‘Nicer than most houses’

Build­ing $200K lux­ury play­houses a thriv­ing busi­ness for Tyson Leav­itt

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FEATURES - BY BILL GRAVELAND Fol­low Bil­lGrav­e­land on Twit­ter

Child­hood was never like this. A com­pany in south­ern Al­berta has found an un­ex­pected lux­ury mar­ket that in­volves the lifestyles of the rich and fa­mous, their off­spring and its own re­al­ity TV show.

For­mer land­scaper Tyson Leav­itt launched Charmed Play­houses two years ago af­ter notic­ing count­less houses with big, beau­ti­ful yards geared to adults while the kids had to set­tle for a rick­ety swing set.

So he started build­ing lux­ury play­houses.

“This is a Snow White house and the fam­ily has got three kids,” ex­plained Leav­itt, 33 as he pointed to the fu­ture play­house, which was un­der con­struc­tion. “One loves Snow White, one loves Ra­pun­zel and the other one is a boy so he wants a cas­tle.

“We com­bined Snow White and Ra­pun­zel’s house and we’re build­ing this re­ally cool bridge which con­nects the two over to the cas­tle. The house is go­ing to be re­ally re­fined be­cause it’s ob­vi­ously for princesses, while the cas­tle is go­ing to have a dun­geon so you can throw some pris­on­ers in there.”

The project will sell for about US$40,000.

An­other tree­house is be­ing built for a cou­ple with six spe­cial needs chil­dren and in­cludes fea­tures to help them with dex­ter­ity.

“A lot of times clients come to us. They just tell us what they like. We take their ideas, we com­bine them and they morph into some­thing beau­ti­ful by the time we’re done,” said Leav­itt.

“Our en­try level one starts at $3,500 and we’ve done play­sets up to $200,000. It re­ally de­pends on what your bud­get is and your vi­sion is.”

Celebrity clients in­clude NBA most valu­able player Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, NFL wide re­ceiver Bran­don Mar­shall and Wash­ing­ton Na­tional’s slug­ger Ryan Zim­mer­man.

“I knew it could grow into some­thing great and big but I didn’t imag­ine the level of clien­tele I’d be work­ing for. It’s not just celebs - we’ve got amaz­ing fam­i­lies all through­out North Amer­ica and we’ve shipped stuff over to China which is a trav­el­ling set that goes from mall to mall to mall,” he said.

“It’s been a crazy ride.”

The crazy ride in­cludes the re­al­ity TV show ‘Play­house Mas­ters’ which orig­i­nally aired on TLC and is now on An­i­mal Planet.

Charmed Play­houses started up at the time when Al­berta’s econ­omy tanked due to plung­ing oil prices, but Leav­itt said that wasn’t a prob­lem.

“A ma­jor­ity of our busi­ness is in the U.S. so the re­ces­sion ben­e­fited us be­cause the dol­lar plum­meted and it al­lowed us to get work­ers and sup­plies eas­ily.”

The lux­ury play­houses are com­pletely fin­ished in­side, said Leav­itt. They fea­ture fire­places, wain­scot­ing, chan­de­liers and fur­ni­ture. No one has asked for in­door plumb­ing - yet.

“Nicer than most houses ... le­git­i­mately,” Leav­itt said with a chuckle.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

This play­house is hand­crafted and cus­tom de­signed in the shop at Charmed Play­houses in Leth­bridge, Alta.

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