How I got started in designing playhouses

It was a time when Spyrius and Ice Planet 2002 ruled the day, with a few Space Police II and Unitron groupies thrown in for good measure.  I was pretty well off with the Spyrius Robo-Guardian, Recon Robot, Spyrius Lunar Launch Site and, thanks to my uncle, the friggin Ice Station Odyssey.  Of course that was nothing to what my best friend had, the Unitron Monorail Transport Base, model 6991. With a base price of $178, 573 flashy pieces and complete with the Spyrius Droid and a reconnaissance vehicle that the train can slide into and drive away in, it was every boy's dream!

My 8 old mind ragged with jealously, clouded with unprecedented avarice and animosity.  I demanded from my parents that I have the same and was met with rolled eyes and a sigh of impatience.  Apparently, it was their opinion that it would last a week and end up in the huge pile that slowly accumulated in a basement bin for the last 4 years.  Could they not see the yearning in  my face?  The heart they were about to break?  The tears that I shed?  Nope.






He had the Deep Freeze Defender too, model 6973.  Jerk.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, you obviously weren't a boy growing up in the early 90s.  We're talking Legos my friend, Legos ruled my life.  Now it's bills, but then, Legos.

It was at a very young age when I learned my love to build things with my hands. Whether it was Legos, Lincoln logs, Knexs or piles of dirt in my backyard with some used Tonka trucks, I had to build something. I was also a perfectionist.  All my construction toys had to have perfect symmetry and order, completely contrasted to my friend who loved to  pile on tons of extra pieces to whatever model he had laying around and then mercilessly crash them into the dresser.

Growing up, I wasn't really sure I knew what my dad did for work, but once I got to middle school, I knew that it wasn't what I wanted.  He studied to be an electrical engineer at Purdue, but the job market lead him into coding.  Nearly daily, he would come home and complain about the blatant inefficiencies of the poorly written C++ he had to put up with, unloading a mass of computer jargon upon my mother, who never understood a word he said and after a few minutes of patient listening asked if he got the mail.

I'm aware there's an argument that computer code is an art and certainly a field that requires quite a bit of design, but it's not a composition that a normal 8 year old would have in mind if they were handed a pencil and paper and asked to form an idea.  I enjoy working in the physical, he worked in the abstract.

I went to a prep school who's business was to get us all into some kind of college or university.  Expressing my idea to go to a carpentry trade school was understandably not much of a hit for my career counselor, especially since the school had a 97% college entry record.  Still I got into a 2 year program, one year being rough carpentry, such as framing walls, and the 2nd year in finish carpentry, such as drywall, stairs and cabinetry.  For a little while I had the ambition to build my own house, inspired by a 3500 square foot beauty I used to regularly drive by.  That went away after I realized that the time spent building the house is time without a paycheck.

It wasn't until the company I worked for two years went under that I found a truly fulfilling line of work that I'm still a part of today.  There was one single craigslist ad, seeking a slightly experienced carpenter for a tree house construction company.  I was intrigued.  I used to climb trees when I was younger, especially a red cedar in my parents front yard that was weighted with low branches and had a great view of passing car's sunroofs; sometimes they were holding coffee!  That was the first sentence I wrote for the cover letter along with my resume.  It turned out that there were 80 applicants seeking this job, but I was chosen first because of that sentence.

I now have over 5 years of tree house experience, and it's been a blast.  In many ways, you're able to live vicariously through the excited kids who get to have something really cool you never got to own.  There is so much creativity and imagination in building tree houses.  No two trees are alike; every one of them is different, every yard as well.  I'm sure that if you take a look at my company's website, you'll see just how customizable and unique every one of them can be.  Building tree houses truly is a great outlet for creativity and design.

It wasn't just tree house ideology I've learned either, but in our slower seasons, I learned HTML, SEO and Sketchup and designed a few websites and tree house concepts.  It was soon after then that I realized that CAD was a great way to convey real life woodworking projects to people, something that I was about 35 years late to the game for.  But I figured better late than never.

So, why not start a on-line designation where I can share the opportunity to build their own projects?

All the playhouses that you see on my website were thought of by me from the point of both a carpenter and a younger me who wanted to build something cool while still being very practical.  I literally have spent at least a few thousand hours thinking about ideas, designing, writing the sometimes 60+ page plans and coding the website.  Even if I only sell one plan a month, it was worth it.

I hope there's people out there that can relate and find something they like while browsing the pages.  Build something awesome!

Now only if I could design a Ice Planet playhouse....

- Paul Gifford




June 18, 2015 — Paul Gifford