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How a boatmaker blended math & craft in his round treehouses

Ever since seeing Jacques Cousteau emerge from a globular bathyscaphe, Tom Chudleigh has been fascinated by spheres. A few decades ago he designed an orb-shaped houseboat and began building a prototype, only to decide it would work better hung in a tree. After a successful summer sleeping in the dangling globe as on-site housing for a construction job, Chudleigh began to rent it to out for overnight stays.

Today, he has four suspended spheres at his Free Spirit Resort on Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada) where guests can spend a night or two swaying in the forest, 15 feet off the ground. Each sphere is suspended between three trees (with three nearly vertical ropes) and accessed by a spiral staircase. With whimsical names like Eryn, Eve and Luna, the tree bubbles have been compared to Ewok and Hobbit housing and and attract fans from worldwide.

It took him about 2000 hours just to create the wooden shell for his first build, Eve. He has since switched to fiberglass construction which takes about a week to create. Before devoting his time to spherical construction Chudleigh built and lived on sailboats and even learned to do his own metal forging while building a boat in a remote town near the Alaska border.

He applied his diverse crafting experience to his sphere construction creating custom four-latch, curved oblong doors and forging double-articulated window latches. Chudleigh continues to build and sell spheres to treehouse fans around the world.

Chudleigh’s designs were inspired by nature. “The spherical nut shape is certainly well adapted to life in the forest,” he explains on the website. “The suspension concept also reflects biomimicry. The network or web of ropes used to tether the sphere vertically and laterally function much like a spider web… The supporting web also mirrors our connectedness to our eco-system.”