Bid three times for home

IRVINE — Newport Beach entrepreneur and philanthropist Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs knows that for 35,000 Orange County residents, "There's no place like home."

Helping provide temporarily homeless families and individuals access to shelters and vocational programs is Project Playhouse, the annual charitable event of HomeAid Orange County, of which Brinkerhoff-Jacobs is a founding member.

Four elaborately designed and landscaped children's playhouses, donations of HomeAid's major business partners, adorn the Edwards Cinemas courtyard at the Irvine Spectrum Center as this year's entries.

"The Project Playhouse event has really captured the hearts of people — both those who know and who don't know about the issues surrounding homelessness in Orange County," Brinkerhoff-Jacobs said.

The organization seeks to raise about $400,000 though the auction of the playhouses at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort in Newport Beach on Nov. 11.

The playhouses include a luxurious stone cottage with ambient fountains by Shea Homes; a "beach-side" bungalow with a hammock and floor-to-ceiling windows by Nicholson Cos.; a castle tower complete with drawbridge and moat by William Lyon Homes; and Brinkerhoff-Jacobs' very own: a "Wizard of Oz"-inspired farmhouse.

Team HomeAid OC, comprised of employees from the Newport Beach-based landscape and design firm Lifescapes International, of which Brinkerhoff-Jacobs is president, crafted the 200-square-foot fairy tale playhouse.

Using iconic images from the 1939 "Wizard of Oz" film, touches such as a faux "yellow brick road," a Munchkinland garden and ruby-slippered witch's legs (protruding from under the house) won the firm the Best Landscape Design by HomeAid's independent panel of judges.

Inside, the playhouse is decorated with a "There's no place like home" plaque and an Oz-inspired mural, while a small blue-checkered dress and red slippers hang on a coat hook.

"It really captures the importance of having a home and the underlying goal of HomeAid is to give everyone a home," said Mike Meyers, Lifescapes' project director and principal architect. "The two themes tie together perfectly: Dorothy was trying to go home and we're looking to provide homes to those who don't have them."

It is the charitable event's 13th year and the third year the playhouses have been on display at the Irvine Spectrum. The public can view the exteriors of the playhouses during normal shopping center hours through Nov. 12.

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