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The Victorian cottage look is No. 1 on the wish list for some girls.



Published: Sun, August 5, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Of course, boys might preferthe more ruggedlog cabin style.

By REBECCA SLOAN

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

Remember when you were a kid and you dreamed of a place all your own?

If you were a girl, perhaps you dreamed of a pretty playhouse where secrets could be traded, and if you were a boy, you probably longed for a high-in-the-sky treehouse ideal for spy missions and army stake-outs.

The times may have changed, but the desires of children aren't so drastically different after all.

Playhouses and treehouses are more popular than ever in the back yards of area families.

Outdoor living: "Playhouses are becoming more and more common. There's a great focus on outdoor living spaces, and a reflection of this is that people are putting up more playhouses in their backyards," said Lynn Crane of Backyards Then and Now, a business specializing in small portable barns and custom-built playhouses that is located in Williamsfield in Ashtabula County.

Crane said she started selling playhouses this year, and so far they have been going like hot cakes.

"They weren't very big sellers a few years ago, but the demand for them is increasing," Crane said. "Kids ages 2 to 12 want them, and parents think they are a cute addition to the back yard."

Crane said her most popular-selling playhouse looks like a miniature Victorian cottage. "It is pink with gingerbread trim and has an adult-sized door in the back so it can double as a garden shed and will still be functional after the kids outgrow it," she said.

Log cabin: For little boys who don't want a pretty pink playhouse, Crane carries a log cabin playhouse.

Customers can buy playhouses already assembled or they can order a kit and assemble them themselves. The cost is anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500.

Tiffany Tomasic, one of the owners of Master Craft Builders in Canfield, a business that carries everything from gazebos to jungle gyms, agrees that playhouses are becoming more popular.

"We sell quite a few of them," Tomasic said. "They are something parents love to get for their kids and something kids love to have."

Salem resident and grandma Carol Penny always longed for a fancy playhouse when she was a girl.

One day about a month ago while shopping at Master Craft Builders with her grandkids, ages 7 and 9, Penny fell in love with a two-story cream-colored playhouse with red and brown trim.

"It was the cutest thing. It had a heart-shaped window and little window boxes. My grandkids loved it and so did I, so I decided to buy it. I always dreamed of a little house like that when I was a girl," Penny said.

Good buy: Penny said though she was living out her own "childhood fantasies" when she bought the playhouse, the purchase was also a practical one because the playhouse doubles as a storage shed.

"It has a door on the side that I can step into. I plan to keep garden tools in there," she said.

Dolores Mock of Columbiana is a also grandmother, but she didn't purchase her playhouse for her grandkids.

"My husband and I bought it to use as a storage shed. I didn't want the traditional shed. I wanted the cute looking dollhouse," Mock said, adding with a laugh, "When I was a girl, my dad built me a fancy playhouse. I guess you could say I am reliving my childhood."

Mock's playhouse, which was delivered already assembled in July, is cream-colored with burgundy and hunter green trim.

Tomasic said lots of people choose a neutral color or a color to match their home when picking out a playhouse.

"Lots of times there are both boys and girls in the family who are going to be playing in it, so parents choose a neutral color like gray or tan. They can order in any color they want," Tomasic said.

Master Craft Builders has sold playhouses for about four years and, like at Backyards Then and Now, customers can choose from playhouses that are built on site or playhouses that are assembled from kits.

Prices start at around $500.

Treehouses: Master Craft Builders, which is located on state Route 224, also sells houses on stilts that are labeled as treehouses.

"Even though most people don't put them in trees, that is what we call them," Tomasic explained. "They aren't as popular as the playhouses are."

Tomasic said most people who want a real treehouse end up building it themselves.

"It's just too hard to have someone else try to build a treehouse for you without actually being there in the tree to build it," Tomasic said.

Bruce Stryffler of Columbiana spent all of last summer building an elaborate treehouse for his two children, ages 8 and 10.

"I had a treehouse when I was a kid that we built from scrap lumber. It was a lot of fun, and I wanted to give my kids the same experience," Stryffler said.

But this treehouse was not built from scrap lumber.

Pretty fancy: Instead, Stryffler fashioned a top-notch, high altitude hideaway with windows, a screen door, a loft and a balcony.

"I made a plan on paper, we went and bought the lumber and the kids helped. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun," Stryffler said.

The Stryffler family treehouse is painted bluish green to match the family's home and is suspended between two backyard trees, an oak and a maple.

"The kids call the treehouse Maple Oak Wonder Heights," Stryffler said. Maple Oak Wonder Heights happens to be the envy of other neighborhood kids.

"One girl came over to play in the treehouse with my daughter, and after she left she told her dad, 'Go get inspired, dad,'" Stryffler said with a laugh.




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