Foster Huntington’s Clubhouse
The #vanlife guru settles down in a treehouse-skatepark complex.
Foster Huntington is getting really good at living the dream. In 2011 he quit his job in New York, bought a VW Synchro and hit the road. He coined #vanlife and wrote the book on living in your vehicle—it’s called Home Is Where You Park It. But after three years on the road, he decided he wanted a permanent homebase. “I have always loved treehouses, so I thought it was time to build a big-boy one,” he says. “I wanted to make a place where my friends would want to come hang.”
Huntington found land near where he grew up on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. The plot was close enough to Portland that it was easy for people to visit, but deep enough it the woods that it felt remote, and last winter he started sketching out his fantasy set-up. Some of his dreams didn’t make the cut (a crow’s nest was a no-go) but for the most part, he ended up with a grown-up version of a kid’s utopia—complete with a skatepark, workshop, and wood-fired hot tub.
Both structures—the workshop and an octagonal cabin with bunk beds—celebrate the style of minimalist living Huntington honed in his truck bed. Each roughly 200-square-foot building is simply designed, strung up between two huge Douglas firs and connected by a 25-foot span bridge.
When you’re building in the canopy, it helps to know people who have skills. Huntington’s best friend from college, Tucker Gorman, who runs a design/build firm, helped oversee construction. Huntington’s mom is a talented carpenter, while her boyfriend is a timber framer. After commercial tree house builders framed up the platform, friends and family did the rest.
Then there’s the skatepark. Huntington and crew dug the shape into the hillside, framed it with rebar, and filled it with concrete. It was the toughest and most interesting part of the process. “I’ve skated a bunch of bowls, but I’ve never seen the process before,” he says. “It’s such a technical, mathematical thing, a combination of being really good at skateboarding and being a skilled technician.”
Huntington predicts that the project, started in February, will be completed by October. He says that it’s been hard work, and it’s taken longer than he thought it would, but that despite the hiccups, it’s been worth it. Other people who want to do something similar shouldn’t be intimidated, he says, and he recommends enlisting friends to help. “It’s all about getting the right people involved,” he says. “There’s always going to be problems, but just do it.”
He hasn’t completely given up life on the road, but Huntington is ready to be a bit more grounded. “I’ll still be traveling, but I want it to be a place where my friends can come stay and work…I wanted a bitching clubhouse.”