ZOIKS! I'd concur. Though, the playhouse at The Breakers is real nice. I really really liked that when I was a kid.
I don't know what went into the $13k, but suspect it had a lot of things that would make grownups who have lost their imaginations think it was good. Remember, a kid thinks a cardboard refrigerator box is pretty cool, versatile, a space ship, nicely decorated or at least, nothing that crayons can't fix.
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I helped a friend install one that cost the client over $10K. I think it's insane but...
A must have for a playhouse is a Dutch door.
I would consider a chimney that would function a real vent. Every playhouse I've been in gets hotter than hell.
Make damned sure you check the local zoning ordinance before you get too far. The one I helped build had to be modified after the fact because a neighbor complained about the height.
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(remove NS to use the address) 614.937.0463 voice 208.975.1011 fax
http://worthingtonengineering.com
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Some people have more money than sense.
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Another thought (not original with me by any means) is to make a village in one building. It has four sides, so make each side the front facade of a cafe, grocery store, beauty shop, post office, fire station, school, etc. Make the signage changeable so the kids don't get tired of just one configuration. For example, if you make a fire station with a bicycle garage on the first floor and a sleeping loft above, then you can put a few chairs and a potted plant in the first floor and it becomes the lobby of a hotel, with the sleeping loft becoming the guest suite.
--

jhaynes at alumni dot uark dot edu


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clipped

my kids. With a 3 y/o and a baby, I'd keep the interior very simple, for now. For a few years, their play level will be mud pies and pretending. I'd finish the inside simply and cleanable. I'd put in stuff they can move around to change their play theme - all my kids needed were cardboard cartons, blankets or sheets to drape for tents, and their imaginations. I think they did a lot more with cardboard cartons than any of their other toys. Bunk beds are also great - they become tents, sailing ships, covered wagons, etc. They are too young for electricity, but perhaps it can be outfitted to "grow up into" when they are able to safely play at a higher level. I would be sure that there are no doors they can lock each other into, nothing to climb onto and fall from, and no second story windows to fall out of - for now.
I would put the money into having a few pieces of realistic, antique style half-size or 3/4 size furniture made, which can be a play piece and a later heirloom - a table, chairs, cupboard and a bed for each girl?.
Could build in a "secret" round tower - later a stairway - with a curved door that recedes to open into the stairway space. Make it large enough for a teenager to curl up in the upper story with a book and a snack. Until then, it can be a castle or a space ship. Window at the top.
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Nehmo Sergheyev wrote:

Two refrigerator boxes and some duct tape. (Well, that's what the nieces are using!)
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At that age range, they really don't need an outdoor playhouse. What they need is a refrigerator box or maybe a playpen with bright colors. If the folks insist, you oughta wire it with one of the spy cams now available, so the babysitter or housekeeper can watch the kids from indoors. Why do people want to stick kids into a side room like a china buffet?
--

Christopher A. Young
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You make some good points. Thanks for the funny links too!
-Syd

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