Indoor slides put play at the heart of these homes

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When designer Jill Smith and personal trainer Wooch Graff built their Houston home in 2009, they incorporated all the features of a typical two-story home: four bedrooms, hardwood floors, lots of natural light.

They also added an indoor slide.

The idea was to bring outdoor play indoors. “Why is there only one slide in a playground? Why only children use a slide? Life should be fun,” says Smith, 46. At the time, Smith was pregnant with the first of her two children and graffs, but as fitness enthusiasts, they wanted the slide to be for everyone in the household.

“I think we missed the memo that being an adult means being serious and sitting still,” says Smith. “Our house isn’t perfect, and it has scratch marks and clutter, but we really wanted to encourage movement.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, people have reinvented the way they think about their home, says Pearce Scott, an architect from Bluffton, SC. ​​Home is having more enjoyment from the outside world. People built pools or did a total backyard makeover. Or, like Smith and Graff, they went in an even more whimsical direction with an indoor slide and put play at the center of their homes.

“It takes you back to your childhood in a lot of ways,” says Scott.

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And while indoor slides are great fun for kids, they’re not just for the kids. Stephanie Gentemann is the design director at Palmetto Bluff, a South Carolina resort where Scott has designed homes with indoor slides. She oversees the community’s design review board and says six homes with indoor slides are either under construction or in the design phase. She says people — including those with grown-ups or childless — are putting resale worries aside and focusing on what makes them happy at home.

“It’s just about being creative and having fun with it,” she says. “You can try new things. Some of these are full-time homes, some of them are vacation homes or part-time homes, but people are getting really creative and personalizing their spaces.”

When Smith and Graff planned their home, they asked their architect to design a slide that runs down the bottom half of their staircase. The couple, who met at a spinning class, wanted to incorporate ways to bring movement into their home. They also installed a fireman’s pole and climbing wall, but it’s the slide that sets the tone for their home; It’s the first thing you see when you enter the room – and it’s the one you use the most. “Every morning we come down the slide for breakfast,” says Smith.

The slide that the architect originally installed was made of white wood. They hired artist Sam Jones to complete the slide using reclaimed wood from a nearby bowling alley that was demolished. Jones was able to preserve detail in the wood, including the white darts on the track and discoloration from where nails had once been, while carving it to resemble an old-fashioned, high-sided metal playground slide. A color-changing LED light under the slide adds flair.

From a Zoom call in her great room, Smith smiles when asked about the slide. “I think as adults we really get on that autopilot where we sit and don’t play, and it’s like life should be fun, especially now,” she says. “Anytime you can add some sort of playful nature or movement into your daily routine, I think that’s a good idea.”

Emily and Paul Marshall knew they wanted to make the most of their space when they began building their barndominium-style home (a barn converted into an open plan house) outside of Des Moines three years ago.

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After years of moving, the Marshalls plan to remain in this home with their three children, ages 8, 7, and 4. Paul, 42, wanted to give the children something to look forward to in their new home. A slide, a symbol of unlimited fun, was the answer. Paul, who co-founded MR Post Frame with Emily, which builds wood frame houses and sells house plans, had never designed or installed a slide, so he found out when he went. “When I thought about it, I wanted it to look nice,” he says. “I didn’t want it to be like a red or green slide. I wanted it to just blend into the house where it would look natural.”

Indoor slides come in many options, including straight slides that lead from the second level into the living room, as well as more elaborate designs, such as B. a slide that leads to a “secret” hiding place. They can also take up a lot of space; You must consider both the length of the slide and the landing area. The longer and steeper the slide, the faster the user goes, so the landing area of ​​a tall, steep slide (most Scott-designed ones are about 10 feet) must be large enough to accommodate someone sliding down quickly. The material of the slide also changes the speed: metal is the fastest, plastic is the slowest. Corkscrew slides are slower and have the added benefit of being visually interesting.

Playing around with different designs, the Marshalls landed on a straight slide that leads from the second level of their home to the first next to the stairs. The material is similar to acrylic and looks like wood, so it blends in well with your wooden home. “We could just widen the stairs to accommodate them,” says Emily, 39. Now the kids — and Paul — use the slide every day. “I would say I’m the only one who uses the stairs regularly,” she adds.

Indoor slides may seem like an expensive endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. For speech therapist Kristi Orlando, 36, and her husband, an indoor slide was an innovation of necessity during the long days at home with their two children, ages 3 and 6, in the fall of 2021 in Sandpoint, Idaho. “My husband thought it would be super fun to bring a slide down from the ground floor to the basement. Then the kids could conveniently run back up the stairs to go back down and burn off some energy if we’re stuck indoors,” says Orlando.

The main level is open to the basement — instead of a wall, there’s a security screen that resembles a wooden fence — and the elevation difference between the two floors was about five feet, making it an ideal spot to install a slide. They settled on a playground slide, which cost about $130. “It was easy to install. We just made a two by four frame and drilled the frame into the ground and then attached the slide to the frame. So it’s really robust,” says Orlando.

“It gives them a chance to play and energize together, stay healthy, and their friends absolutely love it,” she adds. “At home, the most popular thing is when friends come over.”

Lia Picard is a freelance writer based in Georgia.

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