What do the Swiss Family Robinson, Bart Simpson, Ewoks, Tarzan and the Korowai tribe of the Indonesian Province of Papua, have in common? They all live in tree houses – although, to my knowledge, the Korowai are the only ones with a tradition of cannibalism.
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Anybody who has grown up in a garden with a climbable tree will understand the attraction: the enhanced view, the oneness with nature and the marked thrill engendered by the ever-present possibility that you might fall out. This feeling, for me at least, has continued into adulthood and I will take any opportunity given to climb a tree and sit in the canopy feeling the branches sway beneath me, listening to the leaves whisper in the wind. I would like nothing more than to sleep in a teetering nest of branches high up above the forest floor listening to the owls hoot at the gibbous moon.
They obviously hold great attraction for children and tree climbing should always be encouraged – although always using the right equipment and properly supervised. A children’s treehouse can be very simple – as what is really needed is a place for the imagination to run wild. Many a great tree house has begun with a couple of builders’ pallets from which a modest something can be erected in an afternoon and then become anything from a pirate ship to a fairytale castle. If DIY is not your thing then there are companies, such as Cheeky Monkey (cheekymonkeytreehouses.com), that can create tree houses to satisfy every fantasy.
The genus tree house divides into two distinct species: those that are built into the branches of trees and those that hover around the canopy but are actually supported by sturdy poles concreted into the ground. Here are some example of some brilliantly designed tree houses from across the world for inspiration for your own.
Like the Bird’s Nest (see below), the Cabin is a snug hotel room overlooking the Lule River in Sweden. You access this one by a long bridge through the trees, which delivers you to a deck on the roof of the capsule. It seems to hang on the side of a pine tree with an amazing view across the forests of Lapland. Cosy but undoubtedly very romantic. treehotel.se
Shoogly is a good Scots word, which perfectly describes Takasugi-an (meaning tea house built too high). Designed and built by Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori on top of the trunks of two chestnut trees, as a tree house retreat and a tea house, it is very simply kitted out with tatami mats and a perfectly placed window overlooking the Japanese city of Chino.
Multi story time
This is in Chongqing, China, and is built around a concrete ‘tree’. Brightly coloured and quirky, it has become a bit of a tourist magnet, and you can see why. What child would not be enchanted by this tree hosue? There are nine rooms in total with the topmost one being about 12m off the ground.
The Redwoods Treehouse, built around a redwood tree near Warkworth, north of Auckland in New Zealand, can host a party of about 50 people (provided they remain standing most of the time), and is designed to look like a hanging chrysalis. The tree house pod is 10m in height on a 40m-tall tree, and was built in a couple of months from sustainably grown pine and poplar. theredwoodstreehouse.co.nz
Behind the twiggy exterior is a hotel suite with two bedrooms, a bathroom and sitting room. All suspended from trees in the forests of northern Sweden –access is by ladder, which is then retracted to leave you in what is basically a bird’s nest. It was designed by Bertil Harström in 2010. brittaspensionat.se
Eye in the Sky
One of a series of three houses that form another tree house hotel, this time on Vancouver Island, Canada. They are suspended from the surrounding trees by a network of flexible and stretchy ropes so that, while snuggled up in your varnished wood and brass eyrie, you will sway with the winds and feel as if you are floating. Possibly not one for anyone susceptible to seasickness. freespiritspheres.com
Tree Houses: Fairy Castles in the Air by Philip Jodido and Patrick Hruby (Taschen GmbH, 2012).
Exceptional Treehouses by Alain Laurens, Ghislain Andre and Daniel Dufour (Harry N Abrams Inc, 2009).
Tree Houses You Can Actually Build (A Weekend Project Book) by David and Jean Stiles (Houghton Mifflin, 1998).