November 21, 2008 Treehouses have the ability to fire the imagination and transport you back to the long care-free afternoons of your childhood like almost nothing else. These days, the professionally crafted designs available far outstrip the rudimentary structures we would slap together during summer holidays and they are being used not just as magical playrooms for the kids but as spare guest bedrooms, entertainment areas, hotel escapes and even conference suites. The latest examples to cross our desk are these striking arboreal dwellings from Andreas Wenning of German architecture firm baumraum.

Generally about the size of a small caravan, baumraum treehouses are prefabricated at the workshop and can include all of the luxuries of a regular house such as heating, lighting and full insulation plus kitchen and entertainment facilities - though a flat screen TV would seem to spoil the ambience of one of these little hideaways.

The team brings together the skills of an architect, landscape architect and a tree expert to ensure secure construction and protection for the trees themselves. To this end, textile belts and adjustable steel cables are used instead of bolts, nails, or any anchoring technique that might damage the trees or restrict growth. Suitable trees include oaks, lime trees, ash trees, beeches, chestnuts, old fruit trees, cedars, pines or firs and if there are no suitable trees on the property, stilts can be used to position the house among the trees without putting any weight on them.

The company's website showcases a number of designs and completed projects from around the world that have been customized to suit the functional requirements of the owners and to complement the landscape. These include the multi-purpose Treehouse Djuren (complete with outdoor terrace), the free-standing World of Living–park treehouse, the Cliff treehouse in New York state and the huge Treehouse Wencke which combines a sleeping cabin with a children's playroom. Standout designs include the space-age "Palm Fiction" living pod, a wrap-around dwelling designed for the North American Redwood known as "Winding Snake" and (our favorite) the "Water Lily", a semi-submerged abode complete with sauna that would nestle beautifully among the trees at the edge of a lake.

The costs vary widely depending on the project with the examples on the baumraum site are said to be worth between € 18,000 and € 140,000.

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