Since the mid-1990s, recreational tree houses have enjoyed a rise in popularity.
Perhaps it’s because families want to stay at home and enjoy their own property—or perhaps it’s the increased interest in environmental issues and sustainable living. Whatever the reason, adults, children, and their friends become lucky recipients of hours of fun with this outdoor home improvement wonderland.
And the great thing is that tree houses can run the design gamut, from the simplest children's play structure to fully functioning escapes with extensive designs featuring multiple stories and several rooms —all the way to a tree house with running water and solar lighting and … would you believe hot tubs?
However, being a bit more conservative, not to mention affordable, a tree house is basically a delight for the kids, or as we’ve discovered, adults, to take flight to their own respite. For the youngsters, a “no adults” type of situation may prevail.
Whatever you plan—a DIY project, hiring someone to design and construct, an in-a-tree or freestanding structure—a tree house provides adventure for kids and comfort for parents knowing where to locate their children when they’re not in sight … not to mention a great outdoor home improvement.
Tree House History
Your first encounter with tree-house life may have started as fantasy in books, such as The Swiss Family Robinson and Peter Pan. However, in truth, tree houses go way back in the real world. These dwellings can be traced back to the people of the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, who lived in trees to provide secure homes for their families.
And, hundreds of years later, the Renaissance era sparked a renewed interest in classical culture, and these abodes became a status symbol. Tree houses were considered must-haves in Florentine gardens. In the mid-19th century, a town just west of Paris became famous for its tree-house restaurants where meals, complete with champagne, were hoisted up to diners in a basket pulley.
The next popularity in history was the importance of the tree house’s role with British nobility. These above-ground respites actually became a vital part of the culture in Tudor England. In fact, one of the oldest tree houses still in existence is located in a 500-year-old lime tree in Pitchford, England. It was designed in the popular English Tudor style and is known as "The Tree with a House in It."
More recently, Winston Churchill constructed a tree house 20-feet high in a lime tree at his Chartwell Manor home, and John Lennon was believed to have a tree house overlooking the Strawberry Fields orphanage.
The Gamut of
Diehard tree-house enthusiasts have specific perspectives as to what embodies an “authentic” tree house, such as the tree must be an integral part of the structure. However, you don’t have to be rigid on the technicality of it being “in” a tree. Thinking out-of-the-tree can give you the option of a free-standing dwelling, sans the tree, as children will just enjoy the height, the view, and the entertainment this private abode will afford them. Basically, if the structure is not in a tree, some might call it a playhouse, although your children will still call it a tree house!
Robert George of Robert George Design Group says that he really enjoys the process of building a tree house. The family and children are so excited, and it makes everyone so happy to see our plans come to life. Shown here are the initial plans to conception of a tree house they built into a living tree with additional support provided by upside down locust tree posts. Construction is mostly conventional and the actual railing is made from locally harvested locust tree branches. There are several pulleys in place to open different trap doors and windows too.
Kevin McHugh from Traveling Tools in Kingston says, “As a nature lover, I would have to design and construct a tree house with ropes and clamps to secure it without driving any nails or screws into the tree.” He feels every tree gives him a fresh new breath of nature, and a dream tree house should respect that. It would be a great idea, as per Victoria Coyne, owner of Victoria Gardens in Rosendale, to heighten the impact of this little getaway. Says Coyne, “A magical idea to improve on an already fun project would be to plan and plant a fairy garden to enhance this enchanting kids’ domain.”
And for those expansive tree houses becoming more popular every day, John Mountford, manager of Fireside Warmth in Kingston, says that any stove would need a fresh-air source to ensure safety, and Fireside would make sure to install the perfect heating device for this type of structure.
The best time to plant a
tree was 20 years ago.
The next best time is now.
∙ Chinese Proverb ∙
So with heat and other amenities, why not put in comfortable flooring? John, co-owner of the Rosendale Carpet Store in Rosendale, says, “We can supply either a hardwood floor or laminate as we have many in-stock styles to choose from… and we always have great carpet remnants available to make it cozy and colorful to enhance the interior design.”
Whether this wonderful outdoor home improvement endeavor is a DIY project or built by a hired contractor—materials are always important. Paul Gallo, of Herzogs in Kingston, comments, “We often have customers come in for lumber to build their own tree house. An environmentally conscious consumer may want to use reclaimed wood such as from an old barn. Otherwise, for a structurally sound tree house, fir lumber would be fine.” However, he added that you can also use a composite material.
So, there you have it. If you’re thinking of a great home-improvement project this year—you may want to entertain the idea of a tree house. Whether simple and fun or a private respite as a home-away-from-home without any travel expense—it’s certain to be a wonderful addition for the entire family.