Many a backyard has a simple treehouse built by some enterprising parent who wants to indulge their offsprings’ deepest fantasies. Owning a treehouse may be a childhood aspiration, but many adults haven’t lost their attraction for tree-based housing. In fact, as you will see, it seems that for many people that fascination has only grown with time. There are even some cultures where treehouse-living is the norm: both the adults and children of the Korowai people of Indonesia normally live in treehouses that can reach up to 35 feet above ground.
Beside, what is a penthouse apartment but a glorified treehouse? Some builders have decided to appeal to those who still long for the isolation, vertical dominance, and clubhouse exclusivity that treehouses embody. The treehouses on this list are not slapped up with leftover plywood, either. Oh no, not at all- these treehouses are mostly luxury dreamscapes. Their owners or renters would have to mow a lot of lawns or sell tankers full of lemonade from their lemonade stands to fund these dwellings in the sky. Some of these treehouses are not really treehouses at all by my standards. For me, a treehouse has to be in a tree somehow or otherwise supported by a tree, at least in part. Now the larger treehouses have to be bolstered by extra supports, certainly, for safety reasons if nothing else. In my book, though, a house on stilts next to some trees doesn’t count. Here, then, are 15 extremely unique treehouses.
15. Enchanted Forest Treehouse, Canada
This three-level treehouse is not intended for private use but instead is on the grounds of The Enchanted Forest theme park in British Columbia. Every time my parents drove past The Enchanted Forest during a BC roadtrip, little did I know I was missing out on this kiddie fantasy. The structure is almost a parody of what a fantastic treehouse should be. No worries, though. Some of the architects later on this list seem to have been inspired by the same treehouse archetype buried in humankind’s collective unconscious. Let the kids have the Enchanted Forest treehouse, I say, and move on down this list for more adult-oriented versions.
14. The Dragon Fly At The Treehotel, Sweden
Laplanders are known for their fondness for snow, reindeer and sled dogs, but someone in Lapland has also taken a liking to treehouses. The Treehotel/Brittas Pensionat in Sweden’s Lapland region has several different treehouses for rent. The Dragon Fly is the priciest at 7500 SEK ($1,100 US) a night. It was built in 2010 by Sami Rintala of Rintala Eggertsson Architects. This structure can serve as a meeting space, since it has a conference room along with two bedrooms with either two double beds or four single beds. If this treehouse doesn’t suit your fancy, you might try one of the Treehotel’s other treehouses, one of which is a mirrored cube and another which is shaped like a UFO.
13. Tsala Treetop Lodge, South Africa
The rooms at Tsala Treetop Lodge sit high above Plettenberg Bay on the tip of South Africa. Along with two-bedroom villas, the lodge offers ten Treetop Suites. The suites are treehouses made of stone, wood and glass and include a sitting room with fireplace. Each suite has a private deck with an infinity pool. If you choose to venture to ground level, and you should, since breakfast is included, you can dine at the lodge’s dining room, which has a dining deck from which to look down at the ground or up at the ancient growth forest. You can’t get too high at Tsala!
12. The Too-High Tea House, Japan
Speaking of too high, Terunobu Fujimori started life as an architectural critic and historian. He was not a working architect. When he was in his forties, however, he was commissioned to build the Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum. Now that he’s started, he can’t stop. He likes to combine modern sensibilities with whimsical touches inspired by Japanese folklore. Numbering among his buildings are some treehouses. His own treehouse in Nagano balances precariously 20 feet in the air on two tree-trunks. As usual, Fujimori treated some of the materials by hand, including the rolled copper roofs. He knows the treehouse is a little scary-looking, hence its name.
11. Trillium Treehouse, United States
Unlike some of the treehouses on this list, the treehouses at Treehouse Point don’t have hot tubs or full kitchens for their renters, but the houses are gorgeous. The managers aren’t too keen about flashing around their rates, but a few online reviewers have hinted at prices at or over $250 a night. Trillium, for example, is two stories high and pressed tight against a tree as though sprouting from it. Windows all around the house permit glorious views. Pre-adolescent children and pets are not allowed, so this is a strictly an adult-only zone. Trillium and its sister cedar treehouses are located near Issaquah near Seattle.
10. Geodesic Treehouse, United States
Dustin Feider’s O2 Treehouse is an architectural firm that builds treehouses. The wooden Geodesic Treehouse in southern California is inspired by Buckminster Fuller, that madman-genius for whom Buckyballs and Fullerenes are named. The luxury of this treehouse lies not in its amenities but in the actual presence of this wonder on one’s property. This treehouse starts on the ground at the base of an elm tree and then expands up and around the tree. Like many of the treehouse builders on this list, Feider strives for sustainable development in his work, so he tends to use recycled materials for his projects. If you want one in your backyard, you won’t need your dad’s help: O2 will slap one up for you.
9. Takashi Kobayashi Treehouse, Japan
Takashi Kobayashi has a grand plan for the world: to build a community of Tree House People who exist side-by-side with living trees. According to his English-language website, Japan is “a Nation of Trees.” Accordingly, this company’s goal is to promote architecture that enriches Japan and indeed the world both ecologically and aesthetically. The work of his Treehouse Creations often rise up from festival grounds or for the benefit of non-profit organizations. Many a Japanese kindergarten has a Kobayashi treehouse to play on. The pictured tree house is in Nasu. Like O2’s geodesic treehouse, the luxury of this treehouse lies in its intrinsic beauty.
8. Treehouse Djuren, Germany
Some treehouse fantasists probably don’t want to risk their hearts being broken by a creaky, slanty treehouse made out of the leftover wood in your uncle’s garage. For those finicky people Baumraum comes to the rescue. This firm provides architecturally designed treehouses. The Djuren in Groß Ippener is designed for a family that wanted to hang out way up in a treehouse. Like a proper treehouse, the tree does some of the supporting, though metal struts also help. This oblong treehouse has two terraces along with the treehouse proper. The terraces and the lower half of the treehouse are made of local oakwood, while the treehouse’s body has a zinc-skinned roof and acrylic glass sides. The inside sitting area is covered with grey wood felt. Compare that to what a typical kiddy treehouse has for sitting: a dog’s drying towel and the old linoleum ripped out ten years ago from your basement.
7. HemLoft, Canada
When a software engineer precipitously retires at age 26 and gets the urge to expand his horizons, what happens? Hemloft in Whistler, British Columbia happens. Joel Allen sharpened his newborn carpentry skills on this self-funded, homemade wooden egg in a tree. His financial ups and downs included him living in his car (down) and finding ash hardwood for the interior for free on Craigslist (up). Completed in 2011, Hemloft seems to hang off the side of a sloped ridge in a hemlock forest on government land. A little footbridge connects the lip of the ridge to the suspended treehouse. Allen and his girlfriend even lived in it for a while.
6. Melody The Free Spirit Sphere, Canada
Some fearless travellers may want their outdoor experiences to combine the comfort of cabin life with the rotundity of a volleyball. For them is Tom Chudleigh’s Free Spirit Spheres, which rents tree orbs on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The priciest of Free Spirit’s three models is Melody, available for $314 a night. According to Free Spirit Spheres, Melody contains a Murphy bed for two that can be folded up so that the rest of the day can be spent working. (Really?) Melody is constructed of a fibreglass exterior with a wood frame interior. And yes, the floor is flat, so you can stand up no problem and, I guess, work.
5. Redwoods Treehouse Restaurant, New Zealand
Built in 2008 as part of a marketing campaign for Yellow Pages, this restaurant sits 10 metres off the ground in a forest near Auckland. Available for private functions for $3,000, it seats 30 people or stands 50 people for more informal gatherings. The slatted building is 10 metres wide and 12 metres high and is made out of poplar and ash. It is designed to look like something that might hang from a tree, such as a cocoon or seed pod. The treehouse does not have kitchen facilities, so all food must be catered. The treehouse is featured in the MTV series The Shannara Chronicles, though not as a restaurant–it is the exterior of Eretria’s treehouse.
4. Lantern House, United States
Roderick Romero is the treehouse designer for the stars. He has built structures for Sting, Val Kilmer, Donna Karan, Ozzy Osbourne and Julianne Moore. A Romero treehouse can cost $75,000 to $275,000. Considering his clientele, Romero often fixes up his treehouses with running water and electricity for the treehouser who chooses not to equate sleeping in a tree with back-to-basics living. His Lantern House in Santa Monica, California, is relatively modest amenity-wise, but it is beautiful. Made almost entirely of recycled wood, it is wedged between three eucalyptus trees and is fitted with stained-glass windows salvaged from a movie set.
3. Casa Paraiso, Costa Rica
The Finca Bellavista Treehouse Community in Costa Rica contains several treehouses for vacationers. The fanciest is the Casa Paraiso, which rents for $250 per night per double occupancy. With room for six, it has two bathrooms and two bedrooms. In this ecologically conscious complex, the kitchen appliances are powered by the sun. Take the stairs up nine metres to one of the Casa Paraiso’s two balconies and gaze up and down at the rainforest, or walk along one of the suspension bridges that link the treehouses. The complex has hiking and ziplines for those who tire of relaxing among the leafy canopies in this tropical paradise.
2. Chateaux Dans les Arbres, France
This set of castle-like treehouses is available for those seeking unusual accommodations in Bergerac, a city in the Aquitaine region of France. The ritziest of their treehouses is the Cabane de Puybéton. It accommodates two people, which sounds small, but it has a full bath including a shower and clawfoot tub, a king-sized bed on gorgeous wood floors, and an outdoor hot-tub on the generous deck, all for 300 euros a night during peak season. If for some unfathomable reason your arboreal chateau begins to bore you during your stay, you can swim in the site’s infinity pool or get a massage. Tarzan never had it so good in his shack in the sky.
1. 4Treehouse, Canada
Designer and architect Lukasz Kos of Four O Nine used four trees to support this treehouse at Lake Muskoka in Ontario. Built in 2004, this private home has three levels and has room to sleep four people. The goal was to make the home be part of the landscape with minimal damage to the local ecology. The two-tonne structure is anchored to the trees with only one puncture in each truck. The house is not so much on the trees but rather hangs between the trees. The beauty of its horizontal and vertical lines is magnificently emphasized when it is illuminated at night.