Archive for May, 2010

May 29, 2010

Early Lingo Tree House and More

Take a look at Jojo’s treehouse. In Caryn Antonini’s marvelous Early Lingo DVD, Jojo the monkey lives in this treehouse which was inspired by the treehouse Dan Wright built for my book “Treehouses”. Jojo and his friend Lulu teach young children various languages in the learning series. Simple words, colors and shapes are demonstrated in a fun and entertaining way, one sure to delight children around the world.

May 29, 2010

Free Spirit Tree Pods

The movable and sturdy tree pods, designed and manufactured by Tom Chudleigh of British Columbia, can be hung from almost anything, including trees, buildings, and rock walls. A unique system of webbing and ropes anchors the spheres to their locations. Each sphere or pod is waterproofed and built to be impact-resistant. The surface is composed of an internal laminated wood frame and clear fiberglass exterior.

The spheres are designed to fit harmoniously into a forest setting without altering it. Inside the sphere, walls and ceiling become one in a single continuous shell. A web of rope connects the sphere to the trees, reflecting a connectedness to the eco-system. Suspended spheres reduce the human footprint. The sphere’s web attaches at multiple points, and its stretchiness enables sphere and trees to move freely, producing a feeling of floating while in the sphere.

In bio-mimicry fashion, the nut like shape attaches to a web of rope. The web connects to which ever strong points are available. This replaces the foundation of a conventional building. A tree house sphere uses the forest for its foundation. The occupants have a vested interest in the health of the grove. The supporting web also mirrors our connectedness to our eco-system. Each sphere has four attachments on top and another four anchor points on the boom. Each attachment is strong enough to carry the entire sphere and contents.

A suspended sphere is tethered by 3 nearly vertical ropes to each of 3 separate trees. This distributes the load evenly over the 3 trees and results in a stable hang. Like an inverted three-legged stool, there will be almost equal tension in each of the three suspension ropes. The sphere resides in the center of the triangle formed by the 3 trees. It can be slung from 5 to 100′ off the ground, depending on the size of the trees. The triangle formed by 3 old trees was called a sacred grove in the druid tradition. Each grove was influenced by the type and age of the trees. I’ve found that to be my experience as well. The flavour of a grove changes considerably with the type of trees.

May 21, 2010


The kids of Brisbane in their treehouse

Sometimes you have to join in and help those who need it. When I read this article I was dumbfounded by the stupidity of the city officials in Brisbane, Australia.

I’ve never been to Brisbane but I know it’s a terrific city. Located on the eastern coastline of Queensland it is the third biggest city in Australia with a population of two million people. So it is a sophisticated place with all kinds of natural attractions nearby notably the Gold Coast. So what happened here? How can the City Council not see this endeavor as a positive step, a way for kids and their parents to come together to create a meeting place, a place where ideas and fun can flow. Maybe one day one of these kids becomes a council person who will do great things for the city of Brisbane and it’s natural surroundings. We should be commending these kids and praising their work ethic and their ingenuity not condemning them and the treehouse because a code or law was twisted or broken. “No harm, no foul” so to speak.

Chairman of City Business and Local Asset Services David McLachlan said the structure, which is built on council land in Spencer Park, is a “safety, privacy and liability issue”. “The top platform is some 4m off the ground,” McLachlan said.

David, please, four meters off the ground is a safety issue?? So is walking on the sidewalk if a car runs you over. If you’re concerned about the safety issues build a railing with netting to keep the kids from falling onto the ground. Stop being a city official and remember your childhood. Help these kids experience the kind of fun that no iphone, ipad or Wie can offer. You owe them that.

May 16, 2010

Take a look at Lon’s appearance on Homework Hotline. This is the first of three parts.

May 13, 2010

Interview With Dan Wright

It’s been a while since I’ve talked with Dan Wright, owner and principal treehouse designer and builder of Tree Top Builders. We spent a week building a treehouse in Pennsylvania last year and I was thoroughly impressed with Dan as a builder and a man. I recently caught up with him and asked him ten questions which I call the “Treehouse Ten”

Dan, when did you build your first treehouse and what was it made of?

My first tree house looked like a small garden shed with cedar shingles on the walls that were washed with a watered down yellowish paint to make the house look old. I made the windows by hand, put flower boxes under the windows, and it looked really cute.

Sounds nice. I seem to remember you had a previous profession that was unrelated to treehouse building. Is that correct? When did you start seriously thinking of being a treetop builder?

Yes, that’s right, Lon. I used to work for a custom home builder as a carpenter. This must have been in 2002 when the idea first crossed my mind. Everyone I knew doubted that I could make a living at it, so I had to try.

Something I totally relate to and a good message to send out there. Live the dream. I remember you told me you worked on the treehouses at Longwood Gardens, correct? How was that experience? Which treehouse did you work on? Did you have any part in the design of the treehouses there? Who were some of the people you worked with there?

I helped Jake Jacob from TreeHouse Workshop with the Irish Cathedral tree house, which was a good experience. Jake is a long time friend in the industry, and I respect him and his company very much. They designed the treehouse, and they invited Gary (Gary Koontz, Dan’s partner) & I in to help them stay on schedule, and we put up most of the siding around the exterior and some other miscellaneous items.

Longwood Gardens

I’ve been to Longwood to see that treehouse and it’s spectacular. I had the pleasure of working with you and your partner Gary last year and I found you guys to be a great match. How did you meet? What brought you together as a team? And how does working with a partner help you create such great treehouses?

In April of 2004, I listed a newspaper job posting, and I had interviewed lots of guys and hired one of them. A few weeks later, Gary stopped in and wanted the job. So I hired them both. Well, some parts of building tree houses are two man jobs. But more than having another hand to lift something, Gary & I have built so much together that we read each other’s minds and can anticipate the other person’s needs. I estimate that Gary and I can finish a tree house about fifty percent faster than either one of us working with anybody else we have worked with before. It’s not that we’re supermen, it’s that we’re efficient and thoroughly understand the process.

Dan and Gary

Believe me I know. I’ve seen you guys in action! What’s the most interesting treehouse project (other than ours) you’ve worked on?

I really enjoyed a treehouse I built in 2005 that was modeled after a toy boat. It was an oak of historic proportions, a family that was pleasant to work for, and a project that was fun, creative, and came out nicely.

I’ve seen that one. I believe it’s in the book. Have you worked on any celebrity treehouses?

Sure, but most of them don’t like to be named… so I will refrain…

And that’s how you keep working on celebrity projects. Keep it on the down low.. What’s the best time of year to work on a treehouse?

I truly believe the best time to install treehouse attachment bolts is late winter at the end of a tree’s dormant season. This is before pests are about and this also allows the tree the greatest opportunity to respond to the new treehouse bolts installed in it and bolster them during it’s growth season. As for the carpentry, that can wait until it’s a little warmer!

Now I noticed when we did our project for the book, you didn’t have a formal plan? Is that normal for you and how do you sell the design of the treehouse to the client if you don’t have a formal plan?

It’s actually pretty normal to build a small kid’s treehouse without a formal plan. If the project’s budget is $10,000, who wants to spend $2000 or more on a plan? But if the project is $100,000, then $2000 on a plan is well worth it. With simple single tree platforms like that one, the plans are in our heads.

I can only say watching you guys work on the fly like that was awesome. You did have a sketch from nine year-old Katie Ellis in Maryland when you built the Ellis Treehouse. How did you turn that sketch (which is in the book) into a treehouse that made her and her little brother so happy?

Well, you know I get a lot of drawings from kids. Most of them tend to focus on the features rather than the building. So long as it has a ladder and a pulley & bucket (which nearly all kids tree houses do), then they believe you followed their plan. So Mom & Dad tend to have more say in the actual size, style, and materials used on their treehouse. Honestly, most kids will be happy with anything you build for them. When interviewing children and seeing their sketches, I focus on the fun features they draw and ask them how they want to spend time in their treehouse.

Alright, last question. Would you live in a treehouse and if you did what kind would it be?

My favorite part of building and enjoying tree houses is the platforms. I am currently building a few platforms at my ground house that I can access from our second story via rope bridges. One of the platforms is going to have a hot tub. But I don’t plan to build any walls on them, although perhaps a roof on one. I probably would not live full time in a treehouse because I have a growing family and it would have to be very large to fit all of us! Perhaps in retirement after the kids are off to school!

Thanks Dan.

May 4, 2010

Roderick Romero: Renaissance Man

“Nature is the architect” is Roderick Romero’s credo. His treehouse designs are organic and highly evolved. “I try to let the tree communicate with me and I communicate with the tree.” If you’ve ever had the experience of moving through one of Roderick’s creations as I have, you’ll understand that statement.

Builder and designer Roderick Romero integrates a back-to-nature look with a set of fanciful designs that appear as if they were sculpted from the tree itself. He uses fallen tree branches and limbs and creates “basket railing” designs that look as if the treehouse is sitting in a giant nest. Some of his treehouses have railings that look as if they’re swirling around a platform like a wooden tornado. Such is the “crow’s nest” feature of the fabulous “Green treehouse.”

This fantastic treetop dwelling features three levels that reach over forty feet in the air, offering a terrific view at the top level. Romero uses recycled materials, found objects and an array of woods and window types to highlight his creations.

• Antique timber has a timeless character.The materials speak of a past in which craftsmanship and enduring quality were prized.
• Hand hewn structural timbers from early American virgin forests are much larger and longer than any timbers available today.
• Some of the more interesting salvage is from 125 to over 250 years old. Many pre-date the American Revolution, the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803, and the battle of the Alamo.
• Most salvage yards take all necessary precautions to prevent insect infestation by fumigating the wood before it is sold.