Pete Nelson, known to many as the Tree Whisperer and Treehouse Master (his moniker from his show on Animal Planet), discovered his passion at the age of 5, when he helped his father build a treehouse in their New Jersey backyard.
During his teen years, he spent “endless” hours drawing treehouses with the dream of eventually building them. Now, decades later, Nelson admits that he still dreams about treehouses and is often awake at night drawing the treehouses he imagines.
It is no surprise that Nelson, who majored in economics in college and began his professional career as a homebuilder, ended up taking the “leap to the trees” and founded Nelson Treehouse Supply in Washington state that designs and builds custom treehouses.
Treehouse Masters is now in its 11th season on Animal Planet and although all of the 100-plus treehouses that he and his team created and built are memorable, there are a few in particular that especially stand out for Nelson — whether it be for sentimental reasons or challenges that were met.
“Our friend and longtime cameraman, Steve Bowler, decided to leave showbiz to run Treehouse Village Inn in Vermont and asked us to build a luxury treetop rental,” said Nelson.
Nelson and his team created “The Willow Treehouse” a 600-foot, A-frame design with full bathroom, kitchenette, living room, propane fireplace, queen bed, and reading nook and porch. The treehouse was featured in the final episode of season 11.
One of the more challenging treehouse requests that Nelson received actually came from his daughter, Emily, and her husband, Patrick. The couple asked him to relocate the Bird Blind, one of the original treehouses at TreeHouse Point (the Nelsons’ event and overnight retreat center in Washington), to their own backyard.
“We had to slice the structure in half and ‘fly’ it across TreeHouse Point on a cable system. It was really tricky, but worth it to preserve the legacy of that sweet treehouse.”
The treehouses created by Nelson and his crew are often luxurious, breath-taking and can range upwards of $300,000. When watching Treehouse Masters, it is easy to understand why Grace Vanderwaal, winner of America’s Got Talent, told People magazine that she would use some of her $1 million prize money to have a treehouse built by Nelson.
Nelson and his team created two adjoining treehouses for Vanderwaal — a “Boho Hangout” for fun and relaxation and the other, a “1980s style, Ultra Poppy Arts Studio” for songwriting and practicing her ukulele.
Nelson’s mind never stops working and he never stops exploring. During his visit to Columbus a few years ago for the Home & Garden Show, he discovered the work of Doug Morgan of Mount Vernon Barn Co. and DIY Network’s “Barn Sweet Barn.”
“Mount Vernon Barn Co. immediately stood out because Doug sells the stuff I love integrating into our treehouses: beautiful reclaimed barn wood,” said Nelson. “We have used Mount Vernon Barn’s wood in many recent projects, including a couple of treehouses at Treehouse Utopia, my new retreat in Texas Hill Country.”
With endless ideas and energy, Nelson and his “amazing wife” Judy are embarking on two new ventures — the Treehouse Resort & Spa in Washington, whose initial plans call for 25 treehouses and as many cottages; and — especially exciting for the Nelsons — their new role as grandparents.