By Becky Harris | Houzz
Perched on a slope looking out at the trees, this is not your typical girls’ playhouse. Inspired by the midcentury modern architecture of the main house and the fact that the homeowners are French, architect Beth Holden decided to create a unique folie. This is an old French word that describes a sort of garden folly that is a favorite abode. She chose a site that was unobtrusive, provided a view back to the main house and pool, and took direction from the classic modern elements of the main house.
Playhouse at a Glance
- What happens here: Two little girls have play dates, do homework and enjoy the upper part of the yard. Adults have also invaded, spending the night and enjoying evening cocktails.
- Location: Encino
- Size: About 250 square feet
- Designer: New Theme Inc.
Holden placed the structure high atop the home’s sloping backyard, in a private spot that made a minimal impact on the site and views from the neighboring homes. The house looks down over the pool and the main house, a midcentury modern home that she recently restored while adding energy-efficient upgrades. Learn More About Midcentury Modern Style Homes.
A retaining wall holds back the slope underneath the small structure, extending 10 feet deep into the bedrock. Another retaining wall to the right creates a small garden area next to the folie.
Much about the playhouse responds to the architecture and location of the main house below. “The slanted L-shape opens up to and winks down at the main house,” Holden says. “Symbolically, it references an arm that provides protection.” The “arm” portion is made of a waterproof roof and deck material by Elastomeric. Because of the shape and material choices inside and out, the architect says, the roof becomes the wall and the wall becomes the roof.
The corner opens almost completely to a small deck and garden (just beneath the retaining wall on the right side of this photo), which extend the playhouse outdoors. There is a lot of wildlife in this area, including deer that like to visit. The deck, railings, structure and wood trim are all Douglas fir, an element seen throughout the main house.
The railings are metal cables that keep the view through to the yard open, giving the playhouse a treehouse feel. The tops of the railings are just the right width to hold cocktails.
Holden designed the bifold doors, and her husband and business partner, master craftsman Wolfgang Melian, fashioned them in their shop. “There are a lot of great modern doors out there, but not many with wood details,” Holden says. “So we have our own shop, and we design and fabricate them ourselves.”
Clerestory windows help let in the light, while overhangs provide shade and offer protection from water leaking in. Supplemental electric light is provided off the grid.
There are two 75-watt solar panels on the roof that power the electricity out here. “The house is also a little lab for learning,” Holden says. She placed an energy monitor so that the girls can see how much energy they are using when, for example, working on their laptops or playing music. “They can learn about their impact on the environment,” the architect says.
The Douglas fir is coated in wood oil with a walnut stain. The interior plywood is exterior-grade and continues from the floor up the wall and across the ceiling. Painted drywall on the far wall provides some contrast. Discover More Modern Design Inspiration Here.
MAIN HOUSE: This original dark-stained slatted wall and paneling in the main house inspired the Douglas fir elements in the playhouse.
Though the playhouse does not have a bathroom, there is running water to the sink, which is good for cleaning up after craft time, washing hands or getting a drink.
Inside Holden left the concrete retaining wall exposed to show the structure of the house. The window surrounds do the same thing. “They are a nice detail that expresses the thickness and shape of the wall,” she says. They also function as handy shelves.
The large sectional seen here folds out into a bed. While the structure was built with the girls in mind, the adults love to use it too. “The homeowners tell me that their house guests fight over who gets to stay in the folie now,” Holden says. A favorite abode it is. Pick Up a Sectional Couch Today to Host More Overnight Guests.
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