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Tree-encircling playhouse is fun family project

Staff writer

Albert and Shawna Johnson of Marion both remember the treehouses they had when they were kids. Albert’s was more rickety than his future wife’s was, but Shawna had an advantage — her dad owned a construction company.

Carrying on the family lineage, Shawna has teamed with Albert to create a backyard playhouse at their home at 204 N. Freeborn St. for their daughters Caileigh, 5, and Carlynn, 3.

They couldn’t build the house on a tree — so they are building it around one.

The house, which Shawna hopes to have completed in time for Carlynn’s fourth birthday party Aug. 15, is made mostly of materials already in the family.

“A lot of it we’ve got from my husband’s family farm, and my dad has a lot of stuff, like those old windows were his,” Shawna said. “The door was out of our house, the telephone poles from my husband’s family farm.

“It’s neat because it has a lot of meaning. I like nostalgic things, so it’s cool we got a lot of stuff from family members.”

Shawna said she and Albert have been mutual partners in the construction process.

“I love power tools,” she said.

For supplies they couldn’t find laying around, the Johnsons have used local stores, including The Lumberyard in Hillsboro and Ace Hardware in Marion.

As for the plans, Shawna said they came up with them themselves, making them as they go.

“I’m kind of a dreamer, so I just decided one day let’s do a tree house,” she said.

The upper level is about 110 square feet, she said, and has been cut around the tree. It will have three windows and a door. It’s elevated about 10 feet off the ground and is accessible by ladder.

The girls have plans for it, too.

“They’ve got all kinds of plans,” Shawna said. “They’re painting a little table to put up there, they’ve got colors all picked out. We’re going to go buy curtains. They want a pulley system with a bucket. We might also do a sandbox underneath.”

Some of those features will come later. While the house will be christened at Carlynn’s birthday party, the Johnsons are looking to have some features added for Caileigh’s birthday in October — including a zipline.

Shawna said she and Albert had worked on “all kinds of projects” around their house — light fixtures, painting, other crafts — but nothing as ambitious as the play house. Or as entertaining.

“It’s been a blast,” she said. “I love projects. People laugh at this one, they say I’m having more fun than the kids.”

Last modified Aug. 6, 2015

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