Not Your Average Treehouse

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.

treehouseinterior1

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).

treehouseexterior1

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.

Take care,
Doug initial

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8 thoughts on “Not Your Average Treehouse

  1. Matt is in love with this treehouse, and now wants one for Abigail. It reminds me of a house my grandfather and uncles built for my two cousins and myself when we were younger!

    • Thanks Jill! We love our treehouse. When we built it…since Brownie was already almost 10 at the time, we built it so that it big enough so that it would be a cool place for her to do her homework or hang-out as she got older…and of course Mere as well. Britt and I have also talked about if/when the girls are “through with it”, it would be a cool place for us to use as a studio or something…with all the windows and it being just big enough for that. Please let me know if you, Matt, and Abs want to come by to see it in person. Thanks again and take care, D.

  2. What a beautiful tree house! I’ve spent a few evenings, researching tree houses designs and I keep coming back to this one. I like the simplicity and versatility of this project.

    I can’t wait to get started on our tree house! I have a young family of four (2 – 9 y/o) in Southern California. I’m sure they will create many memories in this space.

    Do you have a blueprint of your tree house?. I would really like to use your tree house as reference. As it so happens, we too have a mature Magnolia tree in the center of the yard that would serve well. I’m particularly looking at your foundation and walls.

    Thank you, looking forward to hearing from you.

    • Marcus…thanks so much for reaching out and for your oh-so-kind words re: our treehouse. We love it…and I’m glad it caught your eye. Unfortunately I don’t have blueprints for it…just a few scribbles on a piece of paper. I’ll see what I can do in pulling something together that may be helpful for you in the next couple of weeks…and maybe even make it a post. So stay tuned for that post or a direct email from me. Take care and I hope you have a great weekend. Cheers, D.

      • Hello Doug, any progress on gathering drawings or any information on your design. I too have a magnolia tree and am contemplating building a treehouse. Best, -Tito

        • Hey Tito…thanks for reaching out. I know that I said that I’d get a post out on the design of our treehouse, but I just haven’t had a chance to yet. But now…as summer is ending (i.e., things not growing as much!), I’ll be getting to it within the next month or so. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know. So sorry for the delay. But thanks again for reaching out. Take care, D.

  3. Doug,

    Like so many we love the simple look and versatility of your treehouse. By chance have you come up with any blueprints or rough dimensions?

    • Thanks so much for your kind words Sandy. We do love our treehouse. And apparently so does our new garden kitty…our youngest found her up there curled up for a nap yesterday. And as for blueprints for our treehouse…I know that I’ve said I would publish a post with them…and I haven’t. So sorry about that…and thanks for the reminder. Until I do…here are the rough dimensions:
      – Height off the ground: 6′
      – “Main Room”: 7’8″ x 8’10”
      – “Reading Loft”…from which you enter under and is open to the “Main Room”: 2’x5′
      – Juliete Balcony: 2’x8’10”
      – Ceiling: The walls are about 6′ tall, but is open to the roofline…so another 2′ or so.

      It’s a good sized treehouse…big enough for all 4 of us to sleep in and for a ton of kids to pack into.

      I hope this helps. Take care, D.

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