After a couple expressed disappointment that their city wouldn’t permit a backyard treehouse for their four grandkids, their designer and builder chimed in with an idea. “I mentioned that I'd been toying with the idea of building a hobbit-like playhouse,” designer-builder Bryan Grossman says. The clients were immediately taken with the idea and set out to create a curved-roof dwelling fit for Middle-earth.
Grossman nestled the new playhouse in a stand of pine trees. He already had the arched doors, so he used them as a starting point and created the same arch in both the roof and the overhang above the door. Offsetting the door also resulted in the somewhat skewed roofline, which adds to the fairy-tale feel, as does the siding, which is composed of cedar shake roofing shingles installed one by one in a random pattern. The shingles have a coat of clear sealant to bring out the color variations.
At that point, the playhouse had plenty of charm, but it still didn’t have the hobbit-like character Grossman was hoping for. So he added bright yellow trim and blue shingles on the roof. One of the homeowners also joined in on the design process, selecting decorative touches such as colorful real and fake flowers, small pots, a rain chain, a birdbath, animal statues and deer cutouts to add to the look.
Partway through the project, the homeowners also decided to add a tube slide, so Grossman built a 6-by-6-foot platform off the side of the playhouse as the launching site. The bright yellow slide perfectly matches the yellow trim.
A curved ceiling and a multi-level roofline make the playhouse equally as charming on the inside. The ladder to the left leads to the outside platform and slide. In addition to the overhead ceiling fan and light, there is a small HVAC system hidden behind the slatted area on the back wall. A mushroom table and matching stools continue the whimsical vibe.
Grossman used antique windows he already had and scattered them on different walls. He added piano hinges so they could be opened and closed.
Light blue paint keeps the interior feeling fresh and open but not “too princess-y,” he says. Grossman chose the color because he heard it might deter spiders and other bugs. He went with a semigloss paint for the same reason. “I’ve found that gloss or semigloss paints help prevent cobwebs from attaching easily to walls and corners,” he says.
While the space is designed for the grandchildren, rumor has it that the grandparents also relax here when the grandkids aren’t around.
The side yard had water issues that made it difficult to keep a lawn alive, so Grossman turned it into a play area with two swing sets and a slightly raised platform that encircles the tree between them. A wide river-rock pathway along the play area and past the playhouse adds to the woodsy feel.
The doors off the small flagstone landing to the left lead to an indoor play area.
It’s not quite a treehouse, but the platform around the tree includes mounted steering wheels, perfect for when the kids need a pirate ship. Even the small garden shed at the back of the space has a decorative element to tie it in.