Jeanie and David Stiles, of Stiles Designs, designed this "Lord of...

Jeanie and David Stiles, of Stiles Designs, designed this "Lord of the Rings"-inspired tree house for a client. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

David and Jeanie Stiles have taken the business of building tree houses to new heights — both literally and figuratively.

Their creations range from traditional tree houses that sit high within the branches of a tree, to more landbound structures that have a storybook look, but are built in an outdoor space that’s just nestled among trees, like a grove.

And the couple’s tree house work has appeared twice in the international bible for high-end home design, the magazine Architectural Digest. In addition, they’ve shown others how to build tree houses on the “Today” show.

According to the pair, who base their Stiles Designs business out of their East Hampton home, how a tree house looks and where it’s placed depends on the imagination and needs of the children — or adults — they’re built for. The main thing is for trees to be incorporated into the design in some way.

“It can be [considered] a tree house as long as it’s up even a little way from Planet Earth — 2 feet, 4 feet, 10 feet … and it’s a sanctuary surrounded by nature and you can hear the birds,” Jeanie Stiles said.

The Stileses design and build other outdoor structures too, including playhouses, sheds, garden houses, tea houses, forts, gazebos, and cabins, and have written about 30 how-to-books with more than a million copies sold and some translated into other languages.

But it’s their tree houses the Stileses are most known for and widely considered tops.

“We designed a tree house in East Hampton on the former estate of Jackie Kennedy, and Architectural Digest included David’s original sketch of this tree house in an article they wrote about the estate,” said Jeanie Stiles. “The tree house was designed to match the main house, featuring eyebrow windows with custom antique glass.”

Another Architectural Digest article featured a Lord of the Rings-inspired tree house complete with a hand-carved staircase and a pulley that can deliver snacks and toys via basket. She added, “We have built tree houses all over Long Island, and we have also built in upstate New York, Connecticut, Virginia and Beverly Hills,” California.

Among other memorable projects for the Stiles was one they took on at an Oyster Bay home during the pandemic. “We built two tree houses with a connecting bridge,” Jeanie Stiles explained.

The Stileses have built tree houses for private schools and public buildings as well, including structures erected on the roofs of The Dalton School, Calhoun School, and the YMHA (Young Men's Hebrew Association) on 92nd Street, all in Manhattan.

Have you and/or your husband been in any other business besides Stiles Designs?

I worked for a design firm in New York City for a couple of years and that’s where David and I met. David has a degree in industrial design from Pratt Institute and studied at Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy.

How did you come to build tree houses?

David always loved tree houses and even went to a camp as a boy where they had the kids build tree houses with connecting bridges. The first we built as Stiles Designs was about 25 or 30 years ago in East Hampton, and the second was also in East Hampton for New York financier Alan Patricof and his wife, Susan, who asked us to design a tree house for their granddaughters, Lily and Nina.

Do you have children, grandchildren … and have you built tree houses for them?

Together we have three children — now all in their 40s and 50s — and we've had tree houses in our backyard about 40 years. There was a simple A-frame that was featured in House & Garden, but it’s no longer there. Later we built a replacement that’s still in use by our grandchild and nieces.

What do you need to consider when constructing a tree house that rests among the branches?

Ideally a [traditional] tree house should fit in with the tree, whether it is cradled by branches or in the case of a tall single trunk, supported by posts or braces that allow the tree house to appear that it is part of the tree.

What’s the highest tree house you’ve ever built?

One with a platform 20 plus feet above the ground for a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

How long does it take to build a tree house?

You can do something simple in less than a week, but they can also take two to three months to build.

How do your tree houses range in price?

From $5,000 to $50,000 or more.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made along the way?

David remembers a treehouse he built as a young boy. He didn’t allow for the independent movement of the two trees supporting it, and eventually some of the nails failed. He never made that mistake again.

What’s a major challenge for you and how are you meeting it?

The pandemic created many challenges for us as lumber increased drastically in price and sometimes was difficult to find. We became good at finding alternative sources (such as using branches from dead trees) and tried to minimize the extra cost to clients.

What do you want your business to look like in five years?

In five years, we hope to continue receiving letters from clients thanking us for our inspiration. We try to inspire our clients with tree houses that become part of the environment.

David and Jeanie Stiles have taken the business of building tree houses to new heights — both literally and figuratively.

Their creations range from traditional tree houses that sit high within the branches of a tree, to more landbound structures that have a storybook look, but are built in an outdoor space that’s just nestled among trees, like a grove.

And the couple’s tree house work has appeared twice in the international bible for high-end home design, the magazine Architectural Digest. In addition, they’ve shown others how to build tree houses on the “Today” show.

According to the pair, who base their Stiles Designs business out of their East Hampton home, how a tree house looks and where it’s placed depends on the imagination and needs of the children — or adults — they’re built for. The main thing is for trees to be incorporated into the design in some way.

“It can be [considered] a tree house as long as it’s up even a little way from Planet Earth — 2 feet, 4 feet, 10 feet … and it’s a sanctuary surrounded by nature and you can hear the birds,” Jeanie Stiles said.

The Stileses design and build other outdoor structures too, including playhouses, sheds, garden houses, tea houses, forts, gazebos, and cabins, and have written about 30 how-to-books with more than a million copies sold and some translated into other languages.

But it’s their tree houses the Stileses are most known for and widely considered tops.

“We designed a tree house in East Hampton on the former estate of Jackie Kennedy, and Architectural Digest included David’s original sketch of this tree house in an article they wrote about the estate,” said Jeanie Stiles. “The tree house was designed to match the main house, featuring eyebrow windows with custom antique glass.”

Another Architectural Digest article featured a Lord of the Rings-inspired tree house complete with a hand-carved staircase and a pulley that can deliver snacks and toys via basket. She added, “We have built tree houses all over Long Island, and we have also built in upstate New York, Connecticut, Virginia and Beverly Hills,” California.

The thatched roof and eyebrow windows are some of the...

The thatched roof and eyebrow windows are some of the striking details on the "Lord of the Rings"-inspired tree house completed in January 2022. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Among other memorable projects for the Stiles was one they took on at an Oyster Bay home during the pandemic. “We built two tree houses with a connecting bridge,” Jeanie Stiles explained.

The Stileses have built tree houses for private schools and public buildings as well, including structures erected on the roofs of The Dalton School, Calhoun School, and the YMHA (Young Men's Hebrew Association) on 92nd Street, all in Manhattan.

Have you and/or your husband been in any other business besides Stiles Designs?

I worked for a design firm in New York City for a couple of years and that’s where David and I met. David has a degree in industrial design from Pratt Institute and studied at Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy.

How did you come to build tree houses?

David always loved tree houses and even went to a camp as a boy where they had the kids build tree houses with connecting bridges. The first we built as Stiles Designs was about 25 or 30 years ago in East Hampton, and the second was also in East Hampton for New York financier Alan Patricof and his wife, Susan, who asked us to design a tree house for their granddaughters, Lily and Nina.

Do you have children, grandchildren … and have you built tree houses for them?

Together we have three children — now all in their 40s and 50s — and we've had tree houses in our backyard about 40 years. There was a simple A-frame that was featured in House & Garden, but it’s no longer there. Later we built a replacement that’s still in use by our grandchild and nieces.

Interior of the "Lord of the Rings"-inspired tree house that was...

Interior of the "Lord of the Rings"-inspired tree house that was designed for adults and children. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

What do you need to consider when constructing a tree house that rests among the branches?

Ideally a [traditional] tree house should fit in with the tree, whether it is cradled by branches or in the case of a tall single trunk, supported by posts or braces that allow the tree house to appear that it is part of the tree.

What’s the highest tree house you’ve ever built?

One with a platform 20 plus feet above the ground for a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

How long does it take to build a tree house?

You can do something simple in less than a week, but they can also take two to three months to build.

How do your tree houses range in price?

From $5,000 to $50,000 or more.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made along the way?

David remembers a treehouse he built as a young boy. He didn’t allow for the independent movement of the two trees supporting it, and eventually some of the nails failed. He never made that mistake again.

What’s a major challenge for you and how are you meeting it?

The pandemic created many challenges for us as lumber increased drastically in price and sometimes was difficult to find. We became good at finding alternative sources (such as using branches from dead trees) and tried to minimize the extra cost to clients.

What do you want your business to look like in five years?

In five years, we hope to continue receiving letters from clients thanking us for our inspiration. We try to inspire our clients with tree houses that become part of the environment.

AT A GLANCE

Stiles Designs, East Hampton

Founded: 1993

Leadership: Owners David and Jeanie Stiles

Number of independent contractors: 3

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