One of many fond memories I have of growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere North Dakota is building forts and playhouses with my sister and brother. Mom helped us turn an old shed into a very cool playhouse, with white painted shelves for our dishes, and bright red curtains for the windows. We had many tea parties with the mail lady, and various cats and dolls stood in as extra playmates.
All winter long, my daughter has been making forts and tents out of our sofa cushions. She and her brother spend lots of time sliding down the sides and hiding in their own little caves. Now that much of the play day is spent outdoors, my husband and I were looking for a way to create a simple play fort for the kids in a backyard that is mostly garden, and lacking in trees. We also wanted a space that would cost us very little money to build, and that could be adapted and personalized by the kids.
Last summer, Jer removed a never-used deck from the side of our house, and just happened to save all the wood ‘just in case’ he might need it someday. When I started showing him pictures of playhouses and forts and talking about designing one for our kids, he mentioned that pile of wood on the side of the garage, and I could see the excited glint in his eyes. After several discussions, we realized a 5ft x 5ft area against our fence with two additional 2ft tall sides (formerly housing our garden compost) would make a fantastic fort. All it really needed was a roof.
My husband scavenged around for a bit and came up with two long metal fence rods and some wood fence panels. They had all seen better times, but we knew they were just what we needed.
Several hours later, we had a slanted roof and a little fort that was reminiscent of a tiki hut.
I was thinking of using concrete squares as the flooring, because they are inexpensive and could be packed in tightly for an easily cleaned floor. But, my husband wanted it to be even easier to clean, because we have seen several black widow spiders around our home. So, he went above and beyond and built in a plywood floor. Now it is easier to clean out any unsavory creatures. I put two coats of primer on it, which is what the photos below show, but I bought some exterior paint today to give it some fun color.
Since a tall fence is one side of the fort, we chose to mount pegboard backdrops to give it some color and also create an interchangeable space for the kids to hang and display their things. I had the pegboards left over from a previous time, so they need to be either repainted or touched up. I would like to figure out a fun way to incorporate some of their art and craft projects to that wall, too.
We will paint a few surfaces to make it fun, but wanted to leave it pretty simple to encourage imaginative play. The addition of outdoor pillows and seating make it the perfect spot to read books and daydream, or to bring in more blankets and toys to create a hideaway.
My daughter and I have plans to make a ‘beaded’ sun screen for one of the windows, and I will likely add some washable curtains across the front at some point this summer. We added some outdoor lights and some potted plants for now. My eventual goal is to have all of the decor able to withstand the elements.
It will be interesting to see how our fort transforms with use and age. I anticipate some pirate ships, fairy castles, and island adventures in its near future.
The best part? Because we were able to repurpose most of our material, it cost us less than $80, including the plywood floor, paint, and twinkle lights. Sometimes our hoarding tendencies do come in handy!
Have you been reusing materials for something new? We would love to hear all about it.