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Diminutive Dwellings–The Popularity of Tiny Spaces

Tiny houses are nothing new—kids have always loved small structures, whether up in the trees or on terra firma. However, today’s treehouses and clubhouses are a far cry from the simple plywood creations of past generations, and Connecticut is home to some impressive examples.

Kids’ Club // Jim Gardiner, owner of CLT Development, built his family’s clubhouse as a dedicated spot for his kids and their friends to hang out. The cedar-shingled clubhouse clocks in at 400 square feet with heat, electricity, and a loft, but the fun part came in when the kids gave their input. Gardiner’s daughter wanted a say in the colors and decor, while his sons’ goal was to incorporate the largest TV possible to use for video games. The layout continues to evolve—a ping-pong table has since been replaced with a pop-a-shot game, mini trampoline, and a karaoke system. “As the kids get older, there’s a comfort in knowing they are nearby but can still enjoy some independence,” says Gardiner’s wife, Mary Kate. Although Gardiner built the clubhouse as a labor of love for his kids, Fairfield friends convinced him to build one more on their property. The additional space serves many purposes for the whole family, including football viewing parties, movie nights, and plenty of ping pong. (Rumor has it a Girls Night Out is in the works.)

Taking Treehouses to New Heights // As fourth-generation carpenters, The Treehouse (McCarthy) Brothers claim to have sawdust in their blood. Their original specialty is custom cabinetry, but the demand for their treehouses became so great, the business shifted to 90/10. In their partnership, James handled the initial design and Ryan fine-tuned the details. ”We made a great team and enjoyed working together. It’s a nice balance with our other work and involves fewer restrictions than working inside a private home. With treehouses, there are no wrong answers—it’s a more creative project,” he explains.

The rave reviews about their treehouses attracted the interest of well-known companies such as Google Business, “The Today Show,” and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Requests also poured in from producers looking to create a tv show about The Treehouse Brothers, but James and Ryan grew frustrated with the process. Networks were looking for big personalities and a novelty backstory, and weren’t focused on the carpenters’ skills or passion for their work. Ultimately, the brothers continued with what they do best—creating fun, functional, and attractive structures.

Although 90 percent of The Treehouse Brothers’ creations are intended for kids, one of their most memorable builds was intended for a marriage proposal (she said yes).“When kids are the customers, we get crazy requests. One design was based on a crayon drawing —which we actually executed,” notes James. One of his top suggestions is to include a deck. “It provides additional open space that both adults and kids can enjoy.” For the active set, he recommends multiple entrances, cargo nets, fireman poles, and climbing walls to take advantage of the treetop location. “Every­one feels nostalgic about treehouses—if you had one, you long to recreate those memories and if you didn’t, you’re excited to realize that childhood wish.”

Although Ryan has since moved out of the area, James continues running The Treehouse Brothers. His base model is a hexagon shape centered around one tree, with a roof, gazebo-style walls, and shutter windows which starts at $10,000.

Hybrid House // Thomas Lanese (photo at top) was only 15 when he began building his tiny house using plans purchased on the internet. “Thomas saw a show on HGTV and was obsessed with building one,” says his mom Deborah. “He purchased the building plans for $500 and studied them for months.” It took him six years to save and complete construction. The interior features a living area with a kitchen plus a space with a twin bed, bathroom, and a loft with a full bed. There’s even storage. The structure has been used as a satellite dorm room, mobile caroling station, parade float, and a vacation home.


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