Feider is building a business based on a simple question: Who doesnít
love tree houses? "It immediately draws people back to their
childhoods," says Feider, owner of O2 Treehouse. "People
love to tell their tree house stories."
producing a whole new generation of stories by building custom-made
tree houses. His treetop perches dot landscapes in Wisconsin,
Minnesota, Texas, Oregon, California and Mexico as well as overseas in
Portugal, Thailand and South Korea.
Feider is based
in Oakland, Calif., but he grew up in Menomonee Falls in a
neighborhood quite conducive for childhood construction projects.
"The next street over had some serious building going on,"
Feider recalls. "There were endless scrap heaps to pick from. We
would bring wagons of the stuff back to our street and build
collaborated with his dad and sister to build his first tree house at
the age of 10. "It was pretty cool, about 15 feet up."
In 2005, during
his junior year at the Minnesota College of Art and Design, Feider
built his first serious tree house for his fatherís new home in
Pewaukee. "My dad was reminiscing about the old tree house. He
had some nice big trees in his backyard. It was a fun, challenging
House is located in Pewaukee at Dustin Feiderís fatherís
Feider then took
his idea for a business to the World Treehouse Convention in Oregon.
"One of the key people at the conference gave Popular Mechanics
my name and the magazine published a story on me. After that I built
up a bigger vision and started serious work on my website
with a product design firm in Minnesota to pay the bills while he
continued to develop his business by networking, also searching for
the next client. An article in modern-focused Dwell magazine gave him
his first break. "Somebody in San Diego saw the article and hired
me to build a tree house. It was my first opportunity to build
something with an appropriate budget. It was 25 feet up in an oak
moved to southern California before relocating to Oakland where he has
been based the past four years. "Los Angeles is a desert. Oaklandís
got all the big trees."
Feider is part
of the construction team on every project, which usually includes two
additional contract workers. His least expensive models cost between
$10,000 and $12,000; his most common tree houses run between $30,000
and $40,000. His most expensive project in Beverly Hills cost $70,000.
"That one was called Honeysphere. It was a geodesic design, quite
complex with 220 openings, made out of Redwoods."
people are kids at heart," Feider says of his clients. "They
always wanted a tree house and now theyíre fulfilling that dream for
themselves and their kids."
Sphere was constructed for The Doors guitarist Robby Kriegerís
home in California.
projects can take one to four months from start to finish depending on
the complexity of the design. The average tree house is 14 feet in
diameter, which Feider says creates lots of social opportunities off
the ground. "This allows for about eight people sitting
cross-legged knee-to-knee in a circle for the geodesic structures,
about 100 square feet," Feider says. "It will sleep two
comfortably as well as a dinner party of four to six. It will also
accommodate a little oneís entire birthday party."
Most 02 clients
have children but some do not. "Thatís always great to see:
Adults who wonít suppress those childhood dreams," Feider says.
company has also found a niche in eco-tourism, appealing to the
adventure travelers. "Itís like having a group of cabins, but
at night, people retire to a tree house instead of a cabin."
02 also aims at
the do-it-yourself market supplying tree house kits that customers can
But Feider, who
has "always had a passion for climbing trees," says he needs
to take his business to new heights. "Itís not entirely
working. Itís a bit of a roller coaster. Iím working with a
marketing company in Los Angeles for the next six months. They could
become a partner if we can attract more consistent work. If I can get
in front of the right people, it should keep the work
involved in side projects with a bamboo company that installs
large-scale pieces for music festivals all over the world. He also
designs and builds furniture. "There are lots of ideas on my
sketch pad that I havenít gotten to yet."
passion remains about 15 feet up. "Building tree houses is a
blast, totally a blast. I know thereís a market out there for