After spending years working in landscape design and carpentry, Ricardo Rivera became enamored with the idea of treehouses. Inspiration struck when a friend who was living in a treehouse in Kentucky sent Rivera a photo of his home, ultimately sparking the idea of designing and building treehouses as his full-time career.
It all came together when Rivera’s first client came to him through a friend who was an arborist, and he launched Buffalo Treehouse — a New York-based design and build firm that uses natural, repurposed materials to create elevated (no pun intended) treehouses for adults and children alike.
“It all happened within a six-month timeframe. I built that first one and at that point, I decided I was done with the landscape business,” Rivera says. “It was all sort of kismet.”
Huge Uptick in Demand for Treehouses
Fifteen years later, the notion of treehouse living hasn’t lost its luster for Rivera. He’s fascinated by the way treehouses fuse architecture and nature, and the challenge of creating unique designs continues to keep him and the team at Buffalo Treehouse engaged.
Rivera says in recent years and especially since the pandemic, the firm has seen a huge uptick in demand for treehouses, and he believes part of it can be attributed to the human desire for a natural place to find refuge, reflection and relaxation.
“Being up in a treehouse you’re sort of reverting back to a childhood mentality,” he says. “Treehouses are free space, they’re where you went as a kid to hide away and be creative and figure yourself out or measure yourself in some way.”
Treehouses are Not Just for Play
According to Rivera, his clients use their treehouses for a variety of purposes including as office spaces, studies, a place to relax, or as a children’s play area with the ability to be repurposed later as they grow older. He also notes that with the rise of viral Airbnb properties, treehouses are coming back into vogue as alternative destinations for romantic weekend retreats.
“I think the popularity of treehouses probably comes down to something primal,” Rivera says. “The reason I was attracted to them is that they agree with human nature.”
Building Responsibly With Sustainable Materials
Buffalo Treehouse uses sustainable materials including upcycled wood to build the treehouses, which allows them to focus on building responsibly while adding a sense of historic charm to the structures. The firm’s treehouse designs also incorporate smart features to make use of cutting-edge technology while retaining the natural feel of the space. For example, Rivera says there are smart features that can detect drought in the environment and automatically prompt the structure’s irrigation system in response.
In the future, Rivera sees treehouse living becoming the norm, and he hopes that people recognize the possibilities this eco-friendly lifestyle can afford as a natural and responsible way to live in alignment with the land. He envisions a time when instead of engaging in deforestation practices to make way for subdivisions, developers will begin to create living communities within and amongst the trees instead.
Treehouses Mean Living ‘Within the Environment’
One of Buffalo Treehouse’s clients is currently working with the firm on 500 treehouse units across the country, and Rivera expects this to become a trend in the future.
“My hope is that treehouses would be the new standard in living, and people will begin to pull away from conventional living,” he says. “If there’s anything I want the world to know, it’s that this is a possibility. It’s a more responsible way to live within the environment instead of taking advantage of it.”
Lead image courtesy of Buffalo Treehouses.