Living the High Life

A tree house on lookout mountain with views to die for doubles as a guest quarters and a kids' play area.

treehouse
Photo by Aaron Smith

The term “guest house” is lavished on all sorts of less-than-glamorous living quarters, from pool sheds to garage lofts, but every once in a while, a project comes along that truly deserves the title. When Sonya and Howie Silleck set out to build a second structure on their property at the top of Lookout Mountain in Jefferson County, they wanted something stunning in its own right, where friends and family would be eager—even desperate—to stay. They also wanted the space to double as a play area for their two young children. After a night in one of Colorado’s historic fire towers, they landed on an idea—luxurious, thrilling, and unique at the same time. Forget the guest house. It was a guest treehouse they wanted.

treehouse
Photo by Aaron Smith

To manage the project, they hired Aaron Smith, whose Fort Collins–based company, Treecraft, specializes in designing and building high-end arboreal homes. Over the course of five months, Smith and his team worked with the Sillecks to conceive and construct a 390-square-foot space that juts over a steep hillside with 180-degree panoramic views. “We built it all in-house,” says Smith, whose résumé includes a master’s degree in architecture as well as time spent working at a timber framing company and a tiny home company. “The only sub-contractor was an electrician. We did everything from jackhammering on the hillside to drywall work and roofing.”

treehouse
Photo by Aaron Smith

On the high side of the house, the deck rises 30 feet off the ground, with French doors leading to a wraparound balcony. The interior, which has insulation, heat, and wifi, is fully equipped for up to four guests, summer or winter. “We did a queen-sized Murphy bed that folds down from the wall, and there’s a loft with two twin beds in it,” Smith says. “There’s also a trapdoor in the floor that leads to a netting enclosure we wove underneath the house. It’s basically a giant hammock. I imagine kids taking their sleeping bags down there and having a summer campout.”

The result is utterly original, equal parts whimsy and comfort. Accessible from the hillside by a series of boardwalks, the house is filled with clever design flourishes that present themselves one after another—hidden cubbies for storage, a composting toilet concealed in an attached outhouse, reclaimed Wyoming snow fence used for the exterior siding. There’s even a swing hanging from a high timber off the main deck. “This thing’s crazy,” says Smith. “You wear a harness and clip into both sides. You swing out and your stomach drops because of the view.”

swing
Photo by Aaron Smith

For now, the guest house is entirely private, though Smith says the Sillecks might rent it on Airbnb in the future. Until then, the rest of us can only ogle at the photos and wait. Or, if you’ve got the budget, you could always build one of your own. Treecraft is currently taking new clients, and ramping up its business fast. Four years ago, when the company started, it was a project here, a project there, says Smith. “Now it’s full-time and I’ve got three guys working for me, about to be four. We’re booked out through December.”

Treecraft
Treehouse design-build firm