No PNW adventure would be complete without day spent exploring a treehouse. Now, since there is no actual driving, just mind cruising, feel free to grab a beer for scrolling and be sure to put on your favorite flannel. We’re headed for the lush mountains of Oregon.
We’ll begin our journey by putting on your favorite Spotify playlist in the car. You can roll the windows down, it’s early summer and rain is nowhere in the forecast. It’s a perfect day to chop wood for the coming winter, or to explore the flanks of Mt. Hood, one of Oregon’s most popular volcanoes. Along our drive you won’t be able to miss the 11,249 foot volcano, as it rises like the sun above the Cascade Mountain Range.
As we wind through the dense evergreen forests, you might begin to plot your move to this dreamy part of the country. We’ll pass campgrounds, wild and scenic rivers, picturesque boat ramps, and dense evergreen forests where bears and wolves romp and owls sing as the dusk pulls at our imagination.
By the time we reach the treehouse, you may have already quit your job and planned your life here. This place really is something from a movie. No, really, The Goonies was filmed on the Oregon coast. It’s hard not to let your imagination run wild here in this land of endless adventure and possibility. Which makes having two treehouses in your backyard suddenly seem like the most natural thing in the world. And that suspension bridge? A thing of dreams, but here, a delicious reality. I told you, here anything is possible.
Designed to feel as if you’ve entered your very own National Park, with trees so tall, it certainly feels as if you have. As you walk across the suspension bridge, you can’t help but find the steep and dense hillside inspiring. The treehouses were not built at the same time, yet they compliment each other flawlessly. One was built in 2018 and the other just last year. Both treehouses hold their own unique magic. The first has a cozy yet modern cabin vibe, while the second is a contemporary, sleek and symmetrical design. They are linked together by a gorgeous and seemingly impossible floating staircase that allows you to descend from the top treehouse down to the second. When you begin your walk down, your perspective shifts, allowing you an intimate view of this steep forest floor. Once you’ve reached the platform of this perfectly square treehouse, you’ll begin to notice how its symmetry plays a huge role in how you feel among this grove of trees. It’s symmetry allows you to feel apart of the landscape in a very natural way, highlighting that floating feeling, as if you were a bird yourself.
Today we will spend our time exploring the newly built treehouse. Right away, you probably noticed the floor to ceiling corner windows. They are eye-catching and beautifully unusual. And you can’t miss the cedar shingles that wrap their way around the treehouse organically. Its hard to imagine this natural space without this impressive little house nestled just below the canopy. It feels right at home among this tall and wild wood. I got to sit down with the architect, Daniel Ash, who filled me in on the design, and the intention behind this build.
The blueprints for this design began with the beautiful idea of creating a space tailored for intimate conversations, a place to connect. Intimate conversation, a concept I don’t think we consider enough in daily architecture. Lucky for us, Nelson Treehouse does.
Daniel explains, “During our investigation, it became clear that the best way to light that room would be from the corners, so that nobody’s head would be back-lit while sitting on the couches.” It’s these little details that make all the difference and give insight into how intricate the process of designing these types of builds really is. They aren’t simply houses in trees, they are sculptures, designed by artists who understand the difference.
My favorite part of this build is definitely the floor to ceiling corner windows and the staircase that connects the two together. Sitting inside and plopping down on one of the couches, you can’t help but notice how dreamy it feels, to be able to see through the cabin on all sides and angles. Everywhere you look, you’re reminded that you are in the trees. A bird’s eye view, to keep reminding you, this place is magic. Not that you could forget, I mean… look at that filtered light pouring in through the windows.
Daniel explained further, “we ended up making the windows symmetrical on all the walls, which gives a more modern and balanced look to the structure. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the proportions of the structure in relation to the trees also worked out so perfectly, because we could do a 16′ x 16′ square with most of the underlying support hidden from view, giving the treehouse much more of a floating in the trees look, as opposed to a little cottage sitting on a big platform raft. That relationship worked really well, and I am always looking to do more of that.”
When you walk across the suspension bridge, you feel like you’re in an Ewok village. But having two treehouses so close together, certainly had its design challenges. And creating harmonious flow from one space to another is key. And what flows better than a floating staircase. This isn’t your classic staircase, no that’d be too boring for the Nelson Treehouse team.
This staircase quite literally floats through time and space, weaving you naturally from one to the next. Normally, says Daniel, “we try to avoid situations where you have to walk down to get to a treehouse, so keeping the approach exciting and making it feel like you are still way above the ground was a thing we paid a lot of attention to.” This attention to detail paid off, nothing dull about walking down in this case. It feels as if you’re descending into another portal. One where Sasquatch roams freely.
When I asked Daniel about some of his favorite design details, we couldn’t NOT talk about the materials used in this space. After all, it wouldn’t be a proper North West treehouse if it didn’t have cedar from top to bottom. Literally. Cedar shingles. Yellow Cedar interior. This space is a poster child for Cedar and we love to see it… and smell it.
Daniel agrees, “we were very lucky to have some beautiful yellow cedar in stock for the interiors. Having that material, as well as having tremendously skilled carpenters with the time to execute fussier details, is what really makes that interior come alive. Orienting that cedar vertically so that you get the light from the windows to showcase the texture is something we are really happy about.”
I couldn’t agree more. While photographing this treehouse, I was drawn in by the master craftsmanship of even the finest of details. Essentially this treehouse is one statement piece after another… every detail building on the beauty of the detail prior. Its hard not to stare. Or drool. From the exterior, to the finish work on the interior, to the sleeping platform… This treehouse truly is a work of art. Every angle invites you to linger a little longer, sleep a little deeper and dream a little bigger. It’s the kind of place that emphasizes the importance of nature, and the role it plays in our lives. We need nature. We need spaces that keep reminding us of this and Nelson Treehouse does just that.
Nelson Treehouse creates spaces that don’t take away from the natural environment but rather highlights it. Its the kind of architecture that invites conversation driven by connection and inspires change. Whether that’s taking intentional time to unplug, encouraging us to get outside among nature or inspiring small changes in our own lives and for the planet. Where we spend our time, undoubtedly influences us. And this space definitely influences, inspires and encourages… exploration, play, creativity and adventure.
Written by Sammy Spence.