Leo Kuhl sat on the edge of a yellow tube. Then he disappeared.
The 6-year-old twisted and turned down the curved, enclosed slide, then landed in the basement below.
“It’s fun,” said Leo. “But a little scary when it turns.”
“It is kind of fast,” admitted 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 7.”
The 26-foot-long tube slide is among the quirky, one-of-a-kind play spaces inside the Kuhls’ Hopkins home.
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, said 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!’ ” said Kuhl.
The long slide travels one story, from the mudroom to the basement. To assemble it, Kuhl used 3-D 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,” he said.
While slides are spendy — the tubing alone cost $5,000 — secret rooms are more attainable for homeowners, said Kuhl. “Cut a hole in Sheetrock, and put in an access door.”
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,” said Matt Schmidt, co-owner of AMEK Custom Builders of Bloomington.
A reading nook outfitted with bookshelves and a cushioned bench, and a curved secret room, are two of AMEK’s kid-customized projects.
Judy and Bob Worrell tucked a fanciful playhouse for their grandchildren inside a storage area beneath the stairs of their basement, which was remodeled by Plekkenpol Builders in Bloomington.
Bob installed cedar shakes and blue painted siding to match the exterior of their French Country home.
Their grandchildren decorated the interior with different-colored handprints.
Adults need to duck to get through the child-sized door, but “the kids love it and sleep in there,” said Judy.
Bedroom lofts, which feel like funky forts, are a hot commodity among kids and teens.
Gigi DiaGicomo designed a loft above her daughter’s bedroom inside an addition on her Minnetonka home. She scrambles up a ladder at the foot of the bed to a cozy carpeted retreat to read, study or watch TV under a skylight.
“It was designed to grow with her from 5 years old to a teenager,” said DiGiacomo, interior designer for DiGiacomo Homes and Renovation in Minnetonka.
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 galvanized corrugated metal wall, “like something you’d see at a skateboard park,” said 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 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 an 8-foot passageway to an arched opening “that gets smaller as you walk in,” said Schrader.
The 9,000-square-foot 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 Mom and Dad,” said Schrader. “We want the kids to get excited about having their own place.”