Tree House Creature Comforts


Just look up. It’s amazing what you can see.

In Cave Junction, a remarkable, three-level tree house nestles into a large white oak tree. Soft lights glow in the evenings from Asian paper shade lanterns to give the raw yet sophisticated structure the look and feel of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Except this tree house is owned by a sushi restaurateur. He wanted a spectacular setting in which to present his renowned food to special guests and patrons. Of course, why not a tree house?

The magical design, which was recently featured on the national DIY Network, was built by The Treehouse Guys with interior decoration by Carol Ellis of Eugene. She and her husband, Michael, own the Ellis Design Group.

Her forte is in mixing, matching and contrasting styles, colors and elements. That reputation is how the sushi owner in Southern Oregon found Ellis.

“I had never done a tree house before,” she admits.

She readily took on the assignment, despite a moment of doubt. “I’m fearful of heights, and there I was climbing up a ladder while the tree house was under construction, 30 feet above ground,” Ellis says. “I was terrified.”

The momentary terror was worth it, however. Ellis was there creating interiors while the camera crew filmed “A Sushi Lover’s Treehouse” for a nationwide audience.

It was a project unlike any she had done before.



Earthy Elements

The placemats are black to vividly contrast with the light burl wood bar. Asian paper lanterns above create an ambient glow. Contrasting colors, shiny silver finishes, basketry textures, black rocks and seashells, along with unique and unexpected furnishings and accessories, are positioned throughout.

Add the teal-green Asian stool, the cranberry rug, colorfully embellished pillows in the living room and bedroom, and it all works together. With the dominance of the tree trunk and its branches in the structure, it’s hard to tell if you’re inside or out.

Playful Aspects

With a broad smile, Ellis adds that she always tries to pull in an element of whimsy. In this project, that would be the frosted wineglasses with undulating lines and polka-dots, not to mention a silver pitcher holding a wine bottle that has a handle in the shape of a man.

“I like to add things that are curious,” she says with a laugh.

Getting serious, she says “pushing and pulling the textures, colors and shapes against each other brings out a visual complexity, and that’s what makes the spaces come to life.”

“For the owner,” she continues, “the presentation of his sushi is the crown jewel. I created this entire environment so the food, is a component of the entire space.”

As a child growing up in Eugene, Ellis constantly changed furniture around at home.  “I was always enamored with houses and the idea of interior design,” she remembers.

Her mantra as a professional designer is, “How can I make design decisions that positively affect all of our senses?”

Writer Paul Omundson can be contacted at


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