A few years back a friend announced that he was going to build a tree house and that he was looking for help; who wouldn’t want to help? The concept that he started out with was a small platform in a tree with four walls, a roof and one window. What he ended up with was a two-storey timber frame tree house twenty two feet off the ground, with two decks, twenty one windows, a drawbridge, and a room dedicated to the playing of chess. It also took almost four years to build.
What can I say? it was a blast. At least it was for me because I got to help, but was not paying the bills. You only have to look at it to see that Peter’s tree house is really cool and he, and his friends, (including me) had a LOT of fun building it.
The project ended up being something inspirational, in part because a lot of really neat ideas came together really by themselves. For example there are no bolts or nails in the tree and a great deal of the structure was built of “found” or recycled material. I don’t think there was ever a very conscious effort to make this an environmentally friendly, or deliberately green, tree house, but I think Yankee thrift and pragmatism eventually led to the same place. The tree house is hung from cables run through PVC conduit through a large natural fork in the tree. The thinking was practical; the tree is the foundation therefore nothing should be done to damage the foundation, but the end result is still better for the tree.
Sometimes the challenge of putting the tree first resulted in a much more interesting design as well. There was a branch that was going to pass right through the chess room and rather than cut it off (it was a really nice branch) we built windows around it with canvas gaskets that keep out the weather but allow the branch to sway freely in the wind. It would have been much easier and been a lot less work to just cut off the branch, but the living branch running in one window and out the other is one of the best features of the second floor.
Peter ended up writing a book about the whole project; Treehouse Chronicles. Two central themes of the book are to follow your dreams, or as Peter’s mother told him, “You need to put feet on your dreams, they are no good stuck between your ears”. The other is explained in the front cover of the book: “This is the story of what happens when adults decide to be kids again and they have tools and lumber”. The book was has also been fairly inspirational and has won seven national book awards. If you are interested, check out Peter’s tree house blog, or you can check out his book Treehouse Chronicles.