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Make your holiday home in a tree...

Living close to nature is a dream for many of those moving to France. One unusual option is to have a treehouse built.

OLIVER ROWLAND spoke to people with a passion for treetop living, which can range from simple leisure cabins to veritable second homes above the ground

IF YOU ever wanted a treehouse as a child it is not too late - some firms are offering ever-more sophisticated versions aimed at grown-ups. Some are rustic - ideal for relaxing for an afternoon or an occasional night; some are fully-equipped second homes.

The founder of French treehouse builders Abane, Mathieu Malleret, said his firm, from the Nord, builds for both individuals and the holiday trade. He also founded a network of cabins to rent out, Cabanes de France.

He said: “You find treehouses of all kinds - from rustic to luxury, we do them all. Some people want a treehouse without water and electricity like they remember from childhood, others wants loos and bathrooms. “We also have different construction methods - some have support piles, others are completely nestled in the tree. It depends on how strong the tree is. We have it checked by a forester before the work starts. We use ones with a good life expectancy, in good health and with no damage; we also look at where the tree is situated in terms of its surroundings and what the terrain is like - is it on a hill, or in the middle of a field where there might be a lightening risk? Is it near a water source?”

Mr Malleret said people often build a treehouse in their garden or an area of forest belonging to them. Where toilets are installed theirs usually use composting (sawdust) ones as opposed to ones linked up to the drains.

“It is becoming more and more popular - It is not something just for the kids. A lot of people built themselves treeshouses when they were little and dreamed of being able to sleep in it, to make it their little home, but never did. I must have built hundreds when I was a child. Now I can realise my dream."

His treehouses start at €20,000, with no upper limit. “It depends on what facilities you want, what materials and what access: a straight staircase or a spiral one, a ladder, a bridge etc.”

The owner of a treehouse on the Presqu'île de Crozon, Brittany, Isabelle Marion, said she and her husband had always dreamed of having a wooden house and decided it would be fun to have one in the trees. “We contacted Abane because I liked the fairytale, legendary aspect of their designs - I love stories about fairies, dragons, pixies, witches - and my dream became a reality: a house 3m up on a fairy theme.”

She added: “Our house lacks a kitchen and the space is a bit small to live in it a long time, but it’s very comfortable for a few days, with its sleeping space for four, washroom with loos - even in winter, because it is insulated and heated. I think you could live full-time in a bigger one, and it would be great. It’s great to feel that you are isolated, high-up, smelling the wood, hearing the sounds of animals, feeling like you’re in a children’s storybook.”

The founder of Provençal firm La Cabane Perchée, Alain Laurens, said their larger homes are often for the tourist sector - they call them cabanes d'hôtes. “There is no reason not to have one as a holiday home,” he said. “You could easily spend a week or more in one. However the ones we build for the public are usually for relaxing in, listening to music or reading - they are little cabins, but very well made. You can have a nice one from about €25,000.

“The cabanes d'hôtes can have shower rooms - we’ve even done ones with baths - and air conditioning and cost from €60,000 - €150,000. We do everything ourselves - we have a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter...

“I would love to make a second home for a member of the public. If they had the means we could have three or four of them linked with walkways - perhaps in different adjacent trees.

“There could be a bathroom cabin, a bedroom one, one with a library and living room. It would be a dream.” Their treehouses can be built up to 50ft high if the tree allows it, can be insulated and even be equipped with woodstoves for winter evenings.

Price depends on height, size and amenities. “Our first priority is respect for the trees - we have never driven a nail into a tree, we have invented soft systems to sturdily rig our treehouses. Neither have we ever sawn off a large branch. We fit into a tree without disturbing it.”

Mr Laurens added: “It’s lovely in a treehouse - it’s peaceful, you’ve got a nice view, you’re among beautiful trees, there’s sun, you’re out there in nature...”

Small treehouses do not usually require permission, he said. “If it’s a little cabin of 7- 8m2 and you’ve got a goodsized piece of land, it’s not usually worth it, but the cabanes d'hôtes need authorisation. It can be a bit more simple than for a house and may be limited to a declaration of the work, but it can also involve full planning permission. It depends on the region and the village. The law is not precise so you must do what the local authorities ask for.”

Red cedar is their preferred material, he said. “It’s high quality, solid, doesn’t rot and is very light - it’s vital our cabins don’t weigh too much.”

* If you would like to get a flavour of treehouse living, ones to rent can be found at: (click the Union Jack and then “Treehouses to rent” and

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