Whether you’re 12 years old or 42, a place to play and escape from the hum and buzz of today’s digitized world is a must. And the green builders of today are certainly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in live and play structures. What was once a few 2x4s nailed to the backyard oak leading to a small handmade nest can now be a true imagination station for both young and old. That’s right— custom treehouses featuring ladders and lofts, ziplines and open decks with multiple doors are no longer only possible in your dreams.
Meet Three Dads Treepads. They’re three Asheville papas who met by chance through their little ones preschool and decided to combine skillsets to co-create a custom treehouse design and building company. Robert Russell, the brains behind the operation, was looking for a way to transition from evening restaurant work back to daytime work as his kid’s schedules shifted as they entered kindergarten. His new dad pals, Andrew Link and Devan Riley both wanted a shift in their work as an arborist and craftsman respectively.
“I was a preschool teacher for a while which really helped me get into the kid mindset and helped lead to the creation of all of this. But I had the idea and went to Mtn. Bizworks last year and they were just so incredibly helpful in getting this off the ground, Russeell shared, eyes gleaming up at the tiny little home he helped create in the branches above.”
The three dads came together to handcraft the first one not long after, designing and finishing it in just a few months. In order to build with the tree, special attachment bolts (aka: tabs) are needed that allow the trees to move and grow naturally without the structure harming it. Link, an arborist by trade, will assess the ground and the trees before starting then Riley will design it based on the formation of the trees and land. Russell sees this work continuing to grow as movements like the tiny house and shipping container homes continue to become more of a norm. More than a treehouse, these structures are fully weatherproofed and architecturally sound so they’re totally able to act as additions to your home as a mother in law suite or guest house.
Adam Laufer, another treehouse creator, was profoundly affected after building ziplines last summer for Navitat in Knoxville, TN. A builder by trade and former yoga teacher of 12 years, his work in zipline construction made him truly realize that he cared less about the zip quality and more about the perspective from pending time in the upper canopy of a treetop. “I got really inspired being up there and thought, this is really what people need. We need this type of perspective that being up in the top of a tree offers.”
While the majority of Laufer’s work is in remodeling, he’s slowly made the shift to start his own custom treehouse company, World Treehouses, where he can culminate everything he’s learned from zipline construction and home remodeling as well as the ethos from his 12 years as a yoga instructor. “I think people are so tired of the mainstream of how we go about living and how we go about communicating with our surrounding world and neighbors and people. What we’re really looking for is a way to change our perspective to be in a better, deeper, more intimate relationship with our friends and the things we love doing. I think that’s how treehouses fit into this new trend. We want something other than just shopping or working all the time. We want a place where we can let our imagination run wild for a little bit.”
A tree will continue to grow until it dies. We really need to be that way ourselves. We need to keep growing, otherwise what are we doing? If you do it right, you can make a great change in the world and I’m hoping to do that.
*Read the article in print by scooping up a copy of May’s Laurel of Asheville on newsstands locally around Asheville, NC.