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Girls have their own sweet little home

Published February 9, 2007


Sometimes girls just want a glamorous place to call their own - in miniature.

When I was little I decked out my dollhouse with itty-bitty cabbage-rose wallpaper, white eyelet curtains and bedspreads fashioned from dainty antique handkerchiefs. I owned a backyard playhouse, too, a teeny metal hut with a cheerily painted suburban exterior that included faux windows, shutters and window boxes.

But I dreamed of a real playhouse with quirky furniture, art and plenty of my decorating color of choice: pink.

Donna Christian gave that gift to her daughters. The Davis Islands mother of three girls - Allie, 7, Gabby, 3, and Jessie, 2 -- wanted to spiff up the interior of their playhouse and turn it into the kind of place where imagination and girl power rule.

"Before, it was just a wooden playhouse and I thought it would be nice to make it interesting, to make it much more like a real house," Christian recalls.

So she teamed up with Amelia Stender, a local artist whom Donna and her husband, Paul, met at a party. Stender transformed the ordinary playhouse into a place where little girls might want to hang forever or at least until they hit their teens.

"My mother even joked that we should turn it into a mother-in-law cottage," Christian says with a laugh. "The only problem is that it doesn't have a bathroom."

But it does have just about everything else: electrified chandeliers, air-conditioning and glow-in-the-dark ceiling constellations that spell the girls' names. The exterior is pink, lavender, blue and lime-green.

Inside, the decor is, well, think Barbie meets Mary Englebreit.

"It's pretty incredible. I'm so happy with the way it came out," Christian says of the playhouse that's tucked in a corner of the back yard.

To give it the overstuffed cottage look despite an obvious premium on space (it's only 10 by 8 feet) the walls were painted with furniture and other household amenities. A play stove, range hood and refrigerator replete with magnets are painted right on the wall. A lilac chest of drawers is also trompe l'oeil; so is the flower in the vase on the sink and the framed picture on the wall.

A painted pie cooks in the pretend oven. And the kitchen drawers, even though fake, "have real handles from Lowe's," Christian says.

This fairy tale house even features a real loft space for sleeping tucked behind a pink beaded curtain. A real aqua-blue shelf holds doll-sized teacups and a teapot, perfect for the tea parties the Christian sisters like to throw these days.

After the cottage was completed last fall, the girls threw an open house for about 10 of their friends. Seven-year-old Allie, an amazing artist herself, drew a picture of the playhouse for the cover of the invitation.

Only her version had bats in it.

Donna Christian says she and her husband like to watch their girls play in their new little house. She likes to think that nothing much has changed since we grownups were children and had playhouses, too.

I have to agree. There was nothing better. I can still close my eyes and feel the pleasure of pretend housekeeping outdoors, beneath a Florida sky.

I ask her what fascination she thinks playhouses still hold for kids - of every generation.

"Don't you think it's the fact that there aren't as many rules?" she asks. "Parents aren't governing how you sit at the table or telling you not to run in the house. You can imagine living on your own and explore your own limits without your parents looking over your shoulder."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at

. if you go

Quilt show

The 17th annual World of Whimsy Quilt Show will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 16 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Salvation Army Worship Center, 1100 W Sligh Ave. Admission is $6; parking is free.

[Last modified February 8, 2007, 10:54:37]

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