...because home doesn't happen overnight.

clubhouse exterior 1

One spring 20+ years ago, my dad built this clubhouse for my siblings and me. (There are four of us total – three girls, one boy. I’m the oldest.) My mom had taken us kids to visit my grandparents in Florida for a week and when we returned home there was a clubhouse. And not just any clubhouse. A clubhouse ON STILTS. At the time, I couldn’t fathom how in the world my dad had built it alone. I still can’t. But that’s what he does. He builds things. And this clubhouse is one of those things.

clubhouse exterior 4

It’s nestled on the top of a hill among the trees overlooking a ravine, or “holler”…if you’re where I come from. My dad laid a telephone pole across the ravine for us kids to walk across. Again, I have no idea how. Admittedly, I mostly used it to reenact the famous Dirty Dancing log routine. Back then, my sisters, brother and I were free to roam (we had twelve acres) and there wasn’t the ever-present fear of children getting hurt / lost / kidnapped like there is now. It was a great way to grow up.

clubhouse exterior 3

The clubhouse is roughly 12′ x 8′ not including a narrow, covered porch that faces the ravine. It is supported by six poles set within underground concrete piers. The sloped roof is corrugated metal with corrugated fiberglass over the porch. There used to be two aluminum windows within the window frames but they rusted out and my dad removed them several years ago. There’s a pull-up bar positioned between two stilts on the ravine side.

clubhouse stairs

The clubhouse is accessed by a steep ladder…

clubhouse trap door

…which leads to a trap door. At least, that’s what we always called it as kids.

clubhouse interior 1

clubhouse interior 5

clubhouse interior 2

clubhouse interior 3

Inside, it’s one room. The ceiling slopes from 95″ at the doorway to 72″ at the back window. Back in the day my parents let us put a play kitchen in clubhouse so we could pretend it was a real house but now there’s just a few plastic chairs, some boards and dead leaves. If you look closely you might even notice a little graffiti on the walls. #rebels

clubhouse interior 4

The trap door and large play space are nice but the view from the porch is AMAZING.

clubhouse view

Like I mentioned, the clubhouse overlooks a deep ravine. Beyond that is part of the long, winding gravel driveway and beyond that is a big open valley. I don’t know what it is about the view but it always causes me to breathe more deeply. I guess that’s what being surrounded by nature and quiet does to you.

clubhouse exterior 2

My childhood clubhouse (and home) are as remote and peaceful as they look. To this day, there is no access to cable or the internet and cell phone coverage is spotty at best. You can’t see the road from the house. The property is a 35-minute drive from our current home. I love bringing my kids here to unplug and explore. Best of all, they love it too. Which is why I’ve decided to fix up the clubhouse for them (with my dad’s blessing). Stay tuned for the plans coming up next!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

32 Comments

21.May.2014

I’m about to undertake building a playhouse on stilts for my boys and I can’t wait to see ehat you do for inspiration! I love the corrugated metal roof! Thanks for sharing!

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What a cute idea! I can’t wait to see what you do with the space and I am sure it is going to be awesome! Man, what I would have done to have a clubhouse like this!

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21.May.2014

OMG. I died when I saw this. Growing up we had a “clubhouse” that was actually a pink victorian wooden playhouse with windows. My best friend’s (the girl across the street from me and my sisters) dad built it and we spent a lot of time in there. We always wished it was in a tree, but it was still so much fun. We always talked about getting carpet and “real” curtains and furniture, but then we all grew up.

This post brought back so many HAPPY memories! I’m dying to see what you do with it!

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It is most definitely a holler. Midwest for the win :)
I was just looking at out childhood clubhouse this weekend thinking it needs repainted. I can’t wait to see what you do with this one for your kids!
Abby

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21.May.2014

As a kid,I would’e died to have one of those!

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21.May.2014

This is awesome! You are so lucky to have grown up where you did, and have such a handy dad!

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21.May.2014

How lucky you to have your parents live so nearby and have such a great place for your kids to play!!! I grew up on 20 acres, so yeah, that freedom was awesome. It was leave in the morning, come home at lunch for a sandwich and don’t come back until dark/supper. Those were the days….:)

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21.May.2014

This is awesome! And also the reason we live in the NY Burbs instead of NYC. I am a big fan of getting our children’s childhood back. We don’t have a tree house, but we back onto woods. I find this site http://www.battleboxcompany.co.uk/ an endless source of inspiration. Plus, I’m a Brit living in the States so it’s like a little piece of home in my back yard!!

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How fun to have this growing up? I always wanted a tree house growing up but where we lived was new construction in Iowa. No trees! I cannot wait to see and hear about your plans.

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22.May.2014

I am in love with this and cant wait to see what you do! I’m a fellow Ohioan (Cleveland) and completely enjoy your site. Get it Ohio! If you are ever in Cleveland I would love to awkwardly meet you and become your best friend.

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replied on May 23rd, 2014

I am very good at awkward meetings ;)

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22.May.2014

What a gift to you and your siblings–a gift that’s still giving. Can’t wait to see how you give this great space a facelift that respects its treehouse spirit and remote locale.

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22.May.2014

Well, this is a ridiculously exciting project!!!!
Cannot wait to see what you do!

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How incredibly awesome! We built our own tree house in my gran’s garden when we were kids. Her garden was about the size of your clubhouse lol. Amazing what kids can build with an old door and a few balls of wool.

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22.May.2014

I was hoping that’s where this introduction was going :)

Is this kind of fort (that’s what I would’ve called it when I was little) a common thing in your area? A friend from Cincinnati had something very similar that extended over the ravine behind her house — so when you walked in it was at ground level, but then you could take the trap door stairs down into the ravine.

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replied on May 23rd, 2014

Growing up, we had friends with treehouses / playhouses but nothing like this. Of course, our friends loved coming over and hanging out in the clubhouse. We had cousins that were afraid of heights and couldn’t stand to be in it more than a few minutes. The playhouse your friend had sounds so cool!

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22.May.2014

Omg how fricken cool!!!! I’m a huge sucker for the woods. We have almost an acre & in the summer time when we look into the backyard, can’t see any neighbors behind us. It’s just peaceful. And holy cow your Dad built that by himself?! Crazy good. Sounds like an awesome childhood. I bet your boys will love it & Mabrey as well once she’s older.

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22.May.2014

I’m with you on wondering how in the world your dad was able to build this himself. So impressive! I would have loved having a fort like this growing up! Sounds like a fun and meaningful project for you to do!

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22.May.2014

What a joy that you get to share and pass this place on to your children. It’s obvious from your stories that you are constantly making important and meaningful memories with your children and teaching them what truly matters. Lovely writing here as well.

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22.May.2014

We had a VERY similar playhouse growing up! The house was on stilts, with a flight of stairs leading up to a one-room playhouse that had a door and one large window. There was a front porch, too! The playhouse had real shingles on the roof, and a sandbox below. When we got to be too big/old to play with it, my dad took it down and my grandparents repurposed the house portion as an outdoor dog house for the farm dogs.

We loved that playhouse…hope your kids love theirs!

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22.May.2014

Well shoot. I had loosely tossed around the idea that we should become IRL friends when I realized our (assumed) proximity and Nickel Creek love. But fixing up a raised playhouse?! Well, that’s an entirely new layer of awesome. Can’t wait to watch it all unfold. Seriously though, if you ever need a hand, say the word. I would love to help and my small Alice can always use another playmate.

(Btw, vet me by checking out my Instagram – @loribell77 – to be assured I’m not a fake person. Probably in the normal parameters of crazy. :) )

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replied on May 23rd, 2014

I like crazy people ;)

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22.May.2014

ooooohhhhhhh this is going to be good!! Can’t wait to see the transformation! We recently moved into a house that has a beautiful, private and wooded yard and I would SO love to do some kind of tree house or playhouse. I love your blog so much because even though our styles are a bit different…you INSPIRE me to do more, be brave in my own home. Thanks for that!

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22.May.2014

Oh what a fun project!

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22.May.2014

AWESOMESAUCE!

I remember leaving on my bike in the morning to roam the neighbourhood (lots of forests) with my sister and/or friends and not having to be back until dinnertime. It was sweet. We’ve chosen to live close to our jobs so our commutes are shorter and it means we have more time for family, but that means living the urban life and I’m not sure my kids will have the same freedom/nature opportunities which is a bit of a bummer. We’ll have to try and find some summer holiday places that offer it I guess.

Love the new project. :)

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23.May.2014

[…] fixing up the clubhouse my dad built for my siblings and me over twenty years ago. Fortunately, it’s structurally sound so it just […]

23.May.2014

The view is great!
When we were younger, my brother and his friends build a 4 story fort in the woods (basically just platforms in the trees, but probably 7-25 ft in the air) and we enjoyed playing around there, but I would have loved something that was more house-like. I can’t wait to see the after.

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23.May.2014

Lucky kids–then and now.

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27.May.2014

I don’t know if you’ll read this comment, but I thought I would pass a link to a recent Atlantic article talking about this very topic of exploring, independence of children, and modern day threat. It is an interesting discussion starter. If you do read it, I think it will encourage you.
http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/#disqus_thread

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replied on May 27th, 2014

Thank you so much for this link! I read every word…ironically, Mabrey discovered how to climb up to the top bunk while I was reading.

I do feel that we parents aren’t doing our kids any favors by monitoring their every move and decision and by (over)scheduling their days for them. In fact, I think we may be doing harm. I have to say I’ve never had the urge or energy to watch my kids that closely. I don’t sign them up for tons of activities. When they get home from school, most days they read, draw or play outside with the neighbor kids (while I stay inside). I think this might come from the way I was raised. Maybe? I don’t know. I recently read All Joy and No Fun and found the discussion fascinating. I’m interested to watch how all this plays out.

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I grew up like this too, only in NH. My dad built us an amazing tree house as well complete with a front porch and secret escape hatch (to hide from my brother of course). I’m also one of four with one boy and we spent endless hours riding bikes around the whole neighborhood, playing and hiking in the woods where our parents couldn’t see us and having all manners of freedom and make-believe-play I wish kids could enjoy still today. I love this clubhouse of yours and am about to go catch up on my reading and see what you did with it!

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01.August.2014

[…] been over two months since I shared my childhood clubhouse and my plans for perking it up¬†for my kids and their cousins. It took several sporadic weekends, a […]




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