The following is an excerpt from Lloyd Kahn’s Small Homes: The Right Size (Shelter Publications, 2017), available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store.
The structure of the treehouse is a two-story wooden yurt with the roof supported by a web of small branches and spiraling cedar boards.
I love to drop in on my buddy SunRay Kelley (see Builders of the Pacific Coast, Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter, and Tiny Homes on the Move), because he’s always building something. Whether it is a fleet of electric, art-car gypsy wagons or a cedar-and-clay temple for a hot springs church, it’s always worth hunting him down.
If you manage to make it to his magic forest north of Seattle, you can book a stay in one of the wild treehouses popping up among the second-growth cedars. There’s also an outdoor kitchen pavilion and a cedar sauna and a trout pond to jump into.
My favorite place to stay used to be the Stump House, built on the stump of a huge cedar cut down a hundred years ago, but the latest treehouses are pretty amazing.
First in the new crop of treehouses is Bob’s stump house, a bachelor pad made of hand-hewn cedar with a garden growing on the roof — it’s the only place with any sunshine. When I came to see the place, Bob was up top watering his vegetables. Down the path from Bob’s, there’s a rope-bridge crossing the ravine to a two-story treehouse pagoda with hammocks to sleep in.
On the other side of the property, in a gnarled, old‑growth fir is an actual tree house. Not a treehouse, but a house in a tree. Two stories fully enclosed and insulated with kitchen and bathroom and woodstove. A spiral staircase leads up from the ground into the house. Another spiral leads up to the loft with a commanding view of the valley and an amazing light-filled cupola.
When we arrived, SunRay was using his homemade boom truck to hoist loads of drywall and aspen poles inside through the upper-story balcony doors. With the help of my friends, he soon had the drywall up and a circular log formwork built for the shower stall.
Like most of what SunRay does, his formula for building flies in the face of any mechanical, technical approach. He prefers his buildings to feel as if they grew there. The structure of the treehouse is a two-story wooden yurt with the roof supported by a web of small branches and spiraling cedar boards. The walls are cedar and hand plastered, tinted, gypsum over drywall.
The “tractor cob” shower is sculpted from the local sand-clay soil and straw mixed to a putty with his tractor-mounted tiller. Colored bottles laid up in the walls bring light into the cave-like interior. Local stone covers the floor and countertop.
SunRay works hard and plays hard. Even the experienced builders among us had to hustle to keep up with him when he was “on,” and when he was “off,” there were lovely meals together, time in the sauna, and dips in the ponds. Each night, we took turns staying in the different gypsy wagons and treehouses.
Lloyd Kahn is a sustainable living visionary and publisher of Shelter Publications. He is the author of natural building books, including Home Work, Tiny Homes, Tiny Homes on the Move, Shelter II , Builders of the Pacific Coast, and The Septic System Owner’s Manual (All available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store). He lives and builds in Northern California. Follow Lloyd on his blog, Twitter, and Facebook, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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