This Triangular Tree House Adds Whimsy to a Backyard in Australia

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By Samantha Daly
An angular addition breaks the rules of suburbia.

When Phorm Architecture + Design was asked to design a backyard extension for a young Australian couple, they were stepping into uncharted territory. Typical house lots in the suburb of Brisbane are long and thin, with traditional timber and tin houses that politely occupy the street edge, but leave largely empty spaces at the rear of the lot.

The backyards of these homes "tend to be overgrown, unruly spaces and are the domain of children and makeshift structures. The tree house is devised as an invitation to visit and engage with this distinct yet typically unchartered territory," says architect Paul Hotston.

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Sliding walls open up the lower level and embrace the surrounding landscape.

Sliding walls open up the lower level and embrace the surrounding landscape.

Designed to be a "weekender in the backyard," the 452-square-foot tree house takes a grown-up approach to the classic children's cubby house.

The western wall of the treehouse is clad in metal to shade the structure from afternoon sun.

The western wall of the treehouse is clad in metal to shade the structure from afternoon sun.

The triangular shape comes from the owners' desire to not completely fill the backyard area, while also accommodating the stately, deciduous tree at the center of the space.

The southern wall of the tree house is made out of a translucent screen. In the afternoons, the staircase catches brilliant shadows from the surrounding tree line.

The southern wall of the tree house is made out of a translucent screen. In the afternoons, the staircase catches brilliant shadows from the surrounding tree line.

A climbing wall on the ground floor mimics the playful atmosphere of a children's tree house.

A climbing wall on the ground floor mimics the playful atmosphere of a children's tree house.

The homeowners wanted a space to accommodate their interests: gardening, looking after their ducks, or relaxing in the shade provided by the canopy of trees on the property.

The homeowners wanted a space to accommodate their interests: gardening, looking after their ducks, or relaxing in the shade provided by the canopy of trees on the property.

A small workspace overlooks the surrounding garden.

A small workspace overlooks the surrounding garden.

The interior of the tree house is made up of a set of informal spaces, including a loft on the top floor.

The interior of the tree house is made up of a set of informal spaces, including a loft on the top floor.

The walls of the space are clad in plywood.

The walls of the space are clad in plywood.

A skylight brings air and light into the bathroom. Because it is outfitted with amenities like plumbing, the tree house can also act as a self-contained dwelling.

A skylight brings air and light into the bathroom. Because it is outfitted with amenities like plumbing, the tree house can also act as a self-contained dwelling.

The veranda-like platform allows the homeowners to rest comfortably in their outdoor space during every season.

The veranda-like platform allows the homeowners to rest comfortably in their outdoor space during every season.

Building upwards—the treehouse is two stories tall—allowed the architect to keep the structure's footprint small, yet still hidden from view amongst the surrounding trees.

Building upwards—the treehouse is two stories tall—allowed the architect to keep the structure's footprint small, yet still hidden from view amongst the surrounding trees.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Phorm architecture + design / Paul Hotston and Yohei Omura

Builder/General Contractor: Marvel Constructions / Entony Lanca  

Structural Engineer: Optimum Structures / Murty McKeague

Lighting Design: Phorm architecture+design / Paul Hotston 

Interior Design: Phorm architecture+design

Cabinetry Design/Installation: Sunshine State Cabinets / Brett Thomas

Steel Fabrication/Installation: Watkins Steel / Des Watkins