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Wandawega Lake Resort, Part 1: The Tree House

Camp Wandawega co-owner Tereasa Surrat gives a tour of the property’s storied Tom’s Tree House and its handcrafted elements.

Hi, my name is Tereasa, and we are here at Camp Wandawega in my favorite room on the property. This is the tree house, and I’m going to take you on a tour. So the tree house has several levels. If we start at the bottom, on the ground level, you’ll notice we have this cute little hammock. Everyone loves to spend time napping in that one. Just above the hammock, we’ve got what we call the dining room of the tree house, and that consists of a really big, heavy table that we made out of salvaged timbers. My friend Steven Teichelman built it for us, and it’s resting right now on a couple sawhorses. Then you’ll see this constellation of lights that my husband, David, made out of Mason jars. He probably spent $10 apiece making those with light kits you can get from a hardware store. And they’re on a dimmer, which is the best thing. I like to put dimmers on everything. So as we move up on the tree house to the next level, this is the main level, the one that we’re in right now. And you’ll see that we have an inside and an outside. We have a couple design elements that I particularly like. One of the details is a chair we have sitting outside that I reupholstered with a vintage laundry bag sack, and it was a wooden folding chair from the turn of the century. And then we’ve got a great element that all the kids love, which is a pulley system with a basket on it, so you can wheel up toys and games and food, and ...of course, we use beer quite a bit when we’re up here entertaining, so all of our friends like to use the portable trolley system. Then when we move inside the cabin, you can see that we’ve got two levels inside here. It’s 16 feet from where you stand all the way up to the peak. On the first level, we treat it like more of a sitting room with a couch, a couple midcentury modern benches and a couple end tables. Then at the top level, we have two sleeping lofts: one that’s a full bed for two people and the other side is for a twin in the library. So one of my favorite things about the tree house is this library wall. People love to spend time up here, and all of the books on the wall, for the most part, have to do with Wisconsin, and bird-watching, and hunting, and regional topics. We have a bed up here with hairpin legs that I always like to layer with Pendleton blankets and some homemade pillows that we made from resurrecting everything from window curtains to hides to flower sacks. We even have a couple pillows up here that are made from old sweaters. They’re easy to stitch together. One of my favorite details as well is this guardrail. The guardrail is actually made from an old ladder we found in our garage here, and we’ve got some supports that keep it sturdy so you won’t roll out. Another great project was our antler chandelier. This chandelier started out as a Home Depot chandelier, believe it or not. I disassembled it, took only the bones, and then built new suspension rods for it out of rope, and then wove in all of these antlers that were sheds that were found on the property here at Camp Wandawega. We have almost 25 acres, so you’ll see we have lots of them. So we nested all those in, wired them together with a combination of fishing line and wire, and then I just used Edison bulbs for them. And then to anchor it, we used this pulley system. We found some great vintage pulleys at one of the crawl spaces here at Camp Wandawega, and now we can raise it and lower it, as we need to. Another fun detail is a telltale sign of my dad again. This whole tree house is a memorial to my father, whose name was Tom. On both of the doors, there’s a big T in the center, and we salvaged those doors from our house in Chicago. So that’s the story of our beloved Tom’s tree house.