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Treehouses That Are Nicer Than Your House

A loftier approach to real-estate envy

Treehouses That Rise to the Top

These classic backyard fixtures aren't your grandmother's treehouse: They're awe-inspiring masterpieces, from a wisteria-draped retreat to a Japanese-lantern-inspired multilevel escape. Revisit our first installment of covetable treehouses and read on for more playfully appealing tree abodes.

Wisteria-Draped Trunk Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Aitken & Associates

Atherton, California

The folks at Karen Aitken & Associates spotted a deceased oak trunk in a client's backyard and envisioned something dreamy. The landscape designers didn't stop at a simple treehouse. They decorated the addition with wisps of Chinese wisteria.

Colorful, Contemporary Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Sean Litchfield Photography

Medfield, Massachusetts

A bright-red rope railing and lime-green slatted accents reflect the pops of color seen throughout the adjoining house designed by LDa Architecture & Interiors and photographed by Sean Litchfield.

Keep-it-Local Treehouse

Photo by ©Leslie Kipp, used courtesy of Hugh Lofting Timber Framing

Chester County, Pennsylvania

Rustic, irregular handrails and balusters may cause you to think that this structure was transported from a distant rainforest. However, Hugh Lofting Timber Framing sourced the railing wood for this Swiss Family Robinson-style abode from the surrounding landscape.

Next slide: Get a sneak a peek at the inside.

Keep-it-Local Treehouse: Lofty Details

Photo by ©Leslie Kipp, used courtesy of Hugh Lofting Timber Framing

Salvaged materials like rafters and deck boards cut down on the project's price tag. A slotted stainless-steel plate secures the structure to the trees.

Welcome Garden for a Multilevel Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Harrison Barnes Limited

United Kingdom

This charming little treehouse designed by Harrison Barnes Limited packs a lot into its small footprint, including a rustic metal roof and a garden plot that adds some mini curb appeal. It also serves as a secret space where the homeowner can get away from it all.

Spiral Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Blue Forest

Spain

Inspired by spirals seen in nature—like a snail's shell, for example—the ecoPERCH building from Blue Forest is built with larch boards and occupies a formerly underutilized wooded area on the client's property.

Next slide: Get a glimpse inside the house.

Spiral Treehouse: Bespoke Interior

Photo by Courtesy of Blue Forest

The mathematically inspired retreat is outfitted with a kitchenette and a wine cooler, and the view from the deck is toward the homeowner's villa. The fun doesn't stop there, though. About 130 feet of suspended rope bridges—and a 75-foot slide that's suitable for kids 6 years and older—add to the adventurous hotspot.

Subtly Luxurious Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Bower house Construction Ltd.

North Devon, United Kingdom

Roughing it in the woods has never been as romantic as in the Treetops Treehouse on the grounds of the Fox & Hounds Country Hotel. The Bower House Construction-built structure, decked out in multi-material siding and shingles, contains as much space as many single-family homes, with a master bedroom, a bathroom, a spare bedroom, a kitchen, and a living room.

Next slide: Check out the hotel-style amenities

Subtly Luxurious Treehouse: Relaxing Bath

Photo by Courtesy of Bower house Construction Ltd.

A copper soaker in the bathroom is perfect for lazy immersions while gazing through the Douglas firs treetops and down on a nearby lake. If the solitude becomes wearisome, the hotel's bar and spa are just below the canopy accommodations.

House for a Tree

Photo by ©2015 Bob Greenspan Photography

Kingsville, Missouri

This contemporary spin on a Lincoln-log style structure, named Landscape Apertura by its creator, Robert McLaughlin, and photographed by Bob Greenspan serves as a perch for gazing out onto the surrounding landscape of Powell Gardens. All the materials were locally sourced; most of the wood, from deconstructed houses in the area, came from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in nearby Kansas City.

Japanese Lantern-Inspired Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Chase Building Group

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The imaginative owner of this treehouse gave Chase Building Group and Scott Larkin of Brawer & Hauptman Architects a mere six weeks to design and build a multilevel nature escape. It's outfitted with a mechanical drawbridge and roof hatch, bug screens, ship's ladders, electricity, refrigerator, poker table, and a rope-and-pulley system for delivering goods from the ground.

Sleepy Hollow-Inspired Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Blue Forest

Surrey, United Kingdom

This gothic English dwelling is the treehouse incarnation of the classic American tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The house's mixed-material siding and amazing balancing act atop poles and stumps create an off-kilter effect not unlike the Tim Burton film adaptation. Three roof shapes, designed by Blue Forest, add whimsy to the haunting style.

Next slide: Take a look inside the playful building.

Gothic Sleepy Hollow-Inspired Treehouse: Party Amenities

Photo by Courtesy of Blue Forest

The outdoor play area can distract kids while adults relax inside, where the playful aesthetic continues with elements like windows.

Relaxation-Ready Treehouse Escape

Photo by Courtesy of Alex Amend

Northern California

A mix of traditional house elements like exterior shutters and unexpected features like bright-blue French doors lend a bohemian style to this treehouse, as photographed by Alex Amend. There's ample relaxation room on a deck that's just large enough for two people to sit in wicker chairs and put up their feet on the railing—assuming they're not afraid of heights.

Next slide: See more charming design features.

Relaxation-Ready Treehouse Escape: Cottage Style

Photo by Courtesy of Alex Amend

Weathered furniture and mismatched fabrics play up the charm of a generous loft, leaded-glass window, and built-in storage squeezed around the tree's intruding parts.

Rugged Fairy-tale Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Brent Moss/Green Line Architects

Carbondale, Colorado

Trees poking through the roof and a portico set askew make this play place look like the secret fort of an eccentric fairy-tale princess. The resident treehouse expert at Green Line Architects, David Rasmussen of David Rasmussen Design, built the structure on logs because the surrounding trees were too weak to support the construction.

Next slide: Get a look inside the whimsical structure.

Rugged Fairy-tale Treehouse: Whimsical Lines

Photo by Courtesy of Brent Moss/Green Line Architects

Varying hues of weathered wood and a spiral design keep the eye moving inside this unique roomy retreat. It's clearly a keeper. When the owner moved, he took it with him.

Cozy Shingled Escape

Photo by Julia Kuskin

Washington state

No need to worry about yard work when a grove of Douglas firs hugs your home. Kick back 15 feet above the forest floor and admire the storybook Washington state view instead. Of course, some compromises are necessary, like using an incinerating toilet to accommodate the lack of running water. But a stroll through this light-filled wood cottage will almost make you forget its missing amenities.

The Treehouse a Duchess Built

Photo by Gail Johnson/Flickr

Alnwick, United Kingdom

A run-of-the-mill treehouse simply won't do when you possess an English title. The Duchess of Northumberland commissioned this wonky structure, which opened in 2004, as a place for all the kids out there who "aren't allowed to climb trees." One of the world's largest treehouses, the elevated structure houses educational facilities, rope bridges, lots of walkways, and even a restaurant, and is made from sustainable resources. The design's whimsical angles and patchwork of materials is reminiscent of the world of Harry Potter—apropos, as the duchess's home, Alnwick Castle, was used as the location for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two films.

Artists' Escape

Photo by Courtesy of Eric Staudenmaier

Los Angeles, California

Situated 12 feet off the ground, this minute backyard abode is only 170 square feet but packs in ample shelf space, warm wood tones, countless mahogany windows and a half bath. The getaway, designed by Rockefeller Partners Architects in 2009, serves as the homeowner's art retreat.

To The Next Level

Kingston, Tennessee

The only thing that could make having a treehouse even better is getting to build it with your dad, like TOH reader Matt Pavel did here. This multi-level treehouse makes climbing up into the outdoor hangout feel a little like an Indiana Jones movie, without the life-threatening boulders.

Walk The Catwalk

Photo by Courtesy of Baumraum

Munster, Germany

Alien landing pod? Entrance to a secret lab? Fashion-show catwalk set? Nope—just a oblong treehouse made from Tatajuba wood and topped with zinc, straight from the imaginations at German treehouse design company Baumraum.

Extreme Nesting

Photo by Courtesy of Treehotel

Village of Hardas, Sweden

Disappearing into your getaway is easy with the disguised windows and retractable staircase of this bird's nest-inspired treehouse, designed by architect Bertil Harstrom. The space, part of accommodations known as Treehotel, can be booked for 3,300 Swedish Kronar (about $590) a night.

Unidentified Flying Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Treehotel

The idea for this UFO treehouse, another getaway in the Treehotel family, was born during the Bird's Nest design process. While the nest was designed to fit in with its environment, this otherworldly orb was built to look, well, alien. Spend a night roaming the two floors within the structure's sustainable composite walls for just 3,300 Swedish Kronar.

Eye in the Sky

Photo by Denis Beauvais

Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada

Find yourself three sturdy trees, and shell out $45,000 (for fiberglass or $150,000 for wood) if you'd like to call one of these Free Spirit Spheres your own treehouse. (Worth noting: The pricier wood version is equipped with plumbing and heating.) Or, book one for a night or two at a Treesort starting at $145 (Canadian) a night.

Divine Blueprints

Photo by Baking with Medusa

Crossville, Tennessee

Everyone has his or her calling. Landscape architect and self-taught carpenter Horace Burgess's came from on high. He began this elaborate structure after "receiving a revelation from God." The 100-foot-tall, ten-story treehouse—complete with a third-story sanctuary/basketball court—won the Guinness World Record for largest treehouse in 2012.

Fairytale Treehouse

Photo by Wayne Krauscopf

Revelstoke, BC, Canada

The Enchanted Forest, a family attraction built in an old growth British Columbia forest, features fairytale characters, a dragon-guarded castle, and this three-tier treehouse rising 50 feet into the air. That would give even the most good-natured princess a little space from her visiting in-laws!

Castle Aloft

Photo by Courtesy of Fernie Castle

Letham, United Kingdom

The treehouse on the grounds of Fernie Castle won't ever let you forget it's, well, on the grounds of a castle. Ever. For one, it sports a castle-worthy turret and arched front door. But if that's not enough, indoor murals depicting the castle in the distance serve as reminders. Bookable for an overnight upon request, the treehouse comes with amenities such as a fridge stocked with champagne and chocolates. It's tough living like royalty.

Pod in The Sky

Photo by Courtesy of Proximity

Near Auckland, New Zealand

If you plan on booking this slatted event venue hugging a Redwood tree 10 meters above ground, go ahead and invite 29 of your closest friends—you'll all fit, as long as the weather holds. Plus, with ample mood lighting, it's perfect for the dinner party of all dinner parties, even the most merry of revelers can find his or her way along the suspended walkway.

78 Birds and One Human

Photo by Courtesy of Nendo

Komoro City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan

Happily coexist with 78 of your close, personal, fine-feathered friends in this Nendo-designed tree-top abode at Japan's Ando Momofuku Center. Peepholes along a wall separating man from birds encourage nest spying, an attempt to uphold the center's goal of promoting access to nature.

Completely Ecological

Photo by Courtesy of Ricardo Oliveira Alves

Pedra Salgadas, Portugal

The Tree Snake Houses got their name from their long ramps, not because they're poised to reach out and bite you. In fact, just the opposite: The prefab structures, assembled offsite with local, natural materials, are decidedly low on environmental impact. The structures' creators, Luis and Tiago Rebelo de Andrade, are working on adapting their design to other environments, such as river banks, mountains, and urban centers.

Hidden Gem

Photo by Heidi Allen

Whistler, BC, Canada

What makes a treehouse even more fun? If it's off the grid. The HemLoft has been kept mostly a secret by its creator out of fear it will be destroyed by the Canadian government. The structure's ribs were built offsite and attached around the base deck. However, the owner encountered several obstacles during building, including having to sneak supplies into the forest, a late-night run-in with a bear, and a sloped forest floor that sent his tools sliding away. But it appears that he's continued to evade the authorities and the treehouse still stands on its undisclosed location among the hemlocks.

Deck-to-Garden Pinecone

Photo by Courtesy of 02 Treehouse

Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

Few things look more "one with nature" than a pinecone treehouse. Blending the structure into their clients' densely wooded backyard was top priority for 02 Treehouse, whose designers transformed one of their prefab geodesic models with custom steel awnings for the pinecone effect.

Bunkhouse Treehouse

Photo by Courtesy of Kadir's Top Tree Houses

Olympos, Turkey

"European hostel" and "interesting design" are two phrases that don't usually get uttered in the same sentence. But these Kadir Treehouse Hostels break free of the bureaucratic-office-building stereotype with Western-themed log-cabin construction and wagon-wheel decorations.

Elevated Tea House

Photo by Edmund Sumner

Chino City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan

Like a lot of homeowners we know, tea masters typically rein over the building of their teahouses with intense passion. Architect Terunobu Fujimori built himself a treehouse he called Takasugi-an, which translates from Japanese to "a tea house [built] too high." Ternunobu's treehouse is more exclusive than most nightclubs: Access is gained via two movable ladders propped against a supporting tree.