June 23, 2009 -- As Jon and Kate Gosselin prepare to move into separate homes, their eight children spent most of last night's episode of "John and Kate Plus 8" playing in four new playhouses of their own, ironically dubbed Crooked Houses.
At a price tag of $7,000 apiece, the children's new houses were perhaps emblematic of the excesses the family has reaped as a result of itsTLC show, which chronicles the parents' trials raising a brood that includes sextuplets and twins.
The delivery of the playhouses, made by a Maine-based company called Kids Crooked Houses, was shown on Monday night's episode, during which the couple also announced that after 10 years of marriage and five seasons of the show, they are separating. They have filed paperwork to dissolve the marriage.
Owned by Glen Halliday, 38, and Jeff Leighton, 34, Kids Crooked Houses has been "inundated" with phone calls and catalog requests since the episode aired Monday evening.
"Within 60 seconds of Kate saying the phrase 'crooked houses' on TV last night there were 170,000 visitors to our Web site," said Halliday.
Halliday said his Web developers are still scrambling to process the influx of requests the company has received since last night, but said that so far they are estimating that half a million people logged on to the site Monday and nearly 7,000 people have requested catalogs as of 10 a.m. today.
"The phones are ringing off the hooks," said Halliday, who estimated that the company has built 500 houses since it was founded in 2005.
On Tuesday afternoon, TLC released a statement announcing that the show would be on hiatus until August.
"TLC continues to support the Gosselin family and will work closely with them to determine the best way to continue to tell their story as they navigate through this difficult time," said TLC spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg in a statement.
"Following a retrospective of Jon and Kate's first 10 years airing on June 29, the show will be on hiatus until Aug. 3," said the statement. "During this time the family will take some time off to regroup and then a modified schedule will be in place to support the family's transition."
The homes get their name from the fact that none of the walls are straight, said Halliday, who first got the idea for the design from watching cartoons with his kids that showed houses in which "not one angle on the house was square."
While the door is child-size, the ceilings within the homes are 7½ feet tall and allow adults to fit in the "whimsical" structures comfortably as well, said Halliday.
The price of the playhouses depend on the model and range, from $1,249 for an original model that is delivered unassembled and unpainted to $5,000 as the starting price of a customized home, whose designs Halliday said "can get pretty crazy."
Halliday estimates that the homes delivered to the Gosselin family, which were designed to look like a pirate ship, a haunted house, a veterinary clinic and a garden house, were "at least $7,000 apiece."
Asked whether Kids Crooked Houses donated the homes to the TV family, Halliday said, "We've been well compensated for our efforts."
Gosselin Kids Were Eager for 'Crooked Houses' Delivery
Halliday said that the Gosselins' houses had been in the works since October 2008, when the company -- an employee of which is friends with one of the Gosselins' publicists -- sent customization materials to the family's Pennsylvania home.
"We sent crayons and markers to the kids to color in houses that they would like us to make," said Halliday. "Then we do a custom illustration and send it back to the family where the kids can then tell us that it either looks good, or we make changes."
Original homes usually take two to three weeks to deliver, said Halliday, whereas customized homes like the Gosselins' can take up to two months.
The Gosselin kids' excitement was hard to miss on Monday's episode, which showed the clan of eight clamoring for permission to play in their new playhouses.
"Oh my gosh, they were so excited," said Halliday, who also appeared on the program last night. "The kids were so well behaved."
"Like any kids they were so anxious to play with their house, but they were very patient when we were going back and forth on where to put them [on the property]," said Halliday.
The argument on where the houses were to be placed was one of several spats Jon and Kate Gosselin got into during the course of the 60-minute episode.
"Once they were able to play in them they were so happy," said Halliday. "It just reconfirms our position that these homes spark their creativity."
"Within minutes of playing with the houses, they came and told me that there was a bear behind the house -- but it was just their imagination," he said. "That's the beauty of it."
'All I Saw Were Loving Parents'
Halliday was watching cartoons with his own set of multiples -- his now- 9-year-old twin boys -- when he thought of a way to entice them to spend more time outside, an idea that turned into Kids Crooked Houses.
"When we were kids a cardboard box was all we needed," said Halliday, who also has a 5-year-old daughter. "But now with five cartoon network channels and everything else, our kids spend so much time sitting on the couch I think their imagination is being force-fed to them."
"That's how the idea was sparked, by seeing my kids becoming lethargic," he said. "I kept asking, 'Why aren't you outside?' That's what builds character."
Halliday said he was not notified until last week that the episode featuring his company would be the same one where the family announced they were splitting up.
He said that when he met the family he did not notice any outward hostility between Jon and Kate Gosselin but did say the couple interacted very little with each other and mainly focused on their kids.
"We had no idea our houses would be combined with the Gosselins' special announcement," he said. "To be completely honest, it was great exposure for us, but it was bittersweet."
"We met the family, and Kate is an amazing woman and Jon is the sweetest guy you'll ever meet, and they both love their kids so much," he said.
"All I saw were loving parents."