Tree houses are growing in sophistication, detail and size, making them perfect for the young, and the young at heart.
By Lauren Varga King
Think back to your childhood. A time when your imagination ran wild with excitement and curiosity. Perhaps you dreamed of tea with Alice in Wonderland. Or you were more of a James Bond on a secret mission. Then again, you may have been the quiet type looking for a hideaway filled with your favorite things. That wanderlust and adventure are no longer loves lost. That’s because luxury tree house designers, like Blue Forest, are building fantasies in the sky for the young, and young at heart.
Blue Forest, an England-based tree house design and construction firm, is making childhood dreams a reality with bespoke luxury tree houses that take advantage of their natural settings.
“My brother Andy and I built tree houses as kids,” says Blue Forest Director Simon Payne. “I remember connecting a zip wire to one and spending all our time on it. I remember building a big jungle swing. We were constantly building and expanding.”
Like imaginations, Blue Forests’ luxury tree houses have grown bigger and more detailed over time — in fact the tallest residential tree house climbs about 45 feet into the treetops.
Payne describes one project, named The Clubhouse, as a “boundless opportunity for adventure.” For starters, it affords a secret tunnel, hidden beneath its deck. Then there’s a concealed room, only accessible through a secret door, hidden within a bookcase. Filling out its under-cover-mission-inspired elements are a wireless CCTV (closed-circuit television) security camera system and two Nerf gun armories. Of course, it also offers a zipline, similar to the one Payne and his brother were so fond of years ago.
“We really believe in the excitement, adventure and the imagination you have as a child,” says Payne. “I think that’s why families come to us. They want a space they can all go and escape the normality of life and give space for imagination and adventure.”
Turns out, luxury resorts are turning to tree house architecture as well. Take Chewton Glen for instance. The luxury resort offers six tree houses in a wooded valley just beyond the New Forest National Park in Hampshire, England.
“We were looking to develop family friendly lodges on the estate for those who wanted all the luxuries of the Chewton Glen hotel, without feeling confined to the hotel itself,” says Chewton Glen Managing Director Andrew Stembridge. “We had two design schemes on the table — one more traditional scheme and the tree house scheme. Everyone fell in love with the tree houses.”
The New Forest was set aside in 1076 as William the Conqueror’s private hunting grounds. And, when the tree houses were built, the marching orders were that no tree be disrupted. So, the tree houses are built on stilts, around the trees.
“We allowed the environment to influence the project,” says Stembridge. “For example, each of the tree houses has a really wide hardwood deck with a half roof above it, that means even on a rainy UK day, you can still sit outdoors and enjoy the wildlife and trees.”
The design also called for large picture windows that completely slide back, under-floor heating, wood-burning stoves and hot tubs.
Payne, whose company helped design the tree houses, adds that they’re a good demonstration of how tree houses are a commercially viable and exciting route to take.
“Whether for residential or commercial purposes, the tree house experience is completely unique,” says Payne. “It’s a price of a small extension on your house, but a bit more fun.”