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June 2012
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Magical treehouses for boys and girls

Story by Jessica Toren Photography by Vicki Hunkler and Ellen O'Nan

Visitors to Dr. Patrick Withrow's home in Paducah enter along a quarter mile tree-lined driveway. Known as the "Enchanted Forest," many of the trees are decorated with hand-painted faces and accessories. Withrow's grandson, Beau, loves to visit and play among the trees, many of whom he has named.

But the real highlight of Beau's visits is the times spent in his three-story treehouse on the 12-acre property.

Rough & rustic

The tree house was originally built over 20 years ago and has been enjoyed by each of Withrow's five grandchildren.

"He's the only 4-year-old I know with a lakefront view!" Withrow jokes about the treehouse's prime location, which overlooks his two-acre pond, complete with fishing dock, paddleboat, and gazebo.

"It just seemed like the ideal place for a treehouse," Withrow said.

Made from rough oak and pieces from a saw mill, the treehouse is coated every year with Thompson's Wood Preserve to protect it from the elements. It features a hammock, two slides, rope swing, balcony and a fireman's pole to slide down. The top level houses two antique school desks for seating.

The treehouse only took approximately two weeks to construct.

"I built the basic structure first, then the porch, then added the slide and the fire pole. I worked in spits and spats and did one thing at time and it all worked out," Withrow said about the construction process.

"All of the grandchildren have loved playing in the treehouse. Beau could climb the rope ladder before he was 2. It gave him a real sense of accomplishment," Withrow said.

Frilly decor forsleeping porch

In contrast with Beau's rustic treehouse is the beautifully decorated room at the home of Flora and Mike Smith, also in Paducah. Flora wanted to create a feeling of a "girly treehouse" for her four granddaughters when she added a sleeping porch onto the girls' bedroom.

The sleeping porch is attached to the bedroom by French doors. "We added onto the house to create the sleeping porch. The current doors used to be outdoor doors and the room had a balcony," Smith said.

The walls of the porch are covered in white wooden shakes and the ceiling features white tongue and groove boards. The floor is a Crème de Marfa travertine in a matte finish from Home Floor Center.

"With the wooden shakes on the wall, you do not have to put anything else on the walls. They really help give the room some dimension," Kauffman said.

Floor to ceiling windows allow natural light and a view of the backyard, filled with mature trees.

"The girls love it. It's like being in the trees. They love to have tea parties and play dress up out here," their grandmother said.

The porch is furnished with twin beds and a small hand painted table with two chairs. It also features a chandelier from Southfork Lighting with matching lamps and sconces on the walls. A three-drawer striped chest from Thomas Furniture in Paducah is topped with family mementos.

Smith spent a great deal of time to create the perfect room for her granddaughters.

"I never had a grandmother when I grew up. My husband has fond memories of his stepgrandmother. We had the space and I wanted to create a special place for the girls," Smith said.

Her favorite feature in the main bedroom is a large feather bed. The headboard and footboard were made from a reclaimed fence.

"I never had a feather bed, but my aunt had one and I loved it. When we designed the room, I thought, 'What can I do to make them remember being here? A feather bed!'" Flora said.

Interior designer Laura Kauffman helped Flora complete the project. They picked out the wallpaper in the built-in bookshelves first, then chose other colors to match. They also played with pieces Smith already owned when designing the room. She said mixing and matching pieces is a great way to take a room from "blah to ah" very quickly. She also made the bedskirt for the feather bed.

The granddaughters are currently 14, 10, 10 and 9. "When they come to visit, it's no-holds barred," Smith joked. "They use the room and the pillows come off the bed!"

Smith has filled the room, which also has an on-suite bathroom and large closet for toys, with antiques and family heirlooms.

"We have been married for 37 years. The very first lamp I bought for our first house is used in this room. I remember I was so happy to be able to buy that lamp!" Smith said.

The room features white built-in bookshelves with wallpaper added to the back. The shelves house stuffed animals, the girls' birth announcements, and tea sets handed down from Smith's mother and grandmother.

The room also includes a sitting area with two yellow recliners from Thomas Furniture and a nook with a play kitchen.

The very feminine room, painted in "Grandma's Attic" by Benjamin Moore, holds many memories for Smith. "This room has changed over the years. There used to be more stuffed animals and small toys. This is a happy house," Smith said.

Kauffman described the room as a special retreat and escape.

"I think is what we dream of as little girls. I could imagine beginning many stories with 'Once upon a time' in this room," Kauffman said.

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