What started out as a weekend project with a couple of 2 x 4’s and a piece of plywood ended in a magnificent 4-level treehouse built in and amongst a triangle of sweet gum trees. In 2002, I worked every day with my Simpsons co-worker, Michael Mahan to build the 250 square foot treehouse that has a different look on every level.

The first floor has a country feel including a “Talk Tube” to communicate between the 1st and 3rd floors. A large sweeping stairway leads to the 2nd floor which is a whimsical version of an old european cottage.

Entrance to the 3rd and 4th levels is by a secret hidden doorway. Those floors have a Polynesian feel including a wooden bucket pulled up by a ship’s wheel that lifts supplies for the refrigerator!

It’s illuminated by 17 small fixtures in tiki torches & coconut shells, which makes for many enchanted evenings.

The 4th floor crow’s nest is 30 feet up and offers views of the surrounding mountains.


When Rick Polizzi discovered that the Costco swing set he bought for his children was too big for his Sherman Oaks front yard, he vowed not to disappoint his two young daughters. So he put up a platform between three trees for Hannah and Bryce, now 12 and 8, and they loved it. But Polizzi wasn’t satisfied.

Two months later, a wood shake house materialized in the branches of Polizzi’s sweet gum triangle. Four levels high and equipped with Looney Tunes-like contraptions- talk tube, bucket-and-pulley system, hidden door- it reflects the complexity and quirkiness of its creator, a producer on “The Simpsons.”

“I can’t do anything small,” Polizzi says, as he climbs into the playhouse in which kids of all ages play. “Everything’s got to be a big production and a big hassle – that’s my curse in life.”

You don’t have to be Polizzi to build such a manse, or other elaborate play set, for the kids. The San Fernando Valley is full of custom-designed tree houses, forts, cottages and near-amusement parks. When we put out the call, readers responded in droves, eager to share their own backyard creations.

In a small back yard in Mission Hills, Dennis Walcott, a 60-year-old woodworker, watches his grandkids ride the gravity-propelled roller coaster that he built for them.

Walcott’s twin 12-year-old grandkids, Ken and Amanda Robone of Thousand Oaks, are strapped snugly into the two-seat rail car, emblazoned on the sides with “Back to the Future.” As the car leaves a wooden treehouse, it grips the elevated track, dipping and climbing and then circling back around the tree before the 45-second ride slows to a stop.

“It rides really smooth,” says Ken, fresh off the ride that he asked his “Papa” to build.

The roller coaster was constructed piecemeal over three years. When it was ready to be assembled, Walcott sent his wife on a long weekend so that when she returned she would be surprised.

She was, he says.

“It’s mostly for the kids, though,” adds the doting grandfather of 14.

“The kids tell all their friends and then they come over. So there’s always little kids here to ride it.”

Here’s the treehouse and the girls all decked out for the holidays.