Looking for a true bird’s-eye view of some of this country’s greatest landscapes? If so, you might want to consider living in a treehouse. But the treehouses that are sweeping the design and architectural community today are a far cry from the ramshackle structures of our childhoods. Some of the nation’s top builders are creating wondrous edifices of design that not only incorporate innovations in building and construction, they manage to intersect modern art and architecture with the allure of tiny living.
In her new book, The Anatomy of Treehouses: Stylish Hideaways and Retreats, author Jane Field-Lewis takes you on a tour of amazing treehouses with a peek inside these curious structures and how one lives in them.
“Treehouses give us the luxury of our own unique vantage point but safely cocoon us, too,” she writes. “High up in our treehouse world, we can experience the feeling that we are not always earthbound. The inference is that the connection is fragile and we can pull up the ladder any time we so desire—and chameleon like, camouflage or, indeed, physically isolate ourselves from a chaotic world below.” Curious? We were too. So what’s it like to live in a treehouse—or admittedly for most of these—escape to them periodically on vacation when it’s time to get away from the world? Here are the most surprising things we learned:
Treehouses Are Not Always in Trees
There are lots of things that to Field-Lewis qualify a structure as a treehouse—not least of which is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be perched up in a tree. And those environmentally conscious among us may not even want it to. “The possession of an actual tree and leafy canopy is not a prerequisite for a treehouse—free-standing structures on stilts can also perfectly assimilate its qualities,” Field-Lewis says.
This means that even in the most urban of areas, a small unique dwelling designed to be a respite from the surrounding environment, some that are designed to disappear into the plot of land it’s carved out for itself, can be considered a tree house. Especially if it’s drawn inspiration from the concept of traditional treehouses of our youth—meant to inspire a sense of cozy secrecy and creative inhabitation.
They Push the Boundaries of Engineering
As structures go, many of the treehouses Field-Lewis profiles are quite striking and anything but camouflaged in their settings. Lots of these innovations are born out of specifically not wanting to harm trees in their making. “In many ways, structural engineering solutions have provided satisfying environmental answers that respect the tree without necessarily welding ourselves to it and expecting it to take the strain.
You Can Fit a Surprising Amount of Amenities in a Treehouse
There are tree houses with wood-burning stoves, some with four-poster beds, some with elevated walkways obscured by the canopy of trees above. In one particularly modernist example in upstate New York, architect Anthony Gibbon has managed to include a full kitchen with concrete countertops and stairs leading to a second-story loft bedroom.
The book is a trove of imaginative and insightful dwellings, many of which you just have to see to believe. And if the idea of crafting a wildly creative and pioneering piece of design in a tiny corner of the woods ignites your imagination—you might just be compelled to join the movement.