Squeezing a Slide Into the House
Scott Jones is a kid at heart—with kids of his own. So when he remodeled his home in Carmel, Ind., he looked for a playful addition that would appeal to children of all ages. His solution: a 28-foot mahogany slide that descends into the great room of his house.
“I like everyone to have fun,” says Mr. Jones, a 54-year-old entrepreneur who says the slide consumed about $150,000 of his roughly $10 million remodeling budget. “The slide brings that out.”
It’s brazenly impractical, and as one owner found out, perhaps not the best feature for resale value. Still, builders and architects say a handful of determined luxury homeowners have successfully installed slides in their own abodes.
The owners say they’d do it again. Mr. Jones, whose home also includes a two-story indoor treehouse and a secret bookcase that connects a few bedrooms, says grown guests will often get on the slide to zoom downstairs. He once had a visitor in her 90s take a turn. “She had a dress on and said, ‘I’m too old to care,’” he says.
Building a residential slide demands resourcefulness, as how-to guides or builders with experience are in short supply. Mr. Jones enlisted boat builder Rodney Miller to construct the two-ton slide using a cold-molding technique—a process where layers of veneer are applied with vacuum pressure to wood. When the slide was completed, Mr. Miller had trouble fitting it inside the doorways of Mr. Jones’s home. The solution, to turn the slide vertically, came when Mr. Miller’s wife designed a small model to show how the slide could fit in the home.
The slide took 18 months to create and install. “Given how much joy it has brought to my children, their friends… I’d say it was well worth it,” says Mr. Jones.
Minneapolis-based home builder Steve Kuhl has built slides in two homes. One was his own: a yellow-and-orange plastic chute installed in his $1.3-million house at an estimated cost of between $8,000 to $9,000.
Mr. Kuhl used 3-D rendering computer software to model how the 22-foot slide would fit. He then had the slide shipped and installed from a manufacturer of playground equipment in South Carolina—a process that took just several days. Accessed through a hidden door in the cabinet, the slide goes from the mudroom to the basement.
Mr. Kuhl’s primary reason for installing the slide was to surprise his two children. It also appealed to him because it provides his children, ages 2 and 4, with a source of exercise. “If they want to do it again, they have to climb the stairs,” he says.
As it turns out, Mr. Kuhl’s slide is also popular with guests at happy hour. “I’ve had to clean up more than one cocktail from the slide,” he says.
When John and September Higham purchased their home in Mountain View, Calif. in 1999 for $437,000, they were disappointed that the small backyard did not provide much room for their children to play. So Mr. and Mrs. Higham, an aerospace engineer and software consultant respectively, decided to bring a slide and other jungle gym equipment, including a zip line and rock climbing wall, indoors.
The yellow slide was fitted in the wall of the home in several pieces. The components cost $600 and took a few days to install, says Mrs. Higham. The slide is still used by their kids, now 21 and 18, and their friends. “Kids really don’t grow out of these things,” says Mrs. Higham.
In 2011, architect Wayne Turett says he was asked by professional poker player Phil Galfond to find a creative way to connect two apartments he owned on adjoining floors in Manhattan. At first, Mr. Turett was stymied, toying with a number of alternatives, including a fireman’s pole. He ultimately suggested a metal slide. Mr. Galfond, who was in his 20s at the time, reacted enthusiastically.
The project, which Mr. Turett estimates cost between $30,000 and $40,000, initially presented a challenge for the architect, who had never before designed a slide. After consulting with a slide manufacturer, however, he says he felt confident about creating one with appropriate curves and rate of descent.
A slide can present another challenge: finding a buyer who wants one. Mr. Galfond sold the apartment. The current owner removed the slide last year because it used too much space in the living room, says Holly Sose of City Connections Realty, one of the listing agents at the time. The owner had put the unit on the market, but later decided to keep it after doing renovations.
“I think the slide would have made it impossible to sell,” says Ms. Sose. “In my opinion, design-wise, it was a joke.”