Go out with friends outside? Nothing beats a treehouse
Anthropologists believe our ancient human ancestors spent their time in trees, so it’s no surprise that we love treehouses today.
Treehouses of all kinds are experiencing a renaissance.
When an acre-sized piece of land in Gold Hill, Colo. Hit the market earlier this year, local resident Jessica Brookhart, 41, bought it for $ 80,000.
The draw for her: the house was a treehouse.
It was a place where she could spend time with her husband and two young boys.
“I had never been there, but I had admired it from afar,” she said, admitting it was an emotional purchase.
The man who owned the land had built the treehouse with materials from a nearby Boulder recycling center. The structure can accommodate two adults and two children. There is no bathroom or running water, and a crouching pot is outside on the floor. There is a camping stove for cooking and you have to turn up the water. From the windows you can see Longs Peak and Continental Divide.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I was obsessed with little mini-houses, or sheds and treehouses,” Brookhart said.
She sometimes rents the treehouse online, and to her surprise, a lot of people want to use it.
“For me, it’s this magical place,” she said. “I have to block out a bunch of weekends just so we can hang out there too.”
Treehouses have proliferated during the pandemic. There are elegant, professionally built garden ones, and makeshift ones thrown just to escape the four walls of the house. There are listings on sites like Airbnb for treehouses for camping.
Unlike the rickety cabins of yesteryear, many of these newer cabins have been upgraded. Most are still accessible with a ladder, however, requiring you to climb.
As pandemic closures continued, Nanci and Ethan Butler of Newton, Massachusetts, decided to build a treehouse in the backyard for their two children. Ethan, an engineer, found treehouse floor plans online and modified them to accommodate their family.
Building the house was a family affair, and after about three months the butlers had a beautiful hideaway with built-in bunk beds and a front patio. They took advantage of a few nights to camp there.
Then, on a calm day about three weeks after it was finished, a large oak tree in the yard snapped in half. Part of it fell directly on the treehouse, crushing it. The carpenter ants had cut down the tree.
“It was traumatic, I was stunned,” said Nanci, 45. “But we were also so saturated with despair at the time. No one cried.
More people were drawn out and into nature during covid, and treehouses are part of that model, said Jeff Galak, associate professor of marketing at the Tepper School of Business at the ‘Carnegie Mellon University.
“They are an attempt to do something fun and interesting and away from others,” Galak said.
Part of the popularity of tree houses, he said, is parents’ desire to create more backyard amenities so children can hang out.
Nostalgia is another part of it.
“Nostalgia is a huge driver for consumers in general,” he said. “People are creative in the way they engage with this type of nostalgia.”
Business is booming for Aaron Smith, owner of Fort Collins, Colorado-based architecture firm Treecraft Design-Build. He started it in 2015, and now employs a second designer and eight carpenters.
“In times of covid, I saw an increase in requests for backyard treehouses just because everyone was home and the kids had to get out of the house too,” Smith said.
His treehouses range from a basic backyard structure costing around $ 10,000 to a livable treehouse with interior plumbing for half a million. He has clients all over the country.
On social media, a variety of treehouse hashtags on TikTok generate millions of results. On Pinterest, searches for “tree houses” have increased sevenfold from the previous year. And treehouse rentals have their own section on Airbnb.
For many people, the basic is OK for tree houses. Jim Brook, a 71-year-old grandfather in Breckenridge, Colorado, built a small treehouse nestled among aspens a few years ago for his three grandsons.
“I like to introduce them to nature and encourage them to play outside, so a simple structure with a metal ‘firefighter’ exit seemed to be fun,” said Brook. “Sometimes we also put a small tarp over the head and some leftover carpet on the plywood platform. “
Others like their treehouses with a bit of luxury. The Mohicans Treehouse Resort in Glenmont, Ohio, is packed with amenities for those who want to enjoy the outdoors with the comforts of modern living.
The nine treehouses (and two under construction) at Mohican are indeed built with support trees, but they feel like they are in a chic hotel: black walnut or cherry wood floors, century-old barn cladding , fine linens and cushions, interior plumbing, air conditioning and heating.
One of the property’s treehouses, Little Red, was featured in the Animal Planet “Treehouse Masters” series. Another, White Oak, has an entrance on the ground floor, which makes it wheelchair accessible.
“The goal was to have them available year round, with all amenities,” said Laura Mooney, resort owner with her husband, Kevin. “We didn’t want guests to have to go to a shower stall. They could stay in the treehouse and it’s all there.