In 1974, fresh out of the army (as a Green Beret medic), Michael Garnier went to rural Oregon to try to make a living off the woods. He tried making furniture, fences, pole barns and selling organic, psychedelic picture propellers (to see Fantasy Flakes), but finally it was a treehouse that got him all the attention.
Modeled after the treehouse he had once built for his kids, his first treehouse B&B was completed in 1990 and people began paying to stay. But the county building instructors wouldn’t permit it and told Garnier to tear it down.
Instead, he set out to prove it was structurally sound by performing his own stress test. He invited 66 people, 2 dogs and a cat inside (for a total of 10,847 pounds) . The structure held, but the inspectors weren’t swayed.
Garnier continued to build 8 more treehouses, but without proper permission to use them as lodging, instead of renting them he asked guests to buy a $75 t-shirt first. Finally, nearly a decade later he had his permits, and by then he’d created an entire world in the sky.
Today he has 9 treehouses for rent, 20 staircases, 5 or 6 bridges, several platforms and zip lines for rapid descent and at least one fireman’s pole. Some of his treehouses even have toilets, running water and showers, though he warns guests to “stand when they flush”.
Garnier claims to have the tallest treehouse in the world. His Treezebo stands 37 feet, or 6 stories, above the ground (He also claims that his personal home is the largest treehouse in the world).
Over the years, Garnier has become legend in his industry and helped invent a better way to build a treehouse. Instead of bolting wood to wood (i.e. beams to the tree), Garnier and his colleagues at the World Treehouse Conference (an event he used to host) developed a way to attach steel bolts and cuffs to the tree. Dubbed the Garnier Limb (or G.L.), this open source design can support 8,000 pounds.
Garnier sells GLs of all different types as well as plans to build your own treehouse. His DIY treehouses are for 12 foot trees ($150) and he sells about 30 or 40 plans per year.
In this video, Garnier gives us a tour of his Out ‘n’ About Treesort, talks about the old “contreeversy” and its “publici-tree” and shows us his workshop and his 1800-square-foot personal treehouse home.
Television producer-turned-blogger-turned-ecogeek, Kirsten Dirksen is co-founder of faircompanies.com a news/blog/video site focused on environmental sustainability for people and the planet.