It’s not easy to build a background house around a tree (or trees). If you do your job well, the trees will continue to grow, but you won’t have to rebuild your treehouse every year. Some of the best treehouse designers in the world have opened up to PM about how they do their job and shared photos of their favorite creations.
2. The Treehouse
Not all treehouses are deep in the forest. All it takes is a good strong trunk: this Scots pine does the trick. Derek Saunderson and his team at Amazon Treehouses fashioned the Lodge after an existing house on land in the Scottish Highlands, using a two-tier support system of planks that hug the tree both in its midsection and close to the ground.
There is nothing about this lochside dwelling that is not picturesque. It has lots of windows facing the water which provide views and natural light. Its staircase, which is not to be outdone with the rest of the construction, runs between two large pine branches to go up to the Lodge.
Treehouses like this don’t come cheap – an elaborate treehouse like the Lodge can cost around $100,000.
3. David Wenzel Treehouse
Bill Allen of Forever Young Treehouses has made a name for himself building treehouses that are handicap accessible, and this tree at Nay Aug Park in Scranton, PA is no exception. He built houses for camps and parks, and the Nay Aug Park structure is the tallest house he built – it sits 35 feet off the ground, right on the edge of a waterfall that tumbles at 125 feet.
Allen’s treehouses tend to be quite simple at first glance. They rarely include amenities unless a camp expects children to sleep in the treehouse overnight, in which case they will add electricity and a bathroom. For him, a tree house in itself is quite special: “I feel like there is a lot of electricity in the world,” he told PM, “but there is no ‘there aren’t many treehouses 35 feet off the ground’.
Rather than using an elevator, the Nay Aug park structure instead has a winding, gently sloping ramp leading up to it. This keeps traffic flowing and provides an undeniably pleasant view.
5. Free Spirit Sphere
Canadian company Free Spirit Spheres, run by Tom and Rosy Chudleigh, takes a unique approach to the idea of what a tree house can look like. Its distinct spheres have been shipped to buyers around the world, and the Chudleighs have two variations of their design: the smaller, Eve, 9 feet in diameter, and Eryn, a ten and a half foot.
Tom Chudleigh does not make every sphere the same. “It depends on the interior layout,” he said, “they’re all custom-made.” For some clients, a sphere can be as simple as a vacant play space for children. Others, including the two spheres rented by Chudleigh, have all the services and comforts you would expect from a small apartment.
The spheres are insulated, have wires and plumbing, and can easily be heated with an electric heater. Since her rental spheres are on her property, Chudleigh currently has them plugged into the network. Its goal, he says, is to “move to a village full of spheres in the trees,” like a resort, that would be out of the way and off the grid.
6. Bogwon Island Wood Treehouse
The “Bogwon” treehouse at Island Wood in Washington is supported by a single tree. Engineer Jake Jacob and his team at the TreeHouse workshop secured the house to the trunk with a series of limb-hugging rings. “Our trees are actually perched, instead of nailed down,” he told us. “The tree can move in the wind and we don’t want to prevent the tree from being able to move in the wind.”
The Bogwon, built for a non-profit environmental learning center, serves as a classroom for students interested in the environment.
Just in August, the Bogwon was rearranged because the tree had grown a little since it was erected, and not accommodating this growth could damage the trunk. “We consider that we have failed in our job if we have not remained respectful of the trees,” said Jacob. “Tree health is paramount. We try not to mess with how the trees heal themselves – they actually grow reaction wood and literally get stronger.”
7. Longwood Gardens
Another treehouse from Jake Jacob and his TreeHouse studio, the Longwood Gardens abode in Pennsylvania looks more like a cathedral than anything else. It’s supported by both trees and pillars of the house on the ground, but the real challenge was installing a specially cut $38,000 window.
To get the job done, Jacob used a blocking and tackling technique called a “treehouse rig” that his team helped develop. Basically, a strong tree is almost as effective as having a crane on site: “We use the trees we work in as pick-up points for serious rigging,” Jacob said. “Trees can help move a lot of things up, but also horizontally.” Luckily, there was a path leading up to the house, so Jacob and his team could transport the 12-square-foot glass to the doorstep of Longwood Gardens and install it.
The Treehouse at Longwood Gardens accompanies three other treehouses already on site and serves as a rustic vantage point from which to enjoy the gardens.
8. The Lantern
The lantern, located in the Santa Monica Mountains in California, is interesting for its use of copper. The home builder, Roderick Romero, generally uses exclusively salvaged and found wood. “I like to take something that has to be structurally sound, that has to be designed,” he says, “and then work it to look natural.” The design and name originated from a trip Romero took to Morocco, where he fell in love with some ornate lanterns he saw. So he installed a copper top and bottom commissioned by local church builders.
Using copper was a bit more difficult than wood, which can be shaped more or less on the fly by a skilled builder. Romero’s team found they had to send back parts that were only a few millimeters away to be reworked.
Like Romero’s Costa Rican treehouse, the Lantern can serve as a humble living space with a raised bed inside and an Incinolet toilet that turns all trash into fine ash compost.
9. The Cedar Spire Treehouse
The castle-like appearance of the Cedar Spire appeals to those of us who have treated our treehouses as pirate forts and fantasy getaways. Derek Saunderson of Amazon Treehouses was commissioned to build Cedar Spire when a 500-year-old cedar tree on an estate in Scotland lost its largest limb to lightning, and the owner wanted something to fill the void. And why not patch it with a 45-foot-tall castle tree, right?
Cedar Spire is as spacious as it looks, with enough room for a dozen people to enjoy a meal both inside and on deck. Its stained glass windows reinforce its magical atmosphere. It also has a second floor, accessed by a ladder, which Amazon Treehouses describes as “the perfect spot for an exciting sleepover.” For the adventurous, there is also a zipline that leads to a tree 600 feet away.
10. Greenwood Family Home
Like many treehouse builders, Charles Greenwood lives there himself. It gives it a place to tweak and experiment, much like someone would in their garage. One of the results of his tinkering is the flexible power supply you see in the image above, which Greenwood installed to help compensate for the natural movement of the trees supporting his home. Hoses can be problematic in strong winds, and flexible plumbing, hidden under the stairs, works just as well.
The Greenwood house additionally accommodates its Douglas fir sway as it is mounted on the tree with flexible joints. Greenwood lived in the 700 square foot house for four years; it has two small terraces with balconies, full plumbing, electricity and everything you could want from a house on the plot. And his tree house literally rocks.
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