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Whimsical Norwegian child's cottage is centerpiece of ARTcetera fundraiser

DULUTH - The little house seems out of place on the 500 block of East Second Street amid towering hospital buildings, constant traffic and the sound of jackhammers on pavement.

Playhouse
The interior and exterior of the playhouse being auctioned at ARTcetera (Photo by Jeff Frey and Associates)

DULUTH - The little house seems out of place on the 500 block of East Second Street amid towering hospital buildings, constant traffic and the sound of jackhammers on pavement.

It might look right at home next to a babbling brook or a Northland lake.

The 8-by-10-by-12-foot playhouse, designed in the style of a Norwegian cottage, is the centerpiece of this year's ARTcetera, the annual dinner-auction-fundraiser put on by the Miller-Dwan Foundation.

Proceeds from this year's event will go toward building something much bigger than a playhouse. The nonprofit's Turning Point campaign seeks to raise $5 million to build a new mental health and wellness center in Duluth for children and their families. The center will be on land the foundation owns off Rice Lake Road, near its Solvay Hospice House for end-of-life care.

This is the 12th year of the ARTcetera fundraiser and the sixth year that at least one playhouse has been a featured attraction. This year's playhouse was designed by architect Rebecca Lewis and designer Chad Miller of DSGW Architects in Duluth, with interior design by Suzi Vandersteen of Kitchee Gammi Design Co. The builder was master carpenter Keith Olafson with help from volunteers, including eight members of Boy Scout Troop 25. Rosemaler June Nyberg added an extra Norwegian touch to the exterior, which is greenish with red roof and accents.

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Inside, a bunk loft is accessible by a handmade ladder. The loft might be a bit cramped for an adult, but it looks ideal for a couple of little boys or little girls hanging out on a rainy Saturday afternoon or an overnighter.

The interior, which is wired for electricity, also includes a desk, an Adirondack-style chair and rocker, a lamp, old books and a colorful rug covering the floor.

One might almost think it's too good for the kids.

"It could be a playhouse for children," Lewis said. "It could be a writer's studio or a little painting cottage. It could be a guest house. It could be a little cabin. It could be used for lots of different purposes."

Lewis, a registered architect for 15 years, said she has worked on other small structures before, "but never anything quite this much fun. It was really a very whimsical assignment, and it was a lot of fun to figure out."

Design challenges included making sure there would be room to open the door, providing access to the loft, and making sure the playhouse would be lightweight and portable, because it's not going to stay at 502 E. Second St. It will be delivered to the winning bidder's home on Oct. 8.

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