Leo Kuhl sat on the edge of a yellow tube. Then he disappeared. The six-year-old twisted and turned down the curved, enclosed slide, then landed in the basement below.

“It’s fun,” says Leo. “But a little scary when it turns.”

“It is kind of fast,” admits his dad, Steve Kuhl, of his in-home slide creation, “but I didn’t want the kids to be bored with it by the time they’re seven.”

The almost 8m-long tube slide is among the quirky, one-of-a-kind play spaces inside the Kuhls’ home in Hopkins, Minnesota in the United States.

Kuhl also has carved out secret rooms under staircases, tunnels inside closets, suspended bunk beds and built a timber framed loft for his two children, Leo and Charlie, and their friends.

Architecture can play a role in sparking kids’ imaginations, says Kuhl. “In this age when we’re more virtual, these spaces can encourage kids to interact with their environment.”

His kids are lucky that their dad has construction know-how and resources; he and business partner Dan Murphy own Kuhl Design and Build in Hopkins.

Kuhl recently added a ladder above the slide so the kids can climb through a door opening to the second floor. He revealed it to Leo for his sixth birthday. “He was whooping and hollering ‘This is awesome!’” says Kuhl.

The long slide travels one storey, from the mudroom to the basement. To assemble it, Kuhl used 3D rendering computer software to model how it would fit in the space. He ordered the tubes from a playground equipment company and installed them in sections. Lastly, he added LED blinking lights for a carnival funhouse feel.

Adults take spins down the slide, too. “We’ve had to wipe off spilled cocktails inside,” Kuhl says with a laugh.



Under the stairs is a popular – and smart – spot to carve out kid-friendly hideaways. “We look at under staircases, an often unused storage space, as opportunities to create something unique for kids,” says Matt Schmidt, co-owner of Amek Custom Builders of Bloomington, Minnesota.

A reading nook outfitted with bookshelves and a cushioned bench, and a curved secret room, are two of Amek’s kid-customised projects.

Judy and Bob Worrell tucked a fanciful playhouse for their grandchildren inside a storage area beneath the stairs of their basement, which was remodelled by Plekkenpol Builders.

Bob installed cedar shakes and blue painted siding to match the exterior of their French country home. Their grandchildren decorated the interior with different-coloured handprints.

Adults need to duck to get through the child-sized door, but “the kids love it and sleep in there,” says Judy.

Bedroom lofts, which feel like funky forts, are a hot commodity among kids and teens right now.

Gigi DiGicomo designed a loft above her daughter’s bedroom inside an addition on her Minnetonka home in Minnesota. She scrambles up a ladder at the foot of the bed to a cosy carpeted retreat to read, study, or watch TV under a skylight.

“It was designed to grow with her from five years old to a teenager,” says DiGiacomo, interior designer for DiGiacomo Homes And Renovation.


Kids peeking out from behind cupboards that have secret swing doors.

Sid Levin, principal at Revolution Design+Build, chose an industrial grunge theme for the bedroom of a teenager who participates in extreme sports.

The loft, which was carved from attic space, is surrounded by a galvanised corrugated metal wall, “like something you’d see at a skateboard park”, says Levin. The teen watches TV, works on his laptop, and has buddies sleep over up there.

A more high-end, elaborate Disneyesque space is an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed tunnel and playroom inside an Edina, Minnesota, home by Schrader & Companies of Eden Prairie.

Builder Andy Schrader fashioned the child-sized playland under a basement staircase and porch.

A white rabbit painted on the wall guides you through a 2.5m passageway to an arched opening “that gets smaller as you walk in,” says Schrader.

The more than 800sq m home also features a hidden tunnel connecting two of the kids’ bedrooms.

Kid-friendly fun features can even help make the sale. “We’re not just selling the house to mum and dad,” says Schrader. “We want the kids to get excited about having their own place.” – Star Tribune/Tribune News Service/Lynn Underwood