The tree house near the farmhouse on the Erikson family’s Wayzata property is every kid’s dream come true—including the cabinetmaker who built it, Roger Taylor of TaylorMade in East Lakeville.
Taylor tells the story: “I was working at the farmhouse, and Angie [Erikson] comes over and says, ‘Roger, I think we need a cool tree house. Do you want to build one?’ I didn’t have to think about it, I just said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ I’d never done one before, but how often does a 55-year-old guy get to build a tree house on someone else’s dime?”
Erikson sketched out a design with a little landing and a rope bridge while Taylor began researching tree houses. “I asked around about guys building tree houses and found out about a show on TV called Treehouse Masters. Well, I’d never seen it, but I went on YouTube and got on a few links.” That’s where he found out about the special brackets that allow the trees to move and grow without wrecking the tree house. But, says Taylor, they were so ridiculously expensive he made his own from steel in his private stash of scrap metal.
In fact, the entire structure is made from reused materials: two oak logs saved from a tree cut down on the property support the back half of the house; cross arms from electrical-line poles were used for the siding; a couple cedar logs leftover from making garden trellises formed the frame; and a stainless steel pipe became a fireman’s pole suitable for quick exits. As soon as Taylor and his helper installed it, they had to test it out. “It’s just too much fun,” he says. “The kids [twins Colton and Wyatt] use it all the time.”
He also discovered there are kits for making rope bridges, but again balked at the price. Instead, he made his own. “It turned out really safe and neat,” he says. “It’s supposed to scare you a little bit and yet be safe.” He continues to add to the tree house for the boys’ birthdays—last year he made them a treasure chest and this year a kid-sized table and chairs.
The tree house actually rests among several boxelder trees, nestled into the trunks and branches so well you can hardly see it when the leaves are full. It’s one of Taylor’s favorite projects—despite the challenges of building 13 feet off the ground. “I can’t tell you how many trips I made up and down those trees,” he says. “After building cabinets for 30 years, it’s nice to be able to do fun stuff like this that’s way out of the box.”
By Chris Lee