260 Square Feet of Tree House Is All a Portuguese Family Needs for the Summer

It has handbuilt furniture, a roof deck, and a slide—and you’ll dream about it all winter.
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In the coastal town of Melides, Portugal, architecture and woodworking studio Madeiguincho recently completed a 260-square-foot tree house surrounded by towering, 100-year-old pines. Founder Gonçalo Marrote designed the tiny retreat, named Columba, for Maria Viegas Neves, who lives full-time in Porto and sought to build a place on her aunt’s property where she and her two school-age sons could spend their summers.

"My sons and I usually stay in different houses each summer," says Maria. "This year, we stayed at Columba—we’d watch the sunset from the roof, have a drink on the porch while preparing dinner, and when it would get chilly, we’d go inside where it was warm and cozy—it was perfect."

Inspired by a pair of 100-year-old pine trees, Madeiguincho designed this 260-square-foot tree house in Melides, Portugal.

Inspired by a pair of 100-year-old pine trees, Madeiguincho designed this 260-square-foot tree house in Melides, Portugal.

The tree house features a rooftop deck and a steel slide beside the entry staircase.

The tree house features a rooftop deck and a steel slide beside the entry staircase.

Wrapped in Japanese cedar, Columba features a lower level with a living area, a kitchen/dining area, and a bathroom. A wooden ladder leads to the upper level, where there’s a bedroom with a skylight and a door that opens to a rooftop deck. By elevating the structure, Marrote created space for a sheltered outdoor area. "We raised the main platform by about eight feet, creating a covered ground-level terrace beneath the house that allows for all types of usage," says Marrote.

The shade from the elevated structure joins the shadows of two pine trees near the house. "All of our decisions for the Columba tree house were made considering these two magnificent centenary pine trees—they were our main inspiration when it came to the design and construction."

A cork wall provides texture and subtle pattern at the entrance to the tree house.

A cork wall provides texture and subtle pattern at the entrance to the tree house.

The tree house’s floors, walls, ceiling, and built-in furniture are entirely wrapped in wood.

The tree house’s floors, walls, ceiling, and built-in furniture are entirely wrapped in wood.

The site specifically inspired the second-level bedroom and rooftop deck. "There’s a dialogue between the house and the pine trees," explains Marrote. "The bedroom at the top creates a direct connection with the treetops. The skylight allows the residents to admire the trees while in bed, and light from the house illuminates the trees at night. When you’re on the rooftop deck, you’re standing right beside the trees, and you understand their scale."

The kitchen it outfitted with birch plywood cabinetry and counters.

The kitchen it outfitted with birch plywood cabinetry and counters.

Built-in benches provide a place to sit and dine or view the landscape.

Built-in benches provide a place to sit and dine or view the landscape.

Marrote built the interior walls, kitchen cabinetry, counters, and built-in furniture from birch plywood. He laid the floor with pine, and finished the bathroom with thermo-treated pine. "Columba is made almost entirely of wood, which connects the house to nature," says the architect.

Birch plywood walls and pine floors bring texture and warmth to the bedroom on the first level.

Birch plywood walls and pine floors bring texture and warmth to the bedroom on the first level.

The shower’s thermo-treated pine walls display a subtle pattern that adds interest in the bathroom.

The shower’s thermo-treated pine walls display a subtle pattern that adds interest in the bathroom.

To mitigate sunlight, Marrote used Japanese cedar to create awning-style window shutters. "This really helps, since the summers in Melides are extremely hot, and the winters are cold," says Marrote.

Awning-style wood shutters help mitigate sunlight and keep the tree house cool.

Awning-style wood shutters help mitigate sunlight and keep the tree house cool.

A ladder made from Japanese cedar leads to the upper-level bedroom, where a skylight provides views of the treetops and sky.

A ladder made from Japanese cedar leads to the upper-level bedroom, where a skylight provides views of the treetops and sky.

As enchanting as the rooftop deck, the built-in furniture, and the wood finishes are, the steel slide that runs along the entrance staircase might be the home’s most charming feature. "The slide is fun and functional—we always try to incorporate the idea of childhood memories in all our projects," says Marrote.

A small door in the upper-level bedroom connects to the rooftop deck.

A small door in the upper-level bedroom connects to the rooftop deck.

The upper-level bedroom is situated with tree house’s apex. 

The upper-level bedroom is situated with tree house’s apex. 

But Maria’s favorite aspect of the tree house is the bedroom and the rooftop deck. "Whether you’re inside looking through the ceiling glass, or out on the deck, you can peacefully contemplate the landscape and the starry night sky," she says. "We watched the sun rise and set between the pine treetops—there’s nothing like experiencing Melides in a wooden tree house."

The rooftop deck offers 360-degree views of the epic landscape.

The rooftop deck offers 360-degree views of the epic landscape.

The architects created a shaded outdoor area beneath the tree house.

The architects created a shaded outdoor area beneath the tree house.

Architect Gonçalo Marrote of Madeiguincho walks the perimeter of the tree house.

Architect Gonçalo Marrote of Madeiguincho walks the perimeter of the tree house.

Floor Plan of Columba Tree House by Madeiguincho

Floor Plan of Columba Tree House by Madeiguincho

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