Treehouse Art Challenges Urban Perceptions

Treehouses are being installed in the trees of downtown Edmonton, Canada.

University of Alberta industrial design grads Sebastian Sauvé-Hoover, Brad Comis, and Danielle Soneff, operating as the Threshold Art and Design Collective, came up with this treehouse art idea.  They each designed treehouses based on actual houses found in the city.

The treehouse art is being featured as part of a city-funded art project and will be on view in Churchill Square until September and will be lit up at night to showcase the attraction and allow viewing around the clock.  Each treehouse, built with wood donated from Home Hardware, also features a recording.

“What we wanted to do is create a contrast by putting something in a place where it’s not supposed to be,” said artist and designer Brad Comis. “Clashing those two elements [treehouses in the downtown core] maybe will make people think about them in different ways.”

Thinking about people looking at the treehouse art, Comis explained, “We want to have them look at them and think, Why is there a suburban home suddenly in the downtown core, right in the very heart of our city in this concrete jungle? What are the roles of low-density housing versus living in the downtown core?”

“We’re really hoping that it’s going to generate some dialogue about the way we choose to live our lives in urban areas…that difference between private and public spaces,” said Danielle Soneff, reflecting on the project.

Their teacher, Jesse Sherburne added to the conversation: “The whole point of these is asking, Can we live differently? These [treehouses] are representative of urban sprawl. [They] question some of the scale, the needs Edmontonians feel. Do we need this much space?”

Edmonton Arts Council member Dawn Saunders-Dahl says the selection committee likely chose to bring this treehouse art project to Edmonton’s streets because of “that nostalgia of treehouses and how neat it would be in a really public area.”  She’s also keenly aware of the political aspects of the treehouse art project:

Art is a good way to address those issues and start a conversation. It’s a great opportunity to talk about homelessness, or all the houses that look the same. That’s what good art does — stimulate conversation.”

One thing’s for certain: even in this age of technology, treehouses continue to be relevant.  In fact, in an era where we’re bombarded with stimulation and complexity, perhaps, they’re more relevant than ever.  Treehouses are a powerful symbol of innocence and imagination.  They remind us of our relationship to a rapidly evaporating wilderness in ourselves and on our planet.  They challenge the project of endless growth and compel us to question what it’s for and what it all means.

If you get a chance to see this treehouse art project, please let us know what you think!

Plant-e Electricity Re-defines Green!

Plant-e electricity being harvested from plants

A scientist harvests electricity directly from plants.


We spend a lot of time blogging about treehouses, which is fun and awesome.  This time, though, I want to take a moment to talk about the power of nature, which gives us trees to build houses in.

I came across this very interesting article on page 9 of the February edition of The New Agora (a local Vancouver independent newspaper).  The title, “Researches Discover How to Use Living Plants to Generate Usable Electricity”, certainly grabbed my attention.  Intrigued, I read on.

It turns out that a Dutch company called Plant-e has invented a remarkable form of electricity extraction from plants.  Unlike solar electricity, which harvests photons from sunlight and converts them to energy for powering human-made devices, Plant-e has hit upon a way of using photosynthetic energy produced by plants and converting into collectable electricity.  Here’s how it works.

During photosynthesis, plants produce twice the energy that they need.  What they don’t consume, they expel through their roots to feed nearby microorganisms which exchange this energy for elements plants need for health.  This symbiotic relationship produces electrons which can be harvested by metal rods inserted in the plant’s root system.

This exciting Plant-e electricity technology sidesteps many of the shortcomings of solar power.  In Vancouver, for instance, cloud cover for much of the year prevents solar energy from being maximized.  Likewise, solar panels can only collect energy during the day, limiting power collection to between a third and two thirds of the time.  Plant-e electricty, on the other hand, syphons energy 24 hours a day, rain or shine!

So, next time you’re communing with nature, hanging out in or dreaming about a treehouse, remember the phenomenal power of nature to not only entrance us, feed us, clothe us, and provide the very air we breathe, but also to provide electricity to power our homes.  Who knows…thanks to Plant-e electricity, one day you may find yourself hooking your power saw up to the roots of the tree you’re building a treehouse in!

Check out the amazing technology in this Plant-e electricity video.  I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

P.S.: It’s spring, which means it’s the beginning of treehouse-building season…Just saying : )

Tentsile: Treehouses for Non-Builders

Treehouses for Non-Builders

Do you want a treehouse but don’t want to have to build one?  A lack of time, energy, confidence or skills, are among the biggest barriers to making your own treehouse.  And that’s okay — treehouse building isn’t for everyone.

But it doesn’t have to limit you from living the dream.  There are lots of prefabricated treehouses for non-builders and they don’t have to be expensive.  We wrote about one of them in a previous post.

Here’s another: a tent that suspends you above the ground by three seatbelt fabric tethers attached to trees and then ratcheted tight enough to provide a solid floor in a shelter that sleeps 3.

Interested?  I thought so.  Alex Shirley-Smith is the architect who designed these treehouses for non-builders while seeking a more ecological way to live.

His inspiration was the Star Wars Ewok village.  His company, called Tentsile, declares that its flagship model, the Stingray, is the world’s first truly portable treehouse.

These treehouses for non-builders are priced accessibly.  The sleek-as-hell-looking Stingray (because, hey, that’s what it looks like!) retails for $675.  Vista, a newer model with similar features, sells for $595.

These are pretty sweet deals when you thing about the fact that it’s saving you from having to buy materials and devoting all that time and energy to building one.  Building your own basic treehouse can run you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in materials.

Another advantage to these treehouses for non-builders is that you can easily set them up and take them down, which means you have temporary shelter that sleeps 3 adults for camping trips and a backyard treehouse all in one.

I think that these treehouses for non-builders have a lot of potential for low-income people wanting to near urban centres.  For example, I live in Vancouver, Canada which was recently officially declared the 2nd most unaffordable city on the planet!  Many people really struggle to find shelter they can afford.

As long as you can find a stand of trees large enough to support the tent, you’ll have reliable and moveable shelter.  They’re also a great quick and easy solution for creating an outdoor children’s play area without having to build one yourself.

I also see them as having a lot of potential for activists using treesits to protect wilderness, as I mentioned in a previous post.

To learn more about these incredible inventions, check out Tentsile‘s website.  They have a variety of models to suit a range of uses and budgets.  Here are a couple of videos to whet your appetite.

Do you know of other affordable treehouses for non-treehouse builders?  Be sure to let us know so we can share the knowledge in future blogs.

Image: Misadventures

A Hidden Treehouse

A Hidden Treehouse in Burnaby

Just a glimpse of the view from the first floor…doesn’t nearly do it justice.


I want to share a story about a hidden treehouse I found in the woods one day.

I’m always on the lookout for treehouses in my neighbourhood. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and find a little treehouse someone’s built in the backyard.

I used to always dread biking over to this particular friend’s place, because there are a lot of major hills and dips between us. I’d always end up a sweat fest when I finally arrived.

Then a friend told me about a bike path along the water that would get me there. I took it and to my great surprise found that the route went through a forest I didn’t even know existed.

The path was tranquil, and offered gorgeous views of the ocean. It was also much flatter and got me there in half the time.

Naturally I was ecstatic. But the best was yet to come on my third or fourth time using the path. As I pedalled wide-eyed through this newly-discovered forest, my eye caught an impossible shape through the trees.

I slowed down and approached what looked like a 2-storey wooden structure. Could it be a hidden treehouse? To my amazement, yes!  Just off the path, looking out over a sweeping ocean vista was a hidden treehouse that climbed 30 feet up into the trees.

A wide, rudimentary ladder beckoned and I couldn’t resist. Testing the ladder made of 2-by-4s, I found it to be very solid. I climbed up to the first level and found it to be just as stable. The beam and plywood platform featured bench seating and a railing to lean against while looking out over a dramatic drop down to sea level and that expansive view of the water. Breathtaking!

The second level was a small space that would comfortably fit 2 and intimately squeeze 3 or 4. The land plummeted a couple hundred feet to the ocean, starting just below the base of the tree.  Looking out from the second floor made me feel dizzy with the feeling of being at a great height.

The wood in this hidden treehouse was strong. Everything rots quickly in the Vancouver climate with its temperate weather and its abundant rains. This told me that whoever built this structure — and it’s enough of an undertaking that I am convinced it is a group rather than an individual — either did so in the last couple of years or has been on top of the upkeep.

Either way, I am humbled and immensely grateful when I think of the monumental task and expense involved in transporting all that wood into the forest to build this two-storey hidden treehouse that’s open to all who find her.

A Hidden Treehouse

Since discovering this gem of a treehouse, I’ve biked by and seen a couple of bikes parked on the side of the path and heard voices nearby and overhead. I smile knowing that others share the offerings of this hidden treehouse known about by a relative few.

Insider’s bonus: If you live near Vancouver, British Columbia, or will be travelling here and want to know where it is, drop me a line and I’ll fill you in!

Have you ever stumbled upon a hidden treehouse?  Tell us about it below!

Opening image: Kyle Pearce
Second image: ttcopley

Treehouse Music: 9 Songs To Get You Groovin’

treehouse music: Ane Brun singing "Treehouse Song"

Treehouse Music: Ane Brun singing “Treehouse Song”

In this blog, we talk a lot about building treehouses.  But what are you listening to while your building?  What you need is a playlist of treehouse music.

This post is dedicated to connecting you with treehouse music — songs that have something to do with treehouses — bands called Treehouse, songs called Treehouse, and songs that mention a treehouse.

I think this treehouse music would be interesting to make a treehouse mix album out of.  It took me a few hours of research to put this post together, but it was worth it to deepen people’s treehouse experiences with the raw materials for a soundtrack.

If you end up making a treehouse music mix with these songs, please let us know what order you put them in so that others can benefit.  That would really help a lot of people out.  In the meantime, enjoy this treehouse music!

1. Music by Treehouse!

I found this smooth-sounding Reggae band out of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina called Treehouse! (Yes, the exclamation mark is part of the name.)  They don’t have any songs that mention treehouses, but you’ll forget all about that when you’re dancing to their grooves.  Plus if you buy their music, half your money goes to charity…how cool is that?

2. “Treehouse” by Gold Fields

This song is uber catchy and upbeat with a great retro 80s sound.  This young Australian band sounds full of the promise of future success.  In fact they were chosen as one of MTV’s Artists To Watch for 2013.

Though the song lyrics don’t mention a treehouse, they suggest that the song may have been inspired by someone trying to find a treehouse at night on a date.  The video is also partly set amongst trees.  The music will definitely get you feeling motivated to build or hang out in a treehouse!

3. “Treehouse Song” by Ane Brun

This heartwarming Norwegian singer/songwriter has an entrancing silken voice that may convince you to check out her other songs.  That would be a good move!  This song specifically mentions treehouses in reverent terms:

We were gonna live in a tree house and make babies
And we were gonna bury our ex-lovers and their ghosts
Baby we were made of gold

What an ideal pick for chillin’ in the trees.

4. “Treehouse” by Ifan Dafydd

This chill and trippy number by this rising Welsh producer will make you wonder whether someone spiked your drink with LSD.  The song mentions a treehouse, which is cool.  What it says, however, is difficult to make out amongst the psychedelic music.  If you’re up for the full hallucinogenic experience, check out the video, too.

5. “Treehouse” by Buffalo Rodeo

This is another upbeat song.  If you’re building your treehouse, this song’s driving beat will get you moving.  The band’s from Bowling Green, Kentucky but you’ll think they came straight outta heaven when you hear keybordist and vocalist Jordan Reynolds’s voice crescendo transcendantly midway through the song.  Pure treehouse magic!  Check out their music…

6. “Enchanted Treehouse” by Immediate Music

Immediate Music is a company that produces music for commercial uses.  You can listen to this treehouse-themed instrumental as background music while building or hanging out in your treehouse.  This subdued but inspiring is easy on the ears and suitable for many occasions.

7. “Tree House” by Charity and the JAMband

No treehouse music playlist is complete without a kids’ song.  This one is fun, gets children involved in physical actions, and has a dreamy tropical feel to it.  Here’s the video — the actual music starts at 2:08.  I also found this cover, in case you’re looking for a little more variety with this one.  The cover uses rhythm sticks for the actions.

8. “Tree House” by Adam Again

This 1988 release by the defunct Huntington Beach, California band reminds me musically of Dire Straits’s “Money for Nothing” as well as Bruce Cockburn.  Because of the 80s feel, I think this one would go nicely either before or after the Gold Fields song (number 2).

“Tree House” is explicitly about a treehouse and draws larger conclusions about the world and the way we treat each other based on the way children play in treehouses.  Pretty cool.  I managed to track down the lyrics for you, too.

9. “Treehouse” by I’m From Barcelona

This is my favourite find because it’s so upbeat and fun…and because this is the absolutely perfect song to play the moment you complete your treehouse.  This video is live, which captures the triumphal feeling you’ll have when that last screw is turned and the final nail is hammered into place.

Go ahead, gather your friends and loved ones and crank this treehouse music anthem as you dance for joy at your new treehouse.  “I have built a treehouse…nobody can see us now because it’s a you and me house!”

Well, there you have it… 7 songs to add to your treehouse music roster.  If you have or know of other treehouse music that I haven’t mentioned, please let us know and I’ll add it to the list.   In the meantime, happy holidays and enjoy some of these great treehouse music finds : )

Living in a Treehouse

Brian Little shows that living in a treehouse can be comfortable.

Brian Little shows off his Washington treehouse.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably wondered what living in a treehouse would be like. Well this new video interviews 3 people who have done just that.

In this video, Treehouse Masters host Michael Garnier and treehouse owners Christina Sommers and Brian Little tell us what living in a treehouse is like. They cover really important issues and questions anyone wanting to be living in a treehouse wants to know, like:

  • permit issues and how to get around them
  • how to make money from treehouse building
  • what living in a treehouse teaches you (lessons)
  • downsides to living in a treehouse
  • how much it costs to build one
  • how long it takes
  • how long it will last and how to make it last

Inspiration for Living in a Treehouse

This video, published five days ago by the Atlantic media outlet, is very informative for anyone wanting to know what living in a treehouse is like. It’s also extremely inspiring. These interviews show that you can build a treehouse no matter what skills you have or lack, and the builders’ satisfaction is palpable.

They make you want to jump off your chair and get living in a treehouse of your own. That’s pretty much exactly what Brian Little did and he couldn’t be happier.  Here’s what he had to say about it:

I put about $5,000 into the materials, and I had it done from start to finish in about 4 and a half months. I never dreamed that I would have so much fun doing this!

Living in a treehouse is often considered merely a childhood dream. Well these folks make it clear that this may be true, but childhood doesn’t end in youth. As Christina Sommers puts it, “There’s something about a treehouse that forces you to make light and to feel lighter. I think it’s because there’s a child in all of us.”

Michael Garnier feels much the same way about living in a treehouse. “I know treehouses can be for adults. Basically an adult is just an older kid. You could be 15 or 45 and still have a treehouse,” he says.

So what are you waiting for? It’s winter now, which is the perfect time to be planning building and living in a treehouse this summer. How inspiring is that?  If you want to take the next step, make sure to check the closing credits for important links and contact info on the treehouse owners.

Looking for more insight into living in a treehouse?  Here’s an article from a man who lived in a treehouse and wrote a book about it.

A Treehouse Post-Halloween Movie!


Treehouse, the horror movie

“Mighty St. Michael, be our protection against the devil and his shadows that lurk in the dark…”

Treehouse, the horror movie, is due to be released on November 16th…curiously 16 days after Halloween, in what must be one of the most poorly-planned release dates in recent history.

Anyway, it’s about treehouses, which is right cool.  Its pre-release rating (something I don’t quite understand…how can it have a rating if it hasn’t been released?  But I digress…)  is a spectacularly low 4.1 on IMDB.  For true diehard treehouse fans, though, none of this will keep us away from a viewing.

In the meantime, check out the trailer!

Image: Bleeding Edge Films

Bosco Verticale Redefines Treehouse Living

Bosco Verticale redefines treehouse living

A shadowy figure contemplates life amid the vertical urban forest.


Bosco Verticale, which translates from Italian as “the vertical forest”, is a whole new concept in living with nature.

Not everyone has the luxury of access to wilderness in which to commune with nature.  In increasingly populated urban centres, many are deeply hemmed in by city with the nearest natural areas being a few hours’ drive away.  The distance makes it unfeasible for a great many folks to get out into nature.

Enter Milan’s Stefano Boeri Architectural firm.  Its two Bosco Verticale buildings solve this problem by bringing nature right into the city.

Inhabitat’s Diane Pham wrote two articles on these impressive designs.  In her first article, published October 16, 2011, she described Bosco Verticale as “a system that optimizes, recuperates, and produces energy. Covered in plant life, the building aids in balancing the microclimate and in filtering the dust particles contained in the urban environment,” she wrote, noting that Milan is among Europe’s most polluted cities.

“The diversity of the plants and their characteristics produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, producing oxygen and protect the building from radiation and acoustic pollution. This not only improves the quality of living spaces, but gives way to dramatic energy savings year round,” Pham explained.  The plants will be irrigated with greywater recycled from the building’s residents.  Solar panels are also incorporated to make the buildings even more energy efficient.

In her January 2013 follow-up article, Pham revealed that the architects consulted with botanists for more than two years to get the right combination of plants to survive the buildings’ different microclimates.

The Bosco Verticale Wiki page notes that, in addition to reducing environmental pollution and regulating the building’s temperatures, the fauna will also reduce noise pollution.  The 18- and 26-floor buildings host more than 400 suites and 11-stories of commercial space, and have as much vegetation as would be found in nearly a hectare of forest!

Bosco Verticale was supposed to be completed around June of last year.  Construction has had a number of delays which have significantly pushed back its opening date.  While we’re waiting, you might also want to check out Solid Waves, another really cool and environmentally innovative design by the Boeri architects.

For great views of Bosco Verticale, check out the Inhabitat slideshow.

What do you think?  Is Bosco Verticale a welcome innovation in our relationship with nature, or a symptom of human life out of balance?

Image: Grist

Treehouses Built by Kids

Treehouses built by kids: 78 designs

What do you think about treehouses built by kids?  Think about it…we all know that kids of all ages love treehouses.  Typically, though, parents build them for rather than with their kids.  Well here’s an awesome site I came across called Built By Kids, which cultivates family bonds by involving children in DIY projects — in this case, treehouses.

They recently featured 78 images of different treehouse designs.  They range in complexity and certainly parent-child teams would select the simpler ones to work on together, but there are many to choose from for all tastes.

All We Are Saying is Give Kids a Chance

Never underestimate a child’s ability to come up with useful and innovative design ideas.  A few years ago, my partner bought a backpack that was designed by youth.  It incorporated a few novel ideas that make it a very versatile bag.

Makes sense when you think about it, because one of the best ways to think outside the box is to consult with those who haven’t been enclosed by it already.  In other words, treehouses built by kids is a winning idea with a lot of potential.

There are few things that instill more pride and a sense of accomplishment that building your own treehouse. So, if you’re thinking about building a treehouse for your child, definitely consider including them in the process.  Treehouses built by kids instill a sense of self-confidence, cultivate their manual dexterity, math skills, planning abilities, spacial awareness, and building capabilities.

Treehouse Building Keeps Kids Engaged

A treehouse project will also keep them busy and engaged while building your connection through quality time working on a common goal.  What elements of the design and building stages can you have your child do?  The planning stage is one of the most exciting stages in treehouse development.

Children love to use their imaginations, build, and anticipate the future.  These are all major aspects of treehouse building.  With their limitless minds, treehouses built by kids are certain to stretch the current limits of treehouse design.

Do you know of any treehouses built by kids?  Have you built a treehouse with your child?  If so, how did it go?  What did your child enjoy, what were they good at, and what didn’t work so well that you wouldn’t mind warning other parents about?

Image: Built By Kids

Treehouse Food Gardening

Say it with me now: Treehouse food gardening!  You’ve probably never heard them in that combination, but don’t those 3 words sound great together? Treehouses and food gardening both represent a sense of self-sufficiency and commune with nature. So why not do them both?

If your treehouse is snuggled inside the tree’s canopy, the first thing to consider is that you’ll have low light. This limits what you can grow, but there are still a lot of things that will work.

As long as you have some light, you can make treehouse food gardening work for you.  You can grow lettuce, carrots, spinach, kale, and arugula, to name but a few edibles. If you have any direct light, that’s ideal, but it’s not a deal breaker if you don’t. Check out this handy chart for a fuller list of what you can plant.

Tips for Happy Treehouse Food Gardening

For successful treehouse food gardening, find the sunniest place around your treehouse and set up some small pots or window planters with good clean, preferably organic soil (who really wants to consume heavy metals or other toxins often found in soil?).

Next, plant your seeds or transplants. A key for planting to the proper depth for seeds is 3 times the seed diameter. So a pea seed with a diameter of 5mm would be planted 12mm below the surface. Tiny seeds like kale, which are often less than 1mm get covered with just a very little bit of soil; 3mm, according to our rule of thumb.

Don’t worry – a little too deep or too shallow is fine so long as you’re close.

If you want to reach treehouse food gardening mastery, mulch your soil with any of the following:

  • torn-up strips of newspaper (in Canada the inks are made from soy…make sure that’s true where you live or else use something else to avoid consuming toxic heavy metals!)
  • fine bark mulch
  • strips of cardboard (if there’s printing on it, make sure it’s soy based or only use non-printed pieces)
  • torn-up or cut-up fresh or dried leaves

Mulch will help your soil retain moisture after watering, which is important because your seeds need consistently moist soil. If the soil gets too dry, your seeds will dry up and you’ll be disappointed and will have to start over.

Water gently, preferably with a soft shower applicator commonly found on watering buckets. Seeds are fragile and can easily get washed down too far into the soil or exposed on the surface.

Soon you should see shoots.  This is the best part of treehouse food gardening…other than eating your own food, of course! Be patient…it can take anywhere from a few days to three weeks for seeds to sprout through the surface, depending on the amount of sun and heat.

Congratulations…you’re now officially a member of a small but growing group of treehouse food gardening folks.

If you have any experiences or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, enjoy what in many parts is the last gasp of summer. Hope it was a good one…we’ll miss you, summer of 2014!

Image: TreeHouse Company