2004 Highlights
Dear Friends:
A young visitor to our shop plays with our shop kitty in the Petit Chalet

2004 was an exciting year for us! It brought us work for places all over the country and into Canada. We also started accepting more public-use play structure projects. I flew to Disney World for the final safety certification for my first handicap-accessible play structure design. It was also a year of unique treehouses as well as kid´s theaters. Here are some of the highlights from 2004:

Color map #3






January started with a trip to Los Angeles to deliver a Petit Chalet for a family of girls in the lovely beach community of Hermosa Beach. The whole family was involved in selecting color map #3.


The Perched Playhouse

February brought us a fun treehouse project in Palo Alto, California. My clients wanted to know if I could build a treehouse up in the walnut tree that had died. After checking with my trusty tree consultant, Walter Laing, I had to inform my clients that Walter didn´t advise using a dead walnut tree for support because he thought it likely it would fall over in 4-5 years. So I came up with the idea to make it look as if the walnut tree was helping to support the playhouse. That made the two little girls very happy!


In March, we introduced a new “standard” playhouse at the San Francisco Garden Show: the Sheriff´s Office. It comes with an office, a front porch and a jail for locking up prisoners. Of course, it has a secret escape from the jail just to keep things interesting!

Here´s Larkspur Castle just as the installation is finished. Next comes the landscaping and the fence.
Who is that masked man?

We also introduced in March another new design for a public use play structure. Zinn Design-Build of Chapel Hill, North Carolina was developing a new neighborhood which included a clubhouse, pool and play structure area. They had a small irregular-shaped space for the play structure and they wanted something unique, so we worked together to come up with a design that reflected the look and quality of their new homes. Larkspur Castle was born!

Before the theater leaves for its starring role at the Holly Rod auction, two young visitors put on a short play at our shop

This year we built several theaters for kids. What a treat! In April, we built the Little Castle Theater and donated it to the Holly Rod Foundation Auction. Founded by Holly Robinson and her husband Rodney Peete, the foundation raises money for those afflicted with Parkinson´s disease. It was a star-studded event held at the home of Sugar Ray Leonard in Bel Air and the theater was a big hit with the kids and adults.

Fort Saratoga

At the end of May, I traveled to Orlando, Florida to do the final safety certification of the new play structure I designed for the Saratoga Springs Resort in Disney World. This play structure is my first to meet both the public use and the ADA handicap-accessible guidelines. I designed it to match the architecture of the newest resort area at Disney World.

My play professionals hard at work

June took us back to Los Angeles to install the Bel Air Bungalow. The siting of this structure was critical: I had designed it to sit in a grove of trees with only inches to spare.

First I chalk the panels
then I carve the animals with my grinder

I love the end result: it makes me wonder how we got it in there! I carved animals on all the wall panels and then our master stainer, Dutch artist Rudi Verhoven added the color.

Rudi brings the carvings to life with his staining

Rudi and I have collaborated on quite a few storybook houses and it's always an exciting time around the shop.


The parents told me they have as much fun playing on it as the kids!

July had my husband Jeff driving cross-country to deliver and install several play structures. His first stop was Toronto to deliver a playhouse, then down to Woodstock New York to install a King Fort with a roof, 3 swings and a climbing tower. It´s the largest of our standard designs yet with our modular construction and our test-fitting everything in our shop prior to shipping, it only took Jeff and a local helper 3 days to complete the installation.


Part of August was spent up a tree building a treefort for a San Francisco residence.

First, I take a ton of photographs and sketch on a photocopy to get my ideas across.
Then Frenchy and I spend a day roughing in the design with sticks to make sure it will work.
Then we build it for real with lumber that´s pre-grinded and stained.

When I first climbed up in the tree, I saw that you could see the shining sea, so I said, “how about a ship?”. The kids agreed! Their favorite flag to fly is the Jolly Roger, of course. The first photo shows how we “stick” the tree with a life-size mock-up of the platforms, then we take it all down and build it for real with lumber that´s pre-grinded and stained.

Jeff is finishing up the installation in Los Angeles.

While I was busy in September drafting shop drawings for several large custom projects approaching, the woodshop was busy making Robin Hood´s Forts and playhouses in all shapes and colors. The “standard” designs are great that way: there are a lot of variations available and you can choose your own color palette. Here´s a new color palette for a Robin Hood´s Fort.


For this variation on our “standard” King Fort, I added in another rock climbing tower and dual water cannons.

October was a race against the weather! We had two play structures to install before the weather started to turn bad. First we did a King Fort with 2 swings and a climbing tower for a great family in New Jersey. Then we were off to a challenging project in Upstate New York near the Catskills where the site was steep and rocky.

We installed a rock-climbing octagon with a bridge-over-swings that spanned two trees. Further up the hill, we built a tree fort with a 75´ zip line for the older kids. We worked through the first two days of cold rain, to be rewarded by four days of glorious weather and spectacular fall colors.

Tuxedo Castle
I do like testing the zip lines!


The Tropical Treehouse arched bridge-over-swings.
The Tropical Treehouse: the upper clubhouse.

In November, we flew to Florida the week before Thanksgiving to install one of our most ambitious projects to date: The Tropical Treehouse and the Sunshine Theater. The weather was perfect. We worked from sunup to sundown for 8 days straight to get the play structure done for a special Thanksgiving Day party. The party featured a theatrical debut of a new play by the little girls and their cousins.



Then in December we were back in our San Francisco workshop building two new public-use designs for two new neighborhoods near St. Louis by Whittaker Homes.

Here the crew is test-fitting the intricate cantilevered second floor system.
At the shop, the theater arch goes up for a test-fit

Each neighborhood´s getting a play structure and a theater. Here we are in the photos testing the parts before shipping so the installation goes as smoothly as possible.

Barbara and friends horsey around on the unstained Sunshine Theater.
Have a great 2005 and remember, the play's the thing!

Warmest regards,