Few dwellings capture the imagination like tree houses—and when they're designed by talented architects, the effect is positively enchanting. These 16 tree houses pack in fantastical features ranging from bicycle-powered elevators to metal slides and built-in hammocks perfect for stargazing.
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The 4TREEHOUSE is a two-ton, 410-square-foot tree house suspended 20 feet off the ground from steel airline cables anchored to four tree trunks. Toronto–based architect Lukasz Kos says, "This was really a parameter-driven project. That is, I had to let the trees decide how the house would be."
Oakland–based O2 Tree House uses steel, wood, and glass to create tiny pincecone-shaped homes that look like ornaments hanging from from the treetops. Best of all, they're available for purchase—so you can have your own forest getaway.
Germany–based Baumraum makes some of the most striking treetop homes we've ever laid eyes on. This 450-square-foot cabin sits on top of 19 steel columns. Each of the company's dwellings is designed to be "in dialogue with the tree, whether in a contrast or a symbiotic way," says architect Andreas Wenning.
This egg-shaped wonder is located in Malga Priu, a mountain farmhouse retreat in Tarvisio, Italy. Claudio Beltrame and DomusGaia designed the tree house with three levels and a smooth, round facade that's inspired by pine cones.
Free Spirit Spheres are the ultimate wanderlust retreats. The spherical dwellings are suspended in midair, however they offer all the comforts of home—including electricity, appliances, and plumbing. Three spheres are now available for rent in Canada, and two more are currently being built.
Idaho native Ethan Schussler has been obsessed with tree houses since he was young. Although Schussler lives off the grid and pays little attention to pop culture, his tree house went viral when he uploaded a short clip of himself riding his "bicycle elevator" into the sky. The video has since reached 2.1 million views, and it has been picked up by major news outlets such as CNN and Fox News.
Nestled in the forest next to Qiyun Mountain in China, Bengo Studio's tree house hotel features staggering cantilevered rooms. Guests can mimic the experience of climbing through the surrounding cedar trees by exploring different vantage points across each of the stacked rooms. The hotel stands 118 feet tall, so it doesn't exceed the height of the surrounding trees.
If you've ever wanted to live like Tarzan, then this whimsical tree house in Dorset is for you. Designed by Guy Mallinson and Keith Brownlie, the tree house is thoughtfully planned with playful details from top to bottom. Atop the retreat you'll find a hot tub, and down past the spiral staircase you'll find a metal slide that takes you down to the ground level.
This "treesort" in Tala, India goes to great lengths to incorporate local trees in its design. While the abode is made of a variety of materials, the color palate is purposefully neutral in order to emphasize the verdant greenery throughout the resort.
This tree house in France by Atelier Victoria Migliore wraps itself around the surrounding pines. The charcoal exterior makes a strong statement, while playful features such as suspended nets and swings add a touch of whimsy.
Designed for the Boy Scouts of America, the Sustainability Tree House atop Mount Hope in West Virginia informs visitors about conservation and the environment. Even the staircases feature factoids to read while climbing the next level.
This Swedish getaway by Snøhetta offers towering views and a pine-printed base that conceals its appearance when viewed from below. A double-layered mesh net surrounded by glass walls provides the perfect spot for stargazing.
This Texas tree house was inspired by the ravine that lies below. The Yoki House is named after the Hopi word for rain, and it incorporates a soaking tub with views of a babbling creek. "Water is life—one of our most precious resources, and ArtisTree tree houses are designed to let people experience nature’s resources more intimately," says designer Will Beilharz.
Chilean firm UNarquitectura designed the Quebrada House to stand on stilts, thus preserving the surrounding ecosystem. The home's open living areas feature expansive windows that frame views of the surrounding foliage.
Sitting in the middle of a lush 14-acre property, the Inhabit Tree House offers the perfect weekend escape. The cabin's angular form is meant to "contrast against the organic forms of the forest," says designer Antony Gibbon. The Inhabit Tree House is available to rent through AirBnB.
Baumhaus Halden is a prefab tree house clad in charred chestnut with an onyx steel frame. The prefab cabin was manufactured in Germany before being transported to its building site in Halden, Switzerland.