Everyone has a gift, find yours’

Pete Nelson – Builder and Owner, Nelson Treehouse & Supply, Fall City, WA

Feature | 13 July 2021
With his sons Charlie and Henry, Pete feels proud to have them with him building high quality treehouses. Pete says they both bring their unique skills and strengths to the family business. Pete’s wife Judy, daughter Emily and his son-in-law Patrick are all part of the family business. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“I don't want to build every treehouse. I just want them to have the right information that they can do it themselves and find joy and happiness in nature” Pete says with a smile on teaching people the art of building treehouses.

Standing in a beautiful and serene grove of trees at Treehouse Point, we hear the amazing story of Pete Nelson, the treehouse guru.

“I started building single family houses in Seattle as part of the deal to move to the rainy northwest with my wife Judy, who was insisting that we live here. I said ‘Okay, well if we go then I get to be a contractor.’ I already had this crazy dream in my head that maybe I could be the treehouse guy,” Nelson says with a glint of nostalgia in his eyes.

Pete’s dream of being a treehouse guy and fascination with building goes way back to his childhood days. From New Jersey he would often visit his grandfather in Long Island, New York and partake in wood building projects.

“At my grandfather’s little shop in Long Island, I was building wooden boats and other fun little projects that I was pretty good at,” Nelson shares. He also recalls that he first fell in love with treehouses as early as when he was seven years old, when he and his dad built a tree fort behind the garage of their family home.

Pete was inspired by his grandfather when they built wooden boats or carved duck decoys from the cork of old life-preservers. When he and his father built a treehouse in the backyard, he knew this was what he wanted to do. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“My brain works really well when I think in building terms,” says Pete, who from an early age realized what his strengths and weaknesses were. “ I was brought up with the best education money could buy, as my dad loved the idea of education. While I wasn’t a great student, I would ask myself how I would compete against some of my smarty pants classmates, so I got into a field that I thought maybe nobody else was really into,” Pete says.

After receiving his Economics degree from Colorado College, Pete and his wife Judy, moved to Washington state. Today, along with their twin sons Henry and Charlie and their daughter Emily, they run Nelson Treehouse & Supply in Fall City which is about 30 miles east of Seattle, Washington.

Born into the family business, each of the Nelson children bring their own unique skills. Daughter Emily mainly manages the business, marketing and e-commerce side of the business, while his sons contribute to the carpentry side. Emily’s husband Patrick whom she met working in family business, also works on the team as a carpenter and the two have a toddler son, Douglas.

Pete recognized that Charlie had a penchant for working with wood. “He took a year and went to guitar building school, and I remember he came back with these two beautiful guitars, and I told him we need those skills,” he says.

Henry on the other hand brings the mathematical and measurement skills to carpentry. “Henry is a math guy and every cut he does which is the most important thing as a carpenter is amazing,” Nelson emphasizes with the sound of his voice.

TreeHouse Point is their signature retreat and lodge that attracts visitors from all over the world who can escape the hustle and bustle of their daily lives and immerse themselves in nature. Many of the visitors often tell Pete how peaceful and relaxing their stay was.
Pete connects to the forest with all his senses in what is called shinrin-yoku: forest bathing. The warmth of the sun, the sound of birds, the wind rushing through the trees and aroma of the flora are all taken into account as Pete finds his next treehouse creation.ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“Many of our guests tell me ‘I don’t sleep well, but last night I had the best sleep ever!’ This is the experience of being immersed in the magic of nature which in Japanese is called Shinrin Yoku. This roughly translates into forest bathing which means taking in the forest through your senses.” Pete learned about the benefits of forest bathing when he was just a kid from his dad.

In addition to running his businesses, Pete, his family and crew had a TV series called Treehouse Masters showcasing their treehouse building adventures around the country from 2013-2018 on the Animal Planet channel.

On the topic of technology and how it may impact his work, Nelson is confident that the use of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will not affect his business much in the near future. “I’ve been thinking a lot about technology in terms of work and labor, and I don’t see robots being able to do this stuff anytime soon, and I’m not worried about AI yet,” Nelson says fairly confidently.

Keeping his business sustainable is where Pete focuses the majority of his energy and concern. “What I’m really concentrating on is keeping this sustainable. It’s highly sustainable from the standpoint of materials as we’ve got all kinds of left over wood and materials,” Nelson states. “But it’s interesting for me to consider how we keep this talented, hardworking, group excited and interested with enough work but not too much work” he says with a boyish grin.

The treehouses that he and his team build are of high quality and can be pricey, but his clients are always happy with the end result. Pete and his team have built over 350 houses around the world.

Walking around the treehouse grounds, Nelson points out to the first treehouse they built. “This one I called the Temple of the Blue Moon,” he says proudly. “This is a Sitka spruce tree, and there is another one below, and as I was down there sketching something for another tree and the late moon literally came up and it was a blue moon!” Pete exclaims.

Nelson’s advice and message to people particularly young people is “to find your gift.” “Everybody has a gift,” he says. “I found mine in my grandfather’s shop that I can put wood together. Do your best to find your gift and your passion. I found mine and I am so lucky.”