It’s safe to say every kid’s dream is to have a treehouse of their own — a place where they can climb between the branches, play among the treetops and let their imaginations run wild. Luckily, a local treehouse construction company is making this dream a reality, and they’re going above and beyond.
However, for Rob Soluri, president of Austin Treehouses, building treehouses wasn’t exactly part of the plan. After being a custom builder for almost 30 years, working primarily with residential construction, Soluri never thought treehouse construction would become part of the picture — nor that it would become his career.
Nevertheless, in 2006, Soluri was approached by his middle son’s elementary school, who asked if his construction company would be willing to make a donation to the school’s live auction. After tossing around some different ideas, Soluri landed on the idea of donating a treehouse.
“The night of the auction was a lot of fun,” Soluri says. “It went on the live block, and there were these two different families that just kept bidding on it and bidding it up and bidding it up, and basically, all that money got raised for the school.”
In fact, the school raised more money just from the treehouse than it had from any other auction item in previous years — but that’s not even the best part of the story.
The bidders who ultimately won the treehouse — a local family who Soluri later became close friends with — had a 7-year-old son with autism who had a huge passion for climbing trees. Worried for their son’s safety, the parents wanted to create a space for him to play and foster his love of nature, and what better gift to give him than a treehouse of his own? So, Soluri and his team went to work and built the treehouse in the family’s backyard — a project that Soluri says was both wonderful and rewarding.
Little did Soluri know, this one treehouse would grow into something so much bigger.
“After that, everybody started calling me to build treehouses for them, and I said, ‘No, no, no, I don’t build treehouses. I’m a builder. I build houses,’” Soluri says. “We just kept getting all these requests for treehouses, so we started building a couple just for the fun of it, and my guys loved it — I loved it.”
Thus, Austin Treehouses was born.
However, after primarily building residential homes, jumping headfirst into building treehouses was no easy feat. While it may be easy to assume that the construction process is largely the same, building a treehouse comes with new challenges and requires a different way of thinking.
“The way you support a treehouse — the foundation — I would say is the biggest distinguishing factor,” Soluri says. “When you’re building a house, you can put concrete down on the ground and do all kinds of reinforcing. We don’t always have that benefit when we’re building 20, 30 feet up in the air.”
Soluri says one of the most challenging parts is setting the base and figuring out how to attach the house to the tree. If the tree is swaying in the wind, then the house has to move with the tree, or else the tree could potentially crack the house. On top of that, you also have to keep the tree in mind, making sure that the house can attach without damaging the tree and still allow the tree to grow. But once the treehouse is attached and the foundation is structurally sound, the sky’s the limit — and after taking just a glance at some of the treehouses on their website, it’s safe to say the sky’s the limit for every project Austin Treehouses takes on.
While there are a handful of treehouse construction companies in Austin, Soluri says Austin Treehouses is unique, because they want the construction process to be extremely organic, flexible and creative. Instead of limiting the client to cookie-cutter treehouses and rigid restrictions, Austin Treehouses builds completely custom designed treehouses — ranging from magic treehouses to Tom-Sawyer-themed treehouses to pirate-themed treehouses.
In fact, some of their treehouses are even liveable. Waterproof, built with air conditioning, featuring a bath and kitchen, solar-powered and fully sustainable, these treehouses are far from ordinary.
But perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of Austin Treehouses is their desire for the client to interact not just with the treehouse, but also with the tree.
“We’ll always do a creative way to get up into the treehouse, meaning they have to touch the tree or duck under a branch, or they have to climb on the tree in some cases,” Soluri says.
It sounds like every kid’s wildest dream.
However, treehouses aren’t just for kids anymore — they’re also for the kids at heart. While many of Austin Treehouses’ projects are for children, Soluri says the clientele seems to be getting older and older.
“You’d think a treehouse would be geared toward an 8-year-old or a 12-year-old,” Soluri says, “but…the moms and dads are saying, ‘Hey, we know our kids are going to outgrow this in 10 years — we want to be able to use it and make sure we can get up into the treehouse with a glass of wine and a cheese plate and watch the sunset.’”
Serving both kids and adults alike over the past 13 years of being in business, the company has seen tremendous growth and opportunity, working with a variety of clients and projects, including a couple for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Soluri says.
One of these projects in particular happened back in 2016, when a boy from Lakeway, Texas, asked Make-a-Wish for a wheelchair-accessible treehouse. Seven-year-old Hayden Trigg was born with spina bifida, which severely limits muscle coordination and makes movement extremely difficult.
“This little boy had gone through more in his short life than most people have gone through in three lifetimes,” Soluri says. “He was confined to a wheelchair and had really bad prognosis, and he just dreamed of being able to be in a treehouse.”
Determined to grant Hayden’s wish, Make-a-Wish partnered with Austin Treehouses and went straight to work. While building a wheelchair accessible treehouse is no easy task, Soluri and his team ended up constructing a 65-foot-long ramp leading up to the treehouse, allowing Hayden to wheel himself up to the house and enjoy his wish come true.
“I saw his mother, Adrienne Trigg, about six months ago, and she came up to me and said, ‘We have had more meaningful family time up in that treehouse, and he still loves it…She just welled up in tears when she saw me, and I did too, because it was such a nice project,” Soluri says. “It’s those kinds of projects that make this business fun.”