Rooms With a View

Getting a lift by the lake

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

Time was, before video games and apps, every kid wanted a tree house — a place to daydream, to pretend, to lick drippy popsicles on a summer evening. It’s not too late.

John Lennon built a beauty in Hollywood. Winston Churchill had one constructed on his estate, for the grandchildren. And, for $115 — less than the rack rate at a covey of hotels and motels — four people can stay in a little gem overlooking Lake Pinehurst, with a full magazine-worthy kitchen plus two bedrooms, a loft, a living/dining area, a bath and a half, three TVs, WiFi, heat, AC, a wraparound deck and built-in relaxation.

Sound like an infomercial? More like a PSA (public service announcement), since who isn’t soothed by a water view while greeting squirrels eyeball to eyeball?

From a distance, these octagons on stilts — they’re not actually attached to trees — resemble intergalactic pods preparing to blast off for home. Surely, everybody who has driven by this cluster on the way to Lake Pinehurst wonders what lies within.

The curiosity may be primordial. Earliest humanoids could well have slept in trees, unreachable by wild animals — though any archeological evidence of it would never have survived. Stilted structures, for storage and for living, were built in the Amazon region, all through the Indo-Pacific and in Africa. In the Arctic, stilts raise houses above the permafrost. And beach houses crowding the seashore and barrier islands up and down the Atlantic coastline have more stilts than YouTube has videos. You can find resort clusters in the Blue Ridge Mountains lifted off the ground and Rocky Mountain ski-in, ski-out chalets built into snow-packed slopes.

Backyard tree houses can be status symbols for artists, poets, philosophers and wealthy Peter Pans. An International Tree House Architecture Competition draws wild entries from Denmark to Switzerland, France to Long Island, New York.

Tree houses as vacation properties gained popularity in the 1970s — the Diamondhead era in Pinehurst — and were incorporated as part of the new lake community near the No. 3 course. The houses, ordered from catalogs (including Sears), arrived as kits to be assembled on-site. Their unusual shapes provoked mixed reactions from village traditionalists. Most of the original units have been remodeled, often glamorized beyond recognition. Some are owner-occupied seasonal vacation homes. Others are investment properties rented to golfers, wedding guests, family reunion out-of-towners, and businessfolk on retreat through Airbnb, Vrbo and local agents, including Sandhills Rentals.

Perfect, when the in-laws visit — but do advise them to bring sensible shoes, because this house-on-stilts rises nearly 20 feet, accessed by an exterior stairway.

Inside, the scale of this example in the Brae Burn enclave, at 800 square feet, feels compact except for the generous kitchen, with granite countertops, a full-sized fridge, built-in cooktop and oven, dishwasher, microwave, breakfast bar with adjoining dining table seating six, facing a living room with sofa and upholstered side chairs. Two bedrooms sleep four. Between the kitchen and sitting area, a desk accommodates the ubiquitous laptop. With COVID still restricting office attendance, what’s not to like about a tranquil, private work getaway?

The floors are easy-clean stained bamboo. Furnishings throughout blend a soothing grassy green with cream upholstery and dark woods. Tableware and linens are high quality. Curtains offer privacy since most of the tree houses are built in clusters. Every inch appears tasteful, spotless, well-maintained.

For pretty obvious reasons, barbecue grills are not allowed on the decks. As consolation, this tree house comes with a kayak, facilitating an escape when the tigers and gorillas drop by for appetizers.

Tree House

A tree house, a free house,

A secret you and me house,

A high up in the leafy branches

Cozy as can be house.

A street house, a neat house,

Be sure and wipe your feet house

Is not my kind of house at all —

Let’s go live in a tree house.

                   — Shel Silverstein  PS

Recommended Posts