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A Playhouse Fit for a (Rich) Little President

From Associated Press

Are there any kids out there who still dream of growing up to be president?

Susie Hilfiger’s got just the training ground for them: a playhouse built as a scale model of Mount Vernon. But better start throwing those fund-raising dinners early--the house costs $750,000 unfurnished, $980,000 complete with candlesticks and bed linens.

Hilfiger, wife of clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger, is also owner of Best & Co., purveyor of upscale children’s clothes and furnishings. When called on to contribute to a decorator show house in Greenwich, Conn., last fall, she hit on the idea of a playhouse modeled on George Washington’s Virginia estate--perfect for the red-white-and-blue Hilfiger image.

She commissioned Washington architect Allan Greenberg, an expert on Mount Vernon and author of “George Washington, Architect,” who simplified the floor plan from eight rooms to four and shrank the interior dimensions to about two-thirds size: The main house measures 8 by 22 feet; doorways are 4 feet 3 inches tall; double-hung windows that suggest two stories from outside look into single-floor rooms with ceilings between 6 and 7 1/2 feet high.

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Greenberg says that although they took liberties with the floor plan, the playhouse design was inspired by original details, and “the craftsmanship is superb throughout the building.” Touches include hand-cut, “fish scale” roof shingles, “rusticated” wood siding to give the grainy appearance of stone, paint colors matching authentic chips provided by the estate, and half-size fireplaces.

For the show house, the mini-manse was furnished in period detail, right down to the monogrammed antique linens, ribbon-back Chippendale mahogany side chairs and a reproduction of a dove weather vane designed by the first president.

These days, the playhouse sits in storage in Connecticut. Hilfiger explored the possibility of selling copies through a licensing agreement with the Mount Vernon estate. That deal fell through, however, and now she is considering donating it to the Smithsonian Institution.

Pending those plans, anyone wanting one will just have to hold onto his money--which, considering the price, probably belongs in a scale-model Fort Knox.


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