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Treehouses? Been There, Done That

An elaborate space just for the kids is the must-have addition to today's home.

Take note, parents: Setting up a backyard swing set just doesn't cut it anymore.

When building a custom home, more people are looking for ways to create specially designed spaces for their children. The options range from kids' offices and libraries to art studios and soundproof music rooms.

Increasingly, there's plenty of space for design ideas to take shape. Today's average home is around 2,500 square feet, but custom-built homes can run up to a roomy 8,000 square feet. That's almost big enough for a bowling alley. (Hey, why not?)

An architect in New York had a client that built an indoor hockey rink for his son, complete with a Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine. Then the daughter got interested in figure skating. It only made sense to build a training room adjacent to the rink. "Parents just want to give their kids things they didn't have growing up," the architect says.

So forget about finishing the basement with cheesy wood paneling. Here are some design ideas for homeowners who want to give their kids the dream rooms they never had:

Home offices

: These are becoming almost standard in high-end homes. The dedicated spaces for homework are equipped with computers, of course, and the furniture is no longer a wooden desk or an old dining table. These rooms are being outfitted with state-of-the-art

Herman Miller

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workstations. This award-winning office furniture maker started in the '30s and is known for its sleek modern style. One Herman Miller workstation will set you back about $3500.

Old-fashioned chalk boards are -- dare we say it -- antiquated. Smart boards are the hottest classroom technology. These interactive white boards hang on a wall and display the computer's image. It's touch sensitive and allows you to control commands by simply touching the board. The workstations are wired for computer, video and telecommunications, transforming them into multimedia centers. No word on whether a deluxe children's office improves grades.


: Setting aside a reading area for children is also gaining in popularity. Carol Kurth, an architect in Bedford, N.Y., recently designed a "Story Book Nook" for a client. Located between the parents' bedroom and the child's room, this fantasy library was the perfect spot to ease the transition to bedtime. An overstuffed chair and built-in bookshelves made for a cozy spot to curl up with a book and Mom or Dad.

Art studios

: Using vinyl tablecloths on the kitchen table for painting and drawing is strictly old school. The latest arts-and-crafts rooms come fully stocked, with an easel, a table with rolled paper at the end for a never-ending empty canvas, and bins for supplies. "I'm not one to talk. I built a sculpture studio for my son," Kurth says.

The rooms take extra care to have improved lighting, additional storage for supplies, and washable flooring. Ceramic tiles or retro linoleum are trendy choices. The rooms also set aside dedicated gallery areas to showcase the early works of the family artist.

Music rooms

: Soundproofed music rooms are gaining in popularity -- and we're not talking about kids stapling egg cartons to the wall. Companies such as

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provide products for home studios.

"I had one client whose teenage son was a budding musician, so he built a recording studio in the house. Complete with digital equipment," says Richard Granoff, an architect who works in the Greenwich Conn., and Long Island, N.Y., areas. "We hired an acoustic consultant and an audio/visual consultant for this project."

Indoor pools

: Indoor pools are cropping up in homes with increasing frequency, particularly in states with cold winters. More families are entertaining around the pool, and cold evening weather cuts short the play time.

Granoff says many of his clients are adding wings for indoor pools -- often in addition to already-existing outdoor pools. "The minute it gets dark and the temperatures drop, my clients like to tell the kids it's time to switch pools," he says.

An indoor pool extends play time and entertaining time. It's year-round, and while it might seem extravagant to some, to others it really does make sense. Granoff says he has clients trading up from 20-foot pools to 50-foot pools.


: Playhouses and tree houses have also gone upscale. Such Web sites as

PoshTots and

Lilliput Play Homes provide playhouses -- some complete with electricity, recessed lighting and doorbells. These elaborate houses can start at $5,000 and easily climb to more than $20,000. Some are custom-made to replicate the main houses.

Granoff was asked once to design a treehouse for a client to complement the main house. The $30,000 price tag was a bit too rich for the client, though, and the house didn't get built. "But it would've been really cool," Granoff says.

Christopher Alexander, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in

A Pattern Language

: "To help achieve a balance, a house for a small family needs three distinctive areas: a couple's realm, reserved for the adults; a children's realm, where children's needs hold sway; and a common area, between the two, connected to the both."

Alexander says that giving children their own world is as much in the interest of the adults in the family. "The adults and children can co-exist, each without dominating the other."

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