Whether you’re looking for a fantasy play area or an idyllic woodland retreat, Blue Forest is the luxury treehouse company to bring your dreams to life. Here, we find out the secrets behind the creativity and how they count everyone from Madonna to J.K. Rowling among their clients
What makes Blue Forest unique?
We’re about bringing adventure, excitement and magic into people’s lives, but it’s also about luxurious living too. The smaller details and finishing touches are really important, such as secret rooms, bespoke furniture, adventure play equipment, ‘starry sky’ fibre optics features, bespoke lighting and more.
Having been established for 10 years, we’ve now built hundreds of treehouses and over time we’ve established a reputation for creativity and expert craftsmanship. We’ve been fortunate enough to work for some very interesting individuals, from successful business men and women, to royalty and celebrities – we’re privileged to include people such as Madonna, Eric Clapton, J. K. Rowling and Ed Sheeran among our clients. We have a passionate and innovative design team here and we invest a lot of time into researching new and emerging design ideas and construction techniques. It’s important to us to come up with completely new designs for each project so that each treehouse is as individual as the people who will enjoy them.
Where do you seek inspiration for your architectural designs?
A treehouse is a show-stopping feature in anyone’s garden, and just like a beautiful sculpture, it can say a lot about someone’s individual personality. So ultimately our inspiration comes from our clients themselves. A lot of clients like to create their own Pinterest boards or design scrapbooks before they sit down with us. If the treehouse is intended for children in the family, we ask them to get their colouring pens out and draw some ideas for us which is great fun for them and makes the treehouse much more personal and special.
One thing that prevails across all of the treehouses however is the use of sustainable timber, so all of the treehouses have a very natural, organic feel. There’s also a strong safari style look across a lot of the treehouses with the curved walls and thatched roofs, which has been influenced by Andy and Simon’s childhoods spent in Kenya.
What makes the prospect of a treehouse so magical and alluring?
We like to say ‘if you can imagine it, we can build it’. A luxurious treehouse offers an unlimited opportunity for a client to have something truly unique to them. Every client has a different use for their treehouse but common to all of these is the sense of excitement, imagination and adventure that a treehouse brings that no other building can quite deliver. Wealthy clients have many of the material things that they need but actually quality family time is something of great value to them. Besides offering a great feature for the garden, a treehouse is also a place to use as a retreat, to rise above the stresses of everyday life. A bespoke treehouse is something that no one else in the world will have a copy of, and it can be an exciting space for entertaining friends and holding parties.
I think people love treehouses because they nostalgically remember all the fun times they spent playing in them as children. Treehouses are the ultimate kid’s den, a great place to escape the world and hang out with your friends. The treehouse spirit has been captured in so many novels over the years from Robinson Crusoe to Pooh Bear. These famous treehouses capture much of the adventure and imagination that we can all associate with. It’s a great place to play with the children or just to enjoy the garden. Being built amongst the branches in the treetops, a treehouse has a very unique feel. It’s always exciting to get away from the ‘normal’ things we become familiar with. Treehouses embody escapism.
We like to say ‘if you can imagine it, we can build it’
Can you talk us through the process from inquiry to the final product?
When a new client is interested in building a treehouse, we’ll arrange for a member of our team to visit and conduct a site survey. This initial consultation provides us with an opportunity to listen to the client’s ideas and ambitions, present a selection of previous Blue Forest projects, discuss financial budgets, discuss planning issues, discuss and explain timescales and logistics and discuss the surrounding environment and assess suitable locations. (There is no cost for the initial consultation for prospective clients within the UK. We do charge a fee to cover travel & expenses for all projects outside the UK).
Following the initial consultation, we’ll complete a full set of scaled treehouse designs. Besides scaled floor plans and elevations, our designs include fully rendered 3-dimensional computer models of each structure, providing a photo-realistic image of the treehouse or eco-lodge before it’s built. There is a fee for the design service. This fee is based on the size and complexity of the project and is confirmed to the client before they choose to proceed. On average, construction takes between 8-15 weeks depending on the size of the project.
Do you have any awards or achievements that you’re particularly proud of?
Our work is certainly recognised within the design industry ‒ we’re particularly chuffed to have won the Bloomberg International Hotel Awards for the design of the treehouses at Chewton Glen and most recently Blue Forest has been recognised by The Business Excellence Awards 2015 (Specialised Construction) and The Sussex Business Awards for Sussex Company of the Year 2014. This last award was a particular highlight as it was given to the business as a whole, recognising the hard work all of the Blue Forest team has put in over the years to create an exciting and successful company.
Do you have a favourite project?
We’re working on one particular treehouse at the moment which the client has named ‘Magical Home’. This treehouse has some really fantastic, imaginative and personal features. The roofline has different levels and a turret to give it a fairy-tale feel. Inside, a curved secret bookcase rotates to reveal a hidden room, including a spiral staircase leading to an upper mezzanine level within a tower. The children can access the hidden room secretly via a separate trap door, while the ‘adults’ would enter through the large folding sliding doors. Once within the secret room, there’s a Narnia-style wardrobe revealing a hidden escape out to a 12m stainless steel slide curving round the outside of the structure. The client has a couple of pet Labradors and as they’re part of the family, they have their own small walkway bridge into the treehouse which is something we haven’t done before!
Whose architectural style do you admire?
The design team are liking Renzo Piano and Kengo Kuma at the moment. But a lot of the architectural aspects of the treehouses are focused around the balance of the structure within the trees, and this will be a dominant factor when designing a treehouse.
What’s next in 2016?
Over the next five years we intend to become not just the UK’s but the world’s leading treehouse Design and Construction specialists. As a key element of this plan, we’re pioneering a new approach within the leisure and public services sector, developing bespoke sustainable accommodation solutions for the hotel and leisure industry as well as continuing to design and build the most spectacular treehouses in the world.
We’ll continue to challenge our creative design team to ‘let their imaginations run wild’ and to push the boundaries of treehouse design, coming up with ever more elaborate ideas to make the world a little more adventurous. In addition to this we hope to develop a range of prefabricated play structures that can be retailed both in the UK and abroad….
Blue Forest creates imaginative and adventurous treehouses and eco-buildings that bring people closer to the natural world. It was founded in 2003 by Andy Payne who was joined shortly afterwards by his brother Simon. Andy and Simon were born in Kenya where they were fortunate enough to have spent their childhoods surrounded by the beauty and adventure of the great outdoors.
Andy gained significant timber framing and construction expertise through a combination of business and voluntary experience in both the UK and Japan. This included the design and construction of a canopy walkway and treehouse for a friend who runs a conservation project in Kenya. Blue Forest was born of these experiences and from a desire to bring people closer to the natural world. They are regarded as the world’s leading treehouse consultancy and are renowned for designing imaginative and awe-inspiring creations.