Treehouse Living: 4 Custom, Eco-friendly Options

Have you ever considered living in a treehouse? These custom treehouses may just inspire you to get your eco-friendly home building plans off the ground.

| August/September 2001

Whether you want a refuge and retreat, a place for peaceful study and meditation, or even a permanent home, building up might be the solution. A treehouse can be just a simple deck with a rope ladder or an ambitious three-story structure with a living area, bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen. (See How to Build a Treehouse for helpful building tips.)

There are now increasing numbers of eco-friendly custom treehouses, which use only salvaged materials and equipment: Water is collected and recycled, photovoltaic panels provide electricity, and double-glazed windows make for comfortable and energy-efficient treehouse living.

A History of Treehouse Living

Treehouses evoke deep, sometimes strange, emotions. They may remind us of happy childhood days spent building dens and hideaways. Whatever the emotional impact, there is no doubt being in a treehouse is an entirely different experience than "ground living."

And they have a remarkable history. Treehouses have long been used by the people of the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. The Kombai and Korowai of New Guinea traditionally lived in treehouses "like nests of giant birds," according to one visitor. In the 1700s, the English navigator Capt. James Cook recorded an encounter with treetop dwellers in Tasmania.

In the Western world, treehouses were leisure fantasies. The Roman emperor Caligula held sumptuous banquets in a giant tree. During the Renaissance, members of the Medici family vied with each other to create the most magnificent marble treehouse. In Tudor England, Queen Elizabeth I dined in a house in a massive linden tree.

A new dimension of treehouses is their use as quickly erected structures to house activists protesting against tree felling and road building. A renowned example is the "treesit" by Julia Butterfly Hill in a California redwood, begun in 1997. In the United Kingdom, many protest treehouses have come and gone since the first in 1993.

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