Making child's wish reality Father equips playhouse with electricity, stained-glass windows

September 06, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Two years ago, Frank Martin of Pasadena promised his 3-year-old daughter, Lauren, that he would build her a playhouse.

Two thousand dollars later, mission accomplished. The independent contractor recently put the finishing touches on a 12-foot-high, 120-square-foot playhouse about the size of Lauren's bedroom.

"When I promise Lauren something, I keep it," Martin, 37, said. "You only live once as a child."

"I think it's cool," said Lauren, a first-grader at Fort Smallwood lTC Elementary School.

"I think he's crazy," said Sheila Martin of her spouse.

It's hard to miss the playhouse, which sits in the backyard of the family's Bahama Beach home. "Princely Purple" -- Lauren's favorite color -- is the dominant theme.

The exterior is purple, as are the curtains, two stained-glass windows and the violets in two flower beds.

The house is surrounded by a miniature white picket fence and has Dutch doors and two large windows on the front. Inside, Lauren can walk on a tile floor, turn on overhead lights or climb up a ladder to her loft.

The house is insulated and has locks on the doors. Two electrical outlets will let Lauren plug in a stereo or television.

"The only thing you don't have is running water and a toilet," someone told Sheila Martin.

Martin got the idea for the project two years ago when the family lived in Severn and he was hired to build a swing set for a family. After he built it, Lauren said she wanted one, but she also said she wanted a playhouse.

"I told her you can't have both," Martin recalled. "She chose the playhouse."

Lauren, an exuberant child, said she picked the house "because I figured that if I had a swing set, I wouldn't get to help my dad because it's smaller than a playhouse. And I wanted to play in it with my dad."

The family moved to Bahama Beach eight months ago, and Martin started building the playhouse in April. He found most of the material at hardware stores.

But he had to search for other parts. For the stained-glass windows, he hired a manufacturer in Ellicott City. For the door latches, he trekked to the Eastern Shore.

"I'm a perfectionist," Martin said. "I like to do things right. If it takes a little more time, then I do it."

He knows that he could have bought a playhouse, but he said he would rather build one.

"It's something personal," he said. "Maybe it's because when I was growing up in San Francisco, my forts were these big piano boxes or the basement. If I can do it, I want to do something for her."

Neighbor Karen Medura, who jokingly said she "wanted to murder" Martin because he often hammered nails until 10 p.m., praised the playhouse.

"It's pretty," she said. "It's a nice dream house for a girl."

Lauren keeps her toy kitchen set and dolls and stuffed animals inside. Her father envisions the playhouse as her haven.

"When she gets older, she'll be coming out here to get away

from us," he joked. "But for now, it's a sentimental thing that we never want to sell. We'll keep it in the family."

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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