Opposite, lower left and right: A Victorian treehouse,
complete and in progress, built in Fall City, Washington,
during a six-day workshop with people from England,
Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
Left, a 600-square-foot
getaway house and office
in Yelm, Washington,
entirely suspended by
seven Douglas fir trees.
Below, a peaceful cabin
retreat in Gig Harbor,
Choosing a tree
SELECT A HEALTHY tree that will continue
to thrive with a treehouse in its branches.
Consider proximity to power if you want
electricity, and proximity to the main house
should overnight guests need to shower or
to keep a close eye on younger guests.
Have a certified arborist (check the
International Society of Arboriculture Web
www.isaarbor.com) visit your site. He or
she can evaluate the health of your trees as
well as identify any work that might need to
be done to prepare the site for your project.
Treehouse clients include celebrities, such as
Sting, Val Kilmer and Donna Karan, as well as more
everyday folks, such as two Costco members from
Fall City, Washington: Lolly Shera, who had Jacob
and Nelson build her art studio behind her house,
and John Rouches, whose financial planning office is
up a tree. Jacob says, “The structure as a piece of
architecture has gained validity.”
It’s a worldwide community. Jacob and Nelson
readily point to other companies, such as Costco
member Bill Allen’s Forever Young Treehouses in
Burlington, Vermont, which designs and builds universally accessible structures for people with dis-abilities, and Costco member Michael Garnier’s Out
’n’ About Treesort and Treehouse Institute in Cave
Charles Greenwood, a Costco member and an
engineer, has worked on developing technology for
treehouse construction. “The treehouse engineering
movement is a spinoff of advanced vehicle and spacecraft structural analysis,” he says, “and is not particularly related to conventional building design.” These
advances in design and structural support give builders the freedom to create much more elaborate structures than simple nails and boards would allow.
Summing up the allure of treehouses, Nelson says,
“People dream of going to the moon but won’t get
there. But those who dream of having a treehouse can
have one in their backyard.” C
TREEHOUSE permitting varies widely according to location. Contact the local planning
department to find out specific restrictions.
As a guideline, the following factors may
cause difficulty in obtaining a permit.
• If any part of your treehouse extends
above a height of 25 feet from ground level
• If the treehouse upsets neighbors, either
by extending into their property or by causing
a “visual disturbance.” You may already be
restricted from building anything at all within
a certain distance of property boundaries
(such as 5 to 15 feet).
• If you intend to use your treehouse for
• If you have any plumbing/water supplies
fitted. Electricity tends to be less of a problem, especially if you use a “temporary”
extension lead as a supply
• If there are any significant seismic restrictions or considerations (such as in California)
• If your area (county, state) has specific
language in its building code regarding
Forever Young Treehouses
Out ‘n’ About
Above, inside Lolly
Shera’s art studio in
Fall City, Washington.
Right, the exterior
of Shera’s studio.
The Costco Connection
Whether you want to use a treehouse for a
workspace, recreation or relaxation, Costco
and costco.com have furnishings, fixtures
and fun stuff to feather your nest.