Your Childhood Dream Home: The Extreme Treehouses Of “Treehouse Masters”

Animal Planet makes a star out of treehouse builder Pete Nelson and his six-figure arboreal fantasies come true.

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear treehouse is probably a haphazardly nailed lean-to perched in an oak tree, filled with scrappy 8-year-old boys with bb guns. But that’s not what the treehouses in the new Animal Planet show Treehouse Masters (Fridays, 10 p.m.) are like. They’re fully functioning abodes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that just happen to be 20 feet above the ground.


Treehouse Masters stars Pete Nelson, the nation’s preeminent treehouse builder. He’s written books about treehouses around the world, has his own treehouse-building business, and runs a treehouse hotel with his wife in verdant Washington State. The show depicts Nelson and his team of contractors traveling around the country to build luxury “arboreal architecture” for well-heeled families and design buffs alike.

They construct a two-story leisure space with a winding staircase in some white pines for a couple with two daughters in post-Hurricane Sandy Westchester County, New York; they build a sprawling TV-watching paradise for a huge family on a ranch near Waco, Texas, with enough electricity coursing through it to power a 4,000- or 5,000-square-foot mansion. In a brisk 45 minutes, you see an entire structure erected, as well as some preexisting treehouses getting refurbished by Nelson and his crew.

Though these buildings are not child’s play, the builders themselves exude a youthful glee while rigging up the treehouses. Some of the tools they use look like giant slingshots, and all the dudes who work for Nelson are cheerful bearded fellows who favor polar fleece and goofy jokes. The senior member of the group, Chuck, the master carpenter, gets a kick out of saying fake curse words like “bucking hay,” “sock-sucker,” and “icehole.”

A New York Times review of the show points out that they do fall back on standard reality-TV cliches like fake-seeming, arbitrary deadlines, but Nelson’s true love of treehouses and the view of nature that they provide shines through and has given Animal Planet its highest ratings for a series debut since 2011. Nelson himself bounces around with excitement and energy when he starts imagining a customized treehouse to fit in a particular space. You can see the creative wheels turning in his head and it’s a delightful viewing experience.

Filled with stunning clerestory windows, gorgeous mossy roofs, stained glass, and fine wood detailing, the creations that appear on Treehouse Masters will make you forget any images you have of shacks filled with grubby kids. You may, however, yearn for a spendy treehouse of your own, or at least a trip to Nelson’s bed and breakfast in the sky. Click through the slide show above to see some of Nelson’s houses.

[Images Courtesy of Animal Planet]

About the author

Jessica Grose is a regular contributor to Co.Create. She is a freelance writer and editor who writes about culture, women's issues, family and grizzly bears.