A Playhouse That Beckons in the Backyard
The Wall Street Journal
May 6th, 2016
Leigh Kamping-Carder

A Pasadena, Calif., family spends almost $95,000 on a playhouse custom made to suit an odd lot; the 1,200-sqaure-foot structure includes two slides, decks, rope ladders and sliding peepholes


Daisy Ha’s Pasadena, Calif., backyard is awkwardly shaped: 15 feet wide by 50 feet long at its longest point with stepped retaining walls, leaving little room for al fresco adventures for her two girls, Karina, 6 and Naomi, 4. So Ms. Ha, a 41- year-old lawyer, commissioned a custom-made play structure to sit atop the tiered walls, complete with slides, ladders and a playhouse embellished with a mailbox, sliding peepholes and a bucket on a pulley.

In eight weeks, Barbara Butler, founder of San Francisco based Barbara Butler Artist Builder, built and installed the 1,200-square-foot backyard structure. The project, completed in August, cost almost $95,000, with $80,000 going towards the structure itself. For Ms. Ha, the outlay was worth it. Once rarely used, the backyard is now a spot for the family to hang out. She expects the structure to adapt to her growing daughters’ tastes. “Now we are out there all the time,” she said. Here is a breakdown of some of the costs:


  1. The structure is made of rot-resistant redwood  from sustainable forests, Ms. Butler said. The edges are sanded with a modified metal grinder to ensure they will not splinter. Price:  Roughly $2.50 a foot for 3-by-6-inch timbers
  2. A tinted tung-oil stain gives the wood its jewel tones while the grain is still visible. Ms. Butler’s company make the product in 59 shades.  Price: $45 for 32 ounces (project took about 2 gallons)
  3. Bark chips help cushion any falls. Price: About $1,200 for 12 cubic yards of chips, wood border and labor
  4. The hand-woven rope ladder offers young children an adventurous climb, while the angle helps to keep them hooked on with hands and feet. Price: $2,200
  5. The two slides take advantage of the tiered area of the backyard, which has a 10-foot rade change from top to bottom, Ms. Butler said. Price: $4,800 for both, including installation
  6. The playhouse has two doors, as well as decks on both sides. “I try to have entrances and exits so that kids can be running ‘round and ‘round and they don’t run into a dead end,” Ms. Butler said. Price: $20,000 for decks


To see more of the Pasadena Playhouse, including a time lapse video of the install, click here.

 For Media & Publicity Inquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Dana Wynn
Sarah Hall Productions, Inc.
145 Hudson Street, Suite 404
New York, NY 10013
Email: Dana at shpny.com
Phone: (212) 597-9200
Fax: (212) 529-3171
Suzanne Butler
Barbara Butler Artist-Builder, Inc.
325 South Maple Avenue, #37
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Email: suzanne@barbarabutler.com
Phone: (415) 864-6840
Fax: (212) 529-3171