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Small play homes from Finleyville company getting big attention

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Employees of MultiView, left, tape a segment with carpenter Terry Harroun in the Lilliput Play Homes business in Finleyville Thursday, October 3, 2013. The crew is doing a web-based documentary of different businesses for the series Good Company.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Alyssa Chernicky, when she was 2, with the play house that her father Steve built for her. This was to become the flagship for the future play houses of Lilliput Play Homes,
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Lilliput Play Homes President Steve Chernicky Thursday, October 3, 2013 in Finleyville.

A Finleyville company specializing in tiny houses is getting some big attention.

Lilliput Play Homes, creators of custom-made miniature houses, will be featured in “Good Company,” an online documentary exploring the businesses of some of America's most unique entrepreneurs. The 10-part series is a project of MultiView, a Dallas-based business-to-business digital-media publisher and will debut in January on the company's website.

“This is definitely a good opportunity,” says Jason Kruljac, Lilliput's director of new business development. “We want to keep people aware that creative play is very valuable.”

Other featured companies range from brewmasters to bird-diaper fabricators, a West Texas cattle breeder and a Tuscon man who creates memorial sculptures of fallen firefighters. It's all about finding folks making a living in a creative way that captures the American entrepreneurial spirit.

“It's about reminding people that business is alive and well,” says Dan Maitland, producer. “Every production is home-grown in the U.S. They are all very lucrative. They've figured out a niche and are facilitating that niche.”

To find Lilliput, MultiView producers combed more than 40,000 companies listed on the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions roster. They filmed at Lilliput in October.

“These are incredibly detailed homes,” Maitland says. “When kids ask their parents to build them a play home, they go to Home Depot and spend $300. These have electricity, wood floors, Victorian-style molding, real shingles, pane-glass windows. There is a lot of character in each one.”

The houses, which range from $5,000 to $20,000, come in a variety of architectural styles, from a fairy-tale cottage with cedar shingles and a simulated-stone chimney to an old-time firehouse complete with fire pole and barn-style truck doors. Most feature a great room and an upstairs loft. Some also have hidden tunnels and secret rooms.

They're typically 150 square feet to 300 square feet, and can include nearly any detail the customer wants. Many request custom-made replicas of existing homes.

“We don't turn down any dreams from customers,” Kruljac says. “The parents get almost more excited than the kids.”

Clients have included celebrities such as Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Kobe Byrant, Diana Ross and Alan Jackson.

The company produces 100 to 150 play homes a year and has been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. They've also done work with Make-A-Wish.

The company's history traces to the late 1980s, when owner Steve Chernicky was dismayed at the selection of play homes available for his daughter, Alyssa. Chernicky, who has a background in masonry, decided to design his own. The result is the Victorian Mansion playhouse, decorated with corbels, roof rails, scalloped cedar shingles and a working doorbell, which remains one of the company's designs.

Today, the company has about 20 employees and customers all over the world. One of the oddest requests Lilliput has fielded came from Russia, where a family wanted an exact replica of the Kremlin, Chernicky says. They also recently constructed a pirate ship for a family in Pakistan.

The average job takes four weeks to six weeks to complete, but can take longer, depending on design. Each piece can be disassembled and reassembled if the owners move.

“That's one of the most rewarding things,” Chernicky says. “This is something that stays with a family for a lifetime.”

View the Good Company episode preview at

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or

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