The first treehouse that Paul Simkim ever built was for his children. The second is the Nairobi Dawn Chorus, now at his backyard in Loresho. Perched high amidst towering trees within a wild lush green valley overlooking a river, it has become a minimalist retreat for Kenyans looking for a different kind of escape.
Being here, one feels secluded and removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is as beguiling as it is playful, the stuff childhood fantasies are made of.
“My children’s treehouse was for fun and escape. It however kept falling apart,” says Paul.
For the second one, he improved it, spending about Sh2.5 million in building costs. Construction of the treehouse started at the end of August last year, and it took around a week to come up with the design, which Paul worked on with his daughter Tana.
They then sat with a builder, Thor Karstad, and went through models and dimensions with him, before settling on the final version. The house itself took eight weeks to construct.
Walking into the compound, one would not even spot the treehouse from the main entrance.
There is a large garden as well as a swimming pool which are both accessible for guest use, but we ended up staying tucked within the folds of the house for the entire duration of our stay.
The treehouse is one-bedroom and the design is open plan; the entire space customised to take advantage of the postcard-perfect view.
Guests walk in through the main door into the kitchen which leads out to a large wooden platform with plenty of lounging areas such as a comfortable swinging chair, dining table and around a pan fireplace. The double room also looks out onto the deck.
“We kept it as simple as possible. One of the first rules was that we couldn’t cut down any trees, so we had to find a befitting space that would allow for the structure,” says Paul.
“We went with a simple iron frame, a mabati roof and marine boards in the flooring and walls, so it was very simple and relatively low cost.”
The double bedroom also opens out to the wooden platform and the view. There is a fireplace for the chilly evenings. A small living area with two chairs is set in front of the fireplace, and on one end of the wall is a working area with a couple of books should you want to pore through one.
The decor was done by Tana, and the beds and furniture were made from a tree that fell into the garden. While there is a canvas tent that can be rolled down in the evenings, we were advised to just leave it wide open and slept perfectly fine.
“The safari tent should be enclosed to cover the front of the bedroom, but that hasn’t worked well because it’s been hard to close and there’s a fireplace right in front of it. Most guests have preferred to just leave it open,” says Paul.
At dawn, you wake up to a beautiful chorus of birds, explaining the name of the treehouse.
He has listed it on Airbnb for an average of Sh12,500, and the reception has been great.
Most guests have been Kenyans from Nairobi going for staycations, with a few international ones. It is a romantic space that sleeps only two. There is even an outdoor freestanding bathtub on the deck, perfect for soaking early in the morning or under the stars at night.
The bathroom is also open with a rainshower and a beautiful mirror with elephants and palm trees carved into its wooden frame.
A few art pieces by Kenyan painter George Ongeri hang on the walls and are offered for sale, with listings at about Sh45,000.
“We thought it would be a nice way to promote his artwork and get people to buy it. Most people have just ended up visiting his studio which is close by as a result. He is an ex-banker and a very fun character to be around.”
Paul’s next project is to build a houseboat in Kilifi or Naivasha with the same open-plan design.