What was it that Thoreau wrote about building castles in the air?
“Your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Southeast Michigan builder Tim Warnecke took that advice, literally.
Twelve years ago, a good friend sat at Warnecke’s patio table, sketching away while staring at a backyard tree. Warnecke stuck the drawing to his refrigerator, and the idea percolated for seven years.
Five years ago, while driving along the Lake Michigan shoreline with his family, Warnecke noticed the system used to support a house built on the side of a cliff.
That was his Eureka! moment.
“I realized the euphoria of being in a tree — of just walking out and being surrounded by leaves, branches and other trees — doesn’t require having to attach the structure to the actual tree for stability,” he explains. “It just needs to look and feel connected.”
High-end, custom-built treehouses tailored to suit each customer’s needs and dreams are now among the many construction offerings of Warnecke’s 27-year-old home and business remodeling company, New Look Design, in Roseville. While he employs conventional construction techniques to the houses themselves, the floor joists are secured to support beams sunk into the ground.
“The first step is evaluating the site to determine the best location, the design, structural needs and budget,” says Warnecke, noting that $2,500 of this initial $5,000 service — which includes three perspective renderings — is put toward the project’s final cost. Architectural blueprints that assure local building codes are met comes next.
Warnecke’s typical clients are “big kids at heart,” he says, noting that these lofty escapes make a great office, guest house, hobby space, mini-cottage and cure for the “dog house blues,” as well as place to play.
Regardless of purpose, amenities like heat, air conditioning, plumbing, cable TV and granite windowsills can be included to ensure four-season comfort and enjoyment. New Look Design’s model treehouse, “The Nest,” incorporates these. It also features a porcelain-tile entry; custom cherry wood faux blinds; interior rope trim; dimmable sconce lighting; recessed lighting on the balcony; custom-laid ledgestone and a dimensional roof with active ridge vent.
For low- to no-maintenance ease, TimberTech composite decking and 70-year, 170-mph vinyl cedar shake siding were also selected. “All that’s needed is a power wash in spring,” Warnecke says, “and you never have to worry about splinters.”
Looking for inspiration? Peruse “Be in Treehouse: Design/Construction/Inspiration” by Pete Nelson (2014, Abrams Publishing). While the host of Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters” illustrates how-to insights through his own Washington State-based company’s midair feats of engineering, he also showcases 27 extraordinary projects uncovered in Europe, Africa and the United States — including a stand-out structure in Ann Arbor.
— Thomas Carney and Lisa M. Jensen, Michigan BLUE Magazine.
Photography By Pete Nelson & New Look Design