UNITY — There is something unusual taking shape on Bangor Road — something that makes it seem that travelers might be headed to Middle Earth instead of their regularly scheduled mid-Maine destinations.
Because there, right next to Unity Pond Pottery, two brightly colored “hobbit holes” have sprouted from the ground, adorned with planters that make them seem festooned with greenery and flowers. The custom-built hobbit holes are small, rounded wooden structures suitable for use as a children’s playhouse, a garden shed, a sauna or more, said Thorndike carpenter Rocy Pillsbury.
“I’ve been building houses for 15 years, doing regular construction,” he said, adding that he prefers to make the hobbit holes. “This is wonderful. This is absolutely what I love to do.”
Rocy said that his imagination was first taken with the idea of hobbit holes when he was a kid watching the cartoon version of “The Hobbit.”
“When you’re a kid, you see a hobbit hole and think you’d love to live in one,” he said.
Now, his own 2-year-old son, Richard, thinks that having hobbit holes as playhouses is completely normal.
“They’re just a fixture in his front yard,” Rocy said. “Kids love little areas.”
Pillsbury and his wife, Melissa White Pillsbury, have started a new business called Wooden Wonders to market and sell the handmade structures.
The couple used the hobbit holes as a backdrop for this year’s family holiday photograph and is inviting the public to take their own holiday pictures there, too.
“It was really fun, so we thought, ‘why not offer to let other families do the same thing?’” Melissa Pillsbury said.
They hope that people who take them up on their offer might share the photos with them to post on their website and Facebook page.
The Pillsburys said that interest in the hobbit holes has been strong.
They debuted them at last fall’s Common Ground Fair and sold six of the structures, and Rocy said that he will be building 22 more this winter at his Thorndike workshop. Those include both hobbit holes that have been pre-ordered and demonstration models to show how creative and diverse they can be.
“I’m doing a sauna, a hobbit hole doghouse, a chicken coop and a guest cottage,” he said.
He’ll build a hobbit hole that can be used as a photo-voltaic collection center that is more aesthetically pleasing than the usual utilitarian kind of structure.
All are different and all have attention paid to small details.
It takes Rocy between three and four days to build one of the basic models, which start at $2,500. A larger-sized garden shed costs about $4,500, he said, with more costs the larger and more elaborate the structures become.
Melissa chooses the color scheme for each one.
“They’re very substantial buildings,” Rocy said. “When I’m done with it, it’s got to look good. It’s got to look finished. It’s a functional work of art.”
It is technically more complicated to make a round structure than a square one, he said.
“It’s not a very efficient way to build, but it’s appealing,” he said. Because of their smaller size — and round curves — he’s able to use building materials that otherwise wouldn’t be any good to builders. The holes are built with smaller scraps of wood and are trimmed with curved cedar that Rocy finds in the woods.
Wooden Wonders can ship and assemble the hobbit holes, which are not available in kit form. Rocy said that he’s even able to do the landscaping around them.
His imagination hasn’t stopped at Middle Earth, he said.
“There are other things I’d like to do. Castles and towers, and I’ve got an idea for a pirate ship,” Rocy said. “I’d love to make a go of this.”
For more information about Wooden Wonders and the Hobbit Holes, visit www.wooden-wonders.com or call 314-4779. The outdoor showroom is next to Unity Pond Pottery at 222 Bangor Road in Unity.