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Extreme Tree Houses
Knock, knock, I know the secret password.
By Belle Byrd
Imagine a castle nestled in your magnolia or a scale model of your house emerging from the arms of a sycamore. With the current “green” mania, well-off Americans are increasingly making their children's playtime in the trees a designer experience. Some of them even opt for a Peter Pan lifestyle, making an adult treehouse their prime retreat. Welcome to 2012, when novelty treehouses are even more whimsical than the marble ones built by the Medici family in 16th-century Florence.
In America's post-industrial society, it's no surprise that certain folks react against technology overload and embrace environmentally-friendly, “indigenous” practices. They crave a philosophical escape. Combine that need with the fact that they simply look cool and the reason for treehouses' comeback becomes a no-brainer.
Photograph of an elaborate tree house in Richmond, Virginia's Bellevue neighborhood.
Today's designer treehouses are not the stunted, rotting dwellings you may have enjoyed as a kid. Often equipped with electricity and running water, they are far grander. Some of them even have multiple rooms, fireplaces, toilets, and full kitchens. These treehouses are designed by professional arborists and architects, not just enthusiastic parents who pull out the toolbox and scrap wood on weekends. Think house paint, large windows, skylights, and matching linens.
You can find designer treehouses in virtually every color, size, shape, and architectural style, though “woodland fairy” and “Swiss Family Robinson” predominate. Such a trend doesn't just jive with Renaissance faire types, either. Even celebrities like Sting, Julianne Moore, and Val Kilmer all own designer treehouses.
One design firm particularly stands out in the designer treehouse world. Since 1997, The TreeHouse Workshop in Seattle, Washington has been building beautiful homes in the sky, sometimes 60 feet above the ground. With some structures measuring up to 1,000 square feet, The TreeHouse Workshop builds tree houses for kids, adults, and entire families. They offer treehouse-building workshops attended by enthusiastic customers from as far away as the Netherlands and Australia.
To get an idea of how much a designer treehouse costs, here are The TreeHouse Workshop's main rates:
Consultation: phone/email $90 per hour, local in person $90 per hour
½ day long distance site visit/consultation: $625 plus travel rate and expenses
Full day long distance site visit/consultation: $1250 plus travel rate and expenses
Design: $110-$200 per hour
Labor: $45-$65 per hour
For those who want to latch onto the concept of designer treehouses without making such a large financial investment, spearheading a DIY project seems like the clear solution. Make your own but give it a magazine-worthy hipster edge.
An article that ran in The New York Times' “Home & Garden” section on November 9, 2011 spotlighted Alexandra Meyn, who built her own treehouse behind her Brooklyn, New York apartment. Unlike the designer crowd, who often spends thousands of dollars on a single project, Alexandra fashioned hers from salvaged wood on a comparatively modest $400 budget. Thanks to both exterior and interior design touches—funky windows, bright wallpaper, an original collage—the treehouse practically shimmies with flair.
But is having such a posh treehouse a smart decision? That depends on your priorities. If you need a “Myst” trilogy wonderland, artist studio, smoking den, or guest house in your backyard, it can be. If you need a place for your kids to fingerpaint and slap together mud pies, maybe not so much.
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