It was nearly Christmas when Heather Cadenhead realized that her then-10-year-old daughter’s most-desired present was a playhouse, a space in which she could spend time with friends that would be hers alone.
Cadenhead frantically started placing calls but either came across flimsy options or a wait of up to six weeks. On Christmas Eve, she called Storybook Playhouses and heard the news she’d been hoping for—they happened to have a just-finished playhouse and could deliver it to her that night.
“We went through this elaborate scheme with my older daughter, who drives, to get my younger daughter out of the house so we could get this delivered,” Cadenhead said. “They did a fantastic job. I can’t tell you how excited she was.”
For Tyrrell Garth, founder and owner of Storybook Playhouses, helping to make a kid’s dream come true is one reason he started the company.
Garth grew up on a Colorado ranch where his grandmother rented out space to artists. Being exposed to art and living a childhood outdoors in- fluenced him greatly, and as an adult he knew that working a desk job wasn’t the right fit. So he found his way to EcoSafe Spaces, a residential design and build firm, doing construction work.
He eventually crossed paths with David Verret, owner of Dallas-based Backyard Mansions, a custom children’s playhouse builder. Verret became a mentor and helped turn a spark of inspi- ration into a full-fledged business. Storybook Playhouses opened its doors in August 2010.
“Most kids who see playhouses are just awestruck; they’re like ‘wow, that’s mine!’” Garth said. “I think they see it as their personal creative space. A goal for me was to help kids use their imagina- tions. That came from my own personal experience when I was younger—I was always playing in the woods, was always outside, would play mountaineer, or adventurer, or pirates. I wanted to give children a medium to do that.”
Garth’s houses are little works of art, and it’s clear he has fun designing them. The process begins with a client meeting, during which he gets input about the details that are important to each client. Then the construction begins. His houses have finished interiors and floors, and he’s also added custom functioning shut- ters to some of his homes. Want a gable over the doorway or elec- tricity in your playhouse? He can do that too, along with cabinets, a loft, walls that double as chalkboards, or custom lighting.
Garth added that most of his homes sell around the Austin area, and much of the interest in his product comes from grand- parents who remember having their own play spaces and want to provide that for their grandchildren. The houses range in price, with an average of around $2,400.
Storybook may make small houses, but Garth wants to think big when it comes to his business. When he launched the company, he also started a giving program that donates 5 percent of each playhouse’s sale to a nonprofit of the customer’s choice.
“The summer after I graduated from college, I went to Costa Rica with St. Edwards University business school,” he said. “We did a lot of humanitarian work with nonprofits in Costa Rica. That made such an impact, and I thought if I ever start my own business, I want to do something that gives back.”
For Cadenhead, the playhouse was an investment she knows her family will enjoy for years.
“It will get passed on,” she said. “At some point I’ll have grandchildren, I predict, and it will be the gift that keeps on giving. It’s really well built.”