How Tree Houses Work

Tree houses are classic kid hideouts, but they're regaining popularity with adults as well. See more pictures of trees.
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What did Roman emperor Caligula, Winston Churchill and John Lennon all have in common? Each was known to spend time in his tree house. But don't try to imagine John Lennon as a boy in a tree -- these men were all adults when they enjoyed the view from lofty limbs.

Tree houses capture our imaginations. There's no question tree-house hideouts are popular with kids, whether they're used as adult-free zones or for living out Tarzan dreams. But is there an age limit to imagining you live in Winnie the Pooh's hollow tree, the Swiss Family Robinson's shipwreck tree house or the Ewok treetop village?


Historically, tribes in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia were tree dwellers. Tree houses were all the rage among wealthy adults during the Renaissance and through 16th and 17th century Europe. Queen Elizabeth I herself is said to have dined in a linden tree.

Tree houses for adults have been gaining popularity again since the early 1990s when the Treehouse of Horror Halloween special debuted on "The Simpsons" and the first tree-house bed-and-breakfast opened in Takilma, Ore. These grown-up spaces are far from being a few planks nailed together. Adults are building fully appointed luxury tree dwellings, ranging from one-room dens to treetop observatories to tree-house mansions. Some spend as much on tree real estate as on a traditional home. Whether it's a way to recapture childhood, escape from the stress of daily life or expand the family living space, adults are joining kids in creating a modern tree-house movement.

Longing for a tree house of your very own? Let's find out about tree house designs and construction, beginning with how to choose the best tree.