Thursday, February 17, 2011

When Home is... a Treehouse

How is it that treehouses inspire the imagination of adults and children alike? Why do they seem otherworldly? I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of living in a treehouse, which is actually quite surprising given I’ve always been afraid of heights. And I was too scared to climb trees.

Since having my own children though, it seems a fear of heights really does disappear when you have the opportunity to be in a treehouse. On our recent overnight trip to that homestead, we discovered an old treehouse deep in the back garden. Despite a fear of falling from a height (Ned) and splinters (Lily) both children were up the tree before we blinked. They were captivated by the thought of being high in the branches, lost in another world. All their ‘earthbound’ fears seemed to be abandoned.

Is it, as Peter Nelson writes in his book Treehouses: The Art and Craft of Living Out on a Limb, because; ‘They represent freedom: from adults or adulthood, from duties and responsibilities, from an earthbound perspective. If we can't fly with the birds, at least we can nest with them.’?

For me, the thought of living in a ‘real’ treehouse is as inspiring as the thought of living in an old windmill or a houseboat. Even as a child I thought such homes would be a more exciting place to live than a castle or a palace. I wonder about the reality though: getting your grocery bags up the ladder into the tree, or up all the stairs inside that windmill, or across the water to your houseboat. How would the postman find you? Or the plumber?

Yet, would that all be a small price to pay for the freedom of the ‘earthbound perspective’ I most certainly have from living in a house built on a street behind a fence?

Tessa Williams wrote about treehouses for adults in The Telegraph back in 2008. She even found a couple of people who own them:

"Earlier this year, Victoria Harris and her husband had a treehouse built at their home in Hampstead Garden Suburb, London. "It's a luxury, but it's been a wonderful and practical extension to our living space. It's an extra room, without encroaching on the ground space in our garden. I incorporated electricity and internet access into the design, so that I can go there, answer emails in peace, and just enjoy the solitude. It's built in a pear tree and there are pears within reach."

A treehouse has made good business sense for Claire Strickland, who owns a B&B in Normandy: her luxurious treehouse comes with a modern kitchen and bathroom, and sleeps five. Built in two large sweet chestnut trees, it was made from red cedar by the French company La Cabane Perchee. "It cost about £58,000 to build, but we now rent it out for around £780 per week. We have installed a summer kitchen outside, but people stay even in the depths of winter, kept snug by electric radiators and the natural insulation of the fragrant cedar walls.

"People love the escape a treehouse offers," says Claire. "All our guests say they sleep brilliantly up there. We don't quite know why that is, but we put it down to the magic of the tree."
PS: If anyone reading this blog does live in a treehouse, windmill, houseboat, old church, cave or anywhere unique, I’d LOVE to hear your perspective!


There was a lovely surprise in my inbox the other day from Garden Swings letting me know that they were featuring Some Home Truths on their site. Perhaps if there isn't the room in the backyard for a treehouse, there might be for a garden swing!

Book cover image © Peter Nelson

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