Inside the two-storey woodland treehouse up for House of the Year

The Woodman’s Treehouse couldn’t be further from the rickety treehouse most of us only dreamt about playing in as children.

For a start, children aren’t allowed to stay here. This luxury glamping-style getaway nestled in a Dorset woodland is for grown-ups, and comes complete with a private sauna, hot tub, open-air tree shower, plus a double-ended copper bath in front of a floor-to-ceiling window.

Although, admittedly there is a slide, which owner Guy Mallinson defies anyone to come down without, at least, cracking a smile.

“The original vision was to build a treehouse using traditional crafts. I’ve always wanted to build a tree house. Who hasn’t?” says Mallinson, a carpenter who runs woodworking courses on the site. “But I could never have imagined how it would end up looking.”

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Unparalleled luxury: with its sauna, roof-top Jacuzzi and double-ended copper bath guests typically come here for a romantic weekend away

The typically limitations of a treehouse is not the only idea challenged by the winner of both the RIBA South West Award 2017 and RIBA South West Small Project of the Year 2017.

Unlike most of the buildings which win RIBA awards, it was built in under six months and cost just £150,000.

Admittedly this is a huge sum for a treehouse, but it’s nothing compared to the millions of pounds that are usually spent on award-winning design and architecture.

The judges appreciated its “masterly control of form and function, with pinches of references from Borromini, Palladio and Stirling.”

Guests love it, too with stays sold out since they completed the project at the end of July last year.

“It’s not a very serious, minimalist piece of architecture, it is a frivolous and fun place to bring out the inner-child in you,” says Mallinson. “We’re absolutely over the moon we’ve made it to the list at all.” 

The two-storey suite is up for two more architecture and design awards, this year, too.

It was constructed by a self-build team of highly skilled green wood furniture makers, woodworkers and traditional craftsmen.

To reach the treehouse it is necessary to cross a ribbon bridge, which brings you to a scorched oak door, with heavy marine porthole and submarine locking mechanism.

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The stacked-log wall is Mallinson’s favourite design feature: it was a labour of love with 10,000 blocks of hand-shaven logs by Mallison’s children and their friends 

“Even from the outside you can see a lot of care has gone into the design,” says Mallinson. “No expense has been spared in the finishing touched. You can see, even from the front door that something unusual is to be expected.”

The internal design is a surprise though, with the central cylinder secreted within four ‘box rooms’ containing the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and lobby. It was designed as such to give guests the impression of being in a castle keep and Martello towers.

The rooftop sauna box is clad in larch slab wood and has slit windows that are intended to give the impression of a defensive position – a treetop fort keeping guard over the treehouse.

The project was a collaboration between Mallinson and his neighbour and friend, architect Keith Brownlie of Brownlie Ernst and Marks.

“It was such fun, we are definitely going to do another,” Mallinson says, again subverting the expectation that Grand Designs are usually fraught with setbacks and tension.

In fact, the only pressure was created by Mallinson making the “schoolboy error” of officially announcing a completion date, which resulted in carpenters leaving from the back as visitors came in the front.

He won’t be making that mistake next time.
Two-night stays start from £780; visit Mallinson.co.uk for more information.

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