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COMFORT ZONE | Smart Designs for Pleasure and Planet

Retreat in the Trees

"Secret compartments are a treehouse tradition, so we designed several," White says. There are drawers behind drawers in the nightstands and hidden shelving behind the headboards.

"Because the structure is bolted to two firs using just eight connecting points, winter storms can be "quite exciting," White says. "The wind moves the treehouse almost like a boat."

Brian White has dreamed of treehouses most of his life. When he was five, his father built one among the avocado trees of the family's suburban Los Angeles backyard. Although the treehouse was simple, just a few nailed boards, "it was a spot that was our own," he recalls. Flash forward to 2006, when his wife gave him a book by Seattle-area treehouse guru Pete Nelson, which inspired him to build one for his own kids. "We didn't even have a proper tree," he says, laughing at that first attempt. "Just a big dogwood."

Then White got serious, building his piece de resistance between two towering Douglas firs beside the family's vacation home overlooking Washington State's Puget Sound. The two-story treehouse, designed by White with the help of his 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, sits on top of a ridge on the steeply sloped property, which gives it the feel of the crow's nest of a ship.

This is not Bart Simpson's treehouse. The reclaimed-timber structure has electricity, Brazilian hardwood floors, skylights, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a loft with four beds. But youthful ingenuity abounds: The house is reached via a small suspension bridge, and there are inventive touches such as tree-bark wainscoting near the entrance, a fireplace-like alcove for candles, andfencing built from raw twigs. The kids have dubbed the treehouse the "Driftwood Inn."

From their perch in the tall firs, the family has spotted woodpeckers, ospreys, and deer. At the base of the tree, they've found bobcat footprints, which their Australian cattle dog, Rosie, enthusiastically followed into the brush. Most of all, they're continuing a family tradition of youthful escape into the treetops. —Brian Libby

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