Tree houses are growing up. Very lucky kids used to have a tree house; now adults whom fortune has smiled upon also find themselves proud owners of tree houses. Tree houses even have their own show on TV, so they are officially both trendy and important.
The drive to own a tree house doesn’t surprise environmental psychologists. Tree houses give the people in them a protected view out over their world, whether that’s a stretch of the Serengeti or Syracuse. They are cozy retreats above ground level in which the light levels aren’t as bright as outdoors, with views of the sunlit (on a good day), surrounding areas. This sort of place made us really relaxed and comfortable eons ago when we didn’t have too many ways to survive if something large with lots of teeth thought we looked tasty—imagine how good it felt then to hide out in a hard to reach cave on a cliffside.
In technical psych lingo, tree houses provide us with prospect and refuge. There are other ways to create a similar psychological effect (i.e., a small shelter with a view of a brighter surrounding area): canopy beds, turret rooms, and those egg-like seats where the back of the chair curves up over the head of the sitter, for example.