A treehouse from "Be in a Treehouse: Design / Construction / Inspiration" by Pete Nelson. (Pete Nelson/Pete Nelson)
Be in a treehouse
Design, Construction, Inspiration

By Pete Nelson. Abrams. $37.50

Bruce Dondero deserves more than a tie this Father’s Day.

The Michigan man promised his son a treehouse nine years ago. And did he deliver! Cabin in the Trees, made from reclaimed cedar, is showcased as part of a photographic tour of world-class “arboreal architecture” in Pete Nelson’s “Be in a Treehouse.”

Nelson, host of the Animal Planet show “Treehouse Masters,” runs a custom treehouse building and supply company in Washington State. He and his family also own Treehouse Point, a bed and breakfast built high in the air. As he ruefully recounts, to build first and ask for permits later required “blood, sweat, and tears. Many tears. And money. The money part arrives early in the process and lasts throughout.”

Nelson’s treehouses are elegant feats of architecture that come equipped with ziplines, fire poles, swings, rope bridges — and electricity, plumbing, wet bars and fireplaces. He even built what may be the first treehouse for dogs.

A treehouse from "Be in a Treehouse: Design / Construction / Inspiration" by Pete Nelson. (Pete Nelson/Pete Nelson)

With its stunning photos of fanciful houses, Nelson’s book will appeal to anyone who ever read “Peter Pan” or “The Swiss Family Robinson” or was in a club that met at high elevations as a child. Among the many amazing off-the-ground buildings featured here is one designed by three teenaged brothers in Washington State. When their first treehouse burned down, the Victor brothers built a new one, complete with a round hobbit door, masonry, music room and possibly the only treehouse dungeon in existence. It remains, Nelson writes, “the most extraordinary and ambitious high school project ever realized.”

Nelson includes Greek treehouses built in an olive grove, with siding made of woven reeds, and luxury safari camps in Tanzania built in baobab trees. My favorite is HemLoft, an elegant cocoon in British Columbia that is, sadly, no more. (The architect made a crucial mistake: He built it in a tree that didn’t belong to him.)

To browse through Nelson’s book is to fantasize about life in midair. He includes a How-To section for do-it-yourselfers. (Degree in structural engineering not required, but a plus.) For most people, though, the steps probably can be boiled down to: 1) Call a professional treehouse builder. 2) Write a check.

Yvonne Zipp frequently reviews books for the Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post.