Text #55 Rooms at the Top: Sweden's Stylish New Tree House

Tree house holidays are going up in the world, but the new futuristic Tree hotel in Sweden's Lapland, aims to soar above the rest, says Rhiannon Batten.

Towards the end of his 50-s, a Tree Lover, which explores the link between trees and people, Jonas Selberg says: "Imagine being here on the veranda on a summer evening, or listening to the rain on the roof with the stove purring quietly." As he says this he's sitting in a tree house he's spent the summer building, looking out over a wide tract of pine forest with a river flowing in the distance, reflecting a sinking sun. “You don't have to imagine it any more. Since last month, when the Tree hotel opened in Swedish Lapland, anyone can check into a tree house and survey the surrounding landscape”.

Selberg started building the Tree hotel, determined to demonstrate that the natural environment around had value beyond supplying timber. Along with daughter Sofia, they have created a high design, back to nature retreat where guests can slow down, switch off and breathe more deeply.

 The Mirror cube, the most striking of the tree houses, is a glass box perched high in the forest. Like an architectural magic trick, it almost disappears into the foliage.

Inside, the Mirror cube’s chic interior smells of warm wood. The dimensions are neat (four meters wide, four meters long and four meters high) and it is light and airy inside. Like the hotel's other tree houses, the facilities here are fairly basic, not stretching much beyond an environmentally-friendly toilet (some tree houses have ones that freeze the waste and others have ones that burn it into ash) and a sink – meals and showers are taken at the guesthouse, 10 minutes' walk away. Under floor heating will keep it cozy through winter, tea and coffee are provided, along with a designer kettle, and a huge bed is dressed in thick white cotton and stylish woolen rugs. There is a sense of playfulness here, too. A ladder is provided for those who are game for clambering up, through a tiny, Alice In Wonderland-style door to a roof terrace, giving 360-degree views of the surrounding trees.

Stepping out into fresh air (Tree hotel is only 60km south of the Arctic circle), the forest is so still that the tiniest underfoot snap crackles like gunshot.

Down in the trees about 50m from the Mirror cube is the four-person Bird's Nest, inspired by a giant sea eagle's nest. Looking just as you might imagine, its twiggy heights are accessed via an electronic stepladder that descends and retracts via a keypad strapped on to one of the neighboring trees. Inside, the sense of snugness is exaggerated by small porthole windows.

"Building a tree house is every boy's dream," says Kent, showing me around. "Now other architects want to get involved as they see it as a great showcase for their skills".

At well over £300 per tree house per night, this is likely to remain a dream for many would-be guests, too.

There's plenty to do here for those who have much time. Sophia Selberg is enthusiastic about village walking tours where guests can stop for coffee, cake and conversation with a local family. "Guests want to meet real people," she shrugs. More energetic activities are on offer too.

Over a lunch of reindeer meatballs back at the guesthouse, Mr. Selberg explained how deeply rooted his commitment to the forest is. Though the hotel has been designed with fun in mind, it has a serious side too. "The forest for us is a relaxing place, a source of mental peace," said Selberg, adding that the he wanted to share this passion for the environment with guests. The Tree hotel has duly been built as sustainably as possible – the Mirror cube has even been fitted with an infrared film, visible to birds only, that stops them flying into it – and environmentally unsound activities such as snowmobile safaris are out.

Winter, Selberg told me, is busier than summer, with husky safaris, skiing, skijoring (a bit like waterskiing on snow but being pulled by a horse), ice fishing, cultural trips and sleigh rides on offer.

Rhiannon Batten The Guardian, 28 August 2010


Comprehension check:

1. What is a new tendency in Swedish hotel business?

2. What example of new tendency is illustrated in the article?

3. In what part of Sweden is a Tree hotel situated?

4. What were Jonas Selberg’s, the owner of the hotel, ideas about surrounding nature?

5. What house is the most striking of the tree houses?

6. What inspired Jonas Selberg to create a bird’s nest tree house?

7. How can tourists get into the bird’s nest?

8. Why is such house likely to remain a dream for many would-be guests?

9. What outdoor and indoor activities does this hotel complex provide for its visitors?

10. Are there any technologies that prevent, for example, birds from flying into the Mirror cube?



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