This past weekend was the culmination of several months of coordination, design and construction – The Life of an Architect 2015 Playhouse ‘Outdoor Movie Theater’ was delivered and is now on display. With the purchase of a $5 raffle ticket, you (or someone you know) could be the lucky winner and get this playhouse for your backyard. If you don’t have kids (or a yard) you could always donate this playhouse to some other group who could use it. I think the last two playhouses I designed were donated to other charities and re-raffled off to benefit some other organization – I was contacted to provide some drawings to go along with the playhouse to the new winner.
Pretty cool, I have no problems with that since it’s a win-win-win situation for everyone.
As has become the custom, today I am showing the annual “how did that get built” post on the playhouse … which started with the original concept sketch shown above. Earlier this year – back in April – I wrote a post that showed the original concept sketches and explained the logic and rules I have when designing playhouses. Things like “proof of life” and “it can’t be a hotbox” are two primary considerations but equally important is the “I would allow it to be in my backyard” test. This last Friday, cultural prodigy Kate Borson turned 11 years old and she has had a hand in every playhouse I have created since she was 5 years old. As an attentive father, I know that her interest level has evolved as she has matured so what she likes today might not hold her interest in 6 months and as a result, all the playhouses I design have to have some sort of second life to them.
Another tradition I have here on Life of an Architect, is that I make the construction drawings available for free for every playhouse I design. I don’t do this for the money so if someone somewhere else wants to build this playhouse, I say “knock yourself out” … just send me some photos of the process once you’ve finished. I rarely get to see my own playhouses in the backyard of the winning raffle ticket holder, so this is my way of getting to see the finished product in the environment where it was intended … not in a shopping mall. Just click the image above (or here) and you can get to the post with the construction drawings.
I need to give a huge thank you to the contractor on this project – BufordHawthorne homebuilders. I think I owe that sort of financial consideration to BufordHawthorne considering that they donate their time and their money to support this cause. I must be a doing a good job because they have built a playhouse for me every year for the last 7 years.
So let’s get on with the construction photos! … Ask and ye shall receiveth :
For all of my playhouses, it starts with the deck. I like lifting my playhouses up off the ground and setting them on some sort of plinth. This allows the future owner the opportunity to place this playhouse wherever they want without having to worry about creating a slab or other platform that the playhouse will rest. This also allows the grass to grow right up to the playhouse and you don’t have to worry about the guy who is weed-whacking your yard destroying the wood.
Can you say “sacrificial board”? I can, that’s why I start with the deck.
This years design includes a swinging door – a door that actually rotates 360° so that you can either project your movies from inside the playhouse – or – rotate the door around so you can watch the movies from out in the yard. Everything works around the door so it makes sense that this is the first thing that gets built.
I tricked out the wall framing this year – I used 2×6 wood studs for the walls but had them cut down to 2×4’s size for the lower part that was exposed. Since I wanted the mass of the wall to project out so there would be some depth to the building, rather than frame the wall in two layers, I simply had the 2×6 ripped down.
Since I also didn’t want to have a bunch of metal roof hanger straps exposed, we ended up notching the roof rafters to keep everything nice and level, visually clean, and get the overhang that I wanted on the ends.
A nice clean look at the ceiling framing before the roof sheathing gets put in place. You can also see very clearly how the wall studs were cut down in this picture.
This is (starting from the left) Felipe Perez, Juan Montelongo, and Steve Bergene – they guys who did a lion share of the work on this playhouse. Steve has been involved in building a few other playhouses for me and I know that he enjoys the work. Since these guys typically work on really nice – and large – houses, the idea that they can start work on a project and have it completed just a few days later probably sounds pretty good.
The other real benefit to having a contractor repeatedly work on one of my playhouses is that they are able to take the lessons learned from one year in to the next. Steve has a pretty good feeling for what I like and most of the time, he has some ideas that really make the construction of the playhouse that much better. I’ll point out one such example in a few pictures from now.
A look at the roof framing from below – this is really intended to help the people out who will build this playhouse later on.
Looks pretty clean, doesn’t it? Way better than having a munch of metal hangers, or worse, nails from where the framer missed the roof studs when attaching the roof sheathing.
This year I went back to lining the interiors in homasote – a recycled pressed paper product that anyone who went to architecture school is familiar. You can tack anything you want to this stuff – which seems like it might come in handy in a children’s playhouse. You can also paint in over and over again should you want to introduce some color in to the interior. The good news is that this stuff is readily available and only costs about $25 for a 4’x8′ sheet, which means you can replace it should it get funky or overly damaged. We just liquid mailed this stuff to the studs so that you didn’t have to look at nail heads on the interior. (The wood scraps you see under the comatose in each corner are simply there to hold the boards in place will the glue dries.)
This is one of the images that I referred to earlier – the benefit you get when the guy building your playhouse has done it a time or two before. Take a look at the nail placement in the deck … see how they all align with the wall framing? While my construction drawings are pretty good, I didn’t tell these guys where to locate the nails. This is about as good an example of pride on the job site that you will find. Going to this level of craft is completely unnecessary because 9 out of 10 people will never notice.
But I notice these things, and so do the people who build them.
The playhouse is mostly finished at this point – the painters have arrived and are putting the final touches on the playhouse.
I have started to steer away from painting my playhouses because I think it becomes a maintenance issue for the eventual owners. It also helps drive the cost down on these little projects – which is a good thing since I think it would be kind of jerky to the contractor (Barry Buford and Gabe Hawthorne at Buford Hawthorne Homebuilders – the guys that actually pay for the material and labor to build the playhouse) if I didn’t at least think about how much these playhouses cost when I am designing them.
A close up look at the top of the swinging metal door. The panel hasn’t been put in place yet, in fact, the guy painting the door was waiting for me to move while I took this picture.
Here’s a look at the bottom. See how the teeny-tiny base plate is recessed into the deck boards? This plate will always be out there for all to see, regardless of which way the door is located. I don’t want any barefoot children to stub their toes.
Your welcome future stub-free toes.
I thought I would point out that the individual boards that make up the G90 clad swinging door were al individually clad before they were installed. It certainly would have been easier to put a large sheet or two over the door, but alignment is kind of a big deal in my world. It is a bit more apparent in later photos but the cedar boards that wrap around the playhouse and the boards that are wrapped in the G90 are exactly the same size.
WHAT?!? How do these things happen??
That’s why we draw these things ahead of time, folks. I had always sized the door to align with the cedar boards but I didn’t really expect the contractor to individually wrap the boards – it would have been cool but since I don’t like sticking it to the contractor who agrees to build these playhouses, it wasn’t an expectation.
They are the ones who said they would do it. #scoreboard and #winning
A look at this the individual boards were put in to place – a bit a liquid nail and then some finish nails. We don’t want any exposed fasteners on the metal side. The side you are looking at now will actually be covered with a single piece of MDO board and painted white since this is the “screen” for projecting movies.
These guys are making sure that everything aligns just right – they are lifting and sliding each board while the liquid nail is still loose before the boards are nailed in to place. The next two images show the finished metal for with a close up of the reveal joint around the perimeter.
Pretty sweet, right?
Here’s the finished product sitting in the yard of where it was built … I am imagining that this will be something like where it will eventually end up.
To help protect the exterior, and to help the playhouse look slightly more like a finished product, I did end up putting a light semi-transparent stain on the cedar boards wrapping the exterior. I wanted the cedar to still look like cedar – knots and all – and think this was the right call.
I had to visit the playhouse in the mornings to check on the progress because if I cam by after work (or in this case, the weekend) I would find the entire playhouse wrapped up like a giant burrito. When I did the birdhouse playhouse a few years ago, I made the mistake of pulling the protective cover off by myself and let me tell you, it was incredibly difficult to get it back on by myself. These days, I leave it alone.
Hauling the playhouse from the job site to the mall where it will be on display for about 3 weeks – not that hard a process. I’m told that it took about 6 or 8 guys to pick the entire playhouse up and set it on the back of this trailer (the very same trailer that has brought every single playhouse I have designed to the mall).
They know the routine and as a result, the playhouse is loaded in such a way that the guys at the mall who have the responsibility of unloading the playhouse have an easy go of things. Unlike most of the other playhouses that were delivered, Buford Hawthorne didn’t even have to pull into the lot – unloading happened that quickly.
The elevation to the right – at 90° to the metal door – that is a temporary screen and frame – it will be removed once the playhouse is removed from display.
… and only took 4 guys to push it securely on to the forklift.
All the playhouses are temporarily stored in a parking lot outside the mall until they get approved for quality (no nails, etc. sticking out that could hurt someone) and for completeness (we don’t want any that are obviously incomplete making their way indoors).
Another year, another playhouse. I should point out that there are some temporary security measures put in place while the playhouse is on display. I already mentioned the screen a few pictures ago but for you eagle-eyed readers, yes … there is plexiglas installed at the bottom of the playhouse between each stud. We have to keep kids from actually playing on/in these playhouses while they are on display for liability reasons – this is one of the ways that we accomplish the “look but don’t play” requirement.
I hope that if you are in the Dallas area between now and July 26th, please stop by NorthPark Mall and look at all the playhouses in person. Soon I will be showcasing the winners and the finished product of the Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition – we built three playhouses this year and they all turned out rather amazing – I can’t wait to share them – and the designers who created them – with you.