My Path to Magical Playhouses

I didn't always build playhouses. My first real job as a carpenter was with Pete Nelson of treehouse fame. This was in 2005, and he had visited Seattle Central's Wood Construction Center (where I attended class) as a guest lecturer. I was hooked. For whatever reason, he hired me for the summer, and I was lucky enough to go to California with him on a project for a client's children. It really was more of a playhouse than a treehouse, and looking back on it, maybe that's where the seed was planted. That's me on the left.

Pete admitted that this was by far the lowest 'treehouse' to the ground he'd ever built.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I grew up on Bainbridge Island, WA, in a log home my father built. I was always an artist and in high school I was voted "Most artistic." I nearly went to art school, but I liked eating regularly, so instead, I attended Western Washington University. After graduating with honors with a degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Management I found myself a desk job with an environmental non-profit.

I went stir-crazy.

I was used to working summer jobs for outdoorsy groups like Alaska Wildland Adventures, Olympic National Park, Alaska State Parks, the Scenic Hudson Land Trust and the Student Conservation Association.

On top of that, I had the building bug.

Building my own home, like father, had always been a life-goal, but with little to no idea how to build a house, I began to look at my options. I could show up at a job-site with no tools (real or metaphorical) and push a broom for years until someone called in sick and someone handed me a saw, or I could go to school. Now, don't tell anyone, because I'll lose my street cred, but I did the latter. And it was good, because I met Pete. And through an instructor at school, I met Greg, of Campfield Construction, who I still hold in the highest esteem, even though he laid me off.

But it was 2008. Everyone got laid off. Everyone.

After getting married my wife and I moved out to Port Townsend, where I miraculously had a job waiting for me. But those building contracts had been signed before the recession and after a year and a half everyone got laid off. Again.

This was right around when my wife and I bought a house and were pregnant with our first. But it would be okay. She had a good job and we always said that I would be better suited to be the stay-at-home parent. So after our daughter was born and she went back to work I started a new job - one that was far more demanding than any day I'd had swinging a hammer.

My new boss screamed, a lot: when she was hungry, when she was tired, when her diaper was full, and sometimes for no discernible reason at all. It took some readjusting. I found myself the sole tenor while signing 'The itsy-bitsy spider' at the baby storytime at the library. For the next four years I was a stay-at-home dad. I still took on side work, just to keep my tools from rusting and my brain from turning to mush, but from 9-5, five days a week, I was a diaper-changing, breastmilk-defrosting, baby food-blending, Baby Bjorn-wearing, magical boo boo-kissing, Super Dad. 

Around the time my daughter turned three, she was eaten by some sort of pink princess/fairy/mermaid. It was around then that she stopped going outside. I was miffed. "How is this possible? I'm an outdoorsy guy." Why wouldn't she want to go out in the backyard, in the 50 degree Northwest drizzle and do...what? Sit on a wet swing? Play in the puddle, which in the summer was the sandbox'? Prune the hedges?

There wasn't anything TO DO. I realized that for the seven months of the year, when most of us hunker down in our well-lit, heated homes, I was expecting my daughter to happily saunter out into the yard, plop herself down in the wet grass and smile like a crazy person. 

So I began sketching plans for a playhouse. I was a carpenter after all. So, after a summer of working into the long daylight hours after my wife came home from work, the School Haus was the result.

It is the focal point of every playdate and every party we host. It also turns heads of everyone who walks past our house, including my woodworking friends, who all universally told me, "You should sell those!"

And so, Magical Playhouses was born.