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Have Tree House, Will Travel

A portable hideaway that blows away the hammock.

Jay Nelson's tree house.

Jay Nelson's tree house.

On weekends, you can often spot Jay Nelson tooling around town in his tricked-out camper, dwarfed beneath the truck’s shell-like wooden dome. The Sunset district artist is known for his one-of-a-kind plywood rides, as well as his avant-garde tree houses. But lately he’s been prototyping a new product: the Mini Sphere, a cross between a tree house and a hammock.

“I was really excited by the idea of a portable tree house,” he says. “And, unlike the campers, I don’t have to redesign these from scratch every time.” The four-foot wood-and-fiberglass sphere, encased in a net and strung up with a simple block-and-tackle system, takes its design inspiration from Japanese buoys. The pod is padded by an octagonal pillow and comfortably fits an adult or a couple of kids.

Nelson has been trying out his own Mini Sphere this fall, dangling from trees at Big Sur and Mount Tam. This year, he’s looking to put the spheres into production, retailing at around $2,000 a pop. “When I was building it, I imagined hiking into Golden Gate Park and hoisting it into a tree for a few hours,” he says. “Take your tree house with you.”


Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco

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