Like so many things that have vastly improved since our childhood (like being able to stream TV during family car rides instead of being forced to talk to annoying siblings), the once ramshackle tree house is becoming increasingly more luxurious. And it’s only getting fancier.
“Tree houses have always been popular but what we are seeing now is that our clients are asking for bigger and more exciting designs,” says Andy Payne, managing director and founder of Blue Forest, a luxury tree house design and construction firm based in the UK. “If you look back over our past projects, tree houses have gone from being simple play structures to the extremely high-end, grown-up tree homes that we are designing today.
Launched in 2003, Blue Forest has created houses for unnamed celebrities and even royalty, but many of the company’s clients are simply working adults who want an out-of-the-box place to decompress, Payne says. “They can have families with young children—or they might be grandparents—but they can also just be grownups looking to have a sophisticated retreat.”
It’s also a way for homeowners to make the most of a yard, creating usable space in a heavily wooded area where they otherwise wouldn’t be spending much time.
The sky’s the limit (tree pun intended) when it comes to design. The structures might have rope bridges, decks and spiral staircases on the outside and lighting, kitchens, bathrooms and TVs on the inside. Some function as studies, workshops, or media rooms, while others can have a more whimsical purpose.
The company recently completed work on a large family tree house dubbed The Magic Home, complete with a bookcase that opens up to reveal a hidden room and an upper tower loft where there’s a Narnia-style wardrobe that leads to an escape via a stainless steel slide. The design team even considered the owners’ dogs with a canine-sized walkway bridge into the treehouse.
Then there’s the James Bond-style High-Tech Hideaway, which touts spy gadgets, including a state-of-the-art biometric security system with fingerprint locks and color night vision cameras stationed around the structure.
While the company looks for mature and sturdy trees such as oak to use as a “host tree,” not having one is hardly a dealbreaker, according to Payne. “We’ve developed some clever designs that mean you don’t even need a tree at all. Some of our tree houses have been built high up on stilts,” he explains. “We are also able to build the main structure of the tree house on stilts, but simply build additional decks and platforms around the trunks of nearby trees which creates a similar treetop effect.”
Of course, if you want an amazing tree house, it’s going to cost you. While pricing varies depending on height, size, style and features, the minimum starting prices for some of the company’s pre-designed “classic models” range from $38,000 to $72,000 with specialty custom designs coming in higher. (Blue Forest says there have been contracts in excess of $600,000.) Expect construction to take anywhere between two to four months. And while the company will work with clients outside the UK, you’ll have to cover travel expenses.
Outlandish ideas are always welcome. “The best thing is when a client comes to us and says ‘I know you probably won’t be able to build this,’ and we come back to them with an amazing design a week later.”