OVER THE RAINBOW / House & Garden
Leave the comic books and slingshots at the door – this isn’t the kind of tree house where one might expect to find Bart Simpson. San Francisco designers Andrew Fisher and Jeffry Weisman have conjured something decidedly grand. Their fabulous folly of a tree house, a short distance (but a world apart) from the couple’s weekend home in Sonoma, revels in the eccentricity of its décor. The design strikes a deliciously aberrant note of glamour in the rustic landscape. It’s like Dorothy’s bleak black-and-white farmhouse after it crash-lands in the polychromatic world of Oz. In this fantasy, however, a piece of Oz has dropped in on Kansas.
From the exterior, the redwood structure, suspended between the two soaring fir trees, appears as rugged and unaffected as a classic suburban tree house (albeit one on steroids). “As the redwood ages, it will disappear more and more in the tree branches,” Weisman explains. “We wanted to save the surprise for the interior.”
“Surprise” is an understatement. The spacious one-room pavilion, which functions as a painting studio and guest cottage, is unexpectedly tricked out with rich materials, chic furnishings, and high-tech amenities. Walls are upholstered in putty-colored cotton accented with gold Lurex threads. The linen upholstery is trimmed in coarse hemp. Curtains of gold glazed linen puddle nine inches on the floor.
The custom furnishings reflect the influence of Fisher’s late mentor, Tony Duquette, the madcap maestro of outré ornamentation. Fisher’s confections include antique Chinese tree stumps, traditional fauteuils encrusted in seashells, chandeliers of gilded tree branches, and a sybaritic bed faux-finished in bird’s-eye maple, tortoise-shell, and ebony. The bed’s cross-cultural references – think Bugatti by way of Jaipur and Sunset Boulevard – exemplify the spirit of the designers’ polyglot fantasia. Chinese and Indian antiquities contribute to the other-worldly ambience.
Pragmatic surprises are concealed within the décor. A tall Chinese cabinet opens to reveal a flat-screen TV. A low Chinese chest holds a working sink. “This is our idea of roughing it,” Fisher jokes.
New Age aesthetes, take note. The felicitous tree house proves that grown-ups can embrace their inner child without spurning their outer decorator.
By Mayer Rus / Photographed by Edmund Barr