Popular playhouse raises thousands for Housing Hope

EVERETT — It’s a dream playhouse for any kid.

And a lot of grown ups, too.

The miniature building contains two rooms with brightly colored walls connected by a ship’s ladder. Sliding plexiglass doors open on hot days to create a cross breeze with windows in the back. It’s fully wired with low-voltage lights.

And it came complete with a green roof and a planter box out front, art hanging on the walls and a bean bag, tiny table and other furnishings.

Builder Jim Gaffney constructed the playhouse for a charity auction for Housing Hope, the local nonprofit that aims to combat homelessness.

For a month, Gaffney spent every weekend and every night working in his shop on the project.

Maybe he should have just written a check.

“It probably would have been easier, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun,” Gaffney said. “It about wore me out, but I really did enjoy it.”

Gaffney, whose firm Gaffney Construction has been building homes and commercial properties in Snohomish County for 40 years, was one of three contractors to make playhouses for the auction.

His playhouse designed by architect Tom Rochon with Designs Northwest in Stanwood won the People’s Choice Award at Sorticulture last month.

And it impressed the Housing Hope folks.

“Oh my gosh, I was breathless,” said Kelsey Dosen, Housing Hope’s special events and marketing manager. “It was so much more than we had imagined or could have imagined.”

She said it attracted a lot of attention at the festival at Legion Memorial Park in early June.

“A lot of the parents wanted this for themselves,” Dosen said. “You know, put a little wine bar in there and have a good time.”

The playhouse, called the Mod Pod, fetched $10,500 at the auction June 7.

In all, Housing Hope raised $38,700 from the playhouses and the sale of bird and dog houses built by a several community groups including inmates from the Monroe Correctional Center.

This was the first time the nonprofit had asked builders to construct playhouses.

From the start, Gaffney wanted to do something different. He approached Rochon, who wanted to design a playhouse with a modern, fresh look.

“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do something fun,” Rochon said. “That was the approach we took.”

Rochon also wanted it to be environmentally sustainable. So he designed it with a green roof and a rain barrel on the side that could collect up to five gallons of water for the plants.

Part of the challenge was the parameters set by Housing Hope. The playhouse was supposed to be 6 feet wide by 8 feet long and 10 feet high. It also needed to be assembled and disassembled in the winner’s yard, able to fit through a 3-foot gate.

“I tell people I worked for five minutes and then I had to think for 10,” Gaffney said.

During construction, Gaffney added fun details, from the 123 house numbers by the door to the rock climbing handles on the side. For the floor, he used oak plywood, but stained it and routed grooves in it to make look like hardwood flooring.

Gaffney got help from a retired employee, John DeGroot, and his son, Joe Gaffney. As it took shape, Joe Gaffney’s own children, ages 5 to 12, fell in love with the playhouse.

“All my kids wanted to keep it,” Joe Gaffney said. “They wanted their papa to build one for them. It was good to explain to them what we were building it for.”

Gaffney’s wife, Jan, and Joe’s wife, Ashley, helped pick out the color scheme and went shopping for furniture and decorations.

“My wife got carried away with the furniture,” Jim Gaffney said.

The couple who won the auction have a beach house on Camano Island designed by Designs Northwest. They moved to Woodinville and wanted the playhouse because it reminds them of the beach house.

“Actually the people who bought this don’t have any young kids,” Gaffney said. “They have a grandchild that’s about 6 months old.”

That’ll be a happy grandchild.

The auction

Housing Hope auctioned off three playhouses donated to the nonprofit. The Western Store was designed by S.M. Stemper Architects and built by Western Ventures Construction. The Triangle House was built and designed by Dykeman Inc. The Mod Pod was designed by Designs Northwest Architects and built by Gaffney Construction.

Several businesses donated supplies for the Mod Pod: Glass By Lund; Expert Drywall; Evergreen State Heat and AC; Snohomish County Excavating; Hatloe Carpet One; Loberg Roofing; Preferred Electric; Industrial Welding; and Crystalite.

Half a dozen employees from Gaffney Construction donated their time to deliver and assemble the playhouse in Woodinville.

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