The HemLoft

by Joel Allen

Some people make a conscious decision to buck the American standard of living and shoehorn their lives into a tiny home. It didn’t happen to me that way. I ended up building a small home through a series of bizarre circumstances. I started off with a career in Software development at the age of 23. By 26 I had saved some money and I attempted a retirement stunt that went sideways, leaving me penniless. That’s when I began living out of my car and decided that instead of returning to software, I would test my aptitude as a carpenter.

The HemLoft
Photo Credits Joel Allen

While living out of my car I discovered that I quite liked the sport of compact living. I was in Whistler at the time and although I didn’t own a home, I enjoyed one of the biggest backyards in the world. I even began sleeping outdoors and got a kick out of finding places where no one else had slept before. I called it sport sleeping and it led me to the believe that my home extended far beyond the confines of my car.

That fall I decided to build a treehouse in my spare time. It was meant to be a simple sleeping loft that I could use as a secret camping spot on crown land in the woods. I felt compelled to build something more elegant than the average treehouse so I began consulting a couple of friends who were recent graduates from architecture school. Together we conceived of the egg-shaped treehouse.

building materials in car

Being a fledgeling carpenter, I had no idea about the technical and logistical challenges of trying to build an illicit orb on a steep slope in the woods, with no electrical power. Enthusiasm and naïvety were the two key traits that pulled me through. Within two months, I had finished the skeletal structure and I had my little sleeping loft in the woods. But it wasn’t long until I wanted more.

Joel building framework

I couldn’t help but feel that my the egg house would take on a new personality if I could transform it from an al fresco deck into a cozy little home. The only problem was, I had already spent $6500 on the structure and the most expensive part was yet to come. I was no longer living out of my car and I was finding it hard to justify going into debt over a treehouse on crown land, that I technically didn’t own.

HemLoft platform

The cost of finishing deterred progress for nearly two years until one evening I made a pivotal discovery. While searching the free section of Craigslist-Vancouver for a couch I found bounty of interesting items popping up. People were giving valuable things away for free! The good items were usually gone within moments of coming online, however, I was a little more determined than my competition. Within a couple of months, I filled every nook of our suite, from floor to ceiling, with building materials.

HemLoft Framework

In the meantime, I had also met my soon to be fiancee who was a natural born carpenter, good at visualizing things in three dimensions, and most importantly, not afraid of heights. By the next spring, we were off to a fleet start, packing all the materials I had scavenged over the winter up to the treehouse before the snow gone. At the same time we were also building a house for a German fellow in Whistler so our days consisted of mostly of carpentry. However, it was exciting to be making such fast progress.

HemLoft from above

Heidi and I worked efficiently together and we could visualize and revise the design of components in our heads before making them come to life. With all the free materials at our fingertips, it was just a matter of putting them together in a creative and coherent way. I spent many evenings thinking about the ergonomics and interior layout of the space. With little more than 100 square feet, plus a sleeping loft, there wasn’t a square inch to waste. However I loved the challenge and I couldn’t wait until we could wait until we were done construction so we could try living in it.


By mid July of 2011, the tree house was complete. Since it was built around a hemlock tree, I called it the HemLoft. It was a small space, but somehow felt grand in its extension into the outdoor world. We had included a plethora of windows including hatches that opened up from the loft, a tall vertical window that nicely framed a neighboring tree only four inches away, and a sliding glass window onto an outdoor covered deck, with a breathtaking cliff-side view over the valley.

HemLoft from below

That summer we only had a week to live in the treehouse before beginning a cross country trip to Nova Scotia. The stay was short lived, but magical. Although we were living in a small space there was a sense of grandeur in our immediate connection to the outdoors. It was that experience that made me realize that I would much rather have a modest home in a luxurious setting than a luxurious home in a modest setting.

Please visit Joel’s website:

entrance detail

window detail

view from window

HemLoft deck

the outdoor kitchen

siding detail

HemLoft work area

desk and view

view out of top of HemLoft

view of tree

The HemLoft at night

126 thoughts on “The HemLoft”

  1. Are you still squatting on public land? What is the effect on the trees of attaching your house to the trunks? Would you suggest that others should be encouraged to build unpermitted roosts wherever they want in public forests? Why are you exempt from the rules and regulations that protect fragile forest ecosystems from unregulated development?

    So many questions, are there any answers?

    • Wowwee.

      Beautiful carpentry job, modest living, appreciative of the outdoors, feeling a part of nature, recycling materials rather than buying new, small home rather than big and sprawling in a large piece of woodland that he isn’t remotely spoiling.

      Do you think most people would choose to live in the woods after seeing this article or stay in the comfort of their suburban shelters with indoor plumbing and laminate flooring?

      Does anyone think the author of the article is more toxic to our environment than Michael here?

    • I agree Michael. While I think the loft is beautiful, there are so few places in this world that are left unspoiled. If the loft is allowed to stay there, it opens the door to let many others build on public land. Wendy, I think there are throngs of people who would jump at the chance to do just that. And will all those people build with the same respect for the natural environment? Perhaps they will chop down trees to build their ideal cabin, or leave garbage, or desecrate a fragile ecosystem of plants.
      While I think this one loft is not damaging anything, the door it opens is very damaging. There are reasons that people aren’t allowed to build on protected land.

      • You people must not have taken a look at the neighborhoods in whistler, his place is smaller then most peoples garages. All those house sit on what ounce was crown land and have completely destroyed it. Also, crown land is different then provincial parks ect… Let not act like he is building in a nature reserve here. The land will probably be sold in the future and built on anyway. Also to all those jealous people who “wish” they could do that too underestimate the time and effort put into such a project.. most people would never under take such a project even though you identify with with the grandeur of it all and the romanticize about how if only you could live in such a nice place for so little. Also lots of people are camping in and around whistler all on crown land. I give him credit for at least not being a typical dirtbag about it.

      • In Canada you’re allowed to squat on Crown land (it is not considered a park or a nature reserve – it merely means that the land is owned by “the Crown”). I know people who’ve squatted for over 30 years and never had a problem. It is not a problem here because most crown land is way out in the boonies and also the people who live on it don’t usually have a large footprint.

    • Why are you exempt from the rules and regulations that protect fragile forest ecosystems from unregulated development?
      (quote from Michael’s post)
      …I’ve been wondering about the same damn question is relation to the BC Forest Service and all the logging companies in the province – just google earth BC – all those light brown patches around Prince George and all through the interior are cut blocks. Maybe take a google street view tour through Whistler and try to imagine the beautiful forest that used to be there. Also BC Hydro has no respect for the rare species in the province. Most things in Canada (under our Harper government) are done purely for money. He recently and relatively secretly passed a bill that no longer protects endangered salmon habitat (but that’s a separate story and I’ll save the rest of my political rants to another blog).

      I’d say some guy who built his house AROUND a tree is pretty darn caring about the forest. Also, squatting on Crown land (aka public land) is not theft. Most people see it as renting for free from Her Majesty the Queen.

  2. Before anyone comments and asks the obvious question. Click on the link provided above in the story and read the “What Now” page. Answered my question. Of course I’m not really sure how I feel about it as I am one who tends to follow the rules to the “T” but……there is a small part of me that is quite rebellious and I applaud Joel (albeit a “golf” clap) 😉 for doing this.

    I for one will be coming back to find out what happens.

    Now for the shelter itself, HOW FREAKIN” COOL!!!

    Grand Job!!

  3. The house is beautiful.

    The location is immoral and unethical.

    The camp stove set on well-seasoned wood in the middle of a forest with no fire extinguisher in sight is just stupid. And are those open-flame candles sitting around the house too?

    Do you have no respect for nature at all?

    • It is never immoral or unethical for an animal to build itself a nest. Not even if it is the human animal.

        • There are candles and stovetops in 14,000,023 homes located in or adjacent to wilderness areas in Canada. If one of these candles overturned and started a fire there is a real chance of a forest fire. Are you complaining about those houses too?

          • Wow, I can’t believe the comments! People should visit whistler before they complain about this tree house… It’s at the feet of $10 million mansions. If you want to talk about waste and destruction then you are welcome to visit the city. You’ll soon realize that there is a culture of squatting on crown land – for the very same reason that those mansions exist.

            I know Joel, and this is a work of art. He’s an exceptional builder, with a profound conscious, and an amazing eye.

            The lines, it aesthetic, and design of this treehouse – it is one of the sexiest buildings I’ve seen. I think people have lost sight of that in these comments.

            And the health of this tree? I’d love for people to come check out what the forest industry in BC has done to our crown land. How many hemlocks has Interfor cut down to feed our insatiable appetite for 2×4’s?

            Before further people jump on the bandwagon of criticism here, I’d recommend that people do a bit of research about Whistler and our culture of squatting on crown land.

            It’s a beautiful building, with a great political statement. Good job Joel!

          • No, I’m not complaining about those houses that are built to code. Codes that help mitigate, along with many other things, fire risk.

            Building codes exist for three primary reasons. Safety, sanitation, and maintenance of a community’s tax base. I don’t give a tinkers cuss about the third one, but the other two are critical. To ignore them (no matter how artistically it is done) is irresponsible at best.

            Laird, when you are delivering you friend his new fire extinguisher, tell that he does is masterful work and I hope he finds success in his carpentry ventures.

          • As long as building codes allow for the use of flammable materials, like wood, there is a real chance of fire/forest fire. Be worried. I don’t think “safety and sanitation” are your chief concerns, I think you are using that as a mask for moral disapproval. Why not just say, “HHMMMPPP!” and move on?

          • Reductio ad absurdum.

            Your assumptions about my true purpose and moral objections are based on a faulty thinking as well.

          • How can Skutch reduce to absurdity that which you already have?

            If your arguments can be taken at face value, the word “gullible” isn’t in the dictionary.

    • first off, don’t be a fool. fire extinguishers are not necessary.

      psych. just because its not in the photo doesn’t mean he has one?
      and yet, he burns the place down, we cut off his head and leave it on a charred stake.

      back to the real piece: awesome awesome place! i am ‘flabberghasted’ in awe and yet, have a sad connection with the very first comment. though others that are in support or critical may have built off of the first comment as well, i find their’s to be a bit overly critical or radical, rather, the real problem here is that he publicized it and put his face on the video. not bug you out, bro, but i find that foolish. i can dig your philosophical reasonings for public support, and, justifiable credence, however, much like posting your pictures in the video, even if this was found, it would have been plausibly the same consequence as it being found after the video. people would be ‘stoked’ and then take photos themselves cause a scene, and voila, you might have a mountie peering in. … back full 360 and publicizing this does provide a platform for other people to feel appropriate in constructing their own nests, which ultimately may be uglier, more dangerous (fire, structural integrity, ect) and plausibly less discrete.

      i do support this, but i also support strict discretion.

    • Laird,

      You’ve hit the nail right on the head. One really needs to be there/visit there before you can make a judgement about the place. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  4. I love this tiny tree house, and I really like how you scavenged the last of the materials. You and Heidi did a great job. Communitarian rules and regulations protecting the “King’s land” for eco tourists and future generations of aristocrats who worship Pachamama should all be ignored. There’s more than one Tree of Life.

  5. Joel,
    Excellent job! It is a real work of art and if you should be found out, I hope “the Crown” would work something out or at least pay you for the structure and use it for their rangers or other official use.

    Don’t worry about the naysayers like Michael above. Some people would complain if their icecream was cold.

    The tree will be fine, our parks will not be overrun with backwoods carpenters, and no reasonable reader would see this as a call to break the law. You knew you were rolling the dice when youstarted and you seem OK with that.

    Rather than worry about the implications of your small footprint and act of rebellion, I think Mike should put on his big boy pants and chart out a small rebellious act himself. Mike, leave your eco/moral superiority at home and go plant a tree in a public space without permission!

  6. I’m impressed that the female visitor navigated the entire distance in sandals, carrying a bowl of food.
    And Michael would probably be one of those persons who would trash something like this if they ran across it in righteous indignation.

  7. WOW. WOW! This is so beautiful! I dream of living in such an amazing setting! I have not been to his web site yet to read all the details, but I will be. I completely agree with your statement, “I would much rather have a modest home in a luxurious setting than a luxurious home in a modest setting.”

    I can not get over just how beautiful this is, and how close it is to all my dreams of living in a treehouse. If you focused on this as your line of work, especially in that part of the country, I am sure you would always be busy.

    Thanks for sharing your home, and all the wonderful pictures!

  8. Wow… beautiful wee space! The little boy in me wants to get out there and build a treehouse of my own after seeing this lol.

  9. This is so beautiful! I love that this was something you just dreamed up but with the right connections were able to make it a reality. I’m jealous right here! 😉 Just lovely.

    All good wishes for your future with this!

  10. Very nice work, but I cannot condone his methods of building it on public property or his attitude (stated elsewhere) that it’s OK to trespass on other peoples property and use their hot tubs to bathe.

    Shows a lack of respect for others and their property.

  11. There’s that boundary in the mind of a genius that’s offset from the boundaries in the minds of the mean.

    That said, there’s property in your area to be had for the same amount of money that offering plans of the egg to the public would garner. (Hint, hint.)

    Good luck and thanks for the profound inspiration.

  12. So apparently it is OK to trespass on land held in trust for others as long as you are young hip and build a cool shack. It is just fine to use the forest as a toilet since you are doing it with an Eco aware spirit and are communing with nature as you despoil it. Am I correct in thinking that you are not even a Canadian citizen, but one who “bucked the American standard of living” to squat on land belonging to the citizens of another country? This epitomizes the whole idea of a clueless sense of entitlement. How are you different from any other developer defiling wilderness for selfish personal gratification? At least a permitted cabin of any shape would have some sort of toilet and meet minimum codes to prevent erosion, forest fires and e coli pollution. Do you pack out your waste water or just pitch it out a window.

    I suspect that I spend more days per year in wilderness than most if not all of those who support this developer. Camping, hiking and building and maintaining trails. Also I spend at least one long weekend a year collecting and packing trash out of a National Recreational Area in Utah. When I camp I bring a toilet tent and pack out my waste. I also scoop, bag and remove my dog waste as well. And I would love to volunteer to assist the Canadian Gov’t in removing this eyesore from the woods, unfortunately it is to late to remove the damage done to the trees.

    But since it looks cool and is built by a hipster, to some that’s all that matters. Because, hey! How could someone
    Iike that do wrong……

    • As a fellow North American, I love the idea of the “frontier,” an area where a rugged individualist can live outside the constraints of society. I guess you don’t.

    • Kent, perhaps you should not let people make negative comments, like Michael’s “eyesore” comment if you are going to remove all comments again when someone replies in kind.

      • It’s very tough dealing with comments. I personally like to hear both sides and have open comments, it is tough when people get nasty and start calling names, etc.

        • Thanks for the response, Kent. You do an excellent job. I really like the way that you post projects that show the spectrum of possibilities from the more lawful/code compliant to the more lawless/squatter/countercultural. It seems to get people really fired up at times, but it is all great to see.

    • all of our “lawful” lifestyles are damaging the tree, no matter if you live on it…near it…or the country next to it. we all share the same air. and to nature, every tree is equal no matter if it’s in a park or marked to be cut down and made into lumber. so let’s not pretend it’s the tree we’re worried about. i’ve tried to figure out why some people get so ugly on here….i guess they feel their lifestyles are threatened in some way.

  13. Beautiful tree house! Thanks for sharing. I kinda love that you built this on crown land and think it is hilarious how indignant some folks are about it. Haters are always so small minded and it’s sad really – can’t see the forest for the trees or so they say. Obviously there are far, far, FAR more horrendous crimes taking place in our forests than a tiny tree house escape obviously built with love and tremendous creativity. I would be absolutely enamored if I was out hiking and came across this little gem.

  14. Joel , outstanding craftsmanship. But you should have purchased a a piece of property to build on , you can quite often buy a steep wooded piece for very little money and then it is yours and you will not have to worry about a self righteous eco nazi like Michael showing up to tear it down,with a very smug i’m helping mother nature on his self righteous little face . Best of luck to your endeavors and beware the nazis

  15. Our national concept of private property has done damage of its own, particularly to people of color. I find the building itself so beautiful that it has made my day. However, this concept is useful for exactly those lots that are on a steep slope or wooded. This HemLoft is a wonderful way to fit in that environment. A smaller scale version slightly above ground would be good for kids.

  16. Kent,
    I am glad you let people post opposing views. Conflict can be good, as it lets us hear the other side, and maybe change our thinking. I don’t think badly about people who don’t agree with me or my views and I think the OP knows his creation is no eyesore.

    Thanks for the great job you do on the blog!

  17. Really? He’s doing something “unethical” and “damaging”? You ALL take “dumps” that end up in a river somewhere! How’s that for damaging and unethical???

    • Lol….thanks for the comment. I think it is good to question ALL sides of an issue. Many people do not question what is considered “normal,” because of course it is “right,” although on this blog, it happens more than in my “real” life.

  18. Public land is owned by the tax payers. I have no problem with this house being built where it is.

    Joel, you have a great talent and should be proud of what you built.

  19. Eco Nazi, that’s rich!! As a Jew who owns not only a smart car, but an F250 CrewCab, a 500hp speed boat and a vintage racecar I am far from what you describe. However I do get incensed by Elitist people who think they are above the rules that the rest of us are expected to live by. Why do I say this person is an elitist? Because in the linked article he says he wants to keep this squatters cabin secret from the residents of the area in which he has built it. In other words it is not for everyone, just those he thinks are part of his approved group. Is this not the very definition of elitism? However it seems he is not above trespassing upon others legal property to bathe in their hot tubs.

    It really seems that as long as one is an “artist” then ones illegal structure is exempt from sound environmental practices or even common sense (open candles). I am sure the animals that have found that this development in protected wilderness has pushed them a bit further out of their habitat will feel better knowing that the encroachment is aesthetically pleasing. This is the same mentality that says that it is OK to illegally run irrigation lines, dam streams, clear land and use chemical fertilizers in wilderness forests as long as you are growing marijuana. If one can cloak their illegal behavior in the veneer of rebellion there will always be someone to nod approvingly. Someone who does not have to either live with the results nor clean up the mess after the “rebel” has moved on.

    BTW, my home toilet is connected to a city sewage system and as I said earlier when I am camping I use a portable toilet, not a river.

    • Not sure what your religion or all your gas guzzling toys have to do with this blog. Most people here are interested in minimal housing ideas, not shouting down each others concepts and work. Maybe you missed the title of this web site.

      • So far I have been called a hater and a Nazi, I would not call those terms that encourage dialogue. As far as my gas guzzling toys, I merely want to refute the absurd claim that I am an Eco Nazi. It is sad that you equate disagreement with “shouting down”. If you go back and read all the comments, I am the one who,has been personally attacked, perhaps even shouted down.

        Is not the comments section the place for comments? I do not see anywhere that it is only for approving comments. And I do not see where the points I have raised have been refuted or even discussed. Only personal attacks on me as an individual, not my ideas.

        • Perhaps your strident and negative opening comment has irritated other commenters. If you don’t want personal attacks, don’t disparage others.

          You’re “open candle” argument is farcical when you consider the enormous number of “open candles” in houses in or around the wilderness across Canada and the world. People camp legally in the woods, AND they cook with fire while they are doing it. Do you really think they are all carrying fire extinguishers?

          You aren’t so much making any real arguments. You are just dissing someone else for not having the same values as you do. People recognize the censorious quality in your thought and it miffs them. The result is seen above. Any questions?

          • People who have open candles in their homes have recourse to something called a “Fire Department” this is readily accessed via “telephone” both of these are not available to those who choose to live in the forest, especially those who live in secret aquatters camps. Fires built in a forest should be constructed in such a way that will prevent forest fires, by following simple common sense rules. Among them, clearing back the leaf mold to dirt to prevent traveling charring, dousing and raking the ashes. I do not know of anyone in 2012 that uses an open candle to light their campsite when cheap and safe alternatives are available. This is basic common sense. Certainly in our past things were very different, but are you suggesting we should simply deny the knowledge our predecessors have learned at such a high cost?

        • Michael, a remark generally hurts in proportion to it’s truth. Sorry for your pain .I do agree that he should purchase his own property .

    • I respect the differences of opinion here, Michael you sound pretty angry and I think people are responding as much to your tone as to your content. As a note Crown Land isn’t “protected” in the sense that a park or preserve is protected. The simple fact is that here in Canada, vast tracts of crown land are routinely ceded to mines, forestry and developers. It is also not out of bounds to squat on Crown Land as long as one recognizes that they have no claim to that land. Well, actually I believe there are some rules allowing the right to stake a claim after maintaining a permanent dwelling over a certain period of years. It’s been a while since I last checked on those terms, perhaps someone has more current info but that was the system that settled the west, the Klondike and so forth. I commend your responsible camping practices though I’d note that there must be millions of tons of bagged dog-do and cat litter accumulating in our land fills every year but at least nobody is stepping in it.

  20. Way cool! You should really create some kind of plan that people can adapt to an appropriate size tree. I know there are safe ways to build around a tree, leaving room for it to grow and I’m sure you could devise those in a plan. I could see people interested in this design for a little escape on their own land, a special adaptation for a hill overlook area. It seems to be a symbiotic relationship with the tree to hold the space from an eroding bank….just give that tree lots of love, water, and appropriate fertilizer. 🙂

  21. It’s hard enough to get people to realize the value of what they own, but this guy doesn’t even bother to realize the value of what he DOES NOT own.

  22. You did a beautiful job on the tree pod, I love it. I have a question for you…

    What gives you the right to build on private property and then assume it belongs to you?

    If one can do it then everyone wants to…what would we have then? Chaos..and the forest would be destroyed. You would have tree huggers, environmentalists, etc etc on your back, either way you can’t win.

  23. Well, this thing certainly is unique and interesting. I absolutely believe him when he says, “Enthusiasm and naïvety were the two key traits that pulled me through.” I think anyone who gets out of college, works for three years, then thinks he can retire suffers from naivety beyond my comprehension. As does anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to build on land that he “technically” does own – I find that funny; he technically doesn’t own the land in the same way that he’s technically not the President of the United States. The word “technically” should be replaced by “absolutely.” I can’t imagine someone going to the effort and expense of doing this in this manner, but I guess that goes back to the unbelievable sense of naivety and seeming lack of grasp of reality. Shame it wasn’t done correctly.

  24. Whenever a rebel does something poignant there are people who indignantly ask: Where would the world be if everybody did that? Seems like a good way to avoid talking about what’s really going on – the fact that it’s illegal for a human being of modest means to fend for themselves on the land (private or public, it’s pretty much illegal everywhere) to the best of their ability. As far as his candle question: do humans have the right to use fire, water, and earth to survive like a long chain of ancestors did until recent history? If it was ok for centuries, why is it stupid now? Who makes that decision? City people and corporate lackey politicians?

    So Michael seems to be all about fitting in with the program and playing by the rules. There is no way anybody will be able to change his mind because Michael only knows what he knows. However, if he is the least bit introspective he may find that he does not obey every single rule and actually reserves the right to dissent on some legal requirements. I predict that he will soon be faced with a big situation where he will have to choose between following a rule and taking care of a personal need. Michael may choose to bite the bullet and follow the rule, but not without a lot of ambivalence. At that point he will realize why a person might choose to color outside of the lines, and even why the liberty to do so is crucial for the culture to evolve.

      • In my 58 years on this planet I have been faced with many choices and had to choose from many options. Life is not black and white, I am well aware of that. I am also well aware that building a home on land you do not own is theft. I am highly aware as well that having multiple open flames in a dry wooden house in the middle of a forest with no fire extinguisher is simply stupidity. If you want to glorify that as being a rebel that is your choice, but do not expect all others to blindly follow you into oblivion. It is obvious that many commenters have no concept of what it takes to
        live safely and harmoniously with minimal impact in the wilderness. If I did not know better I would think that they were city dwelling dreamers with an overly romanticized vision of what it means to live off the grid and off of the bounty of nature.

        My disagreement with the builder of this treehouse is over his locating it on land he does not own, his mutilating trees he does not own, his casual attitude towards basic fire safety and sanitation, and his hypocrisy in pretending to reject the trappings of modern life while feeling he can simply trespass upon others property to sponge off of the fruits of their labor by taking baths in their outdoor tubs. This attitude is simply disrespectful to others, to the environment and is indicative of a massive sense of entitlement and unearned feelings of superiority. If this person had any resect for others he would open this treehouse to the entire community, not try to keep it a secret to be shared solely among his insider group. By keeping it a secret he shows his basic selfishness and the contempt he feels for the other members of the community in which he lives. He just feels they are not worthy and that he and his group are better than the others among whom they live.

        • Michael, at least one person here agrees with you. The house is beautiful, but he’s stealing, plain and simple, and what he’s done shouldn’t be glorified.

        • There are people throughout the world who believe PRIVATE PROPERTY is theft. Supposedly, we freely enter a social contract with society. If there is no way to opt out of that contract, then we have not freely entered into it and we are not truly free. It is WRONG for SOME to monopolize the world’s resources and to preclude the rights of others to pursue happiness.

          Let’s look at this from a historical point of view. By your reasoning Robin Hood was a bad man, while King John was a good man. John had every right to deny these outlaws the bounty of the forest. Those deer they poached to live on belonged to the Crown, man.

          In the 1500s, in England, the gentry began to enclose areas that had traditionally been held in commons: places where poor people could pasture a milk cow. The enclosed properties were used by the wealthy to raise sheep for wool and as former farming areas were converted to a less labor intensive form, many people were dispossessed. The phrase went, “sheep do eat up men.” But that is the right of private property holders, right?

          • The law locks up the man or woman

            Who steals the goose from off the common
            But lets the greater felon loose

            Who steals the common from off the goose

  25. Man is an animal first and formost, If all people chose to live this way the world would be much better. People are tearing mountains down so they can furnish their homes in what was once consider precious stone. I find it commical that those who abuse the planet the most cry the loudest when some one wants to live simply.

  26. Michael,
    Sorry someone used the term “eco-nazi” a lot of people, especially youger people do not appreciate what the word NAZI really connotes.

    I understand where you are coming from in your basic argument. But seriously, plant that tree and wish the OP the best.

  27. I love the design. I feel there’s potential there for more – you could build two or three of these and connect them with walkways to accommodate a family, or to gain space for a home office or something.

    However, I think there are some serious issues with the construction that the builder hasn’t considered. The fact that it’s built on “borrowed” land and might have to be taken down at some point due to legal issues may prove a blessing in disguise for both the tree and the treehouse. I personally don’t have a lot of experience with building treehouses, but in the past few months I’ve read some stories about structures built in living trees that have been used for decades, and one of the things the builders found they needed to consider was the growth of the tree and the flexibility of the materials. Trees are living things and rebel against intrusions like screws and bolts, and try to heal the scars you inflict on them. Their growth also means that things move, so attaching a rigid structure to them is a bad idea. One builder showed examples of old treehouses where the tree grew around metal bars and bent them, or where the growth of the tree damaged the structure attached to it.

    I think the safest option of the HemLoft would be to take it down, find a legal place to put it, and attach it to the new tree using construction parts that allow for the growth and movement of the living wood.

  28. Gorgeous little summer house but so sad about using a living tree for such a transient structure. Do the bands around the tree that hold the house expand as the tree grows? Mind you I have timber floors and timber frames in my house but people have lived in this house all year round for almost 50 years and probably will for the next 50 or more. What an interesting ethical dilemma this egg house presents! Thanks for the opportunity to have a say and all the best to the young folk who spent so much time and money building this beautiful but essentially self indulgent structure.

  29. Although i think its gorgeous, i believe Michael has a valid point…it was built on public land, obviously without a permit or permission…thats it, case closed! If it were a shanty & an eyesore, there would be no discussion here! last week, my thread was closed to comments due to a couple negative opinions, & a poor choice of wording, similar to this post…i also acted like an ass in trying to defend myself, so comments were closed. Even though my place looks like a homeless shanty to some, it was built on my property, with the proper permits…You can not build your dreams on someone elses land, government or citizen owned…but it is definitely one of my favorite structures featured here!

    • I am sorry I had to close comments on your post, things just were getting out of hand and I decided it was the best thing to do.

    • We used to be a kinder society. “Bums” were allowed to live for extended periods on common land, wastes down by the railroad tracks. People squatted in shacks down by the river. They were chivvied out from time to time, but not like now. Our society, if we want to be thought compassionate, must have places where those who cannot cope with society are allowed to live.

      If my grandfather had heard the comments on the thread that Kent closed to comments, he would have told the neighsayers to “mind their own business.” Your place did not look like a homeless shanty, and if it did to some, so what. As long as you have a comfy place to sleep and you don’t sell crack through a chink in the wall, you’re A-OK with me and a hell of a lot of good people everywhere.

  30. Seems there are a good many assumptions being made in the comment thread. Isn’t a better approach to ask first, *then* shoot? Are we sure he didn’t get permission? Just because it’s secret, doesn’t mean he didn’t get permission — all good questions though. I would ask:

    1.) Did he get permission?
    2.) Was permission need? (My guess is that one always needs permission in a situation like this, but can’t hurt to ask.)
    2.) Does the tree house allow the tree to expand? – or is growth, at this point, minimal? My guess: The tree appears relatively young and has more growing to do, this will wreck the tree house. It doesn’t appear to be designed for expansion.
    3.) Is the tree house a temporary structure?
    4.) How are issues of fire safety and sanitation dealt with?

    Kent or Joel? Since you posted the article, what do you have to say?

    • Hi Patrick, I don’t know the answers to your questions as I was just sharing his story. I am hoping Joel will step in and respond, so far he has not.

  31. The builder should have researched the effects of building in trees more before beginning.

    Clear signs of sap running from the wounds inflicted on the tree in the contruction photo is concerning.

    If it were my build, I’d be removing it before an eco warrior removed it.

    • Unless you don’t so much as drive a thumbtack into a tree, you can’t *not* induce running sap. Build it in the winter, and sap will run in the spring. It’s partly how a tree seals itself. What you don’t want to do is use nails (which the builder seems to have done); and you want to penetrate the tree as minimally as possible (which the builder also seems to have overlooked), but I’m not positive.

      By the looks of it, I wouldn’t recommend attaching the tree house the way *this* builder has – at least not if all the forestry “howto’s” are to be trusted.

  32. The human species has lived off the land in this way since the beginning of time. Some settlements more invasive than others. The hilarious part of this is that it is the Americans and Canadians (mostly Americans) commenting on how “bad” this is, when it is America itself that has almost single-handedly destroyed our planet. I don’t think the “building codes” argument would really be a strong argument elsewhere (actually it wouldn’t) nor is this home causing more harm to the environment because the builder didn’t purchase the land beforehand. I also believe the term “eco-nazi” is a bit harsh – could have simply said “moron”. I do wonder though, where do wild animals take a crap?

  33. I agree with Michael wholeheartedly. How is it in any way acceptable for someone to appropriate public land for their private use? If this were a large corporation building a hotel without permission I doubt people would be so supportive. The fact that it is on a small scale doesn’t make it OK. To endorse this is akin to saying “If you want something you don’t have, just take it.” I don’t see this as rebellious so much as selfish.

    • And I agree with you wholeheartedly. I hate those stories about pioneers who settled the great plains. They went out there and squatted on property they didn’t own until, after a few years, the gov’t gave them title to the land. To endorse this sort of behavior was akin to saying, “If you want something you don’t have, just take it.” Pure selfishness.

  34. Thank you Joel for sharing this inspiring jewel of a structure. I think the design, craftsmanship and materials offer many interesting ideas that could be incorporated into tiny homes…and isn’t that why we visit this blog? to be inspired? I’m all in favor of informative debate, but a bit more civility would be appreciated. I would hate to miss out on seeing this creative structure (or any future one) because it was not built to code/ or on private property/ or because contributors might face a verbal backlash against their beautiful ideas. I hope Joel has a thick skin. I admire his honesty and hardwork, what a magical little spot!

  35. @Michael – you might have a point regarding the legality of this treehouse, but the vitriol and resentment dripping from every word you’ve typed undermines any point you might be trying to make.

    I’m not saying everyone should do this, and I realize the precedent it does set.

    One beautiful egg-shaped treehouse will not wreck the forest. Why don’t you concern yourself with corporate logging?

    Don’t be a putz.

    @Joel & Heidi – beautiful job!

    • My goodness you are thin skinned, where is the vitriol? Disapproval, yes. Disagreement, yes. Resentment, maybe, but not against the self indulgent individual who built this shack. I certainly resent being called a Nazi, and being personally insulted while the legitimate points I have raised have gone mostly I discussed.

      Romantic new-age visions of the way some city dweller believes things should be in a perfect fantasy world are not a solution to very real issues and problems of land use in 2012. Nor are libertarian political references to the world of the 1900’s going to help all of us deal with a much more polluted and populated world that was never dreamed of by 18th century philosophers.

      In this particular instance we have a young man who earns his paycheck from the developers, he is beholden to them for his daily bread, for what is being a home building carpenter in Whistler, but being an agent of development. In his case he says that he worked building a house for “Germans” this implies that it is a seasonal vacation home, one of the least defensible types of development. In his spare time he works diligently to spread human encroachment into a protected forest by nailing boards into trees, not to build a full time dwelling, but another vacation home. There is no possible way to live there in the winter with no solid walls, no watertight roof, no insulation, no sanitation, no water, etc. He does not even have the excuse of necessity, i.e. I need a place to live. This is just a summer vacation shack built solely to indulge his romantic fantasies, one that he has clearly stated is to be kept a secret from the community in which he lives. To top it all off it is built on stolen property, land that is held in trust for the citizens of a country of which he is not even a citizen if his opening sentence is to be believed. How on earth is such selfish and destructive behavior defensible in any possible way? And yet it is defended, mostly on the grounds that it looks good: by those standards any development anywhere on anyone else’s land is just fine as long as it is pretty. Just amazing…..

  36. Ok, Michael I owe you an apology. I looked it up and squatting on Crown land is illegal. On that note, I feel that does not negate the fact that I’ve known people who’ve squatted for over 30 years with no problems.
    There are some interesting things to note here. Most of Canada is still owned by the Crown. Canada is bigger than the US with 1/10 of the population (30 million in Canada opposed to 300 million in the US). Thus there is a strong sense of a plenitude of space for everyone here. I personally am ok with someone squatting on Crown land. Additionally, one must consider that most of the land in Canada is public. There is no sense of “this is mine and I own it” here. It is much more of an attitude of either “we all share it and let’s take care of it” or “Let’s plunder it and get rich from all our resources while we can”. Since about 90% of our government takes the latter approach, they don’t tend to care about someone squatting on Crown land unless they want to harvest the timber – in which case people like Joel are evicted.

  37. How many people are reading this and taking bets when Kent will shut off the comments?

    I was thinking….

    1. I wonder if a baby Spotted Owl started to cry when it saw the tree house being built…aaah baby owl.
    2. Does anyone think that when Joel pees off the side house he aims at things below?
    3. Did anyone comment on the floor plan?
    4. Due to the height of the house, do you think you can steal WiFi off of the rich folks whose mansions are slowly creeping into the forest of Endor?

    Again just trying to make this post a little happier!

    • hahaha 🙂
      Thanks – your post made me laugh out loud. 🙂 I sincerely appreciate your humour.

      1. baby spotted owl hears from old grumpy Uncle Barred that he is safe from tree-house man because he (baby spotted owl) doesn’t live that far north.

      2. If Joel is a true Canadian, then yes he does pee off his porch and aims at things below, particularly at hemlock cones and any squirrel in the vicinity. (I note I do not know of a Canadian man who has been in the forest in a tree and has not done this …and yes I know more than one). 🙂 (the girls try to drown the ants in case you were wondering) 😛

      3. …? :S …and I didn’t see a hanging bed either… 🙁

      4. unless it’s on the other side of the mountain… in which case you just go to Tim Hortons – there is usually always good Wi-Fi signal from the houses surrounding a Tim Hortons. 🙂 (dont ask me why)

  38. Wow, you all are at it again, I’m getting tempted to turn off comments for good. Why can’t you agree to disagree, voice opinions without tearing each other down. I would really hate to do this but I am seriously thinking about it.

    • I would understand completely if you did.
      the outright attacks against an opposing opinion are disheartening.
      i was going to post a response to the article, design, etc., but i’m not as thick skinned as michael obviously.

      i wish everyone in this community would subscribe to the theory of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” before they start being foul and mean.

      you’ve got a tough job. unfortunately the internet provides an anonymous venue for bullies, and people who simply don’t work and play well with others 🙂

      everyone on this site should realize that DISCUSSION is welcomed, wether is opposes the general population or not, but the manner and presentation of opposition is what’s gone awry in this case.

      good luck to you sir!

    • Oh, don’t shut off the comments. I just read the whole thread and it’s not too bad. Sure, mistakes were made and words poorly chosen, but a conversation cannot be all manly blather and brotherly rotomontades.

      • Please, please, Kent, don’t turn off the comments. I enjoy most of them almost as much as the posts. Why punish everyone because a few people can’t be civil. Maybe just restrict or moderate those people.

        • Will do, it is tough to moderate and make the right decisions but I agree as I enjoy the comments and would really miss them too. To me a blog is the two way street and it would be lost if comments are removed. Just is frustrating that people have to be mean…

          • Thanks 🙂 I for one appreciate all the work you do to keep the blog going. I know it takes a lot of work, especially when you have to monitor the comments. Just know that most of us see the mean comments for what they are. Thanks again!

    • Also, some people just like to troll. They enjoy controversy and starting arguments. Please don’t let them win. Thank you for all the hard work you do on this blog. It is one of my favorites!

  39. For those in U.S.A. – there is no such thing as private land. You may think it is private land, but the government has eminent domain. And as such has the right/power to take your “private land” if they want it for some other purpose. Such as transferring it to some business that would ensure them more tax money. Or for incorporating it into a World Monument. And until you finish paying the bank for the privilege of personal use … it belongs to them. The banks are also the ones that own the monetary system. And if you think that you have paid off the land and it is your “private property” … just wait until you don’t pay whatever taxes/fees the governmental agencies choose to levy .. or attempt to build anything on what they vaguely designate as possible “wetlands” (look that up and then tear your hair out …). Then it is gone, and they don’t reimburse you.
    I would hope that Michael is using a solar oven to cook with while he is hiking or camping on public lands. Fire danger IS a real issue. I believe Global Sun Ovens is in Utah. It would also be nice if he packed out and composted moose, elk, bear, deer, cougar, and wolf poop … which also is currently polluting the public lands. But that may be a bit much to ask. BLM needs to eradicate all those big grazing animals, because they are endangering the habitat with overgrazing. Of course, just walking through an area can crush fragile plants and create areas for soil erosion. It would probably be best if we just admired them from a distance. A long distance. Like from a nice hotel in New York City. 🙂
    The egg structure is cute and very creative! Having a living tree going through the middle of it is not conducive to long-term durability. I also find it awkward to sleep in a semi-circle. But that’s just me. Have a great day!!

    • If I build an open fire, which I do not often do, I clear back the leaf ebb down to dirt for a distance of 5 feet all around the fire pit and then surround it with rocks. After the fire is burned out and before leaving the campsite I douse the ashes with water, rake and douse again. As you can tell this leaves a large scar on the land which is why I rarely build fires. I cook with butane or propane and light with LED battery lights, used to use throways, but now have upgrades to rechargeables which are cheaper in the long run.

      Animal scat is an inherent part of the forest ecosystem, beneficial for the long term health of the local habitat. Human feces on the other hand is not and contains many deadly pathogens. Even urine which is relatively benign in small quantities is harmful when it is repeatedly deposited in a small area over a period of several weeks.

  40. You may have already “wrapped up” small house of the year. Someone of your ability and intelligence, surely, understands the relationship of open flame to dry or green tinder. Greenery in the form of jealousy is nothing like the “green”ery of small home living.
    Live on and live large. Do not sign me “anonymous” – I am not afraid of my own opinion.

  41. Your HemLoft is beautiful. Building on crown land can be a risk. I hope you can find your way to your own land and have fun building another beautiful place. You have the time, it took us at least 15 years of work and good play to find our own tight spot and we are still working at making it our home by scrapping hurricane lumber and working a wee bit so we can buy materials like hoses to heat water in the sun that beats on the roof ( a luxury, both the sun and the hot water) and some nails to keep it all together. Stay inspired!

  42. Best design I have seen in a while on here. I am appalled however by the reactions of people who believe this is harmful to the environment. Clearly those individuals are highly uneducated when it comes to life outside the US and Canada, as well as how humans have lived since the beginning of time. As long as your McMansion is built on your personally “owned” land then you’re okay! As long as you appeal to a “building code” then you are doing what nature intended. Lol. I have yet to see on here even a scant reason as to why this abode is not better for the planet than its current and mainstream alternative. If more people did this then the world would be a better place. In the meantime, I’m off to begin exporting fire extinguishers to the aborigines.

    • So you feel that the planet would be a better place if all 400 million North Americans were to live wherever they wanted irregardless of the environmental impact, befouling our watersheds, and living like third world peasants? That you would have no objection to strangers building a lovely little shack in your “personally owned” backyard a few steps from your door. That you feel it is stupid to have a toilet when one could just walk a couple of steps out the door and defecate outside in your front yard as “nature” intended. You would welcome all 300 million Americans doing the same, including all your immediate neighbors. And this would make the world a better place…..?

      Certainly our ancestors lived this way and millions in other parts of the world do today. However, for the most part their lives are nasty, brutish and short, filled with disease. I am amazed that you would put up cavemen and aboriginial peoples and their lifestyles as a valid role model for hundreds of millions of people to live in harmony with nature in 2012.

      • The comment you replied to never said people should live wherever they wanted without regard to environmental impact. In fact, I think you’ll find that many of the aboriginal people whose lives you describe as “nasty, brutish and short” were very conscious of their environmental impact and tried to live in a certain balance with nature. Of course, some aspects of their lives could be seen as less than desirable, but they certainly weren’t ruining the environment as much as “civilized” people. Those who lived the shortest, nastiest and most disease-ridden lives were probably the ancestors of most white Europeans and Americans alive today, who spent a few centuries in the middle ages living in their own excrements in cramped cities and squalid villages, abhorring nature and personal hygiene for religious reasons, and generally trying to make other people’s lives as unpleasant as possible.

        I also find it interesting that you mention “befouling our watersheds” in one context and “having a toilet” in another. Have you joined the Tiny House Blog exclusively to attack this particular design, or did you just happen to miss all those posts about composting toilets vs flushing? The environmental impact of “defecating in your front yard” can be significantly less when taking the right precautions than using a regular toilet, where you stop thinking about what happens to your excrements as soon as they’re out of your sight… while they’re effectively on their way to befoul your watersheds.

        Another thing to take into account is that there are different concepts of ownership that are in effect in different cultures, and they still work. Of course you have to take into account the rules of the society you live in, but what seems so wrong and inconceivable to you may sound normal and commonplace to someone else. In Sweden, for instance, it is not the norm to “own” land; the land belongs to the state and you can lease it to get the right to build on it. It is also perfectly legal to camp in someone else’s back yard, as long as you don’t do any damage to their property.

        Cultural norms also change over time. For example, the principles the first white settlers used to colonize the American continent would now be considered highly illegal but were perfectly acceptable a couple of hundred years ago – acceptable, at least, to the non-indigenous colonists who squatted on land that did not belong to them. If you would argue that the principles of ownership are absolute and should never be questioned at all, then all Americans of European ancestry who didn’t legally purchase their land from the indigenous tribes should head back to Europe asap.

        Please don’t see this post as a personal attack. I only think that in trying to get your points across, you have stopped trying to see other commenter’s points of view, even if they may be just as valid as your own. Instead, you try to completely shoot down any argument that seems to clash with your own views. I think you originally raised a few legitimate points, namely disregard for established rules and safety, but the aggressive tone of your replies makes people focus on that rather than the issues you discuss.

        • I have no problems with a composting toilet nor with any other toilet that sanitized the waste, but the Hemloft has no toilet at all. This I have a problem with since the builder stated he lived in it for weeks at a time. While treated sewage is sometimes released into rivers and other watersheds, it is TREATED, not raw excrement. How is this more harmful than simply squatting in your yard? I had thought that everyone knew better that to pee and crap into streams above where others may draw their drinking water, but it’s seems I took too much for granted.

          There are indeed other cultural property norms, but as you stated ” you have to take into account the rules of the society you live in” . Canada is not Sweden, the builder did not take into account the rules of the society he lives in. He simply stole the land in a culture that recognizes property rights. Even worse, he encroached upon forest in an area that is suffering from massive development. In his own tiny way he too is a developer, just like any other and he did it with no review or input from the community in which he lives. To add insult to injury, according to the first sentence of his story, he is not even a citizen of Canada. How is that acting in accordance with the norms of the society in which he lives, Whistler, BC?

          To be honest,, I feel that the big issue here is between the armchair dreamers who only see the attractive looks of this structure and fall in love with the idea of sleeping in a treehouse, and the realists who want to put the structure into context looking at the total overall picture of how it impacts the world around it, how is was constructed, etc.

          • Do a quick internet fact check. You’ll find several instances of e-coli outbreak caused by improper dumping of sewage by licensed sewage treatment facilities into a source of drinking water. What you won’t find is a single incidence of e-coli outbreak caused by an errant turd shallowly buried by a camper or builder of an awesome tree house. If you do, I’d really like to see it.

  43. If you do come up with a design element that could accommodate expansion of the tree trunk, I’d love to see how you accomplish that. And have you ever considered a rain cache for water?

    As far as the negative comments here: I guarantee if you take a good close look at your own life, it’s impact has just as many negative consequences for the environment as this man’s little treehouse does. I know mine does. So please, if you want to change the world, take a good long look in the mirror and focus your criticism there.

  44. Ironically, “third world peasants, cavement and aboriginals” did and do a lot less damage to the earth than modern industrial societies.

    “Nasty, brutish, and short?” Well, it is fitting that you would use a quote from a man arguing for the virtues of monarchy over democracy.

  45. It occurred to me that I hadn’t visited the THB in awhile, so I thought I’d catch up. This is what I found: an intense conversation about all aspects of this unusual and beautiful structure, sprinkled with vitriol and acrimony. (Yet another example of a few ruining things for the majority.)

    Back when the start of my tiny-house project was featured on this site (about a year ago), the discussion was always thorough and questioning, but never vicious. When the tone of some of the comments changed and showed no sign of improving, I still visited the site every day but I tried to skip over the comments posted by the most negative and mean posters. That became too difficult when the number of negative posters grew, so I cut back: I only visit the site a couple of times a month now.

    I once thought it would be fun to offer a follow-up post when my tiny house is complete. I would not be interested in subjecting myself or my project to this forum now.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, of course. Turning off comments would ruin the site, since the exchange of ideas can be as informative as the original post. I appreciate all you do, Kent, to keep this site fresh, interesting, diverse, informative, and relevant. I think it is regrettable that the site has lost the more welcoming and respectful feel of community it once had.

    • I have to agree, although i lovethe site, more and more comment space seems to be spent with flame wars and negative comments…. If you hate something like this so much, why read it and spend time arguing? There are other websites that probably feature things you like! Not saying “if you cant say something nice…” but i just don’t understand why some people burn so many calories arguing nd complaining.

      Many projects on this site aren’t what i consider “ideal” either, but the ones i don’t like, I don’t spendtime commenting on!!!!

  46. Michael and Bryan, isn’t there an illegal lemonade stand run by some children that you could be calling the authorities about?

  47. Michael, you are so right. If a camper drops a deuce in the woods the lethal chemicals in that dung will bore through sixty feet of bedrock and foul the drinking water of Canada.

  48. Michael and Bryan, without your diligence, the world would be going to hell in a handbasket. You go, girls!!!

  49. Lloyd, right on! If this one gets by the authorities, pretty soon that whole woods is going to be full of tree houses with free wheelin’ inhabitants dumping freely, copiously, all over the place from the eaves of their feculent abodes. Not only will this “dirt” foul the water, but countless birders with ruin their sandals. “Guardy Loo” will ring from the tree tops as it did when the denizens of medieval houses emptied their chamberpots in the streets below. It’s going to be a hellovathing.

  50. Did the author/builder write anything about how he deals with his waste? Or are people just making unsavory assumptions?

    Does he intend this as a full time residence, or is it just a little fun house?

    Does he mind if other people use the tree house, since it is on public property?

    Seems like a lot of unwarranted assumptions are being made by folks who appear to have some sort of hidden agendas.

    It’s a beautiful tree house.

  51. LOL!!!! at the illegal lemonade stands comment! The only way to fight fire is with fire. Props to the Bishop!!!!!

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