Fantasy island – sigh…

THE TREEHOUSE BOOK, by Peter and Judy Nelson with David Larkin, published in 2000

Bookcase 9, shelf 5, book 11

It’s everyone’s fantasy. Well, I think it is (and I’m not sure I want to know people who don’t share it – thus, probably, ruling out at least 50% of my friends).

Or maybe I’ve just been too deeply influenced by discovering Lothlorien at an impressionable age. Or maybe not – Bart Simpson has one, after all, and you can’t get much further from one of Tolkien’s elves than Bart.

I was supposed to be being sensible, buying a selection of book tokens to be sent off to far-flung friends’ children one Christmas, and my attention wandered. Perched temptingly on a nearby shelf, this book spoke to me of freedom, of woods, of escape and adventure – and, above all, not remotely of a ‘festive’ Tesco’s. I had to have it. 

I was able to excuse buying it because it was practical. I knew that I was extremely unlikely to add any such structure to one of my trees but, should the inclination take me, here was the ‘how-to’ book. See? There are drawings; there are plans. Practical.

Seriously, it is practical.

There are before and after shots – well, during and after:

There is plenty of advice on planning and choosing the right sort of tree, though admittedly – and unsurprisingly – as an American book, it does tend to assume you live on the other side of the Atlantic; the basic principles are the same. Most of the thoroughly practical stuff is at the beginning of the book, and then you get into the more inspirational examples.

Mind you, there is plenty of practical information there too, should you suddenly find yourself in possession of a wood in Washington State… But let’s stop pretending: for most people, this book is about fantasies. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The majority of the treehouses – the authors are specialist treehouse builders – are in rural locations, but some are more urban. Wherever they are, the text provides just enough information to involve you in the specific house, and each one is well illustrated, generally with both interior and exterior shots. And some of them – well, I wanna!

How about a treehouse which is so remote you have to make the first part of the journey to it by canoe (or on cross-country skis when the river freezes). And imagine the logistics of building the thing in the first place – every single plank had to also come in by canoe, and the house took three years to complete. And it’s in use throughout the year (the previous pictures are of the same house, which is in New England), and you can just make out a set of snowshoes underneath the house, which is built on hemlocks.

Incidentally, this particular house gives me a very bad case of woodpile-envy disorder, let alone treehouse envy or wildness envy… But what would happen if you broke a leg falling off those snowshoes? Hm? Just as well it’s fantasy, then.

There’s a large section on children’s treehouses, some of which I feel are not really treehouses as such – more garden buildings. However some undoubtedly are true treehouses, and again I wouldn’t say no if I bought a house with any of them already installed. This rather less remote and idealistic example is in Washington State. Yes, please.

And then there are the little details. Perhaps some of them could inspire a more real-world use (well, more ‘real-world’ than having to transport everything by canoe). Check out these steps:

I could do that…

Not really a book review, for which I apologise. Normal service will be resumed as soon as I stop fantasising about finding a remote lake somewhere and building a treehouse in the surrounding woods in which to write a masterpiece. At this precise moment, I’d settle for anywhere the RAF were not practising low flying. Earplugs, I need earplugs!

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