How a treehouse became New York’s most salvaged Airbnb property

The Willow Treehouse in the Catskills was the most saved property on Airbnb in New York in 2021, and all that attention means visitors looking to land a weekend getaway should start planning a year from now.

At first glance, it’s clear why so many novelty-hungry guests dream of escaping to the Woodstock area house in the trees. It looks like a tree house built for a 21st century Willy Wonka, a perfect evocation of the spirit of fantasy that permeates childhood, with (some of the necessary signs) of adulthood.

Avner Ronen, who built the house with his wife Maskit, admits they never intended to create one of the most sought-after short-term rentals in the country. They just wanted a cool place to hang.

Related: Dreamy treehouses for weekend getaways

“It was really an exciting project,” says Avner Ronen. “We started talking about it as a cool treehouse for kids around 2016, but it kept shifting in our minds. We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have a really big one where we could picnic?’ Then we thought, “Let’s make this a year-round retreat that we could actually sleep in.”

The couple, who share four children, now aged 9 to 17, have been down a Google rabbit hole, emerging with the realization that a new era for treehouses has quietly emerged.

“There are so many creative treehouse designers out there,” says Ronen.

The Ronens hired British architect Antony Gibbon and local builder William Johnson to build the treehouse, which offers creature comforts but no Wi-Fi.

Willow Treehouse / Martin Dimitrov

For their passion project, the Ronens matched crushes with equal portions of money and effort. They eventually contacted British architect Antony Gibbon, who created what turned out to be a longer and more expensive project than they had all anticipated.

“We wanted to find a local builder, and we were in no rush,” he says. “We found William Johnson, who is based in Kingston. We also wanted to use local materials, and he was happy to help us find them. »

The only exception is the wood used to build the house, which is California cedar.

But the vibe is purely Catskills. The Modernist-style treehouse is set on stilts on the Ronens’ 34-acre property. And although it shares a driveway with the main house, it’s tucked away in a private corner, and visitors don’t come into contact with the family unless they want to.

The land is wooded, and the treehouse overlooks a small swimming pond or ice rink (depending on the season). An expansive wall-to-ceiling picture window showcases the Catskills mountain range at the rear of the home. The treehouse also offers ample outdoor hanging space, including balconies, as well as a sundeck and hot tub nestled in an open, yet sheltered, space under the stilts.

Inside, a ladder leads to a loft, a wood-burning fireplace, and cozy modern-rustic furnishings adorn the living space, and a bathroom features a spacious walk-in shower. A small but functional kitchen is equipped with an oven, a small refrigerator and a dishwasher, as well as basic cooking and serving utensils.

If you feel like taking a walk, the Ronens have built a 20-acre trail on the property to explore, complete with a pond for swimming and a deck for fishing. The space is also a short drive from Woodstock, a historic town teeming with locally sourced farm-to-table fare, locally brewed pints, quirky shops and, of course, music.

While this treehouse seems best suited to romantic retreats or solo nature getaways, Ronen says families with pre-teen and younger children will sometimes come and have the kids camp in a small back space adjacent to the living room which has been created as a yoga or reading corner.

The Ronen family realized early on that they couldn’t keep the treehouse to themselves.

“We first put it on Airbnb, thinking we would book weekends here and there, and that might help with construction costs,” he says. They still can’t believe what he’s become, including collecting profiles in The New York Times, Architectural Digest and House Beautiful magazines.

“I work in tech and my wife is a teacher, and that doesn’t change,” Ronen says. “But it has become an important part of our lives. I think it attracts a certain type of person who needs a certain type of experience. We are very clear that there is no WiFi here and you will really have to unplug. It’s not for everyone. We also encourage people to light fires in the woodstove and cook their own local foods. We leave them a bottle of wine, and of course if they have any questions about where to eat or where to hike, we’ll be happy to help. But our goal is to provide a retreat.

Ismail Salhi, 37, a recent visitor from Somerville, Massachusetts, says the Willow Treehouse more than delivered. “My wife Johanna is a product designer who loves beautiful natural architecture,” says Salhi. “Every year, for its anniversary, we go to a unique place to enjoy nature but also to discover new spaces integrated into the wilderness. The Willow Treehouse was perfect for this and ended up being a perfect gift for both of us.

The Ronen also want to keep the Willow to themselves from time to time.

“Kids inspired it, and we love that they can still use it whenever they want,” he says. “We set aside a certain number of days each month for family, friends and parties.”

But clearly, the Willow Treehouse filled a need for a lot of people, and Ronen says it’s important to provide that special space. Yet, it’s not for everyone.

If the idea of ​​doing yoga, taking long walks in the woods, stargazing from a hot tub, and sleeping in trees – without being able to immediately document and share said experience on the ‘Gram doesn’t appeal – Maybe Willow isn’t for you.

But for the Salhis, it “exceeded” their expectations.

“We loved every minute and almost didn’t want to leave,” Salhi says. “We have very busy lives, and being able to unplug and sit around the house was very energizing. We came home calmer, happier and full of great memories.

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