You may not have seen Toby Maloy in many episodes of Treehouse Masters, but we’re certain that you’re familiar with his incredible work. Toby is an accomplished project manager with Nelson Treehouse and Supply, and is responsible for directing the entire process between treehouse design and tangible creation. An adept builder and creative leader, Toby consistently pushes the craft of building treehouses forward. Moreover, Toby is unfailingly collaborative, considerate, and approachable in every interaction – with clients, subcontractors, and crew members alike.
Toby brings years of carpentry experience to the team; before coming to NT&S, he worked as master carpenter for the Issaquah Village Theater and owned his own small construction/remodel company. What was it like to build sets for theater? What inspires Toby? Where's the coolest place he's ever traveled? Today, we’re bringing you answers to these questions and more about this true treehouse master.
WHAT BROUGHT TOBY TO NELSON TREEHOUSE?
Toby spent years working in diverse carpentry fields before joining the Nelson Treehouse team. His father was a hobby builder and introduced Toby to carpentry basics at a young age. Toby gained more skills by helping to build his family's home in Pennsylvania, and always harbored a passion and proclivity for carpentry. He briefly studied architectural drafting and engineering in college before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where he began framing houses.
After traveling widely in his early twenties, Toby returned to Washington State and starting working for an awning company. En route to jobsites, Toby would often drive by the Issaquah Village Theater and glance inside at the imaginative sets. He was drawn to the creativity of set design and construction, and before long had landed a job with the theater's scene shop. Toby met his wife, Jennifer, at the theater; she worked there as a scenic artist, painting sets that Toby had built. Toby worked as master carpenter at the theater for three years before founding his own construction/remodeling company in Carnation, Washington (near Pete's treehouse HQ in Fall City).
Toby first met Pete by chance at a small festival in Fall City in the mid-1990s. That night, Pete took Toby and several other people on a tour of one of his treehouses. In the years after that chance encounter, Toby would often see "Legs," Pete's trusty truck, around town and wondered about the "Treehouse Workshop" logo painted on its side. Then, around 2010, a pair of Toby's clients stayed at TreeHouse Point, met Pete, and discovered that Nelson Treehouse and Supply had an opening for a talented carpenter. The couple immediately thought of Toby, and referred him to Pete. In this way, Toby and Pete were reconnected after almost 20 years! Toby started working as a carpenter with Pete, and eventually evolved into the position of project manager. The rest is "tree-story!"
WHAT DOES BEING A PROJECT MANAGER ENTAIL?
In a nutshell, Nelson Treehouse project managers lead the effort to transform a design into a tangible treehouse. Once Pete, Chuck, Daniel, and/or Daryl create a treehouse design, Toby springs to action. He works with building departments to gain permits, collaborates with clients to select materials, produces shop drawings and guides the prefabrication crew, communicates with engineers, oversees delivery schedules, and much more. In sum, Toby moves the project forward and keeps it on budget. Once the project is ready to roll on site, Toby transfers management to the site lead. But he remains involved until the last minute, ensuring that the project wraps smoothly and successfully. Toby is like the drum major of a marching band: he keeps each separate section on rhythm, and leads the crew to create collective magic.
WHAT IS TOBY'S FAVORITE PART OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT?
Toby’s favorite part of project management is the problem solving it requires. He loves to work through structural challenges, design steel and other metal work, and create new ideas for fasteners and fabricated parts. He also enjoys collaborating with engineers to come up with structural solutions that are aesthetically appealing. One of Toby’s favorite longterm quests is to find new ways to make the substructure of treehouses appear more elegant and intentional. In this way, Toby continues to push the craft of treehouse building to ever-greater heights.
WHAT ARE SOME OF TOBY'S FAVORITE PLACES THAT HE'S TRAVELED TO?
In his early twenties, Toby spent a memorable year traveling around North America. His favorite experiences from that trip include backpacking in the Canadian Rockies; sleeping in front of his car at a train depot in Jasper, Alberta; seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time; and hiking through Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. Toby fell in love with the arid, surreal beauty of the American Southwest, and was blown away by the alien quality of what he calls the "eroded sandstone mushrooms" in Goblin Valley.
Toby has also done an extensive amount of international travel. He loved visiting Ireland, where his brother lived for many years, and was inspired by his explorations of Central America. Toby is an avid scuba diver, and has dived in Belize (where he glimpsed spotted eagle rays and sea turtles), the Caribbean, Honduras, Hawaii, and the Canary Islands. When he wasn't diving, Toby was probably taking photos; before starting a family, Toby studied photography and harbored a passion for artistic photographic technique. The majority of photos of Toby from his world travels are of him with camera in hand!
ASIDE FROM TREEHOUSES, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COOLEST THINGS TOBY HAS BUILT?
When he worked at the Issaquah Village Theater, Toby built an awesome version of the giant plant prop for Little Shop of Horrors. The theater production team brought a Disney puppeteer to create the outside of the plant, and tasked Toby with crafting its interior mechanics. Those familiar with the play will recall that the plant has to be large enough to fit people inside; Toby was asked to build an interior system that would fit two operators and would “swallow” actors before letting them out unscathed backstage. He had a fun time collaborating with the puppeteer to tackle this cool, creative challenge.
In terms of his own personal projects, Toby is very proud of the green roof he built over the porch on his home. Before joining Nelson Treehouse and Supply, Toby was moving into green roof consulting and design with his small construction firm. He loved integrating environmental sustainability and nature into this innovative roof design.
WHAT WOULD TOBY'S DREAM TREEHOUSE LOOK LIKE?
Toby’s dream treehouse would be small and off the grid. It would be open to the air (not entirely walled in) so that visitors would feel intimately connected with nature. However, the treehouse would also include a covered portion to allow for restful sleepovers when it’s raining outside. Ideally, Toby’s treehouse would nestle higher than 20 feet up in mighty Doug fir and cedar trees.
HOW DOES SET CONSTRUCTION COMPARE TO TREEHOUSE BUILDING?
Toby's work in the scene shop of the Issaquah Village Theater provided an excellent educational foundation for treehouse building. Like treehouses, Toby's theater sets had to be modular and transportable since they were destined for shipment to another theater. The set construction business also taught Toby to be imaginative, work with tight timelines, and translate conceptual designs to tangible products. Over the years, Nelson Treehouse and Supply has hired a total of four carpenters who previously worked in scene shops; turns out that set design/build is one of the most similar careers to building treehouses!
WHAT IS ONE OF TOBY'S FAVORITE NT&S PROJECTS?
Toby loved working on the Burl at TreeHouse Point; it was his first project with NT&S, and it showed him that treehouses could be more than he ever imagined. As a fan of innovative engineering, Toby enjoyed working with the unique steel structure for the long bridge to the Burl. He also likes that the Burl is supported solely by a single tree, and admires its small, intimate design.
WHAT'S ON TOBY'S BUCKET LIST?
Despite living in the Pacific Northwest for years, Toby has never climbed Mount Rainier; he hopes to hike the iconic volcano soon. He would also like to take his kids on an outdoor expedition like a long canoe trip, and would love to do more bicycle travel (potentially in Iceland, Peru, or Chile). Near the top of Toby’s bucket list? Building a treehouse for his own kids!
WHAT INSPIRES TOBY?
In Toby's words:
"I am inspired by my family, beauty in nature, and people who do good things, even on the smallest of scales."
Thanks for sharing your fascinating story, Toby!
We hope you've enjoyed getting to know the talented Toby! Be the first to find out about next month's Staff Spotlight by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on social media. Can you guess who we're featuring next? Give us best guess in the comments below!