Clay McGlaughlin

Times-Standard

Perched 60 feet off the ground and supported by towering redwood trees, Crystal Miller’s treehouse home near Trinidad is a work of art. Built by Pete Nelson of Washington as part of the Animal Planet television show “Treehouse Masters,” the unique treehouse has all the comforts of a modern home, but looks like something straight out of a fantasy movie.

”What I really love about this is that the tree (in the center) is the focal point. It’s completely livable and I can’t wait to get up there and spend some time,” Miller said on camera during the filming of the show’s “reveal” on Dec. 7. She is described by the producers of Treehouse Masters as “an arborist who loves to climb trees.” She bought her three-acre property with treehouses in mind, calling redwoods “nature’s skyscrapers.”

Costing around $80,000 according to Karin Failla at Animal Planet, the home is one of seven treehouses built by Nelson for the second season of Treehouse Masters, which premiered on Jan. 10. The episode featuring Miller’s treehouse will air on Jan. 31 on Animal Planet.

”What a beautiful part of the world,” Nelson said in an email interview after the filming, when asked what he thought of Humboldt. “I have been to the redwoods over and over, but I am still in awe of their massive presence.


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We were in Arcata for about two weeks, with a quick break for Thanksgiving. I had about seven or eight guys with me. A couple of them even joined my family for Thanksgiving in Southern Oregon! It was a quick trip - I still can’t believe we managed to get it done!”

Nelson stayed at the Hampton Inn for most of his time here, “but when my wife, Judy, came to visit, we stayed at the Lost Whale Inn - what a delightful place. I went to Folie Douce in Arcata for dinner almost every night, and as a team we watched the Seahawks crush the Saints at the Arcata Theater. What a great town,” he said.

Because this was the tallest (furthest off the ground) treehouse he’s built so far, Nelson said it was “a project that required some extra safety meetings. All of our guys were roped in and wore helmets to protect against any disasters. Henry and I made a staircase that looks as if it is floating in the air. But I must admit that I am secretly afraid of heights.”

Miller said she was “blown away” when she saw the structure, saying, “The staircase is a masterpiece of art.”

Nelson is a self-taught builder who had a decking business in college and was a general contractor in Seattle for many years. He now owns a business called Nelson Treehouse and Supply, as well as a bed-and-breakfast treehouse resort called Treehouse Point in Fall City, Wash.

”I spent a lot of time out in the yard with my dad doing small construction projects when I was young - building forts and things, so he taught me the basics of construction. ... I have always loved to draw and I love geometry, so the drafting came about organically,” he said.

”Stiletto Productions approached me about two years ago (about producing Treehouse Masters) and the rest is history! I was definitely nervous to be a part of the reality television scene, but they have done such a good job creating a show that is positive and upbeat. I refuse to be a part of a show that does not reflect the respect that I have for my crew. We are a happy bunch.”

Each building for the show is completed in less than a month, and Nelson said last season the show drew about 1.5 million viewers per episode.

The projects generally cost around $100,000.

”We want to share our craft with as many people as possible and encourage people to go out on a limb! ... Make it happen. It’s hard work, but if you put your heart into a project like a treehouse, that passion will translate into a very special structure,” he said.

Many of the treehouses he has built are used as guesthouses, offices or retreats, but Miller’s was constructed to be a fulltime residence. 

”I’m excited about trees and their care, and I just want to be close to them,” Miller said. “The view is exactly what I had imagined. ... Up there is where you are free to dream and create.”

PHOTOS BY JOSÉ QUEZADA/FOR THE TIMES-STANDARD

1. Nelson and his construction and production crew were in Humboldt County for about two weeks in November and December building the treehouse, shown just after completion, and filming the episode of the show, which airs Jan. 31. Nelson called Humboldt “a beautiful part of the world.”

2. Crystal Miller, left, screams the moment she sees her new treehouse for the first time on Dec. 7 with treehouse builder Pete Nelson, right, star of Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters.”