Tree Huggers


Imagine standing in Tree Pose—in a tree. That was the idea behind a cabinlike tree house and deck built among five towering oaks for yoga instructor Suzanne Weiss. "I can't even describe the effortless quality of practicing up there," says Weiss, who lives 45 minutes north of New York City. "Without walls and in the trees, there's a very spacious quality."

The place is the creation of Roderick Romero, a musician whose architectural calling is grounded in 16 years of yoga practice. "Strength is flexibility," says Romero, who has built about a dozen tree houses. To create treetop structures that withstand the wind, he selects specimens that would seem to have mastered yoga: "The best trees are the most flexible but also have this incredible root structure."

Romero's tree house career sprouted in 1997 when he created a nest-like sculpture for a 500-acre outdoor exhibition in Washington. After he attended a Jivamukti Yoga retreat at Sting and Trudie Styler's estate in Tuscany, the pair hired him to design and build a 45-foot-high tree house overlooking a glassy lake.

"I try to build inside the heart chakra," says Romero, who lives in New York. "You find the heart of the tree. That's where you find life force, where you can sustain the most weight."

Romero's clients include yogis like Julianne Moore and Donna Karan. He also helped build a tree house for a group home for at-risk kids in Morocco and donated an observation-deck sculpture for children built around a willow tree in New Yorks East Village. Romero applies ahimsa, yoga's moral code of nonharming, to his work by building tree houses almost entirely of salvaged materials. For Weiss's house, that meant reusing old wood and the window of a house that had been torn down.

"Climbing into a tree to do your practice, your connection to the tree grounding you," Romero says, "is really inspiring."