Design

Wakefield treehouse takes tiny-house design to new heights

For Michael Urichuck of Wakefield Construction, building a treehouse on his property was all about the view across the Edelweiss Valley

The dining area is compact, but the views are expansive. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

This tree house is a free-standing log construction supported by nine massive hemlock trunks. They’re sourced locally, and they are so big that you can’t fit your arms around them. Anchored to the bedrock, they rise 40 feet into the air. A series of platforms built around the logs contains pod-like “rooms,” connected to one another by balconies, stairs, bridges, and other walkways.

The treehouse is supported by nine hemlock trunks; platforms are connected to each other via bridges and other walkways. Photo by Barking Monkey Studio

Constructed adjacent to the steep slope of a hill, the main entrance is from the hillside along a covered bridge that extends from the hill to the first platform, or the floor of the tree house. This level consists of a balcony framed by the hemlock trunks and includes a small outdoor dining area, a bar, and a cozy nook. This space also contains the first enclosed room: a stylish modern bathroom with radiant concrete floors, exposed copper pipes, and a glassed-in shower.

There’s not a bad view in the place — but guests should be fairly comfortable with each other, as there aren’t too many walls. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

To reach the second level, one takes a narrow flight of covered — though still open — wooden stairs up to an enclosed space that contains a kitchen, two sleeping areas, a living room, and a dining room. The space is open-concept: a small kitchen bisects the space, dividing the elevated bedrooms from the living and dining areas. The bedrooms themselves are separated from each other by a small wall, but not from the kitchen or the rest of the space. As Urichuck says with a smile, guests here have to be pretty comfortable with one another.

The entire space has been designed to provide occupants with unobstructed views of the hills, no matter the room. Because of the slope and the height of those hemlock trunks, this tree house actually towers over nearby trees.

The sleeping area on the lowest level. Urichuk sourced many of the materials were salvaged from other projects. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

The “rooms” and spaces are designed around the principle of tinyhouse construction: use all available space. With only 420 square feet of enclosed area, creative solutions were required. For example, the couch in the living room is a trundle bed; one of the washrooms consists of only a toilet — one has to walk to the kitchen to wash up. Efficiency extends to materials as well, as Urichuck recycled materials from other projects and wood from nearby barns. This gives the tree house a slightly hodgepodge look (not unlike he Swiss Family Robinson’s tree house that was made from materials washed up from the shipwreck). But that only enhances the already unique character of the dwelling.

Since building tree houses in his own childhood, this is the first one for Urichuck, and he believes it’s one of the first in the area. The project gave Urichuck a creative outlet, and it’s paying off as an Airbnb. He and his partner had been renting out their own log home, which is also on the property, for years. “We found it very easy to rent our place anytime. So we thought we should make a log home dedicated as a rental property,” he says.

He knew the building would have to be small, so that it would be easy to clean and not be attractive as a party rental. It also had to fit on the edge of their sloped land, and it had to provide a creative outlet for him. And, of course, it had to take advantage of the spectacular views. The tree house fit perfectly with their goals and, since being listed on Airbnb roughly four months ago, has been a popular rental. And he’s had requests from others looking for him to build a similar type of dwelling.

I would build this again. I really like the feeling of being up so high,” he says, standing on the balcony 40 feet above the ground and looking out across the valley.