When Stephen Chernicky of Finleyville, Pa., went looking for a high-quality playhouse for his daughter in the early 1990s, he couldn’t find one that would complement his backyard, so he built one himself — a Victorian-style mansion. After that, he built his nephews a firehouse. Word spread fast, and soon Chernicky had so many requests that he sold his construction business and established Lilliput Play Homes in 1995.
“At the time, the market for outdoor children’s products was heading in that upscale direction, and we were just filling a niche,” says Chernicky. “It was a small market, but it was definitely there. It seems at first we tried to build standard models, and we have 10 standard ones, but our niche seems to be the customization.”
Lilliput manufactures wooden luxury playhouses for children in standard and custom variations, interior furniture, and playhouse parts. Styles range to accommodate a variety of tastes for boys and girls, including cottages, bungalows, schoolhouses, castles and period-style homes.
While original clients were mainly from western Pennsylvania, they have expanded to all parts of the country and throughout the world. And despite the economy, the company is enjoying a steady growth rate of 10 to 15 percent a year.
As for trends, Chernicky notes an increase in commercial requests for playhouses in family centers and shopping malls, particularly overseas. Lilliput Play Homes has recently completed projects in Norway, Russia and Croatia.
The playhouses are built in a 12,000-sq.ft. facility in Finleyville, Pa. Once they are completed, they are broken down into panels, and then crated and shipped to customers. The clients usually assemble and install the playhouses themselves or with help from Lilliput’s professional installers.
Lilliput also does a small percentage of home replicas in which the main features complement and coordinate with owners’ homes. A residential playhouse starts at $4,000 and can cost up to $19,000. Chernicky has built custom projects with price tags as high as $50,000.
Contact: Lilliput Play Homes, Inc., 6114 Brownsville Rd. Ext., Finleyville, PA 15332. Tel: 724-348-7071. www.lilliputplayhomes.com
This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue.