Tree Houses Not Just For Kids Anymore

Dated: 06/19/2015

Views: 4829

“Black Bear Bungalow” is an observation treehouse on a 1,000 acre property in Farmington, PA.  The decagon treehouse features walls of glass, a wrap-around deck, cathedral ceilings and a closed-circuit bear cam tracking system nestled in three white oak trees.  Inside there is a roaring fireplace and a handmade oak bar. Treehouse Masters “Black Bear Bungalow” is an observation treehouse on a 1,000 acre property in Farmington, PA. The decagon treehouse features walls of glass, a wrap-around deck, cathedral ceilings and a closed-circuit bear cam tracking system nestled in three white oak trees. Inside there is a roaring fireplace and a handmade oak bar.

Want to get away from it all? A tiny home that moves with the earth's force—swaying gently in the trees, or floating on the water—is the perfect escape from life's frantic pace, or say the lucky people who live in them.

Ask Pete Nelson, the creative force behind Animal Planet's hit TV show"Treehouse Masters." For the past 25 years, Nelson has been building treehouses for people who need to get away from the world for awhile. He said the demand for treehouses has never been greater.

"It's out of control, how many people want them," he said. "Unquestionably, there's a trend now for grown-up treehouses. People need innocence in their lives. They need a place that will take them away from their busy lives."

Nelson currently has a backlog of 1,700 requests for treehouses, with more coming every day. Stress, he said, is what usually drives his clients to seek an alternative to traditional living spaces.

According to Nelson, there's a wide range of costs with treehouses. "A simple platform in a tree with a deck costs $120-150 a square foot, but fitting kitchens and baths into a small space can throw your budget out. I'd be lucky to hit $120 a square foot [if a kitchen or a bath is installed.]"

"A fully appointed treehouse with kitchen, bathroom, heat and air conditioning costs about $350-500 a square foot," he added. "We're building those around $200,000."


Nelson continued: "Trees are healing. They're a meditative retreat from the stress zone. It takes about 10 minutes of breathing in the rich oxygen of the forest before your cares melt away."

While living in a treehouse may seem far-fetched, psychologists say home design that prioritizes contentment and tranquility is actually quite a sensible idea.The American Psychological Association's 2013 Stress in America survey concluded that stress, especially work-related stress, is a key factor in contributing to long-term health problems. "Money (71 percent), work (69 percent) and the economy (59 percent) continue to be the most commonly reported sources of stress," stated the report.

Read MoreArchitects pushing the envelope with tiny homes

James "B-fer" Roth, 56, of Warren, Vermont, spent five years of his adult life residing in a treehouse. Now the founder of The Treehouse Guys, (specializing in building treehouses for children with disabilities) Roth calls the experience "the most romantic, greatest escape from the real world."

The “Luck O’ The Irish Cottage” in Orange County, CA, is a quaint, Celtic-themed dwelling in an olive tree.  The unique round space features the peat-burning fireplace and charming décor of a real Irish cottage. Source: Pete Nelson | Treehouse Masters The “Luck O’ The Irish Cottage” in Orange County, CA, is a quaint, Celtic-themed dwelling in an olive tree. The unique round space features the peat-burning fireplace and charming décor of a real Irish cottage.

"The sway of the trees—it's subtle, but it makes you feel like you're floating," he said. "There's a lulling, serene quality. Your mind can just let go."

Of course, truly escaping from life's pressures is easier said than done. Nelson admitted most of the treehouses he builds for his clients are getaways or retreats, rather than primary homes. Still, a temporary relief from the pressure of day-to-day life is better than nothing.

Read MoreInside the lifestyle squeeze of tiny homes

"Absolutely people are looking for an escape," agreed Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Santa Monica, Calif. "People have never-ending stressors these days. Even a day away from reality can help with a reboot."

Durvasula herself lives in a tiny mountain hideaway perched on the edge of a canyon. "After an intense workday with patients," she said, "it's my ashram." She feels the growing appeal of the so-called "tiny house movement," with its aesthetic of simplicity and harmony with the earth, could be a reaction to high stress levels in people's lives. 

"I think that life has hit overload," she noted. "The Internet has created a world where we work 24/7. So yes—we're looking for ways to de-stress—and peaceful respites are one way to do that. Bonus points if they do something cool like hang over a stream, or are high in the trees."

California artist and landscape architect Elise Brewster, 52, knows well the lure of living on the water. Twelve years ago she traded a large house filled with possessions ("it was a beautiful house") for 28 square feet of floating living space at the Berkeley Marina.

"I'm living in the remnants of a forest," she said of her cocoon-like wooden boat home. "The tidal pulse is like a heartbeat. My home feels like a big whale womb."

Tiny Homes, Big Prices 

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Shirley Henderson

Being transplanted into the little town of Easley in 1969,from Ohio was a great shocker. So,I guess you could say I'm a Half Breed Southern. I’ve really enjoyed the people and the quietness of the a....

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