Not Your Daddy's Treehouse

It wasn't that long ago that the million-dollar house made real estate headlines, but look at what's causing a buzz now: the million-dollar treehouse.

We're not talking about the kind of treehouse built by 10-year-olds with scrap and sheets of used plywood.

Now, your childhood dream is built by professionals like the people at Daniels Wood Land in Paso Robles, Calif.

There's just something about treehouses that captures the imagination. Children love to play in them, and grown-ups like them because they enable them to recapture their childhood.

The million-dollar treehouse is planned for a customer with some deep pockets.

"We're talking seven houses up in the trees all connected by bridges," said James Powell, vice president of Daniels Wood Land.

And what kind of customized treehouse is most popular among Daniels Wood Land's clients?

"Our biggest selling pieces right now are pirate-ship treehouses," Powell said. "We've taken up to a 50-foot-long pirate ship and stuck it into a tree. Anything they bring to me, we'll figure out a way to do it. If they've got the checkbook or the pocket book big enough, we'll make it work."

Customized Treehouses for Kids of All Ages

Daniels Wood Land was started by brothers Ron and John Daniels, who grew up on a ranch and had their own fascination with treehouses.

Now they have 50 employees and all the business they can handle. They have shipped treehouses to Europe; Saudi Arabia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Hong Kong.

"It doesn't matter where you come from, where your roots are. Everybody somehow inherently has a fondness for treehouses," Ron Daniels said.

You want a two-story treehouse? No problem. You don't have a tree to put it in? Daniels Wood Land will bring the tree, too. The company uses hollowed-out redwood trunks as the pedestal for treehouses in places where there are no good trees to support one.

The treehouses can be outfitted with electricity, hot and cold running water, Internet, phone, big-screen TVs, and air-conditioning. They can be insulated and fit with weatherproof windows.

The first multimillion-dollar treehouse has already been built by the TreeHouse Company of Fenwick, Scotland.

Built at Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland, it has, among other features, a 120-seat restaurant and a retail shop.

But your average treehouse tends to be a little more modest, depending upon your notion of modest.

In La Crescenta, Calif., Rene Hoss-Johnson and her husband commissioned a treehouse-plex for their two children.

It consists of two structures connected by bridges, nestled in a stand of eucalyptus trees. The treehouses have bunks, electricity, running water and a television.

Hoss-Johnson insists they built it for the kids.

"This is their place," she said. "They take care of it. They clean it. They maintain it. It's like their little home."

Pressed a little on whether it's really for the kids, Hoss-Johnson said, "We enjoy it as much as they do."

Maybe More Money Than They're Really Worth?

Many of these new treehouses are prebuilt and installed on site.

That was a problem for Mark Lee on the west side of Los Angeles, where his house is located on a short hill and the only place to put a treehouse for his 4-year-old twins is in the backyard.

The only way to get it there: by helicopter.

Lee bought the tree and the treehouse, and paid an enormous fee to shut down the streets.

He had to ask his neighbors to evacuate their homes while a helicopter dropped the treehouse precisely onto a concrete pad in his backyard.

Asked how much he was paying for all this, all he could say was, "I'd rather not give you a specific number but probably more than I should."