When Dot Cada bid on this cheery playhouse built by an all-female crew of volunteers at a Habitat for Humanity fund-raising auction, her granddaughter Chloe was just 7 months old. She wanted to support the organization and knew Chloe would grow into it. "I thought she was way too young to appreciate the house," says her mother, Chryss Cada. "But she crawled right to it and sat down on the front porch with a look that said, 'Finally, a place of my own!'" Seven years later, Chloe and her little sister Neve, 5, play in the house almost daily and even grow veggies in a garden their father built for them out back. Now their mom says, "I dread the day they outgrow it!"
Chloe greets her guests through the Dutch door wearing a fairy costume. The address number on the porch post is her home's plus 1/2.
Chloe and Neve's garden is adorned with sweet fairy ornaments.
Inspired by the whimsical style of Dr. Seuss, this crooked little house was dreamed up by Rohan Goel, then 16. As part of a school project, he built his colorful work of art using donated materials (many of them recycled), and then raffled it off for close to $10,000 to benefit Respite Care, a nonprofit organization that provides short-term care for children who have developmental disabilities. The raffle winners, Johnna and Art Bavoso, donated the playhouse to The Gardens on Spring Creek, a free city-owned community botanic garden.
This detail on the roof definitely says the Cat in the Hat was here!
Eva Jentsch and Colin Butrico were among the thousands of children to enjoy this playful place in the Children's Garden last year.
The plaque that hangs on the front of the house tells guests that it was sold to benefit Respite Care.
No cell phones in this home. Conversations through metal funnels, built like the Whisper-ma-Phones in The Lorax, are way more fun!
A garden of metal flowers along the house's fa?ade will never wilt.
With an electric fireplace, running water, and a built-in china cabinet, this petite palace has everything Hanna Smith, 7, (right) could ask for when hosting friends. Hanna's grandmother, a retired antiques dealer, built the house after neighbors gave her some old windows and redwood decking, which she used for framing. Nearly all of the other materials -- from the shingles down to the baseboards -- were left over from different projects or purchased at a nearby Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells reclaimed building materials to help fund building real homes for low-income families.
Hanna (left) loves to host her friend, Devon Johnson, at her private residence in the backyard.
Every detail of this playhouse was considered, starting with the hardware on the double front doors.
Hanna's grandmother used to own an antiques shop, and she passed down her chipped china for her granddaughter's collection.
Devon inspects the inner workings of the cuckoo clock.
Go green and design a DIY playhouse for your own backyard!
Material World: You can find reclaimed brick, hardware, and other building matter for projects both big and small on a site like planetreuse.com. Or visit habitat.org/restores to see if one of the 750 ReStore outlets is near you. Proceeds of sales help fund the local affiliates to build homes in their area.
Cool Construction: Check out the How-To Projects section of lowes.com to find a free set of plans, complete with a shopping list, for building a safe playhouse at home.
Vintage finds: Add a little antique flair to your kids' digs with pre-owned fixtures. Visit recyclingthepast.com to shop for interesting knobs, wall hooks, and more.
Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Parents magazine.