My girls had been asking me to build them a playhouse for some time. For months I thought through design ideas, but I couldn’t get the thought of this diminutive structure being outgrown by both of my girls no sooner than I finished building it…and then it would go unused and become less than worthless (i.e., I’d either have to maintain it for no good reason or deal with having to tear it down).
So my first solution was to make it bigger than the average playhouse…so that when they outgrow playing in it I could use it as a shed or studio. But when I considered where I wanted to place this playhouse to one day be a studio (e.g., near the girls’play set), I realized that I didn’t want such a large structure in such a prime visual location. Nor did I want another house-like structure so close to the chicken coop…it would start to look like some sort of tacky village.
For about a week I was stumped, but then I had a stroke of genius. Why don’t I simply lift the playhouse up off the ground and into the umbrella-like canopy of our Southern Magnolia? (I know, limbing up a Southern Magnolia is considered a mortal sin by some…but I had to do it…otherwise its limbs would block access to a number of areas of my yard.) Turning my girls dreams of having their playhouse to having a treehouse wasn’t difficult…all I had to do is suggest the potential of a trap door and zip-lines…and they were sold. So up we went.
While designing the treehouse I always kept in mind that one day it may become a studio for Britt or me once the girls got “too cool” for it or headed off to college. Besides making sure that the dimensions could satisfy the needs of an eventual studio, the only other real design decision we made that we may not have made if it were just a treehouse was making sure that we had a great deal of natural light for the eventual studio.
Other priorities in designing the treehouse were to make it both safe and permanent. Which meant that I’d need to hire our favorite carpenters, Roni and Nick, to build the footings, frame it out…and get as far as they could in the 4 days I had a budget for. Although not attached to the tree, the six 6’x6’ posts place the treehouse in such a way that it appears to be in the tree…and it’s also super-sturdy and not going anywhere.
It’s a great space and the girls (and I!) are really looking forward to spending more time in it once the weather turns warmer. Here are some features they like best:
- The main (and only real) entrance is through a trap door in the floor…that can be opened/closed with a pulley system.
- A 2.5’x 4’ reading loft above the trap door.
- 2 large hinged windows on both the long sides of the treehouse (made by simply re-purposing window sashes I found at our local salvage store).
- Wall-mounted drop-leaf table from IKEA that serves as a perfect spot to do homework or have dinner when in the up position…and completely disappears and is out of the way when left down – giving them more play space.
- Interior painted all-white…making it easier to decorate, as well as making it much brighter inside.
- Juliet balcony looking toward their playset…using natural Manila rope as the spindles (my personal favorite design element).
- Mini French doors leading out to the balcony – with a primitive locking system – that the girls think is very “Laura Ingles Wilder”), flanked by side-lights…also from the local salvage store.
- A vintage egg basket on a pulley off the balcony to bring things up and down (including Rosie May, our bunny).
Our treehouse certainly won’t be featured on “Tree House Masters”, but we really love it. It has already quickly become a favorite place for my girls and their friends to hang out. I look forward to having all the decorating finished and being able to trick it out a bit more. As soon as the weather even hints of warming up we’ll embark on our first all-night sleepover up there. I’ll make sure to share these stories, as well as more details of our design and building process in future posts.
Do you have a treehouse…did you have one as a kid? What did/do you like most about it?
I look forward to hearing about it.