Devin Hanley is a treehouse expert, talented carpenter, and longtime Nelson Treehouse and Supply crew member. He is also an all-around kind, capable, and charismatic human with an appetite for exploration and a uniquely mindful intrepidity. Although you may have seen Devin on many episodes of Treehouse Masters, you might not know that he gained his carpentry skills through building and living in his own treehouse!
Read on to find out more about Devin's treehouse, his path to NT&S, his travels, and his love for the treehouse life.
1. WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO NELSON TREEHOUSE AND SUPPLY?
After traveling widely abroad, Devin returned to Washington state for a brief respite before embarking on his next international adventure. He needed a place to call his own, but could not commit to a lengthy lease, as he was planning to jet off around the world again soon. Devin decided that a treehouse would be the perfect residence for his wanderlust life, and embarked on designing and building his own at his parents' forested property. It was not until Devin was well into the construction process that he heard about Pete's work; until that point, Devin had believed he was alone in the world of ambitious treehouse construction in Washington. Pete's work captured Devin's imagination and resonated with his passion for treehouses. Before heading on his next trip, Devin dropped his portfolio off at TreeHouse Point. Devin then kept in touch with Pete throughout his time abroad; when he returned, he was welcomed into the NT&S crew. Since then, Devin has become one of our treehouse experts, with artful carpentry skills and an encyclopedic knowledge of all things treehouse. Devin is happy, humbled, and grateful that his day job is his passion; while he used to feel excited to get off work to go build more of his treehouse, now he's simply excited to go to work.
2. WHAT DOES YOUR OWN TREEHOUSE LOOK LIKE?
Devin's treehouse is situated in a grove of cedar trees; the elevation to the top of the treehouse is 35 feet, and to the bottom is 16 feet. Devin says he had no clear vision for the final design of his treehouse when he began construction; instead, the materials he had at hand shaped the design. The construction phase took place in the wake of the 2008 economic recession, so Devin was keen to find affordable, second-use materials to integrate into his treehouse. Devin often turned to Craiglist to find such reclaimed materials, including windows. After discovering Pete, Devin modeled the stairs leading to his own treehouse after a photograph of Pete's work. Devin and his now-wife, Katie, happily lived full-time in their treehouse for two years.
3. WHAT WERE THE BEST PARTS ABOUT LIVING IN A TREEHOUSE?
Devin says that so much about living in his treehouse was wonderful, from the closeness with nature, to the simplicity of the lifestyle. He says that the novelty and joy of waking up in the trees never wore off. Devin also loved how living in such a small space challenged him to limit his belongings to things that were essential or highly meaningful. When living in his treehouse, Devin spent more time doing rather than collecting; the focus of his life refreshingly shifted from objects to action.
4. WERE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES OR CHALLENGES TO LIVING IN A TREEHOUSE?
As time wore on in the treehouse, Devin found that the absence of plumbing presented a hurdle; without plumbing, doing dishes and showering became a chore. Devin and Katie would lug five gallons of water at a time up to their arboreal home to use for washing dishes. You can imagine that this would become rather taxing over time!
5. LOOKING BACK, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH YOU KNEW BEFORE BUILDING YOUR OWN TREEHOUSE?
Devin says he wishes he knew more about rigging before embarking on the construction of his treehouse. Lacking experience with the complex rigging systems involved in building treehouses, Devin found that moving heavy materials into the trees often became a dangerous process. That said, Devin also enjoyed learning as he built, gaining skills through application and researching techniques throughout the construction phase. His treehouse was the first carpentry project Devin had ever attempted; since then, Devin has become an expert in treehouse carpentry through the same remarkable persistence, ambition, and dedication to applied learning.
6. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TREEHOUSES AS VIABLE PRIMARY RESIDENCES?
Devin recommends treehouses as primary residences for those who are deeply interested in living full-time in a treehouse, and committed to its outdoorsy, pared-down lifestyle. Living in a treehouse can be a liberating, mindful, and joyful experience. But Devin cautions that living in a treehouse can also be hard work, uncomfortable, and unsustainable, depending on the health of the host trees, climate patterns, life changes, and more. But if you've thoroughly considered these factors and are ready for the adventure of the full-time treehouse life, Devin urges you to take the leap; he has never regretted the two years he spent living in his own treehouse!
7. WHAT ARE TWO OF YOUR FAVORITE NT&S BUILDS?
Devin loved the Beehive Treehouse in Washington state; he admired how the materials dictated the artful, organic design. He also was grateful that the clients had an open mind and trusted the NT&S crew to create something amazing. Another favorite of Devin's is the Burl Treehouse at TreeHouse Point. Like the Beehive, the Burl has a more whimsical design that blends fluidly with the surrounding nature. He also loved the Burl's incredibly high crow's nest and corresponding ladder.
8. HAVE YOU EVER LIVED OUTSIDE OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST?
Devin was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but has spent a significant portion of his life traveling around the United States and abroad. Devin's favorite place he has visited is Bolivia; he admired the kindness of the people he met, the geographic beauty and diversity, and the "relentlessly honest" experience of living there. If Devin were not building treehouses for a living, he believes he might be running a hostel in Bolivia. Traveling is important to Devin because it empowers him to experience and appreciate what he calls "the full spectrum of being human." By living and working outside his home in Washington, Devin has witnessed a great variety of cultural, social, political, and environmental conditions, and has gained perspective on the privileges and wonders of life in the PNW.
9. WHAT IS YOUR HAPPIEST MEMORY FROM A BUILD?
Devin says that it's impossible for him to choose a single happiest memory from a build, as treehousing brings countless joyous moments. That said, Devin always feels a great deal of happiness and satisfaction after completing difficult rigging jobs, such as the ladder system leading 150 feet up to the crow's nest above the Burl treehouse. He also recalls, "crying from laughter while working on treehouses in Neskowin and on Orcas Island, and during the Frank Lloyd Wright treehouse in Kentucky. I don't believe that is a common thing in most work environments." Above all, Devin loves witnessing the moments when clients first see their finished treehouses. According to Devin, "to have our work bring a client to tears is incredibly rewarding. They are not only happy moments, but they provide a prolonged feeling of happiness and gratitude. That feeling may be my favorite part of our job."
10. LOOKING BACK, WHAT ADVICE, IF ANY, WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR 20-YEAR-OLD SELF?
Devin claims there are many things he wishes he had known when he was 20. The following is Devin's advice to his younger self:
1. Always keep toilet paper, duct tape, and a change of socks in your truck. The rest will figure itself out.
2. I'll never fully feel like a full-on adult. I used to think that there was a moment that the caterpillar became a butterfly; instead, I now realize that I am basically the same person, but with more obligations, a bit more knowledge, and much more at risk. I now think that adulthood is largely just a merger of responsibility and impulse control.
3. Don't be the drunkest at the party. The 3rd drunkest is the sweet spot.
4. You don't have to take something just because it is free.
4.5. It's better to invest in the things that you will use regularly.
5. Results are more important than intentions. So think clearly about what your results will be instead of, simply, how you feel about a certain matter.
All of these things, and many more, would have been really helpful for me to know as a 20 year old. Hopefully I can keep adding to the list as I age.
We hope you've enjoyed learning a bit more about Devin.
A big thank you to Devin for sharing ten illuminating things about himself!
To the trees!