Playhouse mansions

As the real estate market for adults is in shambles, the market for playhouses is booming.  Some of them cost as much as a real house:

APART from the open bar by the swimming pool, the main attraction at parties held at the Houston home of John Schiller, an oil company executive, and his wife, Kristi, a Playboy model turned blogger, is the $50,000 playhouse the couple had custom-built two years ago for their daughter, Sinclair, now 4.

Cocktails in hand, guests duck to enter through the 4 ½-foot door. Once inside, they could be forgiven for feeling as if they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.

Built in the same Cape Cod style as the Schillers’ expansive main house, the two-story 170-square-foot playhouse has vaulted ceilings that rise from five to eight feet tall, furnishings scaled down to two-thirds of normal size, hardwood floors and a faux fireplace with a fanciful mosaic mantel.

The little stainless-steel sink in the kitchen has running water, and the matching stainless-steel mini fridge and freezer are stocked with juice boxes and Popsicles. Upstairs is a sitting area with a child-size sofa and chairs for watching DVDs on the 32-inch flat-screen TV. The windows, which all open, have screens to keep out mosquitoes, and there are begonias in the window boxes. And, of course, the playhouse is air-conditioned. This is Texas, after all.

“I think of it as bling for the yard,” said Ms. Schiller, 40.

Some people might consider it “obnoxious” for a child to have a playhouse that costs more and has more amenities than some real houses, she conceded. But she sees it as an extension of the family home. “My daughter loves it,” she said. “And it’s certainly a conversation piece.”

Even in a troubled economy, it seems, some parents of means are willing to spend significant (if not eye-popping) sums on playhouses for their children that also function as a kind of backyard installation art.

There are a number of companies and independent craftsmen that make high-end playhouses, which can cost as much as $200,000, and come in a variety of styles, including replicas of real houses, like the Schillers’, and more-fantastical creations like pirate ships, treetop hideouts and fairy tale cottages. And many of these manufacturers report that despite the economic downturn, they are as busy as ever.

Barbara Butler, an artist and playhouse builder in San Francisco, said her sales are up 40 percent this year, and she has twice as many future commissions lined up as she did this time last year. Not only that, but the average price of the structures she is being hired to build has more than doubled, from $26,000 to $54,000.

“Childhood is a precious and finite thing,” Ms. Butler said. “And a special playhouse is not the sort of thing you can put off until the economy gets better.”

via Playhouses – Child’s Play, Grown-Up Cash – NYTimes.com.

An interesting example of over-the-top parenting.   How does this manifest itself among us less affluent family-values types?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I would like a play house for my kids. I kind of envision one of those backyard storage buildings but with an interior wall separating the front playhouse half from the back half in which I could store the lawnmower and yard stuff.

    As for the mega elaborate playhouses, hey, I bet the carpenter, mason, electrician and plumber who built it are not complaining. It may be extravagance to us, but it is bread and butter to them. Should the rich just hoard all their dough, or should they spread the wealth by paying folks to do honest work for them? Sounds more honorable than taxing the rich to send out government checks to the unemployed.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I would like a play house for my kids. I kind of envision one of those backyard storage buildings but with an interior wall separating the front playhouse half from the back half in which I could store the lawnmower and yard stuff.

    As for the mega elaborate playhouses, hey, I bet the carpenter, mason, electrician and plumber who built it are not complaining. It may be extravagance to us, but it is bread and butter to them. Should the rich just hoard all their dough, or should they spread the wealth by paying folks to do honest work for them? Sounds more honorable than taxing the rich to send out government checks to the unemployed.

  • SKPeterson

    My son built his own. Now it gets used as a tool shed.

  • SKPeterson

    My son built his own. Now it gets used as a tool shed.

  • http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com Dave Spotts

    It seems all people who are in absolutely desperate poverty like to put out money to get things for their children. Almost uniformly they are things the children neither need nor really want all that much. Would the little girl be just as happy lying on a pillow on the living room floor watching a movie on the 24″ screen TV shared by the family? The dog would be just as snuggly there.

    While it’s easy to criticize such fancy designer playhouses, you can drive through a poor neighborhood and find yard sales with more toys, games, and clothes than any four year old could ever find time to enjoy. The price tag is different, the idea isn’t. We want to give our children all the stuff that we think they might want.

    Sadly we often forget to give them the love, security, and access to their parents and to the Lord which would do them the most good.

  • http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com Dave Spotts

    It seems all people who are in absolutely desperate poverty like to put out money to get things for their children. Almost uniformly they are things the children neither need nor really want all that much. Would the little girl be just as happy lying on a pillow on the living room floor watching a movie on the 24″ screen TV shared by the family? The dog would be just as snuggly there.

    While it’s easy to criticize such fancy designer playhouses, you can drive through a poor neighborhood and find yard sales with more toys, games, and clothes than any four year old could ever find time to enjoy. The price tag is different, the idea isn’t. We want to give our children all the stuff that we think they might want.

    Sadly we often forget to give them the love, security, and access to their parents and to the Lord which would do them the most good.

  • James Hageman

    To answer the question: Cell phones, internet cell phones, pc’s, I-pods and pads, vacations to Disneyland/world, sports camps, music camps, (gasp) church camps, swimming pools, to name a few.

  • James Hageman

    To answer the question: Cell phones, internet cell phones, pc’s, I-pods and pads, vacations to Disneyland/world, sports camps, music camps, (gasp) church camps, swimming pools, to name a few.

  • helen

    James @ 4
    I know some adults who are “giving” themselves things such as you mentioned, because their “toys” were limited when they were kids.
    [Or they thought they were deprived.]

  • helen

    James @ 4
    I know some adults who are “giving” themselves things such as you mentioned, because their “toys” were limited when they were kids.
    [Or they thought they were deprived.]

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @5

    FWIW, I had pretty much the best of everything given to me as a kid, cool vacations, private schools, camps, very expensive jewelry, a very expensive fancy car. I started to feel like the stuff owned me more than I owned it. Now, I don’t crave material possessions at all. I do spend on private education for my kids.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @5

    FWIW, I had pretty much the best of everything given to me as a kid, cool vacations, private schools, camps, very expensive jewelry, a very expensive fancy car. I started to feel like the stuff owned me more than I owned it. Now, I don’t crave material possessions at all. I do spend on private education for my kids.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    My wife stays at home and takes care of our two young daughters.

    We get toys handed down from my older siblings and my wife’s older siblings. We do OK, but there’s no way I could afford the toys kids are getting now.

    My daughters have old dolls, a sit’n’spin, old books, a few balls, a wagon and stuffed animals. I bought them a blow-up pool because the summer is so hot. A few generations ago that would have been luxury. Now that seems to be pitiful among my middle-class coworkers.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    My wife stays at home and takes care of our two young daughters.

    We get toys handed down from my older siblings and my wife’s older siblings. We do OK, but there’s no way I could afford the toys kids are getting now.

    My daughters have old dolls, a sit’n’spin, old books, a few balls, a wagon and stuffed animals. I bought them a blow-up pool because the summer is so hot. A few generations ago that would have been luxury. Now that seems to be pitiful among my middle-class coworkers.


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