Adult Tree Houses for Your Play Deficit (and Inner Monkey)

VIDEO: Explore the beautiful and magical world of grown-up treehouses.


Worldwide surge in fully furnished tree houses: new "secret places" to help restore a little health and sanity at any age

Nature's Edge Notebook #20

Observation, Analysis, Reflection, New Questions

They're like something in a dream.

But they're popping up in trees all over the world.

And they make you feel good.

Just looking at pictures of them can make your blood pressure go down.

Tree houses for adults - many with classy little kitchens, running water, private bathrooms, and comfy couches - open a window for a little air and look straight out through the branches at a surprised bird looking straight back in at you.

Tree houses you can sleep in - a quiet retreat for the night where, on a fine mattress with a super-soft pillow, you can fall asleep looking up through a skylight and a lacework of leaves at stars peeking in from far away…

Just look at our three short Nature's Edge videos (links below) and it may awaken a wish to own one … to soar into the branches where you hear the sweet breeze and daydream where our distant ancestors first learned to daydream and to refresh their brains while the chaotic world stumbled and scampered around below, unaware of the high observatory overhead.

These tree houses are built by a new breed of architects who have figured out how to integrate human engineering with that of a living tree.

To support these tree houses, they've created ingenious bolts that sink into a trunk in a way the tree will accept and grow with … making it easy for the tree to host you in its dappled heart.

They're not built on lasting foundations of bedrock - someday, every tree must fall - but people who own these lofty retreats say that's part of the magic, makes it all the more precious for however many years or decades the tree will draw breath … and exhale it, as plants do, as freshly minted oxygen that you, cradled in it branches, can draw straight into your lungs.

In the first and third of these short videos, we hear from tree house architect Pete Nelson, talking to us from up in one of his creations, the Trillium Treehouse, in the Pacific Northwest.

(It's not far from Nelson's headquarters in Falls City, Washington.  They even offer workshops for those who want to try a DIY treehouse - detail links below.)

Nelson takes us on a tour of some of his favorites and shows glimpses including special bedrooms, even fireplaces, and explores some of his philosophy about thus building with nature, not against it.

Remember your natural urge to climb trees when you were a kid?

And how safe you may have felt up on a limb - however terrified the adult below?

Evolutionary psychiatrists say your inner monkey has a natural affinity for relaxation up amid the boughs.

They say it comes from needs and urges apparently built by evolution way down in our brain stems millions of years ago, when the earliest primates were beginning to emerge from something that descended from something that looked like the pen-trailed treeshrew that is still to be found stretching out on branches up in high trees found deep in the shrinking forests of Southeast Asia.

(After each of these three video segments, click back to this page to see the next.)

Here - For starters… just relax for a moment and take a look:

1-Grown-up Tree houses: Architect and builder Pete Nelson describes the "New Tree Houses of the World"

In this second video, psychiatrist and leading theorist of play behavior, Dr. Stuart Brown, introduces us to the tree house he had built near the California headquarters of his National Institute for Play.

He explains the psychological and physical health benefits, the mental creativity, and new clarity of thought that comes from having a tree house to hang out and ponder in.

He says that in this overbusy overcrowded world, the need for the "secret places" we sought out as kids is now greater than ever, whatever your age:

2-Recapturing the Wonder of Childhood: Play theorist and psychiatrist Stuart Brown talks about his own tree house and the growing modern need for 'secret spaces'

In this last brief video, more from architect Pete Nelson on what's special about adult tree houses, how they have spread around the world - also the answer to our Trip Up The Viewer Question (What is the cambium layer?) and a glimpse of "The guerilla tree house builder" of New York's Central Park who for years built a new tree house each summer in which he would sleep, hidden high in the leaves, above oblivious strollers and park rangers below:

3-The Global Appeal of Tree houses: the trend of adult tree houses is spreading from the U.S. to Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond

For DIY tree house builders, the Nelson company's workshops webpage is at:


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This is the tenth in a series on animal intelligence and the science of play behavior:

1-   " Hunting With a Most Endangered Hunter - Dateline Botswana" At:    

              (Nature's Edge Notebook #11)

2-  "Dogs Use Subway, Cat Takes Bus…" At:

              (Nature's Edge Notebook #12)

3-  "Who Needs Words? Crows?  You? Wild Gorillas? Alison Krauss? …" At: 

             (Nature's Edge Notebook #13)

4-   "How Would a Prairie Dog Describe You? Just Ask One!" At:

              (Nature's Edge Notebook #14)

5-  "Dolphins Reported Talking Whale in Their Sleep: Freud's 'Royal Road to

          the unconscious'  may have surfaced at a pool in France." At:

                (Nature's Edge Notebook #15)

6-  "Fun and Play Are Key to Survival for Bears, Dogs, Humans, Birds, and

           Maybe Even Ants." At:

               (Nature's Edge Notebook #16)

7- " Is Universe Made to Make You Giggle? Play Seen in Humans, Fish, Atoms,

          and the Universe. A Self-Organizing Quirkiness" is suspected by experts in

            nature itself …   from ants to atoms to distant galaxies." At:   ( Nature's Edge Notebook #17)

8-  "Lessons Learned by Tickling Rats. Chirping Rats and Stand-up Comics:

       Play and laughter is found deep in the brain stem alongside rage and lust." At:

                          (Nature's Edge Notebook #18)

9-  "The Joy of Your Brain and the Dark Side of Laughter. A 'Seemingly quirky finding' peers into animal minds, may also help show how Nazis abused play and laughter to horrid ends."            

                 At:               (Nature's Edge Notebook #19)

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