Back in 2012, we received a call from a grieving father who had lost his son Leo to leukemia at age 5. He wanted to create a unique memorial in the form of a playground at the site of Leo’s nursery school, which had been one of his favorite places to play.
Incorporating drawings made by Leo’s 8-year-old sister, Barbara designed a playhouse with an underwater scene on one side and a star-studded night sky roof above. Other types of flora and fauna appear on the other three sides. To achieve Barbara’s signature style on the custom carvings, the images were first sketched onto the wood, then carved, and finally stained. This process creates creatures which are both tactile and vibrant, inviting children to interact with the visuals as they play.
On the other side, a cheetah stands guard by the door while frogs and butterflies wander by. A fully functional mail slot nestles among the foliage and small cut-outs let in more light while suggesting games of peek-a-boo.
The interior of the playhouse is overseen by a majestic lion twinkling on the ceiling as the constellation Leo. Hand-painted by our artist and master stainer Rudi, the wooden panel was first created in the shop and later affixed to the underside of the roof.Tucked into a corner of the yard,, a fanciful wooden stage with mushroom seating area stands ready for dramatic play. For the past four years, the children of Larchmont Temple Nursery School have giggled, shrieked and played on Leo’s Playground, infusing this special tribute to a fun-loving child with daily doses of joy and love. Above, Leo’s sister poses with the sign her drawings helped create.