News Home & Design The Woodnest Is a Treehouse Cabin That Blends in With Nature Floating above the forest, this warm little cabin wraps itself around the trunk of a tree. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated April 1, 2021 11:53AM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Sindre Ellingsen News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Treehouses are a year-round favorite on Treehugger, as these compact structures often combine all the best Treehugger-y elements: like the awesomeness of trees, the simplicity of tiny living, and of course, the all-important issue of bringing humans a bit closer to nature. Out in the beautiful forested hillsides around the Hardanger fjord near Odda, Norway, a couple commissioned Norwegian architectural firm Helen & Hard to construct two tiny cabins on a steep slope. Wrapped around two living trees, and suspended 15 to 20 feet above the ground, each 161-square-foot structure offers a unique experience of playfully ascending into the tree canopy, while remaining comfortably embedded within nature. Sindre Ellingsen Dubbed Woodnest, the architects say that they faced some significant challenges in not only the getting the building approved, but also designing an enclosed and climatized room out in nature, and finding a safe way to secure the structure around one single (and rather narrow) tree, without any additional supporting columns or trees. Ultimately, they triumphed with some clever engineering solutions: "The cabin is constructed around a steel pipe, cut in [half], and then attached together again around the tree with four penetrating bolts. This became a rigid 'backbone' to build the rest of the cabin from. We use the bridge and two steel wires to fix the tree horizontally so that all the weight only goes vertically down the trunk and no excentric loads. Around the backbone, space is constructed by double plywood ribs in a radial shape which defines the enclosed space." Sindre Ellingsen Some may protest that sticking a bolt into a tree will harm it, but specially engineered hardware is designed for applications like this. Whether they are called Garnier limbs, stud tree fasteners, or treehouse attachment bolts (TABs), such treehouse hardware is widely used in the professional treehouse-building industry and triggers a naturally occurring process in the tree called compartmentalization, where a healthy tree will bounce back by "sealing" the damaged tissue with new tissue. Using specialized hardware minimizes damage to the tree, and allows it to continue to grow. Helen & Hard The Woodnest's wood-shingled exterior helps it to blend in with its natural surroundings, and will eventually age to an even softer, forest-friendly patina. Sindre Ellingsen The cabins' somewhat angular volume is softened with rounded corners, resulting in a form that makes it look like a wooden ship, navigating the arboreal oceans. Sindre Ellingsen Each cabin is accessed by a narrow wooden bridge that leads up to a small, recessed entryway. Sindre Ellingsen The addition of strategically placed windows allows natural daylight to enter the structures, while still offering privacy or a grand view out to the majestic landscape, depending on one's orientation. Sindre Ellingsen The wood-lined interior of the small cabin exudes a welcoming warmth, thanks to the inclusion of well-crafted furniture like chairs, built-in benches, and an elevated bed, plus potentially a convertible sofa-bed. Sindre Ellingsen There is even a small kitchenette with sink and stove, and a tiny bathroom with a toilet (likely of the composting kind) and a shower. Sindre Ellingsen The Woodnest's ceiling has visual traces of the team's design strategy, as seen in the radial pattern of the interior cladding, which hints at the similarly configured structural framework of the glu-laminated timber ribs beneath. Sindre Ellingsen Characterizing the Woodnest as a "project that quietly sits in an extraordinary situation," the architects poetically point out that things have come full circle – from tree to wood, then wood back to tree: "At the very core of the project is the appreciation of timber as a building material. Inspired by the Norwegian cultural traditions of vernacular timber architecture, together with a desire to experiment with the material potential of wood, the architecture is structurally supported by the tree trunk itself. [..] The architecture aims to allow people to pause and appreciate the smaller details of the natural environments we inhabit; the grain of timber, the daily rhythm of the forest and the sensation of dwelling in nature." To rent a Woodnest, visit the website; to see more from the architects, visit Helen & Hard, plus on Facebook and Instagram.