Tree Houses for Grown-Ups, and a Soggy Child Story

It’s not going out on a limb to say that tree houses are cool, a cherished childhood  fantasy  in a Moonrise Kingdom kind of way. A few weeks ago on a trip to France I was beguiled by a feature in the magazine Maisons à vivre Campagne (Country Houses) about a tree house bed & breakfast.

Treehouse in French magazine

Opening page of the Maisons Campagne feature. Text and photos by Flore Palix.

Treehouse porch

About 50 miles from Paris is Sur un Arbre Perché, situated in the Pierrefonds forest near the Renaissance-style Usson Castle. The castle, btw, looks to be beautiful and quite child-friendly, including something called the Chateau des Enigmes  – Chateau of Enigmas, wooo…. – which has a treasure hunt based on The Three Musketeers. This is sounding better all the time…

But back to the tree houses. Not surprisingly, being French, the interiors are completely charming.

Treehouse interior

The red-stained or painted and the table built around the tree trunk are just two of the beguiling details here.

Treehouse interior

Bad photo, sorry, but I wanted you to see the cool lavatory, the twig mirror and the funny coo-coo clock. Also the room divider curtain in the middle picture and the tiny dining table that looks like a TV-tray. Remember those?

Treehouse interior

This one has sort of a pirate theme, with an interior like a boat.

In the same Picardie region is a neighboring tree house b & b, called Le Nid dans L’Arbe the Nest in the Tree, in the Picardie region of France near Reims (Champagne) and Rouen (major cathedral and where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake).

Tree house bedroom Le Nid dans l'Arbre

A bedroom from one of the tree houses of Le Nid dans l'Arbre, via Le Nid dans l'Arbe.

Turns out they’re in plenty of other places as well, including the U.S., with a whole bunch of  tree house b & bs listed at

So hey, there is a whole big tree house thing out there, and who knew. Take a look at these amazing tree houses from for starters…

Less exotically but more accessible is Cheekwood, the beautiful limestone manse and gardens outside Nashville, where there is a summer-long exhibit of tree houses built by seven designers based on seven works of literature, from the children’s The Rainbow Fish to Thoreau’s Walden. These are not to stay in but to play on. Wonderful. And here’s a short video.

I confess that at about the tender age of 5 my own treehouse dream was dashed in the pelting rain of reality, in the dark of night, in Anne Louise’s back yard. Such intrepid pip-squeaks, we, spend the whole night in the tree house by ourselves. Not that anyone else would have fit.

And then the heavens burst, and Mother Nature unleashed her full force and fury upon our tiny, splintery box in the branches.

Okay it was built on telephone poles, but don’t spoil the romance.

We are talking a Wuthering Heights-style thunderstorm here.

But Anne may need to check me on that.

Anyway at Lord knows what hour Anne’s sweet daddy came swam out to rescue us,  climbing up that rickety ladder, clutching us, and carrying us into the house. In a matter of minutes we’d gone from Isak Dinesen and Amelia Earhart to two little sodden, stringy-haired lumps in smocked nightgowns. Anne’s daddy was the hero. He will go to heaven for sure.

Now it’s not to say I wouldn’t try it again. If there’s no rain in the forecast.


Posted in Adventure & Travel, Blog, Decoration & Design | 6 comments
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6 Responses to: Tree Houses for Grown-Ups, and a Soggy Child Story

  1. leslie klotz says: I am having trouble envisioning His Grace vacationing in a tree house. Is he misunderstood? Or might you be doing this one on your own?
    July 23, 2012 at 11:56 am
    • Frances says: Excellent point, Miss Klotz. I may have to call Anne Louise out of tree house retirement to accompany me.
      July 23, 2012 at 11:58 am
    • Frances says: Good heavens, EB, I can imagine! Glad it wasn't worse! xo
      July 23, 2012 at 12:58 pm
  2. E.B. says: Oh! I want to move into the one with the red painted floor and red bunk beds, so cozy! My one attempt at a treehouse (in our avocado tree) ended with my falling out of it (just call me the Princess of Gracefulness). Thankfully it was not that high up, but I wound up with a severely twisted ankle, crutches and one heck of a lecture from my grandmother!
    July 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm
  3. holly c says: We still have so much to husband Jack who has been fighting (and winning!) against brain cancer built an incredible treehouse/mancave last summer. What a project. i will send you photos! you will love it. and yes all kids have slept there at one time or another and have yet to be caught in a storm!
    July 27, 2012 at 8:01 am
    • Frances says: Yes Holly we do! Wish you would send a picture - or better yet one of your paintings! If you all want to see something beautiful go to this talented artist's website, and enjoy. Blessings to Jack and his winning against F-bomb cancer, and love to you, Frances
      July 27, 2012 at 9:42 am