THE treehouse movement continues well after the end of a popular reality TV series starring one of the industry’s most renowned builders.
Pete Nelson, founder of Nelson Treehouse and Supply and former reality TV star on Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters, thinks treehouses could be the next frontier for tiny homes.
Speaking exclusively to The US Sun, Nelson suggested that treehouse communities, or sustainable tree housing, could offer environmentally responsible alternatives to other forms of tiny house construction.
“I’m interested in all of that, especially Seattle with the homeless,” he explained, noting that several cities like this have vacant lots full of trees that are perfect for a small community.
“It feels like there’s so much land left in the cities in places with a topography like Seattle, a lot of hills with big trees growing out of them depending on what’s happening below.”
Nelson continued, “But I think what I’m trying to say is that you look at that as an alternative — maybe a village in the trees.”
“Simple little tree houses that, you know, take away the muddy digger aspect.”
According to the experienced builder, not only can treehouses be built without costing astronomical sums, they also grow with the trees and barely disturb the surrounding forest area.
In fact, Nelson Treehouse and Supply works with arborists on a regular basis to ensure the treehouses remain a form of extension for trees.
“We’ve worked with many thoughtful arborists over the years who are really thinking about how the tree house really fits into their world of maintaining healthy and happy trees,” Nelson said.
“They’re all for it.”
He continued, “In every way it’s just a good thing and almost symbiotic.”
“You’re not going to rid your site of all the trees — in our case, you know, from a sustainability perspective, we’re preserving the trees, and maybe not all of them.”
Additionally, if needed, the cost of building the tree houses could be lower, Nelson said.
This could pave the way for a treehouse community reminiscent of tiny homes created by organizations like Tiny Homes Detroit, which they say help “the homeless, inmates, the elderly who are no longer in foster care or equivalent, and seniors ” build website.
The treehouse master noted that while Nelson Treehouse and Supply often constructs larger and more specific buildings defined by a client with a typically larger budget, capable parties could collect materials for around $10,000 per treehouse.
“Difficult news for the person who wants Nelson Treehouse to build their treehouse, I would say,” Nelson admitted to The US Sun, citing the hundreds of thousands to millions the company often puts into building for some clients.
“I mean, with Craigslist and a little good research on the internet and a bit of savvy, I think anyone who knows about construction can figure it out.”
Even if they can’t Nelson tree house and supplies is its own treehouse hardware supplier and provides first-time builders with manuals and materials to get started.
This could keep costs relatively low for tiny, house-like treehouse communities, and Nelson explained that projects only end up in the million-dollar range due to the imagination of some clients.
“We’re really just channels for our customers’ dreams, aren’t we? I love it when they get going and have big ideas of what they can do [do] or what the trees will allow,” he told The US Sun.
“And so they become projects worth millions.”
PAVE THE WAY
Anyhow, Nelson is certainly an expert in the field, having started building treehouses alongside his father at the age of seven, years before he played a pivotal role in creating what is now a luxury treehouse building community.
He started his career working on single-family homes, but quickly grew disliked by the rules and regulations.
“When you build a single family home in the United States, there are a lot of building codes,” Nelson told The US Sun.
“As a home builder, I’ve really looked into that side of things. And I guess I was put off by the bureaucracy too. That was one of the reasons I was like, ‘God, you know’.” , I hate that.”
“I want to hide in the forest and build three houses,” he added.
Nelson did just that, despite the non-existent demand for treehouses compared to single-family homes.
“There wasn’t really a market per se for these adult-scale treehouses,” he noted.
“I mean, maybe that was in my fantasy world.”
Despite this, Nelson stuck to his desire to create large treehouse projects and in 1994 published a book called Treehouses: The Art and Craft of Living Out on a Limb.
By this point, he and his wife, Judy, were inundated with requests for personal tree houses and budgets that only grew over time.
After years of building treehouses and founding the company that would later become Nelson Treehouse and Supply, Treehouse Masters aired on Animal Planet in 2013.
For eleven seasons, viewers watched as Nelson and the company traveled and built luxurious tree houses for clients across the United States.
These clients have included celebrities and all-star athletes like Shaquille O’Neill.
While Nelson expressed his love for the Treehouse Masters experience, which ended in 2018, and joy in creating detailed and unprecedented new builds, he was always keen to share the process with his family.
Nelson recalled his first significant build in 1992, which he did with his then young children.
“It was just about how I can do that and feed these little kids,” he explained.
“I guess the biggest learning was being up there with my then 2-year-old daughter, Emily, who now runs the whole company. Both of my boys were I think four months old in July 1992 and they are now full carpenters.”
It’s fair to say that Nelson has helped inspire what he sees as a burgeoning community of treehouse builders with professional operations across the country.
Time will tell if that reach can transform the treehouse building industry in ways that benefit underprivileged communities.