Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Charlcote Summer House

(Also check out Annabel Rainbow's site to see her artwork).

In my search for playhouses of the past I have stumbled upon some elaborate playhouses, but this one...Wow!  What sets this tiny house apart from the rest?  First of all the interior wood work is more detailed than many typical (adult sized) homes, but the most intriguing detail has to be the aviary.  That's right, a home for song birds built into the structure of the playhouse.  Imagine having a tea party while your walls sing!  Talk about an early form of surround sound!  

This picturesque storybook playhouse is located in Charlcote Park,  home of the Lucy family since the 12th Century.  The park is now cared for by the National Trust and is open to the public.  The park itself has a rich history. Shakespeare has been rumored to have poached deer in there.  The Charlcote Summer House was built for Lady Mary Elizabeth Lucy's children and was modelled on Plas Newydd, Llangollen, the home of Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsoby, whom Lady Mary Elizabeth Lucy visited as a child.

The tiny house is a single story structure with an L shaped plan.  The exterior is composed of brick with applied rustic timber.  The canted west gable end has rustic timber surrounds at the openings and a segmental-headed entrance with paired bark-paneled doors.  Beautiful stained glass windows dating 1826 and 1828 flank the entrance.  The south front has a canted bay window with gablet and wood lattice glazing as well as another small stained glass window.  The east end has a gabled bay containing an aviary with bark cladding below the openings with meshed frame to front and projecting side nest boxes.  The north front has a wing with detached stack to the left of the oriel-like timber projection.

Image source:  National Trust

Image source:  West Country Buddha
The interior consist of two rooms finished in reused timber fielded paneling and decorative woodwork.  Both rooms have canted ceilings.  It is also decked out with mirrored cupboard doors, a segmental arch to the main room, and a fireplace with mantle.

A couple years ago when I began researching playhouse design, I was a bit surprised to find such extreme playhouses.  Many modern day playhouses are fully equipped with electricity and some even have running water, not to mention flat screens and  the latest video games. Initially I thought these extreme playhouses were just a trend or fad, but I am quickly realizing lavish play spaces have been around for generations.  I am curious to hear your thoughts on these extreme, over the top playhouses.  They may not be a necessity (you know I'm a fan of the cardboard box), but aren't they fun!  I know there are at least a few of you out there with opinions, so lets hear them!    My take - I believe the process of designing and building a playhouse can be as much fun as enjoying the final product.  With that in mind, creating something like this with your children, not just for them, could be memories you share for a lifetime.  I am very aware that not everyone has a budget for this type of playhouse, but that doesn't mean you can't create something amazing.  There are many examples here of playhouses built almost entirely from salvaged materials.  As a designer I can appreciate both the salvaged shanty and the extreme playhouse.  Ultimately they both provide children with their own personal space where their imagination can run free. 

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