Feel Like a Kid Again. Outdoor Playset for The Whole Family!

The popularity of treehouses has seen a major resurgence in the last couple of years, as evidenced by the number of television shows and publications dedicated to treehouse design and construction. Lucky for us, we have clients who asked us to design and build a new play structure that they could enjoy right alongside their children.

A Multi-Level Treehouse for the Whole Family

Swiss Family Robinson home illustration

Depiction of the “Swiss Family Robinson” home, one of the inspirations for our multi-functional treehouse.

This project came to be when the homeowners wanted to replace an aging wooden playset that the youngest of their children had outgrown. Our first design concept centered around building an enclosed room that would be placed high in an elm tree that included a deck for lounging and an observation deck on top. We designed a ladder/staircase leading up to the room and a spiral slide coming back down. Unfortunately, we noticed signs of Dutch elm disease in the neighborhood so we started considering options that would omit placing a structure directly in that particular tree.


We developed the treehouse design in close collaboration with our clients. And it was important to them that the design included plenty of opportunities for their kids to play and exercise on, in and around the treehouse. Together our vision for the structure evolved into something very “Swiss Family Robinson” in concept – a multi-level freestanding structure that connected to smaller platforms in adjacent trees via a series of bridges and catwalks.


Elaborate treehouse in Johnston, Iowa designed by Silent Rivers


Table in elaborate treehouse inlaid with stainless steel and fiber optic lights custom designed by Silent Rivers for a Johnston, Iowa home

The design of the concrete tables follows that of the railing and is inlaid with stainless steel and fiber optic lights.

The shape of the structure was intended to be organic while still blending with the modern style of the home. The structural elements are all on axis with bridges that the homeowners’ business built. The family has incorporated special symbols into the design that represent their history and travels. A platform in a Kentucky coffee tree is built to the proportions of the Danish flag with the decking laid out to form the flag’s cross, paying homage to the family’s heritage. Silent Rivers’ artisans hand-tied a rope bridge to connect back to the main platform. A support brace was also built to allow for a small shaded bench for resting and reading.
Another small platform was built around an adjacent coffee tree. This one, resembling a crow’s nest, connects back to the main platform with a large cargo net. There is also a climbing rope near the cargo net that connects to the upper portion of the central structure and swings underneath. The upper platform can be more easily accessed by a ship’s ladder and a trap door. On the upper level there is a sectional sofa and two custom-made concrete-topped tables.


A connection to the house is made by a small, operational drawbridge that connects to a long catwalk. The railings of the catwalk are metal panels made to resemble the Beijing Olympic Stadium, another place the family visited. The panels are also held in place with metal clips in the shape of the Danish flag.


Catwalk bridge to the multi-level treehouse in Johnston, Iowa designed by Silent Rivers


Angles in metal panels of catwalk bridge to grown up treehouse play structure in Johnston Iowa designed by Silent Rivers

The lines in the metal panels are the same angles used to form the platforms.


In the end, we created something that resembled a ship at dock with a drawbridge that would allow all the family members to set sail and escape from their everyday routine, any time they wanted.


See more photos of this project and other Landscape Projects by visiting our Project Gallery.

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