written by:
April 15, 2012

Our latest special issue, Dwell Outdoor, is on newsstands now and available to order here. A guidebook of sorts for making super-livable indoor/outdoor space, Dwell Outdoor pulls out some incredible al fresco rooms and highlights never-before-seen houses, treehouses, fire pits, and pools, as well as the products to re-create them at home. Here's an excerpt, featuring a wooden perch hidden in the treetops of British Columbia.

A world-class ski resort, Whistler, British Columbia, is known as the playground of the well-heeled with mansions to match. In stark contrast is builder Joel Allen's egg-shaped treehouse suspended above a hemlock tree. A former software engineer, Allen designed this modest 200-square foot retreat to include loft sleeping quarters, an outdoor deck (with views of the snow-capped Tantalus range), and a work area tucked behind the stairs. Over the course of four summers, Allen built his getaway using $10,000 worth of castaway items collected via Craigslist. “People thought I had gone a little bit mad,” says Allen. “I was compulsively refreshing Craigslist every two minutes waiting for that next item to come up and grab it before anyone else.” Here’s a look inside:

Joel Allen had always dreamed of building his own home and this miniature treehouse was the first step.
Joel Allen had always dreamed of building his own home and this miniature treehouse was the first step.
1 / 11
Having no formal architecture background himself, Allen enlisted the help of friends to gather some ideas for the design. After one such conversation, he hit upon the idea to use the egg as as a basic volume. “The thing that I really loved about it was th
Having no formal architecture background himself, Allen enlisted the help of friends to gather some ideas for the design. After one such conversation, he hit upon the idea to use the egg as as a basic volume. “The thing that I really loved about it was this idea that you could hide the structure in the form. In most tree houses you’re looking up at them from the bottom and all you see is its support structure. You don’t get a good sense of the form of the actual tree house.”
2 / 11
Allen trudged in and out of the Whistler forests looking for the perfect spot to build. Finally, after investigating a patch of old-growth trees, he discovered a hemlock that stood at the precipice of a 20-foot drop.
Allen trudged in and out of the Whistler forests looking for the perfect spot to build. Finally, after investigating a patch of old-growth trees, he discovered a hemlock that stood at the precipice of a 20-foot drop.
3 / 11
Allen’s tree house is a challenging walk away from the nearest roadside or electrical source. Allen had to first construct scaffolding, then a deck to store his building materials. Then, with the deck in place, he built separate platforms for waste and fo
Allen’s tree house is a challenging walk away from the nearest roadside or electrical source. Allen had to first construct scaffolding, then a deck to store his building materials. Then, with the deck in place, he built separate platforms for waste and for materials so he could finally start building the treehouse proper.
4 / 11
Eighteen-foot-long ribs run from top to bottom to form the treehouse's struts. The floor package runs into the ribs and creates a triangle, which negated the need for more structural support. During construction, Allen broke one of the long ribs but rathe
Eighteen-foot-long ribs run from top to bottom to form the treehouse's struts. The floor package runs into the ribs and creates a triangle, which negated the need for more structural support. During construction, Allen broke one of the long ribs but rather than throwing the material away, he repurposed it for the entryway.
5 / 11
After realizing he didn’t have enough money to complete the project, Allen started scouring Craigslist for materials. At summer's end, the apartment he shared with his fiancée was stacked to the rafters with his internet finds. “We hardly had a place to s
After realizing he didn’t have enough money to complete the project, Allen started scouring Craigslist for materials. At summer's end, the apartment he shared with his fiancée was stacked to the rafters with his internet finds. “We hardly had a place to sleep,” says Allen.
6 / 11
Inside, the tree house boasts built-in furniture Allen crafted from his free Craigslist finds. “If I would have used pre-built furniture, it would have just dominated the space,” says Allen.
Inside, the tree house boasts built-in furniture Allen crafted from his free Craigslist finds. “If I would have used pre-built furniture, it would have just dominated the space,” says Allen.
7 / 11
Allen cleverly used the oft-forgotten space behind the stairs as a work area complete with a built-in desk.
Allen cleverly used the oft-forgotten space behind the stairs as a work area complete with a built-in desk.
8 / 11
All the main siding was made from a clear cedar that was once the interior of a sauna. “The cedar was in pristine condition because it was indoors all its life,” says Allen. He received the cedar all busted up because wreckers had ripped it out of the sau
All the main siding was made from a clear cedar that was once the interior of a sauna. “The cedar was in pristine condition because it was indoors all its life,” says Allen. He received the cedar all busted up because wreckers had ripped it out of the sauna with crowbar. Undeterred, he simply broke it down and made new edges that would fit the sides.
9 / 11
“I designed around all the materials I had in our suite,” says Allen. Glass from broken cabinets became windows, a double pane full-height door turned into a sliding glass door (after Allen added his fiancée’s rollerblade wheels to the track).
“I designed around all the materials I had in our suite,” says Allen. Glass from broken cabinets became windows, a double pane full-height door turned into a sliding glass door (after Allen added his fiancée’s rollerblade wheels to the track).
10 / 11
Allen credits his fiancée for being an instrumental part of the building project due to her gift for grasping spatial concepts and her ability to make Allen’s ideas real. “She knew what I was talking about and could come up with elegant solutions,” says A
Allen credits his fiancée for being an instrumental part of the building project due to her gift for grasping spatial concepts and her ability to make Allen’s ideas real. “She knew what I was talking about and could come up with elegant solutions,” says Allen, “I never once had to rebuild anything after she got onto the project.” The two are now in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, building small custom-tailored houses for lakeside retirement communities.
11 / 11
Joel Allen had always dreamed of building his own home and this miniature treehouse was the first step.
Joel Allen had always dreamed of building his own home and this miniature treehouse was the first step.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016