Perch Perfect

In a steep canyon in West Los Angeles sits the Banyan Drive Tree House, built for an artist who also loves nature.

As a child, the owner was especially fond of tree houses. But this version is the kind of hideaway that many adults would dream of, complete with an outdoor shower.

Pipe Dream Canted steel columns serve as plumbing for the tree house’s powder room, outdoor shower, and sprinkler system.

The tree house’s design elements were drawn from earlier house plans that architect Christopher Kempel had drawn up for the artist and her husband. That house never got built, but its spirit and details were able to be realized on a smaller scale that was just as meaningful, with the tree house.

Cedar siding and mahogany floors recall a tree house kind of style, but in a more finished form. Hollow, canted columns serve as support beams for the structure. They’re also the pipes that supply the tree house with running water.

The tree house is, obviously, too hefty to be attached to an actual tree; instead, it hews close to one. A view port in the floor at the desk area underscores the point nicely. Flush with the floorboards and sturdy enough to roll a desk chair over, the window in the floor reveals the trunk of an Aleppo pine tree over which the Banyan Drive tree house hovers.

The biggest challenge in building the tree house was where it was sited: in the back corner of a steep lot where earth movers and forklifts couldn’t easily be driven in. Architect Christopher Kempel recalls that several builders simply refused to bid on the project.

But Tom Preis was game. The builder had worked with Kempel before, and as soon as he saw the architect’s drawings, Preis knew he wanted to build the tree house. “In over 25 years of being in the business, I’d never seen anything like this,” he recalls. “It didn’t scare me—I just realized it would take time.”

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