Fanciful 'Hobbit House' reimagines the treehouse
Owner Suzanne Dege' moved to Orcas Island with $400, a VW van and three cats. Today, she owns one of the most unique vacation rentals in Washington state.
Fri, Jun 06, 2014 at 10:59 AM
All photos: Benyamin Cohen
Treehouses are no longer just for kids playing in the backyard. In recent years, a new trend of epic treehouses has taken off. Adventurous travelers looking for a unique place to stay — and über-cool vacation photos to post on Facebook — can now choose from a bevy of options.
One such home, the Hobbit House, is situated on the hilltops of Orcas Island, about a three-hour commute (including a ferry trip) from Seattle. It consists of three pods, all connected by hallways, decks and bridges. The first pod contains the kitchen and bathroom, the second is home to the living room, and the third houses the office and bedroom. There's even a laundry room complete with washer and dryer. The home has Wi-Fi, two televisions, drawers full of DVDs and board games, and bookcases with everything from the spiritual ("The Celestine Prophecy") to the supernatural (the "Twilight" series, which was filmed nearby). For an extra fee, the homeowner (a masseuse) will swing by to offer a massage.
The large deck overlooks the ocean.
While the home may seem like the ultimate in luxury treehouses, it wasn't always that way. It was built without a kitchen, for instance, and Suzanne Dege' (whose name includes an apostrophe) bought it in 2002 as a fixer-upper. She lived there for eight years and, along with her partner Arthur Koch, slowly built onto it. "It's like owning a land boat," she explains regarding the amount of water that comes down, complicating any construction. The kitchen — crafted from cherry wood cut from trees on the property — was eventually built, no small feat considering the odd curvature of the home's walls.
Dege' and Koch embody a Northwest DIY ethos, constantly upgrading the home themselves. Last year, they put a new roof on the bedroom tower. It's only 100 square feet, but the task took weeks since they first had to build scaffolding just to reach that height. "It's a work in progress," she admits.
The living room boasts a cathedral ceiling.
Dege' wasn't always the treehouse-living type. She grew up in Miami, about as far away geographically from the Hobbit House as one could be while still residing in the United States. She moved to the West Coast after college and eventually found herself at a crossroads in life. She took the road less traveled, although in this case it was a ferry off the coast of Seattle. She chalks up her decision to blind intuition and not being afraid to make a change. "I had $400 in my pocket, a VW van and three cats. I ended up getting on the ferry."
Eventually she bought the Hobbit House and began fixing it up on a shoestring budget. The home was originally designed by legendary natural builder SunRay Kelley, described as a "barefoot maverick" by the New York Times. "Mr. Kelley has built perhaps 50-odd chimerical structures across the continent, from freaky folk palaces to Smurf huts," wrote the newspaper.
The home has touches of both the modern and the antique; it's equipped with Netflix as well as a fireplace.
Dege' moved to another part of Orcas Island and started renting out the Hobbit House a few years ago. Not surprisingly, people came calling. Guests have called the house "truly magical" and "total bliss," and it is usually booked months in advance. With lush forest on one side and mere steps to the ocean on the other, and the nearest small town miles away, it's a cloistered vacation spot free of noise from modern society.
"One of my favorite things to do is create a space where people can feel themselves more," she explains. "I want people to just go, 'Hmm, there's more to life than meets the eye.' I've been loving sharing it with people."
The kitchen offers everything you might need.
The office nook offers a small place to work — but why would you want to do that?
A view of the multiple decks.
The hallway (left) and bedroom .
The in-ground shower, private except for the peeping squirrels.
The sleeping quarters.
The view of the ocean from the bedroom.
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