Industry Insights: Kate Morel

Kate gives an insight into why residential treehouses cost what they do.

Sun shining through an old beech tree
Photo: Getty Images


The hawthorn blossom is in full bloom which means the summer season is upon us and it’s all systems go for existing outdoor businesses, but for anyone trying to get a new glamping site to market in time it’s ‘all hands on deck’! I’m feeling this more than ever this year because the Morel & Co team has started its first treehouse build which is hugely exciting, however pressure is on to complete the build as quickly as possible to capitalise on those high season rates. Like any business, once a calendar window is gone we can’t get it back, every day counts.

Bespoke expectations

The cost of designing and building a bespoke structure can come as a surprise to some and treehouses seem to be particularly misunderstood and undervalued. So, for anyone interested yet unfamiliar with the process, I thought it might be useful to look at what is involved when commissioning your own design.

Design and build fees will vary from company to company according to skills, experience and overheads involved, so although I intended to share some costings I realised this could prove to be misleading. Instead, here are some factors that can contribute to the final quote for a bespoke design and build project:

  • Specialist business consultancy
  • Planning consultancy
  • Habitat surveys
  • Arboricultural survey
  • Topographic survey
  • Ground tests
  • Structure design process – preparation and brief, draft concept design, amendments, design development, CAD drawings, technical drawings, structural calculations, building regs
  • The nature of the building’s design – complicated or curved structures, intricate features, handcrafted finishes
  • Construction methods
  • Materials used – timber, roofing, cladding and finishes
  • Facilities, furnishings and fittings
  • Employing highly skilled craftspeople
  • Foundations and sub-structure
  • Vehicular accessibility of the build location
  • On site storage
  • Proximity of supplier’s workshop and workforce to the site
  • Accommodation and expenses for building team.

This list isn’t exhaustive and not all of it will apply to every build, but I hope it begins to convey the intricacies and variables involved in the process, and why some treehouses cost what they do.

It’s worth noting that unlike cabins or pods, which sit on a simple base, most treehouses require an engineered sub-structure, are near or around trees, and usually include a quality fitted kitchen, fitted shower room, hot and cold water supply, flushing toilet and dedicated waste treatment system, power supply and electric system, a central heating system and a properly HETAS installed log burner. Basically, it’s like commissioning the design and construction of a small house, up in the air, and usually in an inaccessible woodland – which is ultimately what makes them so appealing to guests!

Most treehouse projects achieve healthy occupancy rates and rental fees, even so, do evaluate viability. It’s also worth noting that a design fee (which can be several thousand pounds) will be required to commence the design process, so a basic schedule would be:

  • Assess viability – market research designs and revenue performance vs. project costs (feel free to call me if you need some input here)
  • Assess likelihood of planning consent success – you might want to consult a planning specialist
  • Research and appoint a design and build company – each has its own style, so if you have a particular design in mind choose one that organically suits it.

Commissioning your own one-off design for a treehouse or cabin is no different to any other bespoke service, it’s the imagination, skills and process of creating something unique and tailored to specific requirements that adds to the cost, but also, ultimately, adds to the value and originality of what is created.

Creative rural economy

The rural economy could benefit from more support despite the sterling work and lobbying by countryside organisations and associations. So, a few months ago, when I was asked to join a new rural business support organisation, I decided it would be a worthwhile cause to get involved in. Its focus will be on raising awareness and securing support and funding for rural businesses with a strong creative aspect, which includes some glamping business models and many other outdoor hospitality businesses.

A conference is being planned later in the year in London and I’ll share details once confirmed. In the meantime, we’re encouraged by the recent report published by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy, which also recognises the value of the rural business sector and its need for more funding and support.

Whisk Me Away…

Treehouse in the forest in France
Photo: Quality Unearthed

La Cabane du Verger, Loire Valley, France search ‘La Cabane du Verger’

I thought we’d stay a bit closer to home this month, so I’ve chosen a treehouse located in an area I am very fond of – the Loire Valley in France. While we can create any number of fancy interior design schemes, sometimes it’s best to simply allow the structure design and location to do the talking, and this is a great example of that. What I love about it:

The design of the structure – quirky and unique
It’s height – eight metres, you are genuinely up there among the boughs
The simplicity of the finishes – they create a sense of being part of the tree
The no-frills rustic furniture and local furnishings – it’s all the more charming for them.

It’s marketed through Quality Unearthed which, along with Quality Cottages, was where I started my journey in this unique industry. Hello team QU!

About Kate

Kate specialises in creating diversification projects involving glamping and boutique accommodation developments. If you’d like to discuss your site’s potential and ideas, contact Kate on 07849 514588 / or visit Join Kate’s Facebook group by searching ‘Glamping Business Link’.


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