Elevated Dreams: A Q+A with O2 Treehouse Founder Dustin Feider

Interview by Lauren Jones

Over the last 14 years, Oakland-based O2 Treehouse has constructed structures all over the world with the purpose of further bridging the gap between man and nature, fostering harmony, and enhancing relationships through time spent at new heights. For founder Dustin Feider, who has a background in sculpture and furniture design, building these geodesic treehouses both fulfills his fascination with architecture and deepens his connectivity with Mother Earth.

Following the recent launch of the Pinecone Series, a partnership between Come to Life, O2 Treehouse and Third Eye Pinecones, Feider sat down with Come to Life to share some insights on his inspirations, creative process, and more.

Come to Life (CTL): Tell us about the first treehouse you ever built.

Dustin Feider (DF): I built that first structure in my dad’s front yard in Wisconsin shortly after I graduated from college. He had just moved into a new house and had some really nice trees. That first treehouse I put some time into the design and I tried to take it to a bunch of YMCA camps but no one bit so I built the first one in his yard. I was working on it solo and it took maybe two months in total.

CTL: How did your education come into play when creating that first structure and beyond?

DF: My background is in furniture design, with some architectural aspects as well. I also [took courses] in materials applications. Everything we design at [O2 Treehouse] we build in the shop, thus having intimate knowledge of different materials helps in the building process. It’s been joked before that I am actually building giant pieces of furniture.

CTL: What was the inspiration for founding O2 Treehouse back in 2004?

DF: After building that first treehouse, I received a lot of attention in the press and ended up in Dwell and on many blogs. But the idea was really based on the fact I could sell these geodesic treehouse kits to different parts of the world. All of the parts for the treehouse fit compactly on a palette. I was also very much in support of eco-tourism as a vehicle for conservation to purchase land. I find tree houses come with this mystique and magic to them that inspire people to get closer to nature and value it more.

CTL: Why the geodesic shape?

DF: The geodesic shape seemed perfect from the start because it encompasses the largest amount of volume for the least amount of materials, which means it’s light and efficient with space. The shape also allows for unanimous consistency in strength across the entire surface and gives me many points where I can suspend the structure. As a form, it’s elegant to put in a tree. The pattern of the canopy and also the pattern of a geodesic shape works in nature’s language. Bucky Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome, was a huge inspiration for me because of the scope of his work and philosophy.

CTL: Are there any specialized materials you use to build each geodesic treehouse?

DF: Most of what we use are typical carpentry and arborist tools like ropes, rigging, and all the things you’d use to construct a typical house. But something special is that the connections to the tree are specialized; the shape of the bolt and the type of bolt we use to support the cables are very atypical. We use some connections that are more specialized in the rigging world, [like] swivel hoist rigs. We also make sure to use materials -that for the most part- have the ability to decompose. For example, we use a fiber cellulose insulation for the interior of the walls.

CTL: What do you feel draws people to your treehouses like The Pinecone?

DF: I recently heard a talk that was about creating a product that will surely sell. The idea is that, with most things that are a hit, it usually has something new and something old as part of the design; something familiar and something edgy. With the Pinecone, it looks like something you’d expect to see hanging in a setting like this but it is also super unusual to see a floating treehouse, and one with a more abstract, stylized form to it. It’s comfortable and not too modern looking, yet has a sculptural feel to it as well.

CTL: How would you describe the feeling of being in The Pinecone?

DF: When in a tree, everything is right with the world. When the wind blows, you actually feel that in the structure. The pinecone, specifically, is a wonderful place to be because you feel cozy and enclosed, but it’s also constructed of entirely windows. You feel protected and safe, but in the upper canopy of the redwoods. It’s also exciting to go up there because it’s probably 50 or 60 feet straight down and you feel very high up there. Before we built the ladder to reach it, it almost had this more impactful presence, one that is almost startling because it’s very mysterious, almost like a floating spaceship.

The Pinecone Series will continue to roll out over 2019. Keep an eye on our website and social pages to keep up with the latest news, videos, photos, and more!

O2 Treehouse recently suffered a devastating loss when their work studio burned to the ground during an accidental fire at m0xy, an arts incubator space in East Oakland, CA. The studio housed their entire tool, hardware and rigging collection, which owner Dustin Feider has been building since he started the company in 2006. They are asking for help from the greater community to get back on their feet and continue their mission – creating a more sustainable future through innovative design, re-connection with nature and life in the trees. Please visit their GoFundMe page for more information and to donate. GoFundMe.com/o2-treehouse.