CARBONDALE, Colorado - Architect Steve Novy is all about efficient use of small spaces. But when a client asked him a few years ago to design a kids' tree house, Novy admits it was a step outside the ordinary.
Novy, principal of Green Line Architects in Carbondale, teamed with local furniture maker and designer David Rasmussen for the project.
Together, they designed and built the tree house at the home of Branden Cohen and Deva Shantay, of True Nature Healing Arts in Carbondale, located on the banks of the Crystal River south of Carbondale. The tree house was completed in 2008.
"I hadn't done any tree houses before, but Dave had done several and became very involved in the design," Novy said. "He came to us and suggested some ways to make it work, and how we should approach the design."
Originally built about 14 feet off the ground, amid the cottonwoods and evergreens lining the river, the 230-square-foot "Crystal River Treehouse" is now a free-standing structure on the clients' new property, situated along the Roaring Fork River east of Carbondale.
Recently, it was included among the many works featured by renowned architectural reviewer Lloyd Kahn in his latest book, "Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter - Scaling Back in the 21st Century."
It's the fifth in Kahn's series of books, which began with the singular "Shelter" title in 1973, focusing on "simple homes, natural materials and human resourcefulness," in the author's words.
"It is truly an honor to be included in Lloyd's new book," Novy said. "Over the years, Lloyd's books have taught us about our local vernacular styles, and shown us what people with drive and creative ideas can achieve."
Kahn had seen pictures of Novy and Rasmussen's tree house online, and requested that it be included in his new book. Novy wrote the entry that's included in the 218-page book, stating:
"In this modern age of architecture we have, by necessity, become focused on efficiency in every aspect of a building's design. So, it is a rare opportunity for an architect to be able to design a structure whose sole purpose is enlightening the spirit."
The tree house was designed "for fun, frivolity, and fantasy," reads the book entry.
Although the tree house is not designed as a living space, it does have electricity and heat, and serves as a "quiet, meditative, relaxing" place for kids and adults alike to hang out.
Smaller, more efficient home designs are a trend in the world of architectural design, Novy said.
"There is a lot of interest in small homes these days," he said. "As a nation, we've probably reached the climax of house sizes. People are going back down to smaller, more efficient spaces."
Rasmussen, of David Rasmussen Design, selected and carefully shaped and installed each piece of wood for the project. He also designed and built the front door and interior lighting fixtures.
"It's always great to be able to design a project and then build it, too. I think it allows the spirit of the design to show through in the end," Rasmussen said.
"Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter" features a variety of backcountry cabins, prefab and kit homes, earthen structures, boat houses and homes on wheels. The largest home featured in the book is just 500 square feet.
Green Line Architects (www.greenlinearchitects.com) is an employee-owned design firm that focuses on "future-thinking high-performance home designs, from affordable to high-end," according to Novy.
"We have done some very interesting projects," he said.
One was a net zero energy home in Lenado that ended up being 105 percent more efficient than current energy efficiency standards, Novy said.