Kati O’Toole and her husband, Darin, wanted to create a giant piece of artwork on their private and heavily wooded seven-acre property in Montana. They ended up with what they refer to as the Montana Treehouse Retreat – a two-story, fully finished treehouse nestled among three living trees.
“Everybody thought we were crazy [at] the beginning, like ‘What are you guys doing building a treehouse here?’ Our parents thought we were crazy,” says Kati.
But the hard work and vision paid off, and now visitors from all over the world routinely come to stay at their carefully crafted work of art. The 700-square-foot treehouse features a master suite with a deck that overlooks the forest, a living area with three benches that can double as sleeping quarters, and two bathrooms. Guests can also prepare a meal in the treehouse’s downstairs kitchen, complete with a refrigerator, a stove, a sink and a dishwasher.
“There’s even air conditioning in this treehouse, because we wanted to create a very luxury experience here. I have to be honest – the treehouse is nicer inside than the house that I live in, so I like to come back here and just have a little retreat away from it all,” says Kati.
Every detail of the treehouse was painstakingly thought out, and most of the materials were either sourced locally or repurposed. The trim and the interior feature wood that Darin himself milled, sanded and finished, and the breakfast table nook was made from the base of a tree located right on their property.
One of Kati’s favorite details of the treehouse, however, is the spiraling exterior staircase, which is wrapped around a large tree shipped in from Darin’s grandmother’s yard, roots and all.
Although Darin handled most of the heavy-duty construction of the structure, Kati’s handiwork is all over the interior.
“We wanted it to be kind of funky and modern – but still have some Montana accents and still be a little rustic too. So there were many things coming into play, and we wanted people to feel like it was a very cozy home away from home when they came here, and just like a one-of-a-kind Montana experience,” she says.
A combination of white shiplap and multicolored wood paneling covers the interior walls, giving the home an eclectic yet polished farmhouse look, and expansive windows create an open, airy feeling in the small living spaces. Modern elements that are dotted throughout the house, like the industrial chandelier in the kitchen and the black hexagon and subway tiles in the bathrooms, are more reminiscent of a boutique hotel than a remote treehouse located near Glacier National Park.
Close to Kati’s heart are the pieces by local artists that don the walls, with some of the pieces coming from guests who created the artwork while staying at the treehouse.
“It’s been really cool to see [how] this place inspires people,” she says.
But the defining characteristic of this home – and what guests travel miles for – is the unique experience of living out your childhood dreams of sleeping in a treehouse.
“It’s a very unique feeling that most people have never experienced, to be lying in bed and seeing a tree – or you’re actually moving. And people have told me that they love the experience, and it’s – yeah, it’s a treehouse. That’s the beauty. It’s a real treehouse,” says Kati.