Leafy living spaces that aim high

Treehouses in Paradise

Fantasy Designs for the 21st Century

David Greenberg

Abrams, $24.95


A house in a tree can be a very special place. It can free the mind, the heart and the designing hand. A treehouse that collapses like an umbrella. Spheres suspended from tree tops. Cocoons encasing trunks. Hammock-like platforms hanging between trees.

None of these have been built yet, but the cutting-edge designs were among the top 100 entries in a treehouse competition that drew more than 400 architects from 38 countries. It began in 2000 when author David Greenberg, who makes his living building treehouses around the world, had more than 100 orders but a creative staff of only himself.

So he launched the design competition online. The prizes were tiny cash awards and a free one-month stay at one of Greenberg’s treehouses in Hawaii, but how often do architects get a chance to design a treehouse?

Their creativity took flight and is illustrated in this book of the best designs as judged by a panel that was led by Elyse Grinstein, a Los Angeles architect, and included Ming Fung, then director of the graduate program of architecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and now a partner at Hodgetts + Fung.


Each treehouse profile is in the architect’s own words, accompanied by renderings to be studied for their intricate detail, sci-fi quality and Hollywood set designs feel.

For many participants, the treehouse project was an adult spin on memories of their youth. Swiss architects Mireille Turin and Peter Sigrist won first place for their portable treehouse that opens and shuts like an umbrella.

She writes, “The news of the treehouse design competition sent me back to childhood memories -- climbing trees in my village, feeling aloft and detached from the world in a very special way.... I did not want to build an actual house, but rather a platform that brings back the sensation of my childhood experience. I arranged a platform on the trunk using the structure of an inverse umbrella.”

The one annoying thing about the book is that the author spends 14 pages on himself. Skip them to get to the good stuff.

Nancy Yoshihara


Creativity at the table

Napkins With a Twist


Fabulous Folds With Flair for Every Occasion

David Stark

Artisan New York, $19.95

If one goal of your life is to wow family and friends with uniquely folded cloth napkins, this book is your ticket to success. With succinct instructions and photos of each step, almost anyone can achieve the ideal sailboat, shamrock or fortune cookie shapes, not to mention the more formal Tuxedo, Prince of Wales and Pierre Hotel folds of fabric napkins.

Celebrity event planner David Stark includes folds from Buckingham Palace, the Kennedy White House and Napa Valley’s French Laundry restaurant, along with ideas of his own for everything from kids’ parties (clown shapes and kites) to floral tributes shaped like tulips. It’s kind of like origami. If you have the time, the napkins and the inclination, why not?

-- Bettijane Levine