By Villeneuve, Melissa on April 21, 2017.
Saturday episode filmed in Cardston
Those who tune into TLC on Saturday will witness a labour of love created by the Charmed Playhouse team.
The Lethbridge-based company, which makes made-to-order luxury tree and playhouses for customers around the world, was founded by husband-and-wife duo Tyson and Audy Leavitt, brother-in-law Jeremy Gook and uncle Derral Zaugg.
They caught the attention of TLC producers after displaying their first dream creations – a Rapunzel tower and a Hobbit house – at the Home and Garden show two years ago.
The company was signed to an eight-episode reality series called “Playhouse Masters,” which follows the team building their creations from the ground up for some big celebrity clients.
The show’s first two episodes aired on Tuesday nights in August 2016. They featured a princess pony-themed playhouse built for NBA star Stephen Curry and wife Ayesha Curry’s young daughters, and a storybook princess castle for MLB star Ryan Zimmerman’s family.
Now the show has moved to a new time slot, Saturdays at 8 p.m. MST.
On this week’s episode, the celebrity clients are Tyson Leavitt’s parents. The team takes filming back home to Cardston, where Tyson recreates a fond childhood memory.
“It’s a really special one this Saturday because we actually end up building a playhouse for my mom and dad,” said Tyson. “Back when my parents built a house 32 years ago, the very first thing they put in their yard was a little A-framed playhouse to shade us from the sun. There were no trees or anything.”
The team ripped down that old playhouse and designed a new one that plays homage to it, but on a much grander scale. Standing on stilts, the entire structure towers at over 20-feet tall.
“Now all my 26 nieces and nephews can play in it and sleep in it. There’s a fireplace and it’s really cool,” he said.
Saturday’s episode will also feature an observatory built for actress Alana De La Garza, as well as a tour of the Telus Spark centre in Calgary.
The team is hoping the community will watch the show, because viewership will determine whether there could be future episodes filmed.
“Every viewer counts,” said Tyson. “We’re really hoping that each week the viewership grows. The support of our local community really means a lot to us.”
Born and raised in Cardston, Tyson said it’s exciting to showcase the people and landscape of southern Alberta to an international audience.
“We feel honoured to be able to show our community,” he said. “We love our community and we think our community has a lot to offer. We never thought in a million years that TLC would come to our little farming community and film us here and show it to the world.”
They work with many different trades from the community who are on the show, and they’ve filmed in Raymond, Cardston, Lethbridge, and Calgary.
The show has already aired across the world including Germany, the United Kingdom, southeast Asia, Africa, and Australia. Ironically, North America is the last place to air.
“We’re finally excited to have it right in our own backyard,” said Tyson.
While Charmed Playhouses has only been in business for two years, “in some ways it feels a lot longer,” he said. The company has been “slammed” with requests and are learning to adapt to the hectic work schedule.
Depending on the scale of the project, the monthly production numbers can vary. Typically the team builds 2-6 playhouses per month.
“Every day we’re making changes and adapting the company, because really a company is a living, breathing thing where you have to adapt daily and make it work according to what comes in,” said Tyson. “It’s a learning experience every day.”
On top of their luxury playhouses, they also create more affordable modular playhouses which can be customized, as well as high-end doghouses. They also create dream structures for charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, fulfilling wishes for very sick children.
They’ve invested in new equipment which helps with efficiency and greater precision. It also helps them build more difficult projects. One investment is their scanning machine which can scan the details of a child’s favourite small toy, and then be used to design a life-sized playhouse.
“It’s making dreams come true for them and for us as we build it,” said Tyson. “It’s so fun to be able to use our creativity and see it come to life. I don’t know that I could have a better job.”
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