This fall, workers are finishing construction on the world's largest tree house, set among 16 lime trees in the Alnwick Garden, a 40-acre public space 30 miles north of Newcastle, England. Hardly a glorified kiddie clubhouse, the three-story, 10,000-square-foot turreted spread will contain a 120-seat restaurant, private dining rooms, a bar, and a retail store. In recent years, smaller but equally opulent arboreal palaces have become increasingly popular as innovations have allowed for safer, more tree-friendly construction. "They require special engineering, because trees keep growing, and they move in the wind," says Anna Daeuble, of Seattle-based TreeHouse Workshop. "These aren't $300 backyard structures."
When you're ready to plan your own dream tree house, start by browsing Treehouses of the World (Harry N. Abrams, ), from TreeHouse Workshop owner Pete Nelson. It offers detailed studies of homes like the one pictured here, in Portland, Oregon. (206-782-0208, www.treehouseworkshop.com) » Want to sample first? The Hana Lani Treehouses Maui resort offers secluded getaways with doubles from 0 a night. (808-248-7241, www.treehousesofhawaii.com) Or dine at England's Treehouse at the Alnwick Garden. Admission to the grounds is . (011-44-16-6551-1350, www.alnwickgarden.com)
Rediscovering the art of the tree house
Examples range from lofty hunting lodges in the Poconos to 1,000-square-foot weekend homes in California to a new retreat on Woody Harrelson's Maui estate. For $15,000 to upwards of $200,000, TreeHouse Workshop will evaluate clients' trees and construct houses with plumbing, electricity, bay windows, balconies, and spiral staircases.
Still, purists warn against making your new hideaway a permanent residence. "You'd encounter all the problems of living anywhere else," says John Harris, lead architect of the Alnwick project. "It'd spoil the magic."