All images courtesy of Free Spirit Spheres
If hobbits lived in the sky, this is probably where they would live – in wooden forest cocoons! Ideal for meditation, relaxation or a quick forest getaway, Free Spirit Spheres in Vancouver Island, Canada has capitalized on our need to burrow – among the tree tops. The wooden or fibreglass spheres are suspended between the trees and can be rented for the night or bought for home use. They not only look amazing but are also fairly luxurious inside.
The idea for the spheres was born from inventor Tom Chudleigh’s need for a permanent space to meditate. He was also searching for a concept that would allow people to move into the forest without having to take it down first by chopping trees to make room for houses. Free Spirit Spheres have been in the news on and off since June 2005, when Chudleigh had two wooden prototypes ready and set up. Since then, he has added fibreglass spheres and individual frames, windows, stairs, etc. to his product list for anyone who wants to build their own sphere.
If the sphere’s interiors seem familiar, that’s no coincidence as Chudleigh borrowed heavily from sailboat construction and rigging practice. Each sphere starts with a wooden framework and strips of wood that get attached to the frame to form the walls, which are then sanded down. The door and the windows are cut out next. Then, work on the interiors starts: wiring, insulation, laying the wooden floor, making the cabinets, the bed and seating area. Spheres are either made from local and lightweight woods like cedar and spruce or cast in a fibreglass mould.
Tree house on a truck, does that really fit?
Once assembled, the spheres have to be taken to their final destination or a shipping dock, which is usually done by car. They look quite big even on a pick-up truck; though the smaller sphere fits quite well, the bigger sphere seems to dwarf the truck.
Interior of the bigger sphere with small kitchen
Spirit spheres come in two sizes: 9 feet or 2.7 m (called Eve) and 10 ½ feet or 3.2 m (called Eryn) in diameter and weigh around 500 kg. The smaller sphere sleeps one person comfortably and includes a seating area, counter and cabinets. The bigger prototype sleeps three; two on a double bed (with storage drawers underneath) and one on a loft bed. It also has a seating area and a galley with a small refrigerator, sink and microwave.
Raising a sphere...
Raising a sphere is done with a system of ropes and tackles and quite a bit of tree climbing. Spheres are attached by three almost vertical ropes to three separate trees, reducing movement of the sphere while allowing free movement of the trees. It takes a team of three workers a day to raise a sphere and then several more to attach the stairs and the suspension bridge. The whole setup can be dismantled and apparently vanishes without a trace.
Spheres are insulated and come with a heater, allowing them to stay comfortable for temperatures down to –20 degrees Celsius. Imagine lying on the loft bed and watching the night sky through the sky light while being swayed by a gentle breeze – cosy indeed. What greater luxury than undisturbed sleep and dreams that are bound to be excellent. And no need to go anywhere. Well, at least not until nature calls…
When nature calls - the outhouse.
Should nature call, a few steps lead down to the composting outhouse. Afterwards, all one has to worry about is whether to go back into the cosy cocoon or to take a stroll in the forest. Those inspired to own a sphere might want to go for a shell (from $6,300) or a do-it-yourself kit ($35,000) as readymade spheres do not come cheap – they start from $45,000 for a fibreglass or $150,000 for a wooden one. Or renting one for $125 and up per night for anyone making a trip to Vancouver Island might be a better alternative.