Treehouse as Studio

I started out during the design phase of my home, wanting to build an office/ studio/ guest cottage at the rear of my property. As it turned out, it wasn’t in the budget. This was probably a good thing because at the location where it was sited, I didn’t realize until after the lot was surveyed, there is a nice little grove of young live oaks amongst a thick bed of palmettos. Of course, now that my daughter is graduating and is soon to move on, building another structure just for guests seems silly and the home office still functions perfectly in the the third bedroom. Now I’ve decided if I still need some sort of studio to “get away” or create, I would like to build something open and treehouse-esque. Even though I don’t have any trees large enough to support a real treehouse, I was recently inspired by a childs playhouse nestled in a hardwood hammock that was sporting a bridge to a look-out. For all intents and purposes, it could be considered a treehouse. The treehouse concept is also fueled by a recent holiday gift, Treehouses of the World by Pete Nelson. Each of the treehouses featured in the book is truly spectacular in its own way. The one on the cover, the Redmond Treehouse is one of my favorite. It encompasses several trees that pop out at odd locations and the moss gives it the patina that is evidence that it has evolved over the last 20 years. If you’re engineeringly inclined, you’ll appreciate the design of a little device called the “GL”, which is used in modern treehouse construction as a support to anchor the beams of the treehouse to, so as to allow the tree mobility and growth. The GL hardware device can apparently support up to 9,000 lb.

Really, my intent was to post about ANOTHER idea for a studio, NOT the treehouse, but the treehouse is so organic and small and perfectly immersed in the natural environment, I couldn’t help myself. This other idea is not new, nor is it orginal and I found evidence of this right in my own hood.

The shipping container.

Shipping containers

If someone would be interested, I’d love to design them a re-purposed shipping container studio/ house/ outbuilding/ whatever. As for my own purposes, I’d love to use the shipping container, though the problem is fitting it on my narrow lot and wedging it in the back without taking out the sparkleberry tree. The other issue is of course aesthetics, I much prefer the look of two containers together (double wide, if I may) as opposed to a single. I love the charming gable roof on these, though on mine, I would design a barrel roof made of corrugated metal set on some beefy 4″x8″ beams just for fun. The roof would span the double wide. Then I’d design a simple lean-to porch on the long side with again the corrugated (mini preferred) metal roof over 2X4 purlins over 2X6’s, no I’d use “L” channel to keep the profile miniscule, set atop a beam supported by (2) reused 12″ dia. piles. I’ll have to work on that in SketchUp so you get the idea.

If you’re interested in pre-fab design and other ideas that have been executed with the container bay, check out

I would love nothing more than if we could reduce our living square footage to fit in a couple shipping containers and a treehouse and simultaneously start to appreciate and cultivate creative solutions to our living structures.


4 thoughts on “Treehouse as Studio

  1. That sounds fabulous – the tree house, the shipping container thing, and the idea of living like that. I’ve always loved outre dwellings. I’d love to live in a houseboat, or a windmill, or a lighthouse or one of those houses excavated out of the ground.

  2. Me too, me too. I want to help people envision other options for housing and if not for housing, than for creative spaces that encourage interaction with nation. I happen to live in an area where people (occassionally) still move older homes from the North to the coast and I believe it’s one of the more thoughtful things someone can do with regards to the natural environment, to reuse what is existing on a large scale. I believe this is what we are going to have to do anyway, probably sooner than later, reuse and retrofit existing structures. Those of us that can envision something new from something old, be it an article of clothing or an old house, will be more adaptable in a world that is short on resources.

  3. Small is good. Unfortunately the cost for shipping containers has gone through the roof now that the Chinese are buying up everybit of scrap steel they can get their hands on. They are also difficult to insulate without taking away from the space. Yet, I think this is all on the right track. Prefabricated dwellings, for whatever you choose to do in them, are the way to go and the use of shipping containers makes up for one of the “R”‘s.

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