Photo Essay: Enchanting Tree Houses

Do you ever wish you could live like Tarzan - in seclusion, high above the ground, amongst trees and nature? Well, we have a solution for you: build a tree house. Creating a personal sanctuary in the sky that is modern, private and relaxing can be immensely enjoyable.
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And lets admit it - building a treehouse is every kids dream. So, why not make it your reality today? Browse through a variety of spaces below that we believe take the old-school tree house to the next level.

Ethan Schussler built his first tree house at 12 years old. His today, in Sandpoint, Idaho, sits 30 feet above the ground and is accessed, if not by the rope ladder, an "elevator" consisting of a bicycle that, when pedaled, ascends a pulley system to the top.

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.

The Treehouse, also part of the Post Ranch Inn, features Cor-ten panels.

To reduce impact at the site, Baumraum prefabricated the house and craned it atop 19 steel columns, arranging it so that the surrounding trees’ roots wouldn’t be harmed. From within the structure, people experience a perspective that inspires more respect and consideration of the environment at large.

The 02 Sustainability Tree House would keep even the most ardent tree hugger happy.

A double-layered net stretches between two bedrooms, providing an open terrace and a place to sleep under the night sky.

The two-story house is designed for two and contains all the comforts one would expect to enjoy in a cozy home. Inside, guests will find a circular living room with a revolving fireplace and leather armchairs, a bedroom with a king-size bed and a skylight overlooking the surrounding trees, a freestanding copper bath, a bespoke kitchen, and a modern bathroom with a flushing toilet and hot water.

Founded by a Simon Parfett, a former climate scientist who wanted to do more work with his hands, Bower House Construction designs and builds custom treehouses out of Bruton, a rural town near Somerset, England. While the entire operation may seem a bit Middle-earth, Parfett's bespoke structures speak to a love of craft and nature. From custom creations for hotels to the small Pod pictured above, a wooden prefab of sorts meant for those looking for an extra room, his designs are as flexible as a sapling.

British Columbia–based Tom Chudleigh designed the Free Spirit Sphere as a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too tree house that combines the wonder of being airborne with all manner of earthly comforts.

Handcrafted of wood or fiberglass, this lavish ten-foot-six-inch-diameter sphere is fully wired to accommodate a microwave, space heater, refrigerator, TV, Clapper—whatever. And it’s plumbed for a kitchen sink. Retractable beds sleep up to four people.

"When you’re up in the trees," Chudleigh says, somewhat evasively, "you really get the sense that you are just floating up there, that you’re in a different world." This sensation is produced by four flexible ropes that connect to the sides of the sphere, allowing it to suspend freely above the ground and move with the whim of the forest breeze or branches, intimately connecting the Free Spirit Sphere occupant with the surroundings. "It’s a really healing place up here."

Estate Bungalow in Matugama, Sri Lanka, by Narein Perera as published in Cabins (Taschen, 2014).

Stubb and her family moved to their home, located on 2.25 acres just north of Baltimore, in 2001. "The outdoors here are a big playground," she says. "We had always wanted to build something for the girls that looked natural." In the summer of 2008, they finally materialized their wish with the 128-square-foot "tree house" that they designed themselves. Drafting the plans came naturally: Laurie is the principal of Place Architecture, Inc. and her husband, Peter, is an architect at a firm that focuses on institutional projects.Photograph courtesy of Laurie Stubb.

The Flying Pigsty provides the perfect place for young boys–or pigs with wings–to wile away summer afternoons.

The interior of a treehouse at the camp features a wood-burning stove and antler chandelier.

A clerestory around the perimeter of the butterfly roof gives an illusion that the roof floats over the box of the treehouse.

Designed by the renowned firm Snøhetta, the structure hovers 10 meters above the ground with a black-and-white print of the canopy covering the bottom façade, creating a trompe l'oeil effect. The two bedrooms, bathroom, lounge area, and netted terrace are arranged across two slightly different levels, accommodating up to five guests.

Climb into this snug tree house and watch the world from the inside, through the modern, circular window. 

Casey Key House

In this playful treehouse-style bedroom, custom arched windows surround the room and meet the wooden ceiling. Elements of wood and modern architecture draw the sound of rustling leaves and midday breeze into this cozy treetop retreat.

Architect: Jerry Sparkman;  Architecture Firm: Sweet Sparkman Architects

One of the models Parfett designs is the Tube, a slender room that can be built off site. Mellen says the company wants to do more "off-the-peg" designs like the Tube and Pod, to add more affordable and easily integrated models. Each tree house is assembled in pieces via sophisticated computer technology in a warehouse to maximize control and minimize waste and on-site disturbance.

"This was really a parameter-driven project," explains Lukasz Kos, a Toronto-based designer and cofounder of the architecture firm Testroom. "That is, I had to let the trees decide how the tree house would be."

At the base of the tree, a staircase rolls on casters upon two stone slabs, allowing occupants to enter and exit regardless of how much the tree house may be swaying or rocking in the wind. Solid plywood walls punctuated by a floor of red

PVC constitute the "opaque" base story, which is largely protected from the outside elements. "The idea was to have the tree house open up as it gained elevation," explains Kos. The second story is surrounded by a vertical lattice frame, allowing for breezes, air, and light to filter softly through walls while still establishing a visual perimeter between outside and inside space. At top, the tree house is completely penned in, a suspended patio with a ceiling of sky.

Visitors learn about energy and water conservation as they climb outdoor staircases that lead from the forest floor to the 125-foot-high rooftop rising above the leaf canopy. Photo by Joe Fletcher.

Achieving such efficiency and maintaining the integrity of the wetlands and woodlands on the property meant more research for both the designers and the resident—just getting approval for the siting of the buildings and the driveway took eight months—but Hague is hardly one to do things half way. "A lot of times couples engage in house-building, like birds. I'm doing this solo, more like a monk," he says of the deeply personal undertaking.

Outside, on the wooden deck, a hammock invites guests to take a break and unwind; an open-air tree shower offers the perfect opportunity to freshen up after exploring the forest, just before enjoying a meal prepared on the barbecue or a pizza baked in the wood fired pizza oven. A spiral staircase leads to the top level where a hot tub and a sauna provide the ultimate relaxation experience among ancient oak trees.

Radamés "Juni" Figueroa lived in his art project tree house, made from found materials, for two fortnights, as part of his artist residency at La Practica at Beta-Local. "The Practice" is an interdisciplinary program of research and production focusing on art, architecture, and design, with an emphasis on collaboration.

Modern in Montana: a Flathead Lake cabin that's a grownup version of a treehouse.


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