About Us

Since 1987, Barbara Butler has specialized in the design and construction of custom, site-specific, artistic play structures. Barbara’s philosophy: Create a great backyard play structure that’s an outdoor playroom. Make it beautiful to look at and strong enough for the whole family to play on it. Spark the imagination and encourage kids to turn off the TV and computer, and go outside to play!


About Barbara: Barbara grew up in upstate New York, one of eight children in a close-knit family, where active, outdoor play was a daily occurrence.  Graduating from SUNY Cortland in 1978 with a BA in Political Science and attending graduate school at SUNY Binghamton for English, Barbara didn’t actually want to be the lawyer her mom wanted her to be. Instead she had fun learning the construction trade from her two contractor brothers and remodeled brownstones in Washington D.C.  Also that year she went back to making art. After several years in NYC and D.C., she decided to pursue her interest in writing and went to graduate school at SUNY Binghamton. After graduate school, Barbara moved to San Francisco where she concentrated on writing, painting and sculpture. Her construction skills at first were just a means to make a living, while she focused on her artwork. Then in 1986, Barbara and friend Robert Forrest founded Outer Space Design and began specializing in artistic backyard design. In 1987, her first famous client, singer/song writer Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”) and his wife, Debbie asked for an unusual play structure for their two sons. Suddenly all of her loves fused together: art, outdoors, building with wood, children, family and play!  Since then, Barbara has combined function with art to create hundreds of unique places where children can play. 


About Barbara Butler Artist♦Builder Inc:  After working several years as a sole proprietor, Barbara was joined in her play structure business in 1996 by future husband, Jeffrey Beal. Based in San Francisco, Barbara and Jeff accepted commissions across the country, building beautiful play structures on site.  Barbara’s brother, James (general contractor and owner of Butler Construction, Los Angeles, CA) often joined the team.  In 1997, after finishing the Connecticut Castle in the dead of winter with a foot of snow on the ground, the group decided to build play structures indoors (controlled climate, longer light, happier workers). They moved to their first shop and developed a unique, modular building system to make delivery and installation easier.  In 1999, Barbara’s sister, Suzanne Butler, joined the team.  Formerly Director of Training at American Skandia in Shelton, CT, Suzanne left the corporate world to become Barbara’s business partner and co-owner. The business incorporated and Barbara Butler Artist-Builder Inc. was born.  Since then, Barbara and team have built more than 600 custom playhouses, play structures and tree forts, delivering and installing all over the country and internationally.


Barbara’s portfolio of work has garnered national attention and acclaim.  Acknowledged by the Wall Street Journal as “the custom playhouse maker we like the best… one of the world’s best-known playhouse makers with celebrity clients… a spectacular quality of workmanship and creativity” (see In the Media for the full story.) 


In addition to the Wall Street Journal:


Barbara’s work has appeared in New York Times, Architectural Digest, People, In-Style, Child Magazine, House & Garden, Coastal Living, Entrepreneur, Fortune, Robb Report, Sunset Magazine, Veranda, Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and more; (see In the Media to read the full story).


Barbara and her play structures have been featured on Oprah Winfrey Show, CNBC, CBS Early Show, Evening Magazine, House Beautiful TV, Livin’ Large, The Christopher Lowell Show, Billionaire Toys, and HGTV’s prestigious Modern Master; (see Videos to view the clips).


Books:  Barbara’s play structures appear in The Treehouse Book, Children’s Playhouses, The Kidspace Idea Book, Treehouses, The Dream Catalog and Taunton’s The Workshop (see Books for more information);


Clients: Barbara’s celebrity clients include Dreamworks, Robert Redford, Kevin Kline & Phoebe Cates, Jada Pinkett Smith & Will Smith, Walt Disney Productions, Bobby McFerrin, and Bob Weir, among others.

Barbara Butler Artist¨Builder Inc. Play Professional Team:

Barbara Butler, President/CEO/Designer

Suzanne Butler, Vice-President/CFO/Marketing Director (sister)

Jeffrey Beal, Vice-President/Installations (husband)

James J. Butler, Vice-President/AutoCAD (brother)

Marco DeLeon, Shop Foreman

Gabrielle Hustead, Account Manager (niece)

Rudi Verhoeven, Artist & Master Stainer

Jose Jimenez, Carpenter/Installer

Eric Rustrian, Carpenter/Installer

David Brown, Assistant Carpenter/Installer/Rope Weaver

George W. Kovka, Financial Consultant

Robert J. Butler, Technical Consultant (brother)