In the mid seventies, Steve and Diana Rondel bought 5 acres in Redmond to build their homestead and start a family in the great Pacific Northwest. On the lower portion of their dream lot, stood a large maple tree and swamp land. That Maple is where Steve imagined a treehouse he could build for his family. Inspired by Walt Disney’s version of Swiss Family Robinson, Steve began planning his ultimate masterpiece: a four-story treehouse with a lookout, surrounded by a moat, hidden by ferns, huckleberries, cedars, firs and an oasis for birds, dragonflies, and small woodland creatures.
Treehouse construction began in 1980, soon after Steve’s first child, Brandon “Bubby” was born. A year later, his daughter Jennie was born and the treehouse was well on its way. As the building continued, six years later the youngest Rondel, Courtney, was born and the treehouse remained a unique way for the family to spend quality time together. It was during these years Bubby, Jennie and Courtney, learned to be creative, adventurous, and independent to dream and live passionately in collaboration with nature.
Steve’s eldest child, Bubby (1978-2004) quickly took to engineering, carpentry and mechanics paving the way for his sisters. After rebuilding a Jeep from an old frame, he began building his first house, aka the “Bachelor pad”, fondly called “The Blodge” (Bub’s Lodge) on the property, all before he was 18 years old. In 2002 - as an enticement for Jennie to move home after college - Steve and Bubby started a project just for her called the “Cobbage" (Cabin/Cottage). That year also brought tragedy as Bubs was in near-fatal dirt bike accident resulting in a Traumatic Brain Injury. After one year of intense rehabilitation he was able to relearn how to walk, talk and finally returned home. Tragically, additional physical and mental complications lead to Bubs death by suicide in late 2004 - the family was broken. They slowly learned how to work through their grief by coming together on homestead tasks. As the years went on, priorities on the homestead changed and the treehouse became just a part of the scenery.
As a CEO and Inventor, Steve’s had his share of wins and losses. For the family, this meant “feast and famine” as they weathered the market seasons and business tides. Bless Momma Diana as she buffered the family finances by debt dancing on plastic in the lows and doubling down on pay-off's in the highs. Her graceful juggling act hid the struggle from Jennie and Courtney, as Steve’s passions and work endeavors continued.
After the market crash in 2008, Steve dove head first into a new product and created a startup company. It was no easy task financially; living month-to-month, dedicating full-time and family resources to nourish and build the business from the ground-up. The family bonded together through the hard times and creatively managed to make it through. Diana and Jennie focused on making the homestead sustainable (thanks to Courtney guiding us on sustainability from her courses at Western Washington University), with perennial designs and low-maintenance systems. They reinvented outdoor living spaces to create a home base for family and friend gatherings. Through a connection with Pete Nelson brought a feature in episode 12, season one of Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters.” . In Summer of 2012, the family collaborated and brainstormed the restoration of the treehouse, but unfortunately found themselves once again, testing their strength and adaptability when Diana was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
Her diagnosis was a shock to the family’s system, and completely altered how they lived. Diana’s health became the priority as they frantically invested all their time and resources into new therapies and diets that would improve her quality of life and increase her chances of survival. Jennie, Diana and Steve created a garden and greenhouse in 2013 as a means for therapy and healing during chemotherapy and to begin living a more homegrown and organic lifestyle. In 2014, Embracing Whimsy LLC was established to support Diana and Jennie’s restoration efforts and the Cobbage completing its transformation from being Jennie’s home to a shared Airbnb space. Once up and running, it helped pay bills which offset the medical costs and help the family get closer to achieving Diana’s dreams for the property, to be a gathering place for the entire family to spend quality, loving time together. In October 2015, after months of intense chemotherapy and surgeries, Diana lost her battle to cancer and the family was once again hit with tragedy.
Currently, Jennie (37) and Courtney (31) are launching a crowdfund to help support restoration costs. Completion of the Treehouse and Blodge will be in honor of Diana and Bub and assisting Steve with retirement. The Cobbage is available to enjoy and supports Steve (75) with the mortgage. The family is incredibly grateful for community partners, friends and family helping support and integrate an eco-space for the property’s natural wetland habitat and sustainable future.
Provide a nurturing, sustainable, nature-immersed space
Create and support local:
Eco-integrated STEAM enrichment
Food forest education
Sanctuary for healing
Community urban garden-farmstead