28 November 2011

Couple Builds Hobbit Holes in Maine

Pillsbury with one of his Hobbit Holes

Melissa and Rocy Pillsbury of Unity, Maine, run a business called Wooden Wonders, where they have been custom designing and building miniature Hobbit homes for the past two and a half years.

When Rocy Pillsbury, 37, a man with 17 years of carpentry experience, first began Wooden Wonders, his intent was to design and build children’s playhouses in various fantasy shapes, such as castles, towers, and fairy and mushroom houses. 

These playhouses were a huge success at many of the home shows they attended – so successful, in fact, that that many adults would try to come up with a reason to buy one of them. 

"We started with playhouses, and we expanded from there to utility uses," Melissa Pillsbury said. "We quickly discovered that folks with disposable income aren't necessarily the ones with young children."

Some of the Hobbit Holes’ utility uses include being a bus stop shelter, chicken coop, doghouse, office, garden shed, sandbox, yoga space, vegetable stand, sauna, summer sleepover spot, and lakeside cottage. According to Rocy Pillsbury, one customer bought a Hobbit Hole for the purpose of conducting child therapy sessions. 

Regardless of their use, "No two are alike,” Rocy said of his Hobbit-inspired playhouses, of which there are about 50 variations, all based on the Hobbit holes described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, published in 1937. Some have shingled roofs, while others are covered with vegetation. And they all possess the same dome shape and round front door that is characteristic of all Hobbit holes.

The couple expects sales of their Hobbit Holes to soar after the release of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. Wooden Wonders also has a trademark licensing agreement with Middle-earth Enterprises, a California company which has exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising and other rights from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

"I think that we are the only company in the world that sells Hobbit Holes,” Rocy said. 

The Pillsburys' two sons, Richard and Maxximus, play inside one of the Hobbit Holes. 
Photo: David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

And one of their Hobbit Holes has recently become the home of a radio personality from Bangor, Pat LaMarche.

LaMarche, who is co-host of "The Pulse Morning Show" on WZON AM 620/FM 103.1, one of author Stephen King’s radio stations, has been living in one of these Hobbit Hole for about a week now, with a goal of staying there until $70,000 is raised by the community to aid the Help Keep ME Warm fundraiser, which offers home heating fuel assistance to low-income Mainers. 

Wooden Wonders is donating 10 percent of its sales made during the fundraiser to Help Keep ME Warm, according to Melissa Pillsbury. Additionally, Stephen King himself has offered to match up to $70,000 of the amount raised.

For anyone interested in purchasing a Hobbit Hole of their own, prices range from $999 for a chicken coop to $20,000 for an insulated cottage finished with floors, windows, and screens; Pillsbury is also trying to lower the cost to $2,000 for an entry-level playhouse. 

"Anyone who knows about carpentry knows how much work goes into them," Melissa Pillsbury said. "Aesthetically they're so wonderful. We've got a Hobbit Hole for every budget."

Visit the Wooden Wonders website for more information.

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