Barbara Butler Builds Dreams
Home Fashion & Furniture Trends
Barbara Butler will never grow up and that's just the way scores of dedicated fans want it. A true Renaissance woman dedicated to fun and adventure, Butler has combined childhood fantasies with architectural know-how to create a world of enchantment right in kids' own rooms and backyards.
A political science major from the State University of New York, Butler proved she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty when she learned bricklaying and construction with her brothers during summer breaks. Perhaps it was her graduate school studies in English Literature, full of romantic Elizabethan cottages and idyllic country escapes that paved the way for her visionary future. In 1983, Butler moved to San Francisco from her native New York and founded Outer Space Designs, designing and building unique decks, hot tubs and surrounds.
But her current career in kid's habitats began in 1987, when singer Bobby McFerrin and his wife asked her to build a play structure for their two children.The play structure was the start of a new career for Butler, who today designs and builds interior and exterior kid's furniture.
"I love creating rooms that are kids' special getaways places where they can dream, read, climb and have friends over," says Butler. "I strive to create a special spot that is strong, safe, magical and distinctly different from the adult world, especially since kids can't roam as freely as I did as a child."
Butler grew up with seven siblings and outside play was not only encouraged, it was required. Her memories of outside play are one of her inspirations, particularly for her outdoor habitats.
"It seems to me that children today experience higher levels of stress and anxiety than ever before. A child's schedule is jam packed with homework assignments, sports, music lessons and chores. I don't think we should encourage kids to grow up too soon I don't think anybody should! and I think it's important that they have their own special spaces where they can unwind and de-stress, just as adults enjoy."
Butler helps combat these stresses by creating a non-adult, magical place where kids can just be kids. An adult's home is his or her castle, but a kid's castle is a refuge of make-believe and fantasy. Butler's goal is to make childhood fantasies come to life with her magical play habitats, which seem to spring from the pages of storybooks, as they boast such whimsical features as turrets, towers, flying bridges and sliding trapdoors.
"I've been in the furniture business for 15 years now, and I've never understood why, until about four years ago, quality construction stopped at the door to children's furniture. I'm pleased that, as a culture, we've seen fit to bring high quality and fine craftsmanship into kids' furniture design and construction. This will lead to longevity and heirloom quality of our lives."
Butler has found that with heirloom quality furnishings, parents are engaging in the coming of age ritual of bestowing the first big bed more often. She finds the increased focus on this important life stage heartwarming and encouraging in a society that has seemed, at times, to be rushing too quickly through the significant rituals of childhood.
From the bright lights of Hollywood to the hushed countryside of Connecticut, Butler's play spaces provide adventures to kids of all ages. Parents eager to nurture their child's creativity turn to her to create the ultimate play habitat, because she recognizes a child's need to have a special place of his or her own within the safety of their own backyard.
A Butler design acts as a playful canvas against which a child's imagination can soar. She routinely incorporates secret hiding places, trap doors and climbing opportunities that make for a fantastic combination of physical and imaginative play. Her designs range from beds to small playhouses to multi-tiered exterior play structures that can incorporate indoor plumbing and electricity.
Butler's client list includes Robert Redford, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, Bobby McFerrin and Walt Disney Productions. A playhouse created by Butler was used in the Robin Williams movie "Bicentennial Man." Her latest work is displayed in the Laguna Art Museum, and her designs have been featured on "Oprah," HGTV and House Beautiful TV. In addition, People, Architectural Digest and Veranda have featured her work.
Barbara currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and is committed to contributing her talents, energy and creative force to the benefit of her local community. July 2001 marked the installation of her 100Th custom play structure. For more information about Barbara Butler Artist Builder Inc., contact the company at 325 S. Maple Ave #37, South San Francisco, CA 94080, phone 415.864.6840 or visit www.barbarabutler.com