Poor Carpenter Builds An Incredible Treehouse In The Wilds Of Canada


Photo: Image courtesy of Joel Allen

Joel Allen was just 26 when he quit his job as a software developer to pursue his lifelong dream of inventing a get-rich-quick scheme.Things didn’t pan exactly as planned: He ran out of money, fell in love and found his calling as a carpenter.

But a brilliant new idea struck him. Allen could use his carpentry skills and materials gathered from Craigslist to build an incredible treehouse on government land in the wilds of British Columbia. He’d live for free in style, right in the middle of one of the most inflated housing markets in the world.

Allen’s treehouse, Hemloft, has been featured on his blog and in Dwell magazine. We asked him to share his story and some pictures.

Allen's dad had built their family home, but his son didn't know a single thing about carpentry. Pressed to find employment and learn the skill quickly, he gave himself a one-week intensive course in carpentry by building a shed for his parents that was an exact replica of their home. The 12-hour workdays paid off: Within a week Allen had landed a job working on a multi-million dollar home overlooking Alta Lake.

Summer of 2008 was spent roaming Whistler for hours in search of the perfect tree to erect the treehouse on. Allen made a list of requirements: The tree should be serene, close to a road and running water, proportionate to the treehouse, and in tune with its design. It also needed a view.

After finishing up at his day job, Allen would work through the night building the scaffolding and floor structure. One night he encountered a bear, and another time he caught a part in a tree and nearly slipped off the structure, threatening his life.

As a carpenter, Allen knew what to toss and what could be reused. Among his finds were a double-glass sliding door (valued at $400), ash hardwood floor (worth $1,500) and clear cedar without any knots.

The Craigslist trolling became an obsession. At one point, Allen had amassed so much stuff, he could barely fit into his bed. Here he is trying to catch a few Zs next to a basketball floor.

August 2010 marked the completion of Hemloft. Now all that was left to do was add some final landscaping and decorating touches, then take some photos to share with friends.

For a week, the couple passed the days saying good morning to a bear on his morning route, grabbing fresh fruit from a local market, and cooking al fresco meals on the deck.

In 2011, a childhood friend of Heidi's mum suggested that Allen reveal the Hemloft to the world. She submitted the idea to Dwell Magazine.

... And was thrilled with the result. The magazine was on news stands all summer long.

To date, the Hemloft remains untouched and Canadian authorities haven't come after Allen.

His friends were pretty impressed too.

The Hemloft isn't the only alternative house out there.

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