Backyard retreats branch out

Where I grew up in South Florida, a kid was more likely to have a lean-to hangout made from palmetto fronds than a treehouse. Dotted with agriculture fields, palm trees, and scrubby pine woods, the flat, sun-basked landscape lacked trees of real character – those majestic beauties with low, thick limbs that invite a kid to climb, or better yet, to scrap together a plywood fort amongst the strong branches.

Looking back, it was my loss growing up without such trees and the treehouses they accommodated. But, even now, it’s fun to imagine the sway of a rope ladder, the squeak of a trapdoor, and the low whispers of secret passwords.

That’s the magic treehouses bring!

These days, there’s a treehouse renaissance of sorts. TV programs, books, and websites showcase upscale treehouses, sometimes so precariously positioned they seem to defy gravity. You can book a week or a weekend at a luxury vacation treehouse offering nearly as many amenities as a good hotel. You can hire a professional treehouse builder who has the skill to turn your multi-level fantasy into the haven of your dreams.

Thankfully, simple backyard treehouses are taking to the trees in numbers, as well. And, when it comes to treehouses, kids are especially easy to please.

Sneak preview. Prefab playstations offer features kids like including multiple levels, slides, and ramps. Most of these features can be incorporated into treehouses.

Start with a theme kids like: a pirate ship, a fort, or a castle. Even a basic structure with a few colorful banners, a creative paint scheme, or off-shaped windows will set their imaginations soaring.

As you plan, think youthful energy and adventure. Why ascend to the treehouse using a conventional ladder when you can climb up a dangling rope!

Likewise, kids love the idea of a quick getaway, so include a fireman’s pole, a spiral slide, or even a mini zipline that in seconds will transport a kid to a separate lookout platform built around the trunk of a nearby tree.

Branching out. Limbs of a large magnolia tree punch through the roof of this multi-angled treehouse. Stilt-like legs support the structure.

The diversions don’t need to stop there. What could be cooler than hauling up snacks, games, and other necessities in a bucket or basket attached to a pulley. Add to the low-tech fun by installing a speaking tube or a customized mailbox where friends can leave notes. And, as if having a bird’s eye view isn’t awesome enough, equip the hideaway with binoculars or a telescope! Secret compartments, a climbing net, a rope bridge: remember, when it comes to fun, the sky’s the limit.

Continued Below

For adults, backyard treehouses can be a tranquil place for contemplation, a work station, or an observation post to enjoy sunsets and stargazing. Make life-in-the-trees easy to get to by including a ramp or a staircase with multi-level landings. Branch out with a porch. Mimic cloud nine comfort with cushions and fluffy throws. Add atmosphere with string lights and stained glass.

Sky high. A staircase with multi-level landings adds to the fun at this fort-like treehouse for kids.

Maybe it’s the proximity to nature, or maybe it’s the experience of viewing the surroundings from a new perspective, or maybe it’s the sensation of remoteness that comes from climbing skyward and then closing a trapdoor, but treehouses have a timeless appeal and a way of bringing wonder and adventure to ordinary backyards.

So what are you waiting for? Climb up through the branches and let the magic begin.

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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