George Clarke, architect and presenter of Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces and The Restoration Man, shares his latest tips and ideas on building a tree house.
Humans have had an affinity with structures high above ground since prehistoric times, when we needed to keep away from predators on the forest floor. Though escaping from wolves is no longer a concern, building a tree house in a woodland or at the bottom of your garden has become more popular than ever.
A space up in the trees gives a new perspective on the world and, if designed well, a tree house can be the ultimate restful retreat. I’ve just built one for my kids, and it was a great opportunity to get them excited about the design and build process. The first thing to consider is that you may require planning permission, so you will need to consult with the local council before you begin.
Next, structural design is critical, regardless of the size of your den, so you’ll need a bit of construction knowledge to make sure it’s safe and secure. The trees you are using must be strong enough to take the weight of the building and the design needs to allow for growth and movement to avoid damage. If you’re unsure, DIY advice websites such as treehouseguides.com can be useful; alternatively seek professional help from a specialist company such as Squirrel Design (0117 325 8325; squirreldesign.co.uk).
If you don’t have a strong enough tree available, opt for a structural tower to support your build instead. Designer Will Hardie and I created something like this for the Calvert Trust in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, and it worked a treat. Building a tree house can be a really rewarding experience. Making your own magical retreat in the treetops is something that you and your kids will remember forever.
Will Hardie & George Clarke Kielder Forest, Northumberland
Credit: Cathy Haglund