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Q&A | Husband-and-wife team creates a more modern playhouse

The Kansas City Star

JOB DESCRIPTION: Kimball Hales is an architect and managing director at Hufft Projects, Laura Hales is a Spanish teacher and design enthusiast. Together they started Play Modern, a company that makes collapsible, reconfigurable modular indoor and outdoor playhouses, 913-608-7890,

Q. What got you two started making playhouses?

A. Kimball: We have kids. We noticed they’d play with cardboard boxes. And they got tired of the same configuration. Then you’d bring it out again and put it together in a different way, and it becomes new again. So we wanted something that was stronger but that could be taken down and put away easily. We wanted it to be a fast assembly.

Q. How fast?

A. Kimball: I can put the two-story one together by myself in 12 minutes. The hand rails can take a little longer, bringing the total up to about half an hour. Not many tools are required. They’re held together mostly by friction. The kit pieces are cut with a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine at Hufft that has a level of precision that’s amazingly accurate, down to the width of a human hair.

Q. What are the playhouses made of?

A. Kimball: Environmentally friendly materials. We use Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products with no added urea formaldehyde. The outdoor models are a marine-grade plywood. The finishes are low- or no-VOCs (volatile organic compounds). We use a clear finish that is made from whey proteins, a byproduct of cheese-making.

Q. How old are your kids?

A. Laura: We have two daughters, ages 13 and 8, and a 10-year-old son.

Q. Tell me about your own house.

A. Kimball: We moved here from Chicago, into an asymmetrical Cape Cod in old Leawood. It’s a work in progress. Our playhouses are our escape. We’ve been prototyping them for years, putting them up, taking them down in various configurations and locations. They can even become bunk beds.

Laura: We’ve always wanted a modern house, so the playhouses are our modern house.

Q. What’s your favorite room in your house?

A. Laura: The bedroom. Kimball built a wall to create a reading nook. I love my books. I just finished “Killer Angels,” a Civil War narrative, and it was fascinating.

Kimball: The living room. It has big windows that look out on the backyard.

Q. What’s your personal style?

A. Laura: Very modern and minimalistic. I love floor-to-ceiling glass. High ceilings. White everything. I like natural materials, so the metal and wood in the playhouses really appeal to me.

Kimball: I like all things playful, kid-like, architectural and even trendy. I think it’s fun to walk through Ikea. I enjoy Pinterest, especially the geek section. It’s always strong on “Star Wars” and random things. It makes me laugh.

Q. Do you have any favorite blogs?

A. Kimball: and

Laura: Design Milk for me, too, and I have a weakness for Girl in the Green Dress (

Q. What’s next for your playhouses?

A. Laura: A sandbox and a slide that will click in with the playhouse. We’re also designing a modular kitchen for next year.

To reach Stacy Downs, call 816-234-4780 or send email to

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