Pet Project:

Anatomy of a
Modernist Playset

When my wife, Ann, and I purchased a 1949 Modern Home in Cheviot Hills, we inherited a large backyard and a 30’x 35’ badminton court that was past its prime. At the time, our young son, Reiss needed his own stimulating “habitat," so we asked our dear friend and architect, Rick Leslie, to help us re-purpose an area of our yard into an inspiring playset for our growing boy. What resulted was a large-scale puzzle that was a joy to design and to build.

To withstand moisture and the elements better than traditional plywood, we culled though stacks of concrete paper-lined form boards at a local resource. The papers and resins used to make them moisture-resistant and durable came in an extraordinary range of great colors – a great palette for discerning kids!

With playsets, of course, safety and “fall factors” are front and center. I decided to install a 2” layer of black granular rubber pellets as the base with a 3” layer of multicolor shredded rubber topping material called Rainbow Turf. Both materials are made from recycled automobile tires.

The playset was later used by our second son, Ryland and has endured as a fort for Nerf gun battles, laser tag birthday parties and water balloon fights. When my sons evolved into more structured sports and digital forms of entertainment, our playset was unbolted, disassembled and given to an adventurous young father of a 4-year-old boy. I hope he enjoyed it as much as our boys did.