Community festivals usually mean tasty tidbits, music, arts and crafts, rides, games . . . but constructing a magical treehouse? Why not! David and Jeanie Stiles have been building child-centered, storybook treehouses for a long time, including putting one together in just three hours before a live audience for NBC’s “The Today Show” at Rockefeller Center several years ago.
Lucky locals: On Saturday, October 20, as part of the Second Annual East Hampton Village Fall Festival in Herrick Park, the Stiles will again demonstrate how constructing a family-friendly tree house can be done. As for why? If you have to ask, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a kid — or an imaginative adult. In a world that is too much with us, where we lay waste our powers, getting and spending, giving our hearts away to sordid pursuits, as the English poet William Wordsworth once wrote, the Stiles and long-time collaborator, artist Toby Haynes — “the tres amigos” Haynes says — assisted by good friends Andrew Cafourek and his wife, Dakota, will remind everyone of the joys and challenges of working creatively and respectfully with nature.
Kids will love what they do, grown-ups will be in awe, and advocates of the environment will be impressed. As David notes with pride, “We’re building a 12’ x 12’ structure that will not touch the tree with metal objects, not one nail. We respect even the roots.”
The truth is in the viewing: On Thursday, October 18, sections of the treehouse, which had been assembled at the Stiles barn-house in East Hampton, will be moved to Herrick Park close to a tree off Newtown Lane. The wood, mostly cedar, along with hardware and rope, comes courtesy Riverhead Building Supply. Those hoping to catch the actual evolution of the “eye-catching” castle/cottage-like structure, however, will have to wait for Saturday.
For sure, grown-ups attracted to the Stiles’ delightful architectural confection, are likely to attempt the lower ladder, even though they’ll see that the treehouse, designed for children, starts at a comfortable five-and-a-half feet up. There are, in fact, two ladders, the first to the flat level, the second to the “upstairs” window, perfect for peeking out of. And, of course, as any decent treehouse should have, there will be a bucket on a pulley for the delivery of important messages or provisions. Wit and whimsy will be wonderfully on display.
Haynes has had a grand time, he reports, painting the red tile roof, the shuttered windows that open and close, the arch of surrounding stone. Inside, more eccentricities invite engagement. These include a wheel of fortune, fashioned out of an old bicycle wheel. “Eco-friendly found objects” rule in Stiles designs, Jeanie noted. There will also be activities — checking out a secret treasure chest, and “a special box with a dangerous animal within” that David with mischievous glee notes is a mirror! “The kids will love it,” he said. But parents, don’t tell them.
Their hope, said David and Jeanie, is to offer kids — and grown-ups —a broader way of looking at life beyond the iPhone, and to prompt “an exciting and unique” interaction with a world that reflects skill, challenge, and love. And, as “the three amigos” point out, though the treehouse comes down the next day, the basic sections are reusable. Who knows, the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce is planning to sponsor a Spring Festival as well.
Authors of the recently published A Fantasy Tree House Coloring Book, with captions, quotations, and charming ink drawings, David and Jeanie Stiles — he, an architectural designer, builder and illustrator, she, a writer and photographer — have been called “America’s first couple of do-it-yourself building projects.” With 23 “how-to” books on woodworking projects already to their credit, including not only various styles of treehouses (check out the Tudors on their website), but forts, sheds, gazebos, garden sheds, and cabins, David and Jeanie Stiles are eager to promote what they do as having both aesthetic and educational significance, and trust that their fabulous treehouse will prove inspirational.
The Second Annual East Hampton Village Fall Festival in Herrick Park will take place from 10 AM to 5 PM. See www.stilesdesigns.com.