By Cathy Lara
Simon Payne, co-founder of Blue Forest in the United Kingdom, grew up in the great outdoors of east Africa. Payne is nostalgically attached to tree houses, which he says remind us all of youthful experiences with “dens, playhouses and hideaways.” After a day trip to Athens, Greece, to visit a client’s estate to see if a tree house build was feasible within the client’s gardens, Payne already had a sense that this tree house build would be one of the most extravagant constructions that his team had ever done. After walking around the client’s property to identify the most appropriate location, Payne chose a site among a collection of mature pine trees near the client’s main home and not far from an existing children’s play area.
At a Glance
- Who plays here: A couple and their 11-year-old son
- Location: Athens, Greece
- Size: 376 square feet (interior floor space)
- That’s interesting: The tree house is filled with a wide range of high-tech gadgets and is fittingly referred to as “James Bond’s HQ.”
The client wanted to build a large tree house with enough space to include a kitchen, a washroom and a living area. In the initial conversations, TVs, security cameras, biometric security systems and other high-tech gadgets weren’t even in the picture.
The tree house, with a deck perched about 10 feet from ground level, was designed to become part of the landscape and so that trees could be retained; no trees were cleared to make way for the construction. The structure is supported on Blue Forest’s bracer system, which allows for tree movement and growth where the trees pass through the decks.
“Our client’s brief for this project was extremely short, but after our initial meeting, it was clear to us that what they wanted was a tree house on a larger, more functional scale. Having designed and built over 200 tree houses, we’ve become very good at being inventive and allowing our imaginations to run wild after the first meeting,” says Payne.
The construction of the tree house was carried out almost entirely onsite in Greece by three of Blue Forest’s craftspeople.
The team employed a special technique that allowed for the tree house’s subframe erection without any fixings to the host tree.
Unique to this project was the high site security required by the client. “Someone from the client’s security detail remained with our craftsmen at every moment — even to the toilet or while waiting outside of the door to enter. My staff was required to hand in their passports, mobile phones and cameras to armed security personnel at the main entrance,” says Payne. Despite being slightly amused by the extremely private nature of the client and the high security, Payne’s team proceeded just as if they were building at home in the United Kingdom.
This biometric fingerprint lock was one of the high-tech gadgets conceived by Blue Forest. “After much searching, we were able to source a specialist of biometric security systems in China,” says Payne.
The client’s wish to create an exclusive tree house with a number of luxurious accessories made it difficult for Payne and his team to take sustainability into account. But despite the extravagant nature of the scheme, he employed a few methods to help improve sustainability.
The tree house substructure, deck, frame and roof are built almost entirely from FSC-certified softwood timber, being one of the most sustainable construction materials available and ideal for tree house construction.
Timber was the perfect material for this tree house because it is well suited for Athens’ hot climate; timber, a natural insulator, has air pockets that make it a natural barrier to heat and cold.
A few of the tree house’s high-tech features: a bespoke CCTV console, a plasma TV, plasma plates and the holy trinity of game consoles: Xbox, PlayStation and Wii — a tween boy’s dream come true.
The tree house was designed to blend in with its natural surroundings. Cedar tongue-and-groove boards, cedar shingles and hand-split oak shakes make up its exterior cladding. The combination of these neutral colors is not only very attractive but is also effective in breaking up the outline of the structure, making the tree house less oppressive in its surroundings.