Urban Treehouse Triplex in Atlanta Offers Shady Sanctuary

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popular Atlanta treehouse for rent on AirBnB

Courtesy of Peter Bahouth

You don’t have to dig around too deep on Airbnb to find that the peer-to-peer lodging platform offers a veritable treasure trove of, um, special accommodations in addition to the run-of-the-mill furnished basements, off-season summer cottages and sparsely appointed one-bedroom pied-à-terres in Midtown Manhattan: custom-built tiny houses, yurts, igloos, tipis, houseboats, lighthouses, water towers, windmills, decommissioned jet-liners, castles, chateaux and, last but not least, more tricked-out treehouses than you can shake a storm-felled branch at.

But there’s one arboreal Airbnb property that stands out from the long-limbed pack. From hosts Peter and Katie Bahouth comes a listing that's not easy to categorize as a single treehouse. Rather, it’s a treehouse compound or, more accurately, a treehouse triplex — treeplex? — composed of three distinct tree-bound living areas connected by rope bridges.

Advertised as Secluded Intown Treehouse, the Bahouth’s branchy and beguiling listing is tucked away in a subdued residential neighborhood in Atlanta’s Buckhead district. While not totally out of the way, it’s located at a remove from Atlanta’s constantly churning tourism machine — and that’s the point. It’s a TV-free place of refuge, relaxation and respite that renders most guests stunned and speechless when they first arrive.

“Dreamy,” “enchanted,” “magical” and “the perfect place for long naps” have been used to describe the antique- and found object-strewn space. As you can see from the photos of the joint, those are all apt descriptors. To some, the accommodations might evoke a Lothlórien short-let. For others, the treehouse digs might scream Stevie Nicks fever dream. Upon arrival, some guests might imagine that they’ve stumbled across the humble abode of an Ewok in the midst of earning his or her degree in interior design at the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art & Design. Whatever guests make of it, it’s a place where their imaginations are free to run completely and utterly wild.

But back to reality. With room to sleep two, this sylvan sanctuary can be booked for $350 per night (or $2,000 per week) with a two-night minimum. That’s likely more spendy than your standard two-queen arrangement in Downtown or Midtown Atlanta but, then again, most hotels rooms can't be described as "fairy tale-esque."

The treehouse(s) are not plumbed but guests can use a full private bathroom located within the Bahouth’s adjacent primary residence for washing up and when nature calls. There also isn’t an en-suite kitchen. But as luck would have it, Buckhead is home not only to Atlanta’s sole Airbnb treehouse listing but to a leafy and laidback eatery named the Treehouse Restaurant and Pub (the artichoke dip is apparently killer).

We caught up with Peter Bahouth and asked him a few questions about the inspiration behind one of Airbnb’s hottest listings — over 3,000 users have viewed the listing page just within the last week.

MNN: When did your treehouse trip-plex make its grand debut on Airbnb?

Peter Bahouth: The treehouses are 14 years old but we only started renting the treehouses last year. We hadn’t even considered renting them until I read an article by Thomas Friedman in The New York Times that included an interview with the founder of Airbnb who said that treehouses were among the most popular rentals. I thought the fact that we had a treehouse suite would make it more comfortable for a stay, but I honestly didn’t think there would be much interest. At first I wasn’t that keen on renting them out, but once I realized why people came here, I felt completely different about it.

You worked with local builder Nick Hobbs on the project. How did you connect?

Any good project requires the planets lining up, and Nick was definitely a major planet. A friend introduced us and I knew he was the right person within about a minute. He is extremely talented and there is enormous integrity in his work. Nick and I will always share a bond because of this project.

Peter, you're the longtime executive director of the US Climate Action Network and former director of Greenpeace USA. Do you also have a background in architecture or design? How did your environmental background play into the project?

Although I don’t have an architecture background or training, probably 90 percent of the blogs that have been written about the treehouses identify me as an architect. It’s a nice compliment, but I’ve always made a point of saying that a treehouse is the one thing you can build if you aren’t an architect. Millions of kids have built a treehouse or fort of one kind or another.

My environmental background really didn’t play that much of a role other than the fact that I like trees and nature. In fact, a major motivation was that the treehouses represented something I could do that resulted in something you could see in a tangible way, unlike much of the advocacy work I’ve spent my career on. I basically think that whether you choose capitulation or resistance to the world’s issues, both can be unimaginative and unfulfilling. So for me, having a creative outlet or project of some kind is very important.

Peter and Katie Bahouth's Atlanta treehouse

So you yourself had a backyard treehouse as a kid?

I had what was basically a board up in a tree. But I loved being up there. It was a sovereign place.

Any particular architects that you hold in high regard?

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know the names of many, but I hold any creative designer in high regard. I love a good building.

Recycled and salvaged materials played heavily into the project. What were some of the more unusual finds?

My mother had 10 70-year-old windows that had butterflies pressed into the glass that were perfect for the first room. I also found a huge window that fit perfectly into a wall we had built just a day or two before I found it. It was if we had built the wall specifically for that window, but I’ve never seen another one like it. I found the first window on the curb about a block away from my house.

The treehouse(s) took six months to design and six weeks to build. What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

One overriding concern was protecting the health of the trees, and since the trees all move in different directions in the wind, we also had to make sure that the treehouses weren’t pulled apart in a storm. Nick came up with a unique method to attach the supporting beams that protected the trees and allowed the trees to move in different directions in high winds. And although much of this is in hindsight, I tend to think more about what went right. There are seven trees in the treehouses and they were all in the right place. The treehouses were built on the side of a hill which ensured that they were easy to get into but also gets you up into the trees once you’re in them. And the setting is really quiet and beautiful. At night it feels like you could be anywhere in the world. The lightning bug season is amazing.

Peter and Katie Bahouth's Atlanta treehouse

Each of the three treehouses have their own unique personality, function and name: Mind, Body and Spirit. What makes each different?

I think that treehouses are a little like their own little countries, and these have three different spaces connected by rope bridges. Mind is a sitting room, and has kind of a den in the trees feel. Body has a bed that rolls out onto a platform over a small stream, and Spirit is built around a magnificent 170-year-old Southern short-leaf pine.

Have you watched"Treehouse Masters?"

I think that Peter Nelson and his crew are master craftsman and build great treehouses. He’s done more for the idea and love of treehouses than anyone. There are some fundamental differences between what he builds for his clients and what we built, mostly to do with the fact that we weren’t interested in having TVs or pool tables and our décor is more found objects and collectibles. It was important to me that the treehouses be as 'analog' as possible — a respite from all the electronics in our lives.

Atlanta is a top tourist town. Aside from Piedmont Park, are there any leafy area attractions in and around the city that you might recommend to Airbnb guests? A hidden-gem of a park, an undiscovered patch of wilderness or nature preserve?

The BeltLine is transforming Atlanta, and I am especially fond of Arabia Mountain. But Atlanta is basically in a forest and the treehouses are a nod to the idea that you can enjoy that without having to drive anywhere. But I was certainly lucky to have found a good piece of property for that to happen.

Peter and Katie Bahouth's Atlanta treehouse

Can you describe how Airbnb guests react when first arriving?

They kind of freak. They don’t hear a word I say during the tour. I’ve basically come to realize that whatever is bothering or following people doesn’t make it up into the treehouses. I think it has a lot to do with the setting. Its very quiet, intimate and restful. I’ve been really surprised by the reactions. And people have written some very moving things in the quest book about why they came here and what happened while they were here.

You're not the only treehouse-for-hire on Airbnb. Are there any other arboreal Airbnb listings that you particularly admire or have stayed in?

Can’t say that I’ve had the pleasure of staying in many Airbnb listings, but there are hundreds of fantastic and interesting listings on their site. I’m just getting to understand what Airbnb is all about. One big surprise for me was that almost half of our bookings are from folks that live right here in Atlanta, with another large percentage of guests that travel here specifically to stay in the treehouses.