This Is The Luxury Treehouse You Always Wanted
Last year, Foster Huntington wrapped up building on his exquisite Seattle-based treehouse. After roughly a year of building and endless planning, the house was done, Foster’s domicile planted firmly in the skies, and childhood forts everywhere put to shame (my cardboard houses topped with beach towels were such shit). To hear about his life between the branches, and partially just to feed my own childhood dreams, I caught up with Foster to talk treehouses, leaving the fashion industry, and avoiding a future of cubicles and corporate boredom.
I know the house has been finished for a while – roughly a year ago – what’s it been like living there?
I’ve pretty much been here most the time. I went on a couple trips, but I’d say in the last year I’ve been here 11 months, something like that.
How did you come up with the vision for the treehouse?
I always wanted a tree house growing up. As a kid, the grand ideas you have aren’t actually what you can do. I was going to buy a house, set up a home base. I could buy a place but I didn’t really want to live in Portland.
One of my best friends, the guy that designed and kind of oversaw the building of the tree house, is a carpenter, woodworker, and builder, so we were like: alright lets do it. I maybe had the imminent idea for 3 months before we actually started.
“The pleasure I get out of my treehouse is much more akin to that childhood giddiness.”
Did you have a tree house growing up?
I built a bunch with my brother and friends, budget ones, nothing serious.
I remember tree houses when I was growing up like a sort of refuge, a place of escape, but also a place of play. Does this feel like the equivalent of a childhood tree house – just for a bigger kid?
Foster: Well, when you’re a kid and you build a fort in your backyard, you have that excitement you get, and it’s a very different excitement you have from getting a car, or a nice piece of furniture – there’s a totally different excitement to that – the pleasure I get out of my treehouse is much more akin to that childhood giddiness. Not the subdued excitement you’d get from something else.
And when you were making it, how much did the surrounding land play into the aesthetic of the house?
A ton. With the tree house you’re at the whim of what you have. The trees really dictate what the structure is going to look like. It’s not like you’re forcing your will on the environment as much as, alright this is what we have, what can we do to make it all work?
Were the materials from the immediate area?
A lot were salvaged, and then a good portion that weren’t salvaged were local lumber from people that mill. The whole area around here, traditionally, has been a logging area, so a lot of the materials are from these little mom-and-pop lumber yards, where they actually cut the trees and mill it. And there’s so many good trees around here… It’s not like southern California or New York where if you want lumber, you have to import it.
Prior to the project you were in New York…
I worked at Ralph Lauren doing concept design for men’s sportswear, building mood boards, and doing creative presentations, outline directions and what not.
That’s really different from building a tree house…
I mean I left New York five years ago, so a good three or four years elapsed between me leaving New York and starting to work on the tree houses. In that time I was living in my car.
But, I was exposed a bunch of really creative people and cool ideas in New York. I love doing visual stuff, and presenting people with ideas on what I thought was cool and interesting and kind of getting caught up in these stories we were making for line direction, but I didn’t necessarily love the in-product of clothes enough to really, really believe in it. I also realized I didn’t want to spend my 20’s and my 30’s cooped up in an office in Manhattan.
Do you look at the two lines of creativity differently?
No, I think of it as the same thing. You have these ideas you formulate, it takes time, and you build them, whether it’s some project or, like, I thought it would be really cool to live in a van, so I wanted to do that, and work on a van, and go do all these things – or build a tree house, or the next project I’m working on – it’s just ideas.
The film, The Cinder Cone, is really beautiful. It’s part building process, part ode to the landscape, and part interludes of your own life. Is there a distinction between the three?
Well, the whole reason you build a tree house is so you can be in a pretty place where every time I look outside, or walk outside, I’m inspired by the surroundings. With the video, I just kind of wanted to make something that showed a process, what you can do by making things.
And is filming something you naturally do, or did you feel a particular obligation to document this?
I’ve always used video and film as a highly complicated by very amazing medium of conveying visual stories. I’ve traditionally done a bunch of stuff with photographs, because it’s so accessible. With a camera: take some photos, load them all on your lap top, looks cool, put it out there an hour later. With a video, the project is a lot more involved and complicated and requires a lot more work.
What was the best part of the whole experience?
The best moment for me in the whole experience was hanging out in the wood burning hot tub below, looking up, and seeing this pretty much done tree house, and just being like, holy shit. When you’re building something you don’t really have the luxury of looking at it from a macro level, you’re s focused on the micro… we need more screws, we need to cut this and that, and it’s really hard to keep perspective on what it is you’re actually doing. For me my favorite moment was when I was able, after almost a year of work, to step back, and go WHOA, I did it. It was like coming into focus.
Images via A Restless Transplant and The Cinder Cone.