It’s a treehouse worthy of the ‘T’ in Texas.
There is room for a kitchen sink, dining table, small refrigerator, shower, queen-size bed, loft and, at the end of a deck, a doghouse.
Located near Mart in the northeast corner of Falls County, the treehouse makes its national television debut Friday night in the premiere of a new series, “Treehouse Masters,” on the cable televison channel Animal Planet.
Forget the treehouse of your childhood, cobbled from scrap wood in haphazard fashion. This is more a cottage with living hackberry legs, a sizable project even for Washington treehouse wizard Pete Nelson, the master of the series’ title.
“It’s a Texas-sized treehouse, that’s for sure,” Nelson said in a recent phone interview.
The combination of big and Texas proved alluring to the series’ producers, and before treehouse owners Jimmy and Sandy Maddox knew it, they were part of a television episode.
“They made us wear our boots,” said Sandy, a slight eyeroll conveyed in her voice. Soft-spoken but glib Jimmy added. “I’ve got a pair of boots and I like them, but it’s not like I’m going to wear them out,” he said.
The Dallas couple, both Baylor University graduates, had the treehouse built near their five-bedroom country home to provide extra space for visits by their five children and soon-to-be-six grandchildren.
Jimmy is retired after 28 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas federal court system in Dallas, where he worked as assistant deputy chief probation and pretrial services officer.
Sandy, who taught at Waco’s Mountainview Elementary School early in her career, is deputy executive director of the Region X Education Service Center in Richardson.
Their Falls County home, on 197 acres of farmland that has been in her family for four generations, serves as hub for family visits by two sons in Houston, a daughter in Dallas, a son in Fort Worth and a fourth son in North Carolina.
Sandy had the idea for a treehouse as guest house.
A Google search led the Maddoxes to Nelson, who has not only made a career crafting tree-borne structures across the country, but a cottage industry from it.
He has written several books on the subject, leads workshops for professional and amateur builders and, with his wife Judy and daughter Emily, runs an arboreal bed-and-breakfast, TreeHouse Point.
Starting Friday, he will have his own television show.
Nelson, a down-to-earth guy in an above-the-ground field, hit it off with the Maddoxes from their first visit.
The Nelsons and Maddoxes are both parents of twin boys. The treehouse builder found a challenge in the Texas couple’s desire for a livable space complete with utilities and amenities.
“It’s a fully appointed guest house. That’s one of the reasons the treehouse is as big as it is,” he said.
Others built in “Treehouse Masters” have more specialized uses, including a bed-and-breakfast’s honeymoon suite, a spa, an Irish treehouse with peat-burning fireplace and a brewery.
Nelson toured the Maddoxes’ property and climbed a few trees before settling on a cluster of sturdy hackberries near their weekend home — a short distance, it turns out, from where Sandy’s mother was born.
After the treehouse design was completed, an arborist checked the trees’ health and trimmed branches while Nelson and his team assembled walls, window and door frames and trimwork at their Fall City, Wash., workshop.
From late January to mid-February, Nelson and his construction crew assembled the house, starting with a platform anchored by Nelson-designed tree attachment bolts.
Steel pins about the diameter of a soft drink can are inserted into nine-inch holes bored into a tree’s heartwood.
Through time, a tree’s trunk grows around the pin, solidifying its fit.
What is built on the platform, in contrast, needs a certain flexibility to move with the tree in wind and weather.
The Maddoxes’ treehouse, complete with a small tree growing through it, stands about 10 feet off the ground, not as high as many of Nelson’s creations, and its weight is partially supported by vertical braces.
Nelson said that early in his career he was a purist and avoided such connecting structures, but eventually mellowed.
“I think the important thing is to get people into the trees,” he said.
The opportunity to spread that message led Nelson to agree to the television series.
Initially concerned that a television crew might interfere with his crew’s work, Nelson found them even more highly organized and efficient.
“They would take us out of the box a lot of times,” he said.
A staircase leads to the Maddoxes’ finished structure with its floor of Douglas fir, pine walls and roof, and western red cedar window and door frames.
A semi-circular deck wraps around the treehouse while inside is a living area with chairs, table, sink, microwave and refrigerator; a loft; a bedroom with queen bed; and a bathroom with toilet and shower. Two dozen windows offer views of surrounding wheat fields, meadows and woods.
It’s close, but cozy. Jimmy compares it to a well-designed boat cabin. “There’s not a bit of wasted space,” he said.
The cottage in the hackberry trees has about 600 square feet of space with a deck that contains another 280 square feet.
“The lady who decorated this said it was bigger than her New York apartment,” Sandy said.
“But she had a great view of Central Park,” Jimmy added.
So how much did the treehouse cost? Neither the Maddoxes nor Nelson will say, but the builder acknowledged, “It’s a limited market of people who can spend what it takes to hire qualified carpenters, getting the materials and bringing them to the site.”
Sandy said the result was worth it.
“We see it as a legacy to our kids, but something whimsical, too,” she said.
The Maddoxes and their extended family assembled for a “Treehouse Masters” reveal after the house was finished and with summer ahead, the grandparents anticipate regular use of the above-ground retreat.
All like it, but in varying degrees, Sandy said, explaining treehouse appeal isn’t a factor of age, but personality.
“There are those who like country life and those who have to be entertained,” she said.