Once upon a time, treehouses were relegated as play spaces for children. Not so anymore.
These days treehouses are trendy. They’re unique abodes for folks who want a slightly different lodging experience, and they range from rustic to upscale.
Treehouses also have their own television show now. The DIY Network’s “The Treehouse Guys” follows a team of builders and designers around the country as they create and build custom treehouses. Last year about this time, they spent six weeks near Whitefish framing a treehouse for Darin Robison and Kati O’Toole, who own Montana Treehouse Retreat off Dillon Road.
The show featuring the local treehouse airs at 9 p.m. Monday on the DIY Network. In addition to showing the construction of the treehouse, the segment will feature local activities and amenities of the Flathead Valley.
“We dreamed about building a treehouse,” O’Toole said.
The young couple thought it was an attainable goal that might take a while to achieve. Robison owns Ace Landscaping and O’Toole is a music producer for an online record studio based in Los Angeles. They have two sons, Rowan, 3, and Ry, 5 months, so life already was extremely busy when someone suggested they check out an advertisement in the Daily Inter Lake about the DIY Network looking for locals interested in being part of The Treehouse Guys show.
After a lengthy interview process, they made the cut and the project was set in motion.
The first order of business was to get a conditional-use permit to allow the treehouse on their property southeast of Whitefish. The county Board of Adjustment granted approval to develop their seven wooded acres with up to three high-end treehouses open to the public for nightly rental.
Once the treehouse build crew — B’fer Roth and his band of “tree muskateers” — had completed the frame, there was still much to be done. It’s been a collaborative project and a very positive experience, Robison said.
John Colliander of Treeworks Log and Timberframe Construction of West Glacier built the spiral log staircase that winds around a gigantic tree Robison harvested from his grandmother’s yard near Echo Lake. The root of that special tree will be turned into a countertop for the treehouse.
The couple’s fathers — Mike O’Toole of Polson and Ryan Robison of Columbia Falls — have helped out, as have Sean Donovan of Whitefish and Robison’s brother Dave. Bigfork architect John Robinson drew up the final plans for the unique, two-story treehouse.
Finish work will proceed over the summer, with a targeted opening date of Nov. 1.
Four living trees have been incorporated into the treehouse — two on the deck and two in the interior. The dwelling features a master bedroom loft on the upper level with half-bath and sliding glass door to a deck.
The lower level will have a small kitchen, living area and full bath.
It’s a one-of-a-kind dwelling that will rent for $500 a night.
“We’re thinking honeymoons,” special getaways for guests, O’Toole said.
Within the next five years or so the couple hope to build two more custom treehouses on their property.
Offering something out of the norm was always the plan.
“There are so many regular cabins for the rental market,” Robison said. “We wanted something unique.”
For more information about Montana Treehouse Retreat go to www.montanatreehouseretreat.com.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.