If you were anything like me when you were a kid, then you spent rainy weekends fashioning makeshift hideaways out of blankets, sheets, pillows, and cardboard. These were our forts, and they were the coolest. Fort building was all about exercising your imagination and, in a way, some control over your world—you were the architect and the ruler.
And then you got older. Life became super serious or complicated or lame or just different; you no longer had the time or the desire to construct crude little encampments in the middle of your living room. I’m here to tell you that this must change. You need a fort now more than ever.
Sometimes simply being home and separate from all of the noise, anxiety, and responsibility of the outside world is enough to make you feel calm and protected; but other times, especially when whatever is bothering you has managed to follow you home, you need something more: you need a sanctuary within your sanctuary. During moments like these, I build forts.
Forts are cozy, not only because of the blankets, sheets, pillows, and other soft construction materials involved, but when you enter one, you’ll almost instantly recall all of the innocence and wonderment of childhood, and that’s cozy too. Even if you never built one as a kid, once you crawl inside of a fort you will still be reminded of being young. Fetus young. Forts have womblike properties.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Build one yourself. As my neighborhood’s preeminent fort builder, I’ll help you get started.
The sheet fort and the pillow fort are the easiest and quickest to build.
The Sheet Fort
With all of its soft, flowing fabric, the sheet fort is lavish and probably best suited for romantics. In fact, some people (i.e., me exclusively) believe that many of William Shakespeare’s sonnets were inspired by his devotion to the sheet fort. An early draft of Sonnet 18 goes “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s fort? / Thou art more human-y and less linen-y; / Rough winds do shake the darling sheets of m’fort.”
2. Solid piece(s) of furniture to serve as a frame (chairs, love seats, a table, etc.)
3. Clothes pins/potato-chip-bag clip/hair claw (optional)
1. Drape sheets over stuff. I know it sounds difficult, but you’ll get the hang of it.
The frame of my fort is made out of three chairs and a vacuum cleaner. Once you’ve finished draping you’ll have the most gorgeous tent/shanty house looking fort on the block.
What to look out for:
All of that draping does create a light, airy look, but if you’ve sealed yourself inside, things can obviously get stuffy. Unless you’re attempting a vision-quest sort of a thing, make sure that you have a large entrance flap for ventilation purposes.
If you start to sweat at all (whether or not you’re doing a vision-quest sort of a thing), the sheets will really hold in that stale, sweaty smell. So in addition to ventilation holes, I’d suggest bringing in some air freshener or scattering a few fabric softener sheets around. Stay away from scented candles! One false move in these tight quarters and that’ll be the end of your fort building days, my friend.
The Pillow Fort
Harking back to its militaristic origins, the pillow fort is like a battlefield foxhole sans all the guns and peril. This might be why it seems a lot more defiant and aggressive than the sheet fort. To put it another way, if forts were David Bowie songs with the word “dance” in them, the sheet fort would be “Magic Dance” and the pillow fort would be “Let’s Dance.”
1. Pillows, pillows, pillows
1. Stack pillows on top of other pillows and repeat until you run out of pillows.
What to look out for:
A pillow fort isn’t incredibly sturdy and will topple over if you lean against the sides, agitated members of your household attempt to take back the pillows you stole from them, or your cat tries to jump on top of it.
Blankets and a flashlight (for nighttime) are the most practical and basic items that you’ll want to have. But because forts are really about playfulness and recapturing the innocence of childhood, I’d also bring a cherished classic chapter book or one of your favorite YA novels. For me, The Phantom Tollbooth—the story of a bored boy whose journeys through a fantasy land enable him to see how interesting the real world is—always seems like an appropriate choice.
Keeping with the nostalgia theme, juice boxes, fruit snacks, and anything that reminds you of an elementary-school bagged lunch will make a fitting meal. You might even consider putting all of your food into a paper bag with your name written on the front of it.
Fort life breeds creativity, so don’t forget your notepad, pens, pencils, crayons, and any craft projects that you might be working on.
A note on technology:
Bringing a laptop into your fort is OK, especially if you’re using it for music, writing, or DVD-viewing purposes. But I like to keep the texting, tweeting, and Facebooking to a minimum. Those things can be distracting and detract from the magic of the experience. In my opinion, it would be far more fun and meaningful if you invited one of the friends you’re communicating with online over to hang out with you in your fort.
These are all of course just guidelines, simple tips to get you started. This is your fort, your own mini dream home, so it should look exactly the way you want it to look and you should do whatever you want to do while you’re inside of it. As Shakespeare once said, “To thine own fort be true.” ♦