Design devotee blogs about cities, innovation and architecture.
House of Tree: A sylvan escape fit for an airline exec
Where does Flexjet President Fred Reid go when he wants to escape for the weekend? Try 30 steps up into a stilted cabin nestled amongst a grove of redwoods with no running water and certainly no Wi-Fi.
So, when you imagine where one of the world’s top airline honchos would go to truly get away from it all, where exactly do you think he or she'd escape to? A private island in the Bahamas? A remote chateau in the Swiss Alps? Richard Branson’s house? If you’re Fred Reid — current president of Flexjet, former CEO of Virgin America and erstwhile president/COO of both Delta and Lufthansa — you head straight to a tiny, completely off-the-grid cabin hoisted high above the ground in a thick grove of second-growth redwood trees.
Dirksen recently tagged along with said cabin’s designer/builder, award-winning woodworker Scott Constable of wowhaus and Deep Craft, for a tour of Reid’s 200-square-foot retreat-on-stilts that, while not technically a proper tree house, closely resembles one in spirit thanks to “360 degree views through the trees, rustic accommodations, no utilities, and a feeling of being apart from everything but closer to nature.”
This “sanctuary in the forest” — it was actually permitted as an observation tower — is located on a secluded parcel of land owned by Reid in West Sonoma County, Calif., that Constable refers to as Reid’s “spiritual homeland.” Constable explains to Dirksen that the construction of the elevated cabin — or "House of Tree" as Reid calls it — was as low-impact as possible — the four trees that had to be cleared to make way for the structure were milled on site and used as siding for the cabin and incorporated into the cabin’s interior — and that accessing the cabin via a three-story staircase (30 steps, total) isn't “too much of an extreme sport experience.”
Constable describes the unique ascent up into the cabin: "The number of stairs of each climb is roughly in proportion to the scale of the landings they lead to, both increase in number and size, respectively, as you go up. It’s as though if you kept climbing you could reach the vast open sky, kind of how I always pictured happening in 'Jack and the Beanstalk.' Indeed, entering the structure after winding up the tower has a magical effect; the height off the ground adds to the feeling and it’s easy to drop the cares of the world below once inside."
Inside, the structure is lit by kerosene lamps and heated by a small Danish woodstove. Cooking is performed on a Coleman camp stove and there is, as you would guess, no plumbing. Comments Constable on the cabin’s total lack of utilities: “I think the original plan was to add solar power and rain catchment and maybe even bring a hose down … there’s so much irrigation happening in the orchard. But I think once you start to open that up, then it’s laptops and then it’s Internet. I think people want increasingly to get away from that … It’s kind of like being at sea. I really felt like it needed to stay as simple as possible.”
Plenty more great nuggets from Constable — in addition to sporting an impressive head of hair, he has some truly lovely insights on the act of truly "getting away" — on tree-centric living in the above video. I'd also take a few moments to learn more about Constable's Deep Craft initiative and to check out the wowhaus website to familiarize yourself with his work. Really good stuff. And did I mention that in addition to tree houses, he also designs skateboards?
The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.