The Fanciest Playhouse in River Oaks

The 2-story air-conditioned $50,000 Cape Cod-style playhouse (shown under construction above) River Oaks residents John and Kristi Schiller had built 3 years ago behind their bayou-side home on Tiel Way is featured in a New York Times Home & Garden feature and photo essay. The backyard toy is nominally for their now-4-year-old daughter, Sinclair, but reporter Kate Murphy declares it to be the main attraction at family parties. The 170-sq.-ft. house features hardwood floors, running water, a faux fireplace, vaulted ceilings, screens on the windows, begonia-bedecked window boxes, a 32-inch flatscreen TV, and a mini-fridge stocked with juice boxes and popsicles. Mom Kristi Schiller — a longtime blogger who in her former life as “Lucy Lipps” once had her own morning show on KTBZ The Buzz, a large internet following, and a month of glory in the pages of Playboy magazine — tells Murphy she “think[s] of it as bling for the yard.”

Photo: Kristi Schiller

57 Comment

  • i love that! I’m sure there may be a lot of snarky comments about what a waste of money this is, but i think it’s adorable and the playhouse is kind of a lost art.

    kudos to them for creating a magical little place for their child to play in.

  • Or for their child to watch TV and eat popsicles in…

  • I’m glad they spent the money on something frivolous but something their family enjoys. The alternative is that the government will extort that money through taxes and give it to someone who didn’t earn it.

  • I find it interesting that Kristi chose pizzalove as her Swamplot handle.

  • She thinks of it as “bling for the yard.”


  • Spoiled much?

  • I wonder what HCAD is going to think of that.

  • I’m sure that HCAD is on it. Prepare your argument for next year’s hearing – my kid’s playhouse is not as big as the others on the block.

  • She could have donated the playhouse to that Nigerian family living in the storage shed and gotten a FABULOUS “look how we care” write-up in some local magazine that Tootsie’s advertises in.

  • I agree. Spend it before Barry Sotero and the other Washington fools steal it from you and give it to people looking for a handout.


  • looks like more of a garage apt. than a playhouse. A $50k playhouse could be something really amazing though but i suppose you have to trade out your plumbing/hardwood flooring for some sweat and imagination.

  • Trust me if I wanted to leave a comment I won’t disguise myself — I don’t know who PizzaLove is but I am putting him/her in my will!!!

    The whole thing blown out of proportion – this too shall pass

  • The “bling” comment was calculated to elicit a response. As a former radio personality and current blogger you are well schooled in the dark arts of public relations.

    I’m sure you would prefer if this did not pass, but instead led to being cast in Real Housewives of Houston or some such nonsense.

  • Is this reporter Kate Murphy who snuck into Sinclair Schiller’s 4 year old Birthday Party uninvited? The same reporter who failed to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Schiller’s have contributed to children’s causes, Escape Center and K9s4COP’s. Sounds like desperate story telling not journalism.

  • I find all these republican comments about “Barry Sotero” hilarious considering he extended the Bush era tax cuts.

  • And more hilarious given that the tax rate is the lowest its been since the 1950s. Actually, I am glad that this family “wasted” $50K on a playhouse rather than sticking it in an offshore account accumulating interest. Presumably this playhouse was built by Houston laborers and from lumber and nails purchased from a Houston business. Conspicuous consumption at its finest. P.S., Kristi, can my daughter come play?

  • Correction, I just watched the slide show. This abomination was built in Denver Colorado by Colorado laborers using nails and lumber purchased in Colorado. Texas pine not good enough for you??? That said, my daughter would still like to have a playdate.

  • It just kind of makes me sad. I do work very hard for a living and have since I was 13. If hard work garnered such nice things I would be living in a golden mansion. Some people are frivolous and some are lucky. Looks like these folks were probably a little of both along with their hard work I guess. Wow – just makes me sad.

  • This is larger and nicer than a lot of my Montrose studios :(

    Put a few red tags on it and I’ll be able to relate.

  • Marie Antoinette had the Petit Trianon–a replica of a country farm built on the grounds of Versailles–so she could play shepherdess while most of Paris starved.

    This kid gets a $50,000 play house with a flat screen to play house while many in Houston fatten themselves on Whataburger and hot pockets from Walmart. I guess it’s progress of some sort?

  • Kristi is and has been a friend of mine for longer than either one of us would admit to. Yes, she and her husband have more money than dirt as we say here in Texas. They also have hearts the size of Texas, having funded more charities than you could even begin to imagine. There are children with school supplies, adults learning to read, cash-strapped police departments with new canines, wounded warriors with hope, homeless people now with homes…and the list goes on. So, get off your righteous high horse until you’ve given an equal amount. Then we’ll chat, perhaps over tea in the playhouse.

  • And you think now is the time to raise taxes? The bigger issue is our corp. tax rate, the highest in the developed world. You could tax the rich at 100% and we would still have a deficit, people need to realize the US will default, if not on August 2nd, then at a later date. To make it simple think of a family making $100k, spending $160k and sitting on credit cards with balances totaling $600k, tell me how that works? Print mo money baby!

  • Its a very nice playhouse. And for River Oaks…this doesn’t seem that extravagant.

    I hope they pier and beamed it however, so they don’t have to tear it down when they want to remodel, just haul it off for a decent resale.

  • Dayna Steele, you rock!

  • I would have made it a little bigger and more expensive.

  • I applaud Kristi for building this. A safe structure for her child, grand daughter and countless other children to play in. Divide the cost by the number of guests and the number of years and the sum is a pittance. She made sure her child and guests have a safe place to play and didn’t care what it cost. She should get a medal!!! I wish I was in that league to be able to afford that for my children. Have you SEEN the conditions of the public playgrounds??? Good for you, Kristi!!!

  • what’s the difference in this and purchasing a piece of art?

  • Wow. Dayna Steele really does rock.
    And I guess we all need to say we are sorry for commenting on a $50,000 play house for a 4 year old kid. Once I make my fortune and give a pile to charity, I will be sure to come back and comment on how utterly ridiculous it is to pay 50k for a playhouse for a little kid, even if 50k is chicken change for your family. But, for now, as a mere salaried employee who only gives a few bucks to the HSPCA and Audubon Society each year, I have no right to comment.

  • Looks like dysfunction junction to me.

  • Just because a little girl has a starter McMansion before she’s in elementary school doesn’t mean she isn’t grounded in reality and is on her way to being a super-princess…seriously.

  • the whiners all sound jealous to me

  • Disgusting. Once again “commonsense” proves to not have any. Here’s hoping these folks lose it all.

  • hdtex, I’m not sure how you got that from my comment, I clearly stated “More power to them to spend their earned money as they wish and it should not be taken away for entitlements for others.” Perhaps you missed the Reading Interpretation portion of your home schooling class.

  • Old School – keep working at wal-mart with your salaried position and serving the masses their hot pockets and maybe one day you too will have enough money to lavish on a loved one. Don’t rain on someone elses parade because you are unhappy with your situation. All you do is come on this site and complain about everything everyone else is doing. Go see a doctor and get some happy pills. Your comments on this matter ooze of jealousy and are petty. . .like a 4 yr old.

    Good for this family. It’s THEIR money and they used it to make THEIR daughter happy. A happy child makes a happy family. That works in my world every day of the week. I give you the “golf clap.”

  • Swamplot at times is a tough room to play to as they say. It’s their money. Theirs to spend as they choose to. They’re also, as has been pointed out, very generous with the money they give to others. Unlike many others who shove their kids in a separate wing of the house with a nanny and occasionally manage to remember their names and only give money to the opera and the ballet and the symphony in order to have their names listed in a society column. And even then only as little money as it takes to be listed.

  • I see nothing wrong with this, infact I rather like it, but I think I would have probably just built one of those glass room conservatory things and made it a playhouse/room, so the room could evolve as the child ages and eventually be converted to something for myself. My poor man’s version would probably cost closer to 20-30k.

  • You’d think Schiller could at least hire Dana Steele
    to do her PR . . . this is a FEMA shack. Tarpaper
    instead of shingles, the windows are dirty and the
    whole project was done without a permit! Why not just get the little tyke a used travel trailer

  • You’d think Schiller could at least hire Dana Steele
    to do her PR . . . this is a FEMA shack. Tarpaper
    instead of shingles, the windows are dirty and the
    whole project was done without a permit! Why not just get the little tyke a used travel trailer

    Umm, I don’t think its finished in this picture.

    Of course you may just be snarking. In that, nevermind. I imagine this probably would require a permit though, what with all the working plumbing and electrical though.

  • The saddest part of this discussion is that nobody would have known or cared if the Schillers had simply paid $50,000 for a 170-square-foot extension to their home, in the form of a fully furnished guest apartment, and decorated it as a “playroom”.

    My home is not in River Oaks, nor near it, but one of its spare bedrooms is furnished as a play room. We also have a “quarters” above the garage. I await the vigorous disapprobation of the swamplot crowd, and the river of suggestions that I should convert this playroom and those quarters into homeless shelters.

    I dare say that a good number of readers of this blog have spare bedrooms and/or quarters in their homes, and these spaces they go unused for a large part of the year. God knows, if everyone could just convert all their guest quarters and spare bedrooms into homeless shelters, Mankind would finally transcend into the Superior Beings we all deserve to become.

    Thank goodness we have the Commenters of Swamplot to Guide us along the Path toward Righteousness!

  • @heights heights baby: I don’t think I am reaching when I assert that giving a four year old a $50,000 play house is ridiculous, even if you are so rich that you have that kind of change in between your couch cushions. There is a big difference between making a child happy and teaching a child that happiness is all about conspicuous consumption. Sure, it is there money and they can spend it however they want. But, it is offensive for them to flaunt their excess in a national publication at a time when many people are suffering in a bad economy. And it is even more offensive the notion that the rabble cannot comment on the excesses of the wealthy unless they can match their yearly tax write offs.

  • Old school. Please spare us the tired old line about flaunting their wealth in this economy blah blah. There will always be haves and have nots regardless of whether the economy booms or busts.
    And to the rest, who cares how they spend their money? It isnt coming out of your checkbook. J.V. I love your post! I spemd a disproportionate amount of money in restaurants rather than cook at home so maybe I should feel guilty that I am not taking half of my meal to a shelter? You know if all we could read about was someone struggling to furnish their home at Goodwill, it would be pretty depressing. Lighten ip folks!

  • Wellll….I was accused of being spoiled as a kid when I had a play fort with little double gates, but my grandfather was a carpenter and had a lot of fun building it. As far as a structure in the back yard, a gazebo or pool house would have cost as much or more. Money doesn’t necessarily mean attitude – do the parents run the house or does the kid? There are two very down-to-earth men in the UK in line for the throne whose late mother never had any problem with telling them how the cow ate the cabbage when they were growing up. In contrast, an associate can’t even stand to visit her brother anymore because their kid is such a brat – they have maxed-out cards and almost lost their house, but Little Prince Gimmepig had a computer, TV, DVD player, stereo, Playstation and XBox in his room when he was four because HE rules the roost.

    If a child is taught by word and example that having more materially doesn’t translate as “better” and that a wonderful part of being in such a position is the opportunity to share with and help others, he or she could have Versailles as a playhouse and it wouldn’t matter.

  • I demand a popsicle every 15 minutes!

  • If you can why not? Good for them and shame on all the jealous haters out there

  • Let’s be honest. I will never be rich or marry a smokin’ hot former Playboy model like this Kristy chick but I wish I could. Who cares what they spend their money on? WE ALL WISH WE COULD BE IN THEIR POSITION.

  • Um…yeah. Don’t work too hard, River Oaks.

  • Well, well, well. Old School has now hit the trifecta. In previous comments, she has sought to deny the poor and lower middle class a Walmart in which to shop, lest it be built to close to the Heights, she supported a draconian historical ordinance to tell the middle to upper middle class in the Heights what she finds acceptable in home renovation, and now has lectured the wealthy on what is an acceptable use of their resources. No class warfare for Old School. She hates everyone!

    I so wish I was as enlightened as Old School, so that I would know that trying to change the front door of my Heights home was bad, as are 6 story condo buildings, Walmarts, $50,000 playhouses, and Hot Pockets and Whataburger (full disclosure: I ate at Whataburger on N. Main yesterday). Then I could move effortlessly through life, secure in the knowledge that I am the greatest person who ever lived…even if my neighbors despised me.

  • ” And it is even more offensive the notion that the rabble cannot comment on the excesses of the wealthy unless they can match their yearly tax write offs.”
    Why is it open season on those who are making excess money and spending that money (thereby keeping a supply chain going)but it is so awful to comment on the “rabble” who seem to find some misguided nobility in their financially challenged situations?

  • If my parents had been very wealthy, maybe they would have built me a $50k playhouse. As it was though, I could not even get them to buy me the Barbie Dreamhouse. Instead I got a couple of moving boxes and created my own Barbie abode. In the summer, I created Barbie campground, complete with a pond that I made by digging a depression in the dirt, lining it with a plastic sandwich bag secured with rocks and then filled with water. I later grew up to become an architect. What will this little girl be when she grows up?

  • MarciBaby asks: “I later grew up to become an architect. What will this little girl be when she grows up?”

    You can ask her in person when she hires you to build her next house.

  • My great aunt and uncle have had a similiar playhouse in their backyard for generations (3 and counting) and I have always loved it. Their great-grandchildren play in it now; you couldn’t begin the count the memories that our family has made in that little 3 room house. Frivilous? Absolutely. But also wonderous for the children who have spent hours upon hours playing in their own special, magical space.

  • Whatever people feel about this, it is wrong to say mean and rude things about an innocent child. Very unnecessary

  • I think the comparison to Le Petit Trianon is appropriate. Before the French Revolution, most people who could afford to pay taxes were able to find and out. The French taxpayers were required to raise money, and they made repeated visits to the French Peasants to collect the necessary funds. Even so, the whole nation went bankrupt from repeated wars, the destruction of the middle class (by expelling the Huguenots), etc. I don’t think people are going to lose their heads, but it’s interesting to note that the French aristocracy was largely composed of wealthy people who had purchased their titles. Kinda scary, don’t you think.


    Take a look at THESE play houses! Should have gone to Pennsylvania for the work, not Colorado!

  • Having known John in junior high math class (Sharpstown a looong time ago) it would not surprise me if they add an observatory in a few years, assuming young Sinclair inherits her father’s math and analytical skills.

  • Did you see these River Oaks couple spent $211,000 on a single bottle of wine at the Houston Live Stock Show? They were showing their photos all this week on the big screen during the rodeo. I wonder what the life of a Texas socialite and a Oil Tycoon consists of when they go home to their mansion in River Oaks and crack open their six figure wine and watch their daughter play in her six figure playhouses. Drill Baby Drill I suppose.

  • Actually, we will see students from all over Texas who will go home and crack open their SCHOLARSHIP envelopes and their LIFE will be changed forever because of that wine purchase.
    Thank you
    HLSR Committee Member