Towards the end of his 2008 documentary, The Tree Lover, which explored the link between trees and people in Sweden, Jonas Selberg Augustsén says: “Imagine being here on the veranda on a summer evening, or listening to the rain on the roof with the stove purring quietly.” As he says this he’s sitting in a treehouse he’s spent the summer building, looking out over a wide tract of pine forest with a river flowing in the distance, reflecting a sinking sun. You don’t have to imagine it any more. Since last month, when the Treehotel opened in Swedish Lapland, anyone can check into a treehouse and survey the landscape from Jonas’ viewpoint.
Set just outside the small village of Harads, an hour’s drive northwest of Luleå and very close to where The Tree Lover was filmed, the Treehotel is the creation of Britta and Kent Lindvall. Britta, a guesthouse owner, and Kent, a fishing guide, were inspired to action by the film when an area of forest behind Britta’s guesthouse was sold for logging. Instead of waiting for the inevitable to happen in a country where forestry is such an important industry, they contacted the forest’s owner and offered to buy the land from him. Calling in favours from various architect friends Kent had been on fishing trips with, they started building the Treehotel, determined to demonstrate that the natural environment around them had value beyond supplying timber. Along with daughter Sofia, who also moonlights as a stuntwoman, what they have created is a high design, back to nature retreat where guests can slow down, switch off and breathe more deeply.
Arriving at the guesthouse late on a light-soaked summer’s evening, I was met by Britta. Ushering me in with motherly warmth she sat me down in the 1950s-style surroundings and served up a delicious homemade fish pie on vintage china, explaining that the guesthouse operates as a kind of base camp for the treehouse rooms. “Guests leave their luggage here and just take a small overnight bag to the treehouses,” she said. “We want you to get the feeling that you’re leaving one world behind and entering another.”
It certainly felt that way when, after dinner, Sofia led me along a narrow gravel path through a glade of birch trees and then higher up, through sturdy pines, to the Mirrorcube. The most striking of the treehouses, it’s a glass box perched high in the forest. Like an architectural magic trick, it almost disappears into the foliage, so sharply are the surrounding trees reflected in it. The only giveaway that things are not quite what they seem is a wood and rope bridge leading up to a near-invisible door.
Return flights from Heathrow to Luleå via Stockholm with SAS (+44 0871 226 7760, flysas.co.uk). From 6 November 2010, there will be direct flights from Heathrow to Luleå.
Where to stay:
Rooms at the Treehotel (+46 928 10403, http://www.treehotel.se/en/start)
visitlulea.se and visitsweden.com