LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — 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 swingset.
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.
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.Tyson Leavitt
"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.
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