Get Away From it All With These Treehouses

Whether improvised or finely crafted, treehouses tickle our imaginations and evoke the wide- eyed wonders of childhood. “That’s why we love them, no matter our age, and why I enjoy designing them,” says Missy Brown.

Denver-based Brown delights in giving her clients the opportunity her structures provide for exploring the simple pleasures of being up and away—like a recent client who wanted to surprise his wife with a treehouse where she could read to her grandchildren surrounded by nature.

Brown was contemplating her next move in architecture when she first decided to try her hand at treehouses after reading about the work of “treehouse whisperer” (and Colorado College grad) Pete Nelson, host of Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters. Enrolling in one of his hands-on workshops near Seattle, she learned the mechanics of treehouse design, including tree selection (they should be at least a foot in diameter) and basic engineering. She has since designed two aeries, one in Evergreen (above) and another in Edwards.

The Evergreen treehouse boasts a weathered corrugated metal roof and hog wire rail, which add to its rustic feel. "It rocks slightly and creeks in the wind," says Brown.

Evergreen treehouse exterior [Photo: VC Moss]

Evergreen interior bunk beds [Photo: VC Moss]

Evergreen interior bookshelf [Photo: VC Moss]

“It’s so fun to walk around and imagine which nestle of trees will support a structure,” Brown says. “Once you find the perfect spot, the trees dictate the design.” For her Evergreen client, the ideal site was a triad of ponderosa pines set amid rolling hills. Designing the one-room treehouse so it would have the same mountain rustic vibe as the family home, Brown included a peek-a-boo loft and clerestory windows “all over the place” to capture the views. She also accommodated the family’s wishes for a place to read, paint, and have overnights. Nelson’s Treehouse Workshop crew then built the 150-square-foot, one-room hideout, which includes a 90-square-foot deck, electric lights, and baseboard heat for the winter. (“It’s fabulous to be in a treehouse while it’s snowing!” Brown says.)

Edwards treehouse exterior

A massive lodgepole pine houses this multigenerational treehouse. [Photo: David Patterson Photography]

Edwards treehouse rooftop deck [Photo: David Patterson Photography]

Edwards treehouse interior [Photo: David Patterson Photography]

Brown helped select a 90-foot lodgepole pine with a massive trunk for the Edwards treehouse. Designed for a creative couple and their extended family, the minimalist structure “is deep in the woods and feels like you’re in a high-end campsite hoisted in the air,” says Brown, “ready to see wildlife and birds.” The platform is high enough—16 feet off the ground—to get the best views, but low enough to be reachable by a repurposed spiral staircase. Colorado master builders Matt Bilson and Jesse Strong executed Brown’s vision, which includes a front porch and a breezy rooftop deck.

While multigenerational tree houses seem to be a growing trend, Brown says the structures usually stay within 150 to 170 square feet. “You can only cantilever so far before you have to add a post to the ground,” she says, “and some people are adamant about keeping it supported by the tree.” But no matter the size, “It’s freeing. You always feel like a kid when you’re in a treehouse.” 

Categories: Interiors