Five treehouse holiday highs
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Above the palm line in Baja California
Like its more famous neighbour Flora Farms, Acre started out as a farm-to-table restaurant, which five or six years ago in Baja California was still quite the directional thing. Slowly more retail and hospitality accreted to the name; and today it’s home to a treehouse hotel, with 12 bamboo and thatch units suspended in a palm grove, cooled naturally by the Pacific breeze that comes in off of East Cape.
For families and friends travelling together, there’s a double suite sleeping four with the two units connected by a suspended bridge. Private terraces, outdoor showers, hand-loomed cotton bedlinen and access to Acre’s private Treehouse Spa make this a unique alternative to the sprawling beachside familiar.
While in residence, consider visiting (and perhaps donating to) Acre Dogs, the animal shelter the owners opened in 2018; to date, they’ve placed more than 200 rescue puppies in homes, plus a horse, a couple of donkeys and the odd peacock. acreresort.com, from $355
The Tuscan tree Idyll
In Florence, his hometown, Riccardo Barthel is a bit of a legend, albeit a low-key one. Together with his son Francesco, he runs one of the city’s most interesting design emporiums – a sprawling location on the Via dei Serragli that’s part kitchen and bath outfitter, part brocante and vintage-tile dealer, and part super-high-end salvage lot, with a smidge of nautical-design firm thrown in for good measure.
The Barthel family compound, just south of the city, is home to two large houses, several small cottages, and one extremely cool treehouse, designed by Riccardo and his daughter Elena, available for holiday lets. It’s rustic, and not large – just the bedroom and a bath with shower, tucked right behind it – but it has a little balcony with a table for two for morning coffee, broad leaded windows on three sides and the quirky-chic touches (think midcentury light fixtures, gorgeous metal sinks and chrome taps in the bathroom) that mark it out as Barthel. The Tuscan countryside views and use of the family’s arcadian pool and tennis court, immersed in an olive grove, are nice perks. casabarthel.com, from €400
In the New Forest, a very English country treehouse
Chewton Glen is posh; no two ways about it. This grand country house hotel in Hampshire has racked up innumerable accolades, a Relais & Châteaux affiliation and a coterie of guests comprising minor royalty, stars ranging from A-List (Kate, Gwyneth) to X-Factor via scads of the simply very well-heeled. A few years back, someone had a stroke-of-genius idea: open a clutch of very jammy treehouse suites in the woods at the edge of its property.
These are as chalk to cheese when it comes to the quintessential floral-and-chintz rooms in the main hotel; they have minimalist palettes (mostly in the camel-to-white-via-cream spectrum), recessed lighting in match-booked ceilings, contemporary furniture, sound systems and cast-iron cheminées for heat. All of them, even the studios, have a wide terrace curving around the front of the suite, with loungers and heated plunge pools. They’re as swank a take on the treehouse standard as you’re likely to come across outside southern Africa. And while they’re hardly back-to-nature, the New Forest is right at your doorstep. chewtonglen.com, from £335, treehouse suites from £1,350
Edge-of-the-world arboreal living in Big Sur
The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur probably needs no introduction. Like a very few beloved hotels in the world, it’s an idea in people’s minds as much as it is a physical location – though it is precisely that spectacular California location, flush at the westernmost edge of the North American continent, that has made it famous. People come from across the world to immerse in the singular solitude its 100 acres offer, in suites of all shapes and sizes, with cliffside situations or mountain views.
Regulars tend to think the best of them, however, are the Tree Houses –architect Mickey Muennig’s pièce de résistance, and the archetype of Big Sur living. Sustainable timber clads the outside while Cor-Ten steel panels keep the heat in when it’s chilly outside (which it is here, even – actually, especially – in June; that’s what the huge fireplace is for). Picture windows put you in the middle of a primary redwood forest, with glimpses of the endless Pacific beyond. postranchinn.com, Tree Houses from $2,250, two-night minimum stay
Bamboo, Bali, and bonkers beautiful hostelry
Since its inception in 2005, Bambu Indah has been a lodestone for laidback eco style on Bali; its founder-owners, jeweller John Hardy and his wife Cynthia, opened the Green School (where “holistic, innovative and purpose-driven inquiry” is the curriculum) and Hardy’s designer daughter Elora has innovated the use of bamboo in sustainable building both here and internationally. All the family remits come together in the Bambu Indah Tree House, completed in 2021. Designed as a family effort, with interiors by Ibuku, Elora Hardy’s architectural practice, it connects three trees on the Bambu Indah estate, which sits on the Sayan Ridge overlooking rice terraces, just outside Ubud.
Elora describes the house as “essentially an enormous basket”, with walls curving up to meet a swooping roof with a giant skylight. Accessed by a spiral stair, it features a canopied king bed, a separate sitting area and a vast bathroom with double sinks. It has to be one of Bali’s most original accommodations, one to delight your inner tree-climbing kid while satisfying all your grown-up comfort needs. The hotel is closed for a couple of months for renovations, but the Tree House is still available to let. bambuindah.com, from $360