Every child dreams of his or her very own kids-only place, where the possibilities of fun are endless. These local families have made sure their little ones get to realize those dreams with backyard spaces that are the envy of every kid on the block.


As a little girl growing up in Iowa, Raye Zeigler and her twin sister, Kaye, spent hours every day in their playhouse. Years later, when she found out her fi rst grandchild was a girl, Zeigler wanted to recreate that magical space in her Ladue backyard. Basing the design off of a picture in a magazine and an idealized concept of a 1.5-story home, Zeigler’s husband, Barry, built a playhouse. “It’s just great that it’s scaled just right for children,” she says.

The playhouse was perfectly suited for their granddaughter, Amanda, and the four grandsons who followed. A small porch leads into the one-room home fi lled with child-sized furniture, including an antique oak roll-top desk and dish hutch used by Zeigler’s children when they were young. Working windows and an electric ceiling fan keep the playhouse cool in the summer and oriental rugs add cozy warmth in the cooler months. Shortly after completing the little house, Zeigler’s husband also built a small gazebo next door to match.

While 16 years have passed and her grandchildren have outgrown the playhouse, Zeigler still lets neighbor children use the tiny home when they occasionally knock on the door. “It lets them get away and use your imagination.”


In just one week in March, Scott Runyan transformed a tree in his Richmond Heights backyard into the ultimate retreat for his children. “There are more families moving into the neighborhood and we wanted to create a fun setting for our kids and the other children in the area.”

As owner of a building and renovation business, Runyan and one of his employees put their skills to good use, constructing an all-cedar one-room treehouse with a side porch accessed by a kid-friendly staircase. While the tree penetrates the back of the house, the space is watertight, with a carriage-house shingled roof and Loewen windows.

With electric lights inside and out, Scott and Kristi Runyan’s children— Clay, Jake and Charlie Rose—can spend hours playing Legos, foosball, or drawing on the walls that are covered in chalkboard paint. Hardwood floors take the treehouse to another level, while chairs hewn from logs add to the rustic and creative feel of the space. Swings from an old playset are incorporated into the setup, and a hammock hangs below the house in a shaded nook. Runyan’s children even got the chance to participate in the construction, helping to paint and stain— making their mark on a backyard escape any kid would love to have. “The kids think it’s pretty neat, so it’s been a lot of fun.”


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