Everyone needs a clubhouse! You can build your own backyard shelter, retreat, or clubhouse even if you have never built anything before. The clubhouse above was built in 1959 by three kids aged 8, 9 and 11, with no money or help from grownups! I know; I was the 11-year-old who took this picture. I'm sharing here what I have learned since then.
Readers of all ages are welcome to comment with their own ideas, pictures or stories.
To help you on your way, I've written a book titled "Keep Out! Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse", which is available through bookstores or at Amazon.com . Many of the items I post here are also in the book.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Play with Ideas

It's never too early (or too late) to play with ideas for your clubhouse. If you want a clubhouse, draw a picture of it. It doesn't matter how crude or crazy the drawing is, but doing it gets your brain focused - and it's fun!
When I was about ten or eleven, I drew some fantasy clubhouses...
a combination clubhouse-treehouse,

a backyard clubhouse with garden-hose privileges,

and this beach clubhouse made of driftwood.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Own Clubhouse Obsession

My favorite clubhouse, built in 1959, lasted until 2012.

I grew up in a small town in California, with my older brother and single working mom. When I was a kid, I built four clubhouses with my friends. We constantly remodeled them, planted gardens around them, drew up rules, kept club journals, and spent endless hours hanging out in these places that were our own.
Our parents never interfered unless we invited them in for an “inspection”. They trusted us to spend endless hours outside (with no cell phones!) and not maim ourselves with sharp tools. They also seemed pleased that we were doing something constructive and were out from under their feet!
When I wasn’t actually building a clubhouse, I spent a lot of time thinking about clubhouse possibilities. I was inspired by clubhouse-building stories in comic books, a memorable children’s novel, Billy Had a Clubhouse, and the 1923 edition of Audel’s Carpenters and Builders Guides. The Audel books consisted of countless ink diagrams of house-construction details, and very few words! I obsessively drew floor plans, imaginary clubhouses, and our real clubhouses covered in snow or viewed in the future! 
             Our clubhouses were of solid wood (no cardboard), tall enough to stand in and had doors with hinges. I was determined to build them “right” so I learned a lot about carpentry and wound up with some solid structures, one of which stood, more or less intact, for 53 years! I also learned some valuable social skills and other cosmic truths along the way; those things that parents and schools try to teach us, but often to deaf ears. My clubhouse-building finally ended at age 16 when we moved 700 miles away…and my grandfather and I built a bedroom!
            I continued to build other shelters after the clubhouses. I still like doing it. I studied architecture briefly in college and learned carpentry ‘on the job’ from three very different but accomplished master carpenters. For several years as a freelance carpenter, I built room additions, cabins and one house for myself; which felt like building a clubhouse all over again, only bigger.
            Professionally, I was drawn to visual art, and received a Bachelors Degree in art in 1980, at Western Oregon University. I worked as a graphic artist and designer until starting my own freelance art studio, called Oceans and Dreams, in Kaukauna, Wisconsin in 1990. I continue to work in watercolor and acrylic, painting ocean waves and seascapes of the West Coast.
            However, my interest in building small shelters, especially clubhouses, has never diminished. In 1991 I began to write a memoir about my clubhouse experiences, and sought out similar stories from other builders through do-it-yourself homebuilding magazines. I'll share these stories and what I've learned about building clubhouses in this online saga...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How Do I Start?

Have you ever wanted to build something big enough to be inside of?  A private, quiet place where you could hang out with a friend, or read by yourself, or store things you didn't want your brother (or little sister) to find? If you're a grownup, maybe it's a place to sew or paint, or grow bonzai, or just to sit and rest out just out of reach of needy family members.

This sounds like your own backyard clubhouse or private retreat!

If you've had the desire, then why not build it? Perhaps you've asked yourself:

Me...build something?
OK, so I'll need tools, right? 
Where can I get the stuff to build it with?
Where would I build it?
Will my parents, or the town I live in, even let me?
How would I put it together?

We'll go over all of these questions and more in the next several postings!