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The Leaf House by O2 Treehouse is dubbed the 'floating lantern'  because of its striking silhouette against the night sky.

O2 Treehouse’s Leaf House in Pewaukee, WI is known as the “floating lantern” because of its striking silhouette against the night sky.

With the days getting longer, now is the perfect time to build a backyard treehouse for your kids — or for yourself. Treehouses are no longer just play spaces for children; they’re also places for adults to unwind, pursue their hobbies and even make their primary residence.

Today, about 15 companies are in the “treehouse business,” with specialized teams of engineers and interior designers building custom-designed backyard escapes and providing kits and tools for homeowners looking to construct their own.

Here’s a look at the growing trend.

Function

Fall City, WA-based Nelson Treehouse and Supply, featured on Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters,” has built everything from breweries and recording studios to spas with steam showers — all suspended in trees.

“A lot of people think of treehouses and children, but 9 out of 10 treehouses we build are for adults,” said Daryl McDonald, the team’s foreman. “People want an escape pod — a way to get out of the busyness of being in a home.”

Pete Nelson, owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply, poses by a Ohio brewery treehouse he designed on Animal Planet's "Treehouse Masters." New episodes of the popular TV show begin on May 30.

Pete Nelson, owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply, poses by a Ohio brewery he designed on Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters.” New episodes of the popular TV show begin on May 30.

Ohio brewery treehouse (interior)

Stained glass windows shine light on the bar in this brewery treehouse.

Tory Jones, the TV show’s interior designer, says the sky is the limit when it comes to designing a treehouse. But first you must think about what you need that extra space to be and how you want it to function.

“Design follows function,” she said. “I’ve literally done everything from mid-century modern to contemporary and mission craftsman style.”

CeeLo Green stopped by the Record-High Recording Studio built by Nelson Treehouse & Supply to lay down a track.

CeeLo Green stopped by this recording studio treehouse in Woodinville, WA to lay down a track.

Inside the Ohio Butterfly treehouse by Nelson Treehouse & Supply.

The Irish Cottage treehouse built by Nelson Treehouse and Supply in Huntington, CA has a fireside lounge with contemporary furnishings.

Design

O2 Treehouse, a California-based company that will be appearing in an upcoming episode of “Treehouse Masters,” is experimenting with not only function but design.

“I’ve gotten into more complex forms in the geodesic family,” said Justin Feider, the company’s owner and lead builder. “One of my favorites is the honeysphere with 200 openings.”

The Honey Sphere by O2 Treehouse.

The Honey Sphere by O2 Treehouse in Beverly Hills, CA features a geodesic design.

Feider says the geodesic shape makes sense for a treehouse because of its strength. The design is also a reflection of architecture and nature, he says.

“People’s consciousness of the green movement and their inherent responsibility in that story has been on the rise,” Feider explained. “Treehouses are part of that. They’re the poster child for living sustainably in a natural structure — a symbiotic relationship with a tree.”

Construction

This Austin, TX treehouse designed by Nelson's team has a spa inside.

This Austin, TX treehouse designed by Nelson’s team has a spa inside.

Both Nelson and O2 provide treehouse consultations, construction and installation in the U.S. and abroad. The process typically takes between two days and nine months, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

“If you want installation, we quote on a custom basis because every tree is different,” Feider explained. His custom structures normally cost between $35,000 and $100,000. Treehouses built by Nelson Treehouse and Supply typically fall in the $80,000-$200,000 range, but their prices also vary depending on the project.

“We do a lot of little ones. A ‘kid deck’ up in a tree would take us 2-3 days,” McDonald said. “The finished product is big enough so you could pitch a tent but nice enough so you could just sleep under the stars. It’s fun because of the immediate gratification.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the biggest project McDonald completed was a 1,000-square-foot treehouse with a 500-square-foot deck. “It had a clawfoot tub,” he said. “It was the most extreme one I’ve worked on.”

Interested in building your own backyard escape? See 8 tips for building your own treehouse.

Related:

Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends and home design. Read more of her work here.

About the Author

Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends and home design.

  • http://www.fastcashoffers.com/ G. Coronado

    True! It’s amazing how ideas transform the usual tree houses to a potential home in the present or in the near future. I wonder how near can we include tree houses in the real estate business; like selling these kind of houses in Houston. Can these kind of properties sell fast? Well, I guess in terms of how near, maybe not long enough. And in terms of marketability, we’ll see what happens.

  • Richard Kimble

    If a kid can’t build it then it’s not a treehouse. A word other than treehouse should be used to name the buildings shown in those photos. When the building rests on a foundation set on the ground it becomes more like a guesthouse or an out-building. Buildings like those require permits.

  • Drbcool

    As long as the tree doesn’t blow over in the next big storm, you’re good. Go for it.

  • Wayne Folkers

    code nazi! Not if you live Montana

  • Pete

    These so called treehouse must need a lot of bug spray……

  • http://batman-news.com/ GENXer

    we call them guest homes or casitas.

  • Michael McClymont

    I lived in Fall City for my first 18 years and trust me, the trees up there are big enough to handle the load. I would like to know where his shop is. Fall City is a very small town where everyone used to know each other. I know it’s changed but I would be interested in where he is setting up shop.

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