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Today’s blog is from Green Mountain Timber Frames founder, Dan McKeen.
It was 35 years ago that I first set out to build my twin daughters a playhouse. I was a young timber framer and a proud father of two, four-year-old girls who loved the outdoors, exploration and pretend just as much as I do. Eager to create a special home where they could hide and climb and create magical worlds together, I built this tiny little treehouse for them back in 1982.
Rachel and Amanda spent hours in the wooden treehouse, just as I had hoped. But by and by as the years passed, the playhouse went out of use and was in need of some more young love.
So 25 years ago I sold the playhouse to a friend. When I asked him if I could buy it back, he agreed and said that he was looking for a bigger, small structure for himself. So we found him a “milkhouse” and traded the playhouse for the milk house with a few thousand dollars to make up the difference. (I’ve mentioned this story before and if you follow this blog, you may recall reading about it in my posts here and here.)
New Playmates for the Little Playhouse
The playhouse spent the last 2+ decades in my friend’s yard, where it was loved and played in, on and around and bore witness to countless secrets whispered under its eaves. But my friend’s child, like mine, grew older and in the meantime, I had become a grandpa. This could only mean one thing:
It was time for the playhouse to come home!
And come home, it has! I embarked upon this latest “barn” restoration with the energy and enthusiasm of a six-year-old! I took the playhouse home and gave it a full makeover so it can house games and delight for dozens of years to come.
Restoring the Playhouse
In anticipation of the homecoming, I first cleared out just the right spot for the playhouse. My friend Ed pruned some Cherry tree branches and a sturdy platform deck was created for the little house. (How fitting that the wood we used for the platform was excess wood from the milkhouse Ira barn project we did in 2013.) It is all old growth Spruce, treated with linseed oil, so it will last for a good many years.
Next, I headed over to my friend’s place to transport the playhouse back to my yard. In the image below, you can see the little barn house arriving to the Green Mountain Timber Frames shop for restoration.
At our shop it was time to begin the restoration work. (After all, restoring barns is a bit of a passion of ours!)
There were boards and framing to restore, hinges to fix, countless corners to wash and windows to replace. I also had my dear friend Nance help give the playhouse a faux paint touch up to make the blue siding look like vintage barn board.
After placing the playhouse on the platform, I needed to give my grandkids (and every kid around) an easy way to get inside. We had recently removed a pine tree that was threatening our house. We used the stump as a base for the staircase, carving the lowest step right into its hearty wood. The stump will provide good stability to help keep the stairs from shifting in Vermont’s inevitable freezes and heaves.
Once the playhouse was set in place, it was time for some fun! I outfitted the little building with a kitchenette, a mailbox and plenty of soccer balls. Then, Ed added in a new rope swing and topped it all off with a 90 yard zip line.
The angels were with us throughout this project. I asked a former client, now friend, to coach me on zip-lining. He let me know that he had 275 feet of cable in his garage, waiting for just the right use. In the end we needed 273′. Serendipitous indeed!
Christening the New (Old) Playhouse!
This past Sunday, the new playhouse was inaugurated in style! No less than 12 kids – my grandchildren among them – came by to test out the house and the swings.
The verdict? I have a feeling my yard will be filled with many little feet and bigger voices – and I couldn’t be happier. There are dragons under the floorboards and pirates hiding in the bushes and so much more adventure awaits!
Enjoy this slideshow of the playhouse today!