Smithfield couple's dream home
includes indoor treehouse with elevator
By Di Lewis
February 13, 2006 | SMITHFIELD -- The journey
up the driveway is deceptive; the house does not
appear that large from the road, but according
to its owner, Smithfield resident Tom Worthen,
that was one of the goals.
SWEET: Tom Worthen stands outside his
unusual Smithfield home. / Photo by Di Lewis
"We wanted a place that would be everything we wanted,
but not look like it as that big," Worthen said.
The 10 acres of land that the house is situated on
are also home to a view of the mountains, a creek, and
Worthen's current house, which he said will be converted
to a guest home when his new house is done.
"When Gaylen and I moved here, we came from Oregon
and wanted someplace with trees. So we drove every road
from Cove to Paradise, and decided we really liked this
spot. A week later it was put up for sale and we grabbed
it," Worthen said.
Among the many comforts the house will offer when
finished are a swimming pool, basketball court, theater,
game room, elevator, and treehouse. Worthen said the
house is built to accommodate the needs of his family
and job. The entire home is handicap accessible and
has an elevator so older relatives don't have a hard
time getting around, and because of an undiagnosed muscle
condition his daughter Annie has, which makes it impossible
for her to climb stairs or do much physical activity,
Love and consideration for his family is evident in
the design of the house.
"Annie will never be able to climb a tree, so I did
the next best thing," Worthen said, in reference to
the treehouse that is built inside his home. Worthen
said a company in Salt Lake City made molds of real
trees to create realistic bark for the trunk, and leaves
and branches will be applied to the tree to make it
realistic. The elevator is at the core of the trunk,
making it possible for his daughter to play in the tree.
"Even though the house is large, we designed it to
be very open," Worthen said. "Nothing's really isolated,
because if Annie falls down we have to be able to hear
The way the bedrooms are designed also allows for
Annie and his son Jarren to easily play together.
"They really enjoy spending time together, and so
we made it so their bedrooms will open up into a central
playroom," Worthen said. The house also contains a wing
with a recreation room and bedrooms for Worthen's teenage
children, Tim and Kyrsti.
"When debate starts up again this is probably where
we will hold practice rounds," Worthen said, talking
about his role as volunteer coach for the Utah State
University speech and debate team. Worthen, known as
Dr. Tom to students and employees, said he thinks the
new house will be a good place for the team to work
in a more informal setting.
The home is also designed to accommodate older relatives,
Worthen said. The "in-law suite" is built to provide
independence for any of his relatives that need to stay
with him, Worthen said, while still allowing them to
be part of the family.
An extra long dining room was built for family gatherings,
Worthen said, because his wife Gaylen "has 48 people
in her extended family."
Worthen said offices for both him and Gaylen are part
of the plan as well. Dr. Tom and Gaylen Worthen own
the Logan business Creative Communications, and need
a place to work at home. Gaylen Worthen's office also
has a balcony to provide good light for the artwork
she does, Worthen said.
Worthen said the first time he didn't live in a trailer
was when he moved to college and that Gaylen Worthen
has 13 siblings which made her childhood home crowded
"I guess we overcompensated," Worthen said, joking.
The building is home to many unusual features such
as three tulikivis, a soapstone fireplace from Finland,
which Worthen said will heat the house for 24 hours
with just one fire, because he gathered the materials
and then found a contractor to assemble them, instead
of the other way around.
Worthen said the heating and lights in the house are
completely automated, allowing them to be controlled
from the Internet and the controls for the new house
and his current one will be linked.
"It will just be a great place for the kids to play
and hang out and for family and friends to come over,"
Worthen said. He said the home should be done by August.
The treehouse door. / Photo by Di Lewis