Banging together a few pre-fab boards and handing your kids the keys to their own backyard playhouse might have cut it a generation ago, but these days kids have Guardian of the Galaxy swings, Hulk-buster high chairs, and inflated expectations. That might explain why the new norm (amongst the very wealthy or well connected, anyway) is a bespoke playhouse designed by an award-winning architect. Here are 10 backyard playhouses that will either inspire you or make you feel badly about that shack you were going to build.
Sam + Pam Playhouse
From the Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers Inc. comes this all-wood fort and its Christmas-fresh scent of spruce-pine fir. The award-winning architects of McMurray International Airport made this 3-story castle around the theme of “less-is-more,” kind of like a Hemingway sentence or red carpet “dresses.”
Barcelona architects Anna and Eugeni Bach designed this wooden backyard playhouse with inspiration from Finnish barns. There’s a loft for napping grownups and white planks that age differently than the treated wood, intended to symbolize the growth of your children (or just you getting old).
Daniel Leibu’s and Alexandra Flynn’s Playhouse
This geometric fort adorns the backyard of Daniel Leibu’s and Alexandra Flynn’s opulent 19th century home in Toronto, which borrows its style from Berlin and Paris. Conversely, the backyard playhouse was built in the 21st century, and borrows its design from a box with some holes in it.
Cox Rayner Architects designed this playground on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, and it includes furniture and BBQ shelters for adults. Elements of every component are angled in ways that play with light and shadows, like your weird uncle at birthday parties.
Nixon Tulloch Fortey Architecture donated this funky almost-shanty to the Kids Undercover Cubby House Challenge, which donated auction proceeds to homeless children. This “cubby house” (Australian for playhouse) has modern trappings, a cozy loft, astroturf on the ceiling just in case gravity fails, and a delightful accent.
The Texas-based Baldrich Architects have an eye for minimalism and enough stunning homes to fill any house-porn loving heart with lust. This playhouse, donated to the Bastrop Fire Relief charity, includes a climbing tower, a swing, and walls your kids can actually draw on because they’re made of chalk.
Auckland-based architect Marc Lithgow of Space Division built this plywood and polycarbonate backyard playhouse as a backyard Christmas gift for his 2 boys, aged 4 and 1. The inside is clad with chalkboard paint and, most days, a napping 4-year-old chilling in the mini loft.
Green esCAPE Playhouse
ZeroEnergy Design, an environmentally conscious architecture firm, built this multifunctional fort to raise $50,000 in a raffle for emergency shelters and housing programs in Cape Cod. It has a climbing wall, closet, secret entrance, an oversized chair, and a delightful accent.
The Polish Ultra Architects have designed everything from lake cafes and shopping centers to suburban homes and the playhouse of a little girl named Maja. Maja drew an archetypical one-chimney home, and Ultra made it happen. Well, something close to it anyway, given that Maja’s command of the fundamentals of structural integrity was a little loose.
Arguably the most menacing of all shapes, this polyhedron is the brainchild of the Columbian Manuel Villa architectural studio. This UFO-like garden house has a front deck that makes it seem like aliens landed, dropped the facade, and returned to their condo at Area 51.