Our beautiful new backyard called to me much like I imagine a blank canvas calls to a painter. It was lush with landscaping and perfectly manicured with a gorgeous pool. But, I wanted something more for the kids. Something different, something to spark imagination. I searched high and low for ideas. If only I had known about Pinterest when I embarked on this project. I turned to my children and our new Florida lifestyle for inspiration. My son wanted a bait shack, my daughter a surf shack. I found Kids Crooked Houses (www.kidscrookedhouse.com). Their adorable playhouses were unique and fun. I ordered a kit from Maine and began preparing. The kids and I headed to the paint store to pick out colors. We selected four shockingly bright colors from the Disney collection for the walls and a few more colors for a sky, cloud and rainbow. Happily, we found Lowe's had matching adult and children adoranack chairs and some fun matching pillows. Michaels had wooden arrows that we dressed up with some paint and vinyl letters before attaching to a pole to make our own Key West inspired sign. The local surf and fishing stores were prime locations for bait & surf shack theme items and kept us busy while we waited for the kit to arrive (about three weeks).
While the children were in school or sleeping at night, I tore out a large area of sod and plants. I flattened the ground, ran plastic edging and laid landscape fabric. I redid landscaping beds and laid new sod. This was by far the most difficult and time consuming part of the project. The kit arrived on a pallet in 10 or so very large pieces. With a little help from a few strong friends, the pieces were moved to the backyard. In a few hours, we had assembled the kit (on top of paver stones to keep it out of moisture and level). To add to the bait & surf shack theme, I cut 6 foot timbers in half with a saw, drilled holes in the top and ran boat rope through them and then spaced them out in front of the playhouse. With 90 bags of kids' rubber mulch poured, a hammock added between the citrus trees and monkey bars constructed (see below), the yard renovation and playhouse construction was complete.
With the kit assembled, it was time to involve its new owners. So, the four and five year old were given paint brushes and let loose inside the playhouse to paint the walls while mommy stained the roof, porch and columns. When the paint dried, we hung boat cleats on the walls to hold galvenized buckets for the kids' trinkets (decorated by the kids with beach themed stickers). We hung a small surf board, some painted wooden fish, wind chimes and a fish sign. A dry erase board with a few starfish glued on it makes the perfect artist corner. The kids put down peel and stick linoleum on the floor so wet kids, wet dogs and snack spills would be easy to clean up.The hurricane company drilled hurricane bolts into the ground so I can strap the house down in the event of a storm. We added a door mat, custom sign (Blake & Ansley's Bait & Surf Shack), a bright plant, a fake anchor, a stone lobster and stone crab out front for the final touches. The adoranack chairs, pillows, Key West inspired sign, a fire pit and a few more flowers finished the area.
To create more play space and a safe area for my favorite little monkeys, my dad and I built some homemade monkey bars. With some pipe, a few couplings, a lot of concrete and a modest amount of digging (with a post hole digger), anyone can build these in a few hours. The three varied heights help the bars grow with the children's age and athletic ability and also let multiple children play simultaneously. It is definately a favorite at our house. Rubber mulch is highly recommended under the bars.
Blakely and Ansley adore their custom Bait & Surf Shack and play area, as do all of their friends. I love that they helped to build it and take great pride in it. It is as unique, fun and inspiring as each of them.