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Steal This Look: A Backyard Tree Fort


Steal This Look: A Backyard Tree Fort

May 8, 2017

Everybody needs a clubhouse. May we suggest a tree fort? In Toronto, artist William Askew designed one on stilts that we’d love to have in the backyard. Here’s how to recreate the look:

(N.B.: Wondering if the inside of the fort is just as charming? Read on for Askew’s interior photos. For more information, you can contact William directly at [email protected])

Photography courtesy of William Askew except where noted.

Above: Part spacecraft, part treehouse, “the kids love the thing,” says Askew.

A sculptor by training, carpenter Askew designed and built a playhouse sophisticated enough to keep everyone happy, including the neighbors who have “to look at it all day.” His tip: use unfinished cedar to build the structure. Surrounded by trees, the fort doesn’t actually require one for support because it’s on stilts.

red cedar board menards

Above: Naturally resistant to weather and rot, unfinished cedar lumber is available in a variety of lengths, widths, and thicknesses. A 16-foot-long Red Cedar Board that measures 6 inches wide (and 1 inch thick) is $21.99 from Menard’s, which offers a wide selection of sizes. Photograph via Menard’s.

“I like how cedar ages,” says Askew. “It turns a nice gray.” For more outdoor-ready natural wood accessories, see 10 Easy Pieces: Budget Friendly Unfinished Wood Furniture.

Above: Askew split a cedar tree down the middle to make a rustic ladder, adding rungs made of maple boughs joined with 1-inch tenon joints. For a similar rough hewn look a 7-foot- Rustic Aspen Log Kiva Ladder made of aspen logs is $181 from Log Cabin Rustics. Photograph via Log Cabin Rustics.

Above: Askew built a wooden bench intended for adults, but, he says, “it seems the kids have taken that over.” For outdoor cushions and bolsters, try West Elm’s Outdoor Cushions for prices ranging from $14.99 to $39.99. Photograph via West Elm.

stone jigsaw pavers belgard

Above: Irregularly shaped pavers interlock to create a puzzle pattern. For similar Arbel Stone Jigsaw pavers, contact Belgard for prices. Photograph via Belgard.

yellow folding side table lowes

Above: A yellow side table adds a jolt of color. Shine Company’s 19-by-19-inch Cedar Square Patio End Table is naturally resistant to moisture and insects; $53.74 from Lowe’s. Photograph via Lowe’s.

Above: Ellipse Chairs by Roost are an update of a vintage classic; $300 each from Modish. Photograph via Modish.

Want a glimpse of the tree fort’s interiors? Designer Askew sent us some photos that show the inside is just as inventive as the facade.

Above: Wall-mounted levers are for make-believe. They activate invisibility cloaks and make the spacecraft fly faster, says Askew, adding,  “Jokes aside, the hand crank does work to bring a bucket up or down as needed.” Photograph by William Askew.


Above: A real-life trap door and ladder. Photograph by William Askew.

Above: Pivoting windows add visual contrast to the boxy structure. A safety fence prevents falls. Photograph by William Askew.

To inquire about Askew’s pricing and availability, contact the Toronto-based builder here.

For another playhouse approved by discerning parents, see A Playhouse That’s Kid-Friendly Without Kitsch. For another wooden outbuilding we love, see A Bohemian Surf Shack in Topanga Canyon. And if you’re about to build, browse our Before and After projects for inspiration.

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