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.

George Clarke on building a tree house1

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.

George Clarke on building a tree house1

Will Hardie & George Clarke Kielder Forest, Northumberland

Credit: Cathy Haglund

Kevins Column

Grand Designs Live: Ask an Expert Weekend 22-23 May 2021

Discover free home project advice and product recommendations from the comfort of your own home. Register now to express your interest.
gdlonline
tigg-coll-house-for-theo-oskar
Extensions

Tigg + Coll design accessible extension for residents with limited mobility

The architects behind this home won a design competition to create a home extension for two young boys with a degenerative illness that affects their...
copper-cube-extension-bethnal-green
Extensions

Rees Architects extend a hexagonal, brutalist home in Bethnal Green

This unusual London home, made up of hexagonal spaces, has been extended with a sympathetic copper façade. 
how-to-reduce-the-carbon-footprint-of-your-extension
Extensions

Top tips for reducing the carbon footprint of your extension

When planning and building your extension make sure to consider what impact it will have on the environment.
will-gamble-parchment-works
Extensions

Explore this extension set among the ruins of a parchment factory

Explore this unique extension, which was built amongst the ruins of an old parchment factory adjacent to a family home.
corten-steel-rear-extension-hampshire
Extensions

Tour this Corten steel-clad rear extension in Hampshire

Take a look at this impressive rear extension to a Victorian property, designed to provide a work from home space alongside a new kitchen.
a-london-extension-inspired-by-japanese-tea-houses
Extensions

Inside a London home extension inspired by Japanese tea houses

This stylish home extensions takes inspiration from a Japanese Shoji screen