“A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches cozy as can be house.
A street house, a neat house,
Be sure to wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all–
Let’s go live in a tree house.”
–Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends
This little farm house of ours has helped us evolve into people who think outside the box when it comes to odd spaces. It has been somewhat of a necessity on this journey. What were we to do with a smelly, leaky basement with no ventilation? Our gut reaction was to leave it for storage. Seven months later it is a dry, cozy space that exudes playful comfort, complete with 2 bedrooms and a commons area. Another design dilemma that had hounded us for months was the floor adjacent to the basement stairs. It was a 22 inch by 8 and a half feet landing that seemed destined to bring trouble and injury, as it was open to the stairwell. We thought it could be a minimally useful space if we walled it in and put shelving or coat hooks on said wall, but it was narrow and awkwardly shaped.
It was a Saturday a few weeks ago that we decided to at least erect a wall to enclose the space so that the children and grandchildren didn’t take a tumble into the stairwell. At the end of that Saturday, we had a stud wall with old paneling harvested from the family room. With a coat of paint, we thought it could look presentable. We were relieved to be so near the finish line on the main floor redo. This project would complete the to-do list on the children’s wing of the house!
Fast forward to the next morning. I awoke and rolled over to find dear husband grinning at me and looking far too enthusiastic at such an early hour. He whispered to me, “I want to build a tree house!” I giggled right away, because I knew what he meant. He wanted to turn that useless, strange space next to the stairs into something special for the kids and grandkids. Scratch the awkward linen closet/shelf/coat hook mess. We were like children ourselves as we excitedly planned all the fun features of
our the kids’ very own indoor tree house! We gathered scrap wood and various materials that we had lying around: old paneling, trim, paint, fabric, pillows, lighting, and anything else that could make this tiny nook a dreamy hideaway for the young ones in our lives. The race was on to finish construction before the children came home that evening.
Superman’s (aka David) first move was to build in bunks for the kids to lounge on while reading. He also made a little built-in step for little ones who couldn’t quite jump to the top bunk. I would make cushions for the space out of extra things in my sewing stash. I also painted the tired paneling to resemble old barn wood. Hubby took some old cabinet doors and used them for the roof, which I painted to look like old tin, and he added rough cedar strips between them. We turned the wall studs into book shelves. The inside was painted with a perky shade of green that we mixed from various paints on hand. I used scrap pieces to make a curtain “door” for a cozy feeling. I also painted one of the leftover stair risers to fashion a sign for the entrance to the tree house. On one side it reads, “hello” and the other, “kids only.” We went on a scavenger hunt in the overflowing barn to find the boxes of books and toys to fill the shelves. We hung old Christmas lights and a $2 Ikea clearance lantern to illuminate the space. The indoor tree house, the free house, the secret you and me house was complete.
The old paneling, painted to look like barn wood The bottom “bunk”
The top “bunk” The built-in step The interior
Light from my own Disneyland (Ikea) Bookshelves The “door”
The look of sweet wonder mixed with gratitude on the children’s faces was priceless. To see one snuggled up on the top bunk lost in a book or find them sprawled on their bellies playing with toys there just warms our hearts. It’s a pretty magical place that invites imagination and adventure. If ever my family can’t find me and notice that my “Urban Farm” magazines and the chocolate stash are mysteriously absent, you know where I’ll be.