...because home doesn't happen overnight.

It’s 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 lot of elbow grease and numerous car loads but the clubhouse is finished! For now.

You can see the “before” here but this post is all “after”, baby. My apologies in advance for the massive photo onslaught you are about to endure. It was a sentimental project and I had a hard time choosing my favorites. Enjoy!

clubhouse ext 1

I didn’t do much of anything to the exterior. Some people probably think I went about this bass ackwards but I’d rather wait and see how much the kids use the clubhouse before I invest in luxuries like windows, a legit door, exterior stain, etc. I could easily sink a grand into this structure but I’m trying to be somewhat practical here. (It isn’t easy.) So a pair of hammock chair swings it is!

clubhouse ext 2

My dad suggested hanging them from old springs he had so I did that. You can bounce or swing or…swounce? And once you get in, you don’t want to get out. They cradle you like a baby. Btw, that’s my niece, Lillian. She lives in Texas but was visiting for the month of July so she got to help me work on the clubhouse. She was so excited!

clubhouse dumbwaiter 1

Steve geeked out and put his engineering skills to work by rigging up a dumbwaiter. It was a hit with the kids. It also came in handy when I was loading the clubhouse. The cots wouldn’t fit through the trap door so I hooked them to the dumbwaiter and lifted them over the porch railing.

clubhouse dumbwaiter 2

I didn’t even bother to paint the scrap boards supporting the pulley. It’s just a clubhouse, right?

clubhouse shelf 1

The clubhouse is all about nature. You’re surrounded by nothing but trees and sky. So inside, I kept things really simple to keep the focus on the outdoors. My initial instinct was to paint the interior white. But once I started cleaning up to prep for paint, it became evident pretty quickly that something closer to the color of dirt would work better. I chose a gray-green hue and never looked back. I really liked the weathered patina of the ceiling so I left it untouched.

Everett and my sister, Alina, helped me paint the first coat. I got a little emotional thinking about the three of us working together to revive a place my sister and I had once played in. I may have said something sappy about things coming full circle. I think too much when I paint.

clubhouse shelf 2

I repurposed a closet shelf from our own home’s renovation. Steve cut it down and installed three brackets to support it under the window. I didn’t bother to paint it. Again, it’s just a clubhouse, right? I kinda like the scuffed up paint anyway.

clubhouse shelf 3

The shelf is a makeshift nightstand of sorts. It’s perfect for books, nature journals and a pair of solar-powered cone lamps. I created a tic tac toe board out of washi tape and wood craft letters.

clubhouse south side 1

Two folding cots flank the shelf. They’re comfortable for cots, I guess. The kids LOVE them. They fold up so I can stash them in a corner away from the elements when we aren’t using them. In the winter, I’ll store them elsewhere.

Net canopies are my attempt at preventing mosquitos from eating my children and nieces. They were super easy to assemble and hang. The ring at the top is flexible plastic – not wood – which allowed it to be packaged efficiently. Genius.

clubhouse flowers

Rocks and wildflowers from our nature walks are on display. I found the Ball jar in my dad’s barn. It reminds me of my mom canning beans from our garden in the summer when I was a kid. Once you hear the whistle of a pressure cooker, you never forget it!

clubhouse northeast side 2

I had fun with with paint on the other side of the room.

clubhouse northeast side 1

I upcycled a large canvas that once lived in Everett’s nursery in our previous house. I had originally painted a leaf motif on it for the nursery but I wanted something bold and simple that would pop against the gray-green walls of the clubhouse. I had a flashback of sitting on the living room floor and watching M*A*S*H reruns with my dad on our boxy console TV. The red cross spoke to me so I painted one on the canvas using leftover paint.

I stole some linens and pillows from the boys’ bedroom (don’t worry, I replaced them with something else) for the cots. The army drab blankets are another nod to the clubhouse-meets-M*A*S*H theme. They’re surprisingly soft – not itchy at all. When we aren’t visiting, I stash the bedding in a plastic tote.

clubhouse walking sticks 2

The kids had fun scouring the woods for the perfect walking sticks. I painted a few bands of color around them then propped them in the corner. They feel more like art than hiking gear. The boys think they’re way cool.

clubhouse entrance

Near the entrance I painted a sliver of wall in chalkboard paint to encourage graffiti. You might remember seeing my sisters’  and their friends’ original graffiti in the “befores”. Most of it was inappropriate (Everett asked me several times what a jackass was while we were painting) but I didn’t have the heart to wipe it out completely so I left one harmless message uncovered. A small tin bucket holds chalk.

A soft cooler hangs from a hook on the other side of the doorway. It’s great for snacks and bottles of water.

A few more candid shots…

clubhouse kids 1

I moved them for some of the shots but there are plastic storage totes under each cot.

clubhouse tote

They hold games, books, journals, etc. Many of the books were Steve’s or his dad’s when they were little. I’m kicking myself for not getting a shot of the kids playing Monopoly on the floor. There’s plenty of room between the two beds for playing or laying out a sleeping bag.

clubhouse kids 2

I told Everett to “act completely normal.” You guys, THIS IS HIS NORMAL. He is hilarious.

clubhouse kids 3

My bookworm. Layne zones out when he’s reading. I bet he didn’t even know I took this picture.

clubhouse chalkboard

Funny story. I started taking pictures for the reveal and didn’t realize until about halfway through that Everett had written “butt cheeks” on the chalkboard wall. I had to erase it and start all over. I told you he was hilarious.

clubhouse northeast side 4

Some reactions to the finished clubhouse:

Lillian: I like that there aren’t a bunch of decorations and that it’s not just for little kids or boys.

Layne: I think it needs a generator and a mini fridge.

Everett: Butt cheeks.

Mabrey: (Nada. Too busy eating chalk.)

my dad: Looks nice. Reminds me of M*A*S*H. (No joke. That was totally unprompted.)

clubhouse lamp

clubhouse northeast side 3

clubhouse walking sticks 1

Personally, I kinda want to move in. And if the kids use it enough, I might be tempted to give the exterior more attention.

clubhouse ext 3

I’d love to know what you think of the clubhouse. Any playhouse projects going on at your place? Any M*A*S*H fans out there?

Resources of note:

hammock chairs – Wayfair*
pulley, bucket, rope, tie-off – Ace Hardware
wall paint – Martha Stewart flagstone mixed in Glidden exterior paint, semigloss
shelf brackets – Home Depot
washi tape, wood letters – JoAnn’s
solar-powered lamps – Ikea
steel folding cots – Wayfair*
mosquito net canopies – Overstock
army blankets – ebay
wall hook – Home Depot
soft cooler – Wayfair*

*This project was completed in collaboration with Wayfair. Items denoted with an asterisk were kindly donated to the project. You can see side-by-side before-and-afters right here. All images, content and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



I’ve totally been looking forward to post. I’m glad you strayed from white. I love your color choice. In fact, I love all your clubhouse choices! There is inappropriate grafitti in my son’s fort also… BOYS! We will be remodelling it this fall (our Summers our hot 110+, and it gets used most in Winter). Thanks for sharing your family’s clubhouse with us, and for always writing the most thorough posts. Seriously, you leave no room for questions… only super positive comments and oodles of compliments. Great job, as usual!


Really enjoyed this post! My brother and I had the joy of living next door to our cousins as children. We had an amazing fort that we shared. My husband and I have spoken about building one here for our four kiddos next summer. This post brought back great memories for me

I LOVE this and the fun, imagination, and play time it encourages! I have so many fun memories of our tree house/play house, so it’s so great to see you embrace this “old school” idea and pass it on to your kids, too!
Personally, I want to grab a book and land myself in one of those hammocks…


That is such an incredible space! I love the addition of the mosquito nets – totally chic, but even more importantly practical.



Here is what I think you should do to the exterior: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! The rustic look is part of the awesome.

(I guess you could add screens and a door… but then you wouldn’t have an excuse for the mosquito nets.)


Love it! You did an incredible job. I wish I had one growing up!


What a great space! I loved MASH, too, as a kid. That cocktail/distillery(?) contraption in Hawkeye’s tent made quite an impression on me – ha!


Yay! They will love it – such a cool treehouse! We are still in the process of building a cubby for the kids – we started just after Annika was born and, um, that was four months ago. But it has walls! And a slippery dip, fireman pole and tyre swing. But no floor or roof yet! As you may have noticed from my incredibly slack lack of Reno updates, we take out sweet time doing things around here!! But when you are scavenging wood from various sources to build it, it takes time I guess! We’re doing the recycled mis-match cubby thing again. Hopefully it will be done in time for our Summer and we can set up some little beds and mozzie nets too!! Enjoy reliving your childhood! Xxxx


That was a bit of a let down


I love it. I love that you didn’t make it too ‘precious.’ It’s a clubhouse, it’s going to get dirty from outdoor play, which is the point, right? (Maybe hang a little broom and dustpan somewhere for easy clean-up?) Great job, Dana! Lucky kids.


Sorry to be a downer, but I’m kind of disappointed in this. Why put cots in there and not a table and chairs so that the kids have a place to play games? The cots with the drab wall color and red cross painting kind of make it seem like some kind of makeshift jungle hospital ward. I know you don’t want to invest in windows, but stapling some screen onto the window openings could be a good way to keep bugs at bay (or even screwing inexpensive plexi glass onto them). What about painting a rug on the floor to warm up the space? Or putting a window box under the window?

I don’t mean to criticize or make you feel bad or anything like that, but I was excited for this project and feel like there were some missed opportunities here.


I love it. I wish I had had a place like this as a kid. My cousin and I always said we were going to build a tree house. We had a hand saw, hammer, nails and some old boards. We got as far as cutting and nailing 2 or 3 boards to a tree to use as steps. LOL. I think we were like 8 or 10.

I love that you kept things more organic in here. Perfect choice of wall color (what did you say, something similar to dirt?!). It’s unfussy, low-maintenance, and a fun place for the kids to escape and get creative. The hammocks make the exterior too!


I think you did a great job on this clubhouse. It’s meant for kids! I like that you added just a few decorative elements, but kept it simple and rustic. A table might be nice for board games, but then again, kids don’t seem to mind sitting on the floor, so why bother?

Bravo! I love it! The fact that you took something from your childhood and transformed it for the kids in your family is so special (your Dad must be pretty happy). I also love that you had to field the “jackass” question… ahhh sweet childhood.


I am in love with this! As for the outside, I think the first thing you need is a sign that says “Swamp…” In other words, I’m a MASH fan! Haha!

I love everything about this space. My favorite things are the little crafty moments such as the tick-tack-toe, the wooden red garland, the painted walking sticks. Totally genius!!


I love lots of things about it, but am not sold on the idea of infirmary chic. I was kind of taken aback when I got to the shot with the red cross in it. I could imagine that shot in black and white with a wounded soldier on the cot. Basically, wartime jungle hospital tent just seems like an odd choice for a kids’ fort. Then again, maybe they’ll end up playing a lot of wartime jungle hospital tent because of it, and that honestly sounds kind of fun. Shrug.


Love it! I also think you should leave the exterior alone – the patina is beautiful!

Tell me about spiders. How many spiders did you encounter cleaning this baby up?

My uncle built the coolest kids A-frame (with electricity) & many a hot, sweaty but super-fun summer nights were spent in there. The kids will always remember this!


Perfect for now, and a perfect jumping off point if the space gets enough use to justify more attention. Kids love to flop and sprawl–floors and cots are fine, and folding camp chairs are easy if they want more seating options. The rugged quality keeps it like a camping experience and a special “away” place of fewer rules. I love the restraint, which is an invitation to relax and imagine and just hang out.


So Perfect! My dad built us a club house when we were little too:) This is the best way to grow up!


I am in LOVE with this! Every single inch…My childhood dream was to have a clubhouse just like this. The loft of our barn growing up was my clubhouse and I longed for it to have all the trimmings. We talk all the time of creating something like this for our kids…my mom still has that barn loft. The wheels are spinning…


Love the cots! And the paint color :)


As a huge MASH fan, I absolutely love it! My husband and I have MASH on dvd and fall asleep to it most nights LOL! I really liked what that you didn’t go over the top and try to add lots of decor- it’s a spot for kids! I think it is perfect.

Love the M*A*S*H references! :-). Such a great space for your kids (and cousins) to relax, imagine, and create memories!! Great work, Dana!


This is fabulous. I LOVE M*A*S*H. It went off the year after I was born, but my mom used to watch it growing up. For the past 2-3 years I’ve been working my way through the series; I have 12 or so episodes left before the finale. It’s going to be a bittersweet moment to finally finish….Also, can we call the clubhouse “The Swamp”? Too bad that a still probably isn’t kid-friendly…


Delurking to say JOB WELL DONE! Love this!!!
I have many happy memories of my wooden playhouse in my grandmother’s back yard. Magical times!


I’m sorry – I have to agree with Em. This looks like a morphed version of your house in a tree. It’s not kid friendly…the only thing they’ll do up there is sleep and read? Where are the toys and games? I would have loved to see a play kitchen and this would have been a great place to put in a wooden/weather friendly checkers or chess board! Why is there art in a kids outdoor tree house? Why is it related to mash – your kids do not know about mash! I was honestly expecting more color, string lights, maybe a pennant, a most importantly the slightest inkling that this would be a space that reflecting childhood, not their mothers design aesthetic…again.


This is the best makeover I’ve ever seen. I love the patina of the wood and the metal, the scratches on the paint. Beautiful.


I love it! What lucky kids to have such a special place!


I love that you kept it simple and it’s perfect. Everyone needs a treehouse. We are in the midst of planning our own, but way smaller.

Your niece looks a bit like you and love the comment about Mabrey eating chalk :)

I love everything about this! My cousins and I had a little tree house up at our family cabin as kids, and this post is reminding me that we need to build my boys a tree house up at our cabin. Those memories, and the simplicity of it all, are worth every penny.


This looks great! I love this keeps function in mind and doesn’t completely go overboard with decoration… it’s perfect.


Eating chalk is better than eating mulch. You never told us what happened after that mulch incident. Did you have to wash Mabrey’s mouth out with soap?


When I was a kid, my mom bought a cheap pre-decorated dollhouse and then removed all the decoration so that I could customize it myself. This reminded me a little of that! You gave the kids a starting place, but they are still free to make it their own. Fantastic!


What I would have given to have a place like this when I was a kid! Painting those colorful stripes on the hiking sticks was ingenious! No matter where they go, the kids will be like art in action now :)


I’m so happy you kept this natural and clubhouse-y. When you said you were redoing it, I was actually afraid you were going to ‘style’ it and make it feel artificial. You’ve made it comfortable but kept it natural with room for the kids to make it their own. Since M*A*S*H is the theme, maybe you should have some ‘Hot Lips’ graffiti with the ‘Butt Cheeks’ ;)

This looks great! Kind of want to steal the motif for my own home. The bedding reminds me of the Ace Hotel in Portland with the crisp white and gray plus army green. Love the roof as-is but a quick swipe of warm brown stain would go a long way on the exterior :)


I love the tree house! I’ve always wanted a tree house growing up but I never got one. Your kids are lucky to have a mother like you, and a tree house like that! WAY COOL!

I LOVE it! I always wanted a tree house to play in with my cousins…can’t imagine how much fun your kids are having with it!


Agreed. The tendency is to over-do spaces like this (not to mention spend waaaaay too much money on them!) and Dana, you totally found the balance of style and practicality. Though it may seem underwhelming to some, i think the details are well done. It’s casual yes, but totally put-together and I know from my own experience that that is harder to accomplish than one might think :)


I want to go to there! Simple. Beautiful. Love it.


What a great place for your kids to make childhood memories.
Question-We are getting ready to paint/stain our cedar house this fall. I would love for you to look at it and give suggestions for a color scheme. I am not opposed to painting the brick.. I could email you a pic.


I think it is so cool! I would spend time there and I am 62!!! I would love to paint a mural of trees, squirrels, birds, etc on the outside of it. I might add a book shelf and a small fold down table, and hanging white Christmas lights to imitate fireflies, and maybe put up framed screens on the windows, and, and,,,,well, be open to ideas!!!! FUN!!!


Sure, email me!




My kids actually choose books over toys most of the time. Like I mentioned, toys and games are in totes under the cots if they want them. (Chess board included.) The chalkboard gives them a place to draw and leave messages. The kids requested sleeping surfaces for sleepovers so we went with cots instead of larger playthings. It’s really about nature here anyway. We hike, catch frogs, play in the creek, etc. All the kids – mine and our five nieces – have seen it and love it. They thanked me for it and it was the sweetest.


Surprisingly, no spiders were around but there were ants and wood bees. An A-frame with electricity?! Dreamy.


So many hard questions when you’re a parent!


Yep, even at home where we have a table and large island the kids end up on the floor playing board games.


Can I just say I always look forward to “hearing” your Aussie lingo? Cubby, slippery dip, mozzie nets…such fun words! Can’t wait to see the cubby after you round up all the wood in your neighborhood ;)


Thank you!


I want one for me!!


Ants & carpenter bees, I can deal with. Spiders, no thank you! Glad you didn’t encounter any. Here in FL, it would be one, big gigantic spider nest. Just a few weeks ago we discovered a super-weird spikey spider egg sac in.the.mailbox! A brown widow egg sac (a slightly nicer cousin of the black widow, but geez man). I live inside the spider mecca of the US, so sadly, my kids will never get to experience this. They will have to live vicariously through Mama’s A-frame stories. Enjoy! And leave it just like it is — it’s perfect!


I love this. So great! I love that it works for all ages. I would have LOVED to have a place like this as a kid to hang with friends…play barbies or read books. A transistor radio would be great!
I’m seriously bothered by the negative comments. I don’t understand people. I do understand that this may not appeal to everyone but I don’t understand taking the time to negatively comment. What is to gain by that? I am baffled. Dana your style is very different than mine. You probably would not care for my house much at all. But, I admire the way you style your home. Many elements work for me in my home. Often you make me rethink things and see what is possible.

Just because you are a child does not mean you have to be surrounded by bright primary colors and cheap plastic toys.


This is AWESOME. The original exterior, the M*A*S*H vibe (my parents & I loved that show, along with Dynasty…yeah), the simplicity so that the kids have the freedom to just be kids. I think some people have an idea of what the kid(s) in their life like but every kid is SO different. This clubhouse is perfect for letting imaginations run wild. For eating chalk. For butt cheeks on the wall.



LOVE this clubhouse and all that it stands for to you. Please do me a favor and do NOT touch the exterior! It is perfection! In all it’s rustic glory. The hammock swings were just the right touch.


And P.S…that sweet niece of your is beautiful! She looks like a model chosen specifically for this “shoot”. Please tell her I said so. :)


It’s PERFECT! I have really fond memories of my treehouse growing up. It was in a huge pine tree, so you got covered in sticky pine sap (?resin) getting up to it. I used to leave my dolls up there and they would get all sticky too – to this day, that pine smell takes me instantly back to many happy hours spent in my tree. I don’t remember it getting spidery – and we have some Mean Spiders here in Sydney, google red back or funnel webs if you want to scare yourself – maybe the pine resin kept them away? Built in bug repellent! Happy days, now your kids can make some wonderful memories of their own x


I LOVED this post – teared up through the entire read :-) Your design skills are fantastic, and the design here is perfect, but what I love most is that what always comes first is your family’s comfort and the way the space will function best for all of you. You are a gifted designer, writer, and most important, Mom. Thanks for sharing this.


this treehouse reminds me of my childhood treehouse. although ours was not as styled, or styled at all, more like bare bones! but we spent every waking minute out there, making lots of memories. one memory in particular comes to mind when seeing your treehouse, and that was the time that a neighbor dropped the galvanized bucket on my brothers head, splitting his forehead & sending him to the hospital for more than a few stitches. so let your kids know not to drop the bucket all willy-nilly, or maybe consider replacing the galvanized bucket with a not quite as cool plastic one. :)

Absolute perfection and so “real.” I love the wall color and although I would’ve loved to see white, it would’ve looked good for .01 seconds! I adore it all and want to move in- so jealous your kids get to grow up with that memory.

Where did you get the wooden/red thing that adorns the window? I’m in love with it.




Gah!! I LOVE IT. I so wish I had this space when I was growing up (or even now! Who says grown ups can’t have tree houses?) the dumb waiter was such a good idea from Steve and you did a fabulous job making the interior look so effortlessly cool. My only criticism is that it really could have used some “butt cheeks” on the wall ;)


Don’t paint the outside- it looks like all it needs is a good pressure washing! That will keep the lovely natural feel, but do away with the dirt/growing things on the outside.


The wood slice garland is from an etsy shop called Okra Kids. It will probably end up in the boys’ real bedroom but I thought it looked cute here, too.


You’re the best. xo


What a fun clubhouse – I hope the kids use it. If they don’t, you should use it as an adult quiet time/reading room. I wish I had one of those.


I really appreciate your comment, Michele. The radio idea is genius! I’m definitely going to look into getting one.

And, of course!, I don’t expect everyone to like my style. The world would be a boring place if we all had the same houses and playhouses. When I share projects, they’re never meant to be prescriptive but maybe they spark an idea or inspire a similar project or make you think about something you’ve never thought of before. Maybe not. That’s okay, too.

I follow many bloggers and designers whose style (and resources and experience and budget) is waaaaay different than my own but I still find them inspiring. I think that’s the most exciting thing about the online design / DIY world. You can certainly “copy” an idea (and there’s really nothing wrong with that) but I’ve found the best projects are usually a personal twist on a previously presented idea.

And, I agree, kids don’t need a bunch of toys to keep them occupied. xo


I love the roughness of it. I went to a camp as a kid that had “treehouses” like this where we camped out. Somewhat open to the elements, unpainted, unfussy. Kids spend plenty of time in bright, clean, finished spaces. I wouldn’t have painted the exterior, either. :) I like that there’s room for them to bring their own fun to it.

One low-maintenance idea I thought of, if they end up using it a lot… Screens that attach to the windows with velcro all the way around. That way they can shut out the bugs if they want to, or keep the windows wide open for leaning out and throwing acorns at intruders!


So cool. I would have loved a fort like this as a kid. We played in a “rustic” wood shed full of black widows (with a dirt floor & no windows), and we thought that was great, so this would have been like the Ritz of forts to us! I would be the one sleeping in the cot every night, though. I still like sleeping in the backyard tent with my boys when the weather is nice. We get the sounds of pool pumps though, more than the sounds of crickets, so I think this is perfectly dreamy!

OMG I loved MASH growing up. Both my parents are retired military, so my like was all Army all the time as a kid. The clubhouse is absolutely fantastic. Its such an amazing place for the kids to hangout and grow up. I totally woulda left “butt cheeks” in the photos! Boys will def be boys. The walking sticks are awesome.


I don’t understand your comment, Michele. There were only 2 comments that could be considered negative and both of them were kind and polite. I don’t even know if you could call them negative, they just offered another viewpoint. Surely Dana didn’t start this blog to only garner praise. Opposing viewpoints can be a great source of inspiration!


Love this so much!!! We actually just moved in to our own “under dog” There was an old chicken coop in the back that we power washed and cleaned out. I painted it and it is now a sweet playhouse for our 3 kids. Ages 5,3 and 1. Would love to share pics of it with you…I think I love it more than the kids do!


This is such a sweet post – all about making a special place for making memories with your kids and remembering the ones you made with your sisters growing up. Love it! These will be special memories for your kids and you! My kids love when I do even something as simple as organizing a little craft area for them. They really do appreciate when we make these efforts. Enjoy!!


Yes! Email me pics!! I’d love to see it.


Maybe you should consider putting in a weatherproof shed near the treehouse so you dont have to lug all the soft stuff back and forth. And you can store the cots in there in the winter


My dad has a glorified barn (with A/C and wood burning stove) just a few hundred feet away from the clubhouse so we can easily store items there!


Nice clubhouse! Alot better than the few slabs of plywood I had nailed up in a tree when I was younger. Looks alot safer too. Saving this one.


Actually, Michelle, she specifically asked for opinions at the end of this post. Just because a reader (which Dana is certainly grateful for – they provide traffic to this site which provides income for her family) disagrees with her choices doesn’t make it negative.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” – George S. Patton


The auction for that blanket is dead here is the new listing: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=301283291900


I just found this post and love this clubhouse! Perfect!

[…] of the blogs I love to read is House Tweaking. In her roundup from 2014 she posted about updating a clubhouse at her dad’s house for her kids, nieces and nephews. I love this design, so simple and fun […]