'Star Wars' Fans Will Immediately Recognize the Inspiration Behind This Epic Treehouse

Candace Braun Davison
Photo credit: Brie Williams

From Men's Health

With its spindly trees and lush greenery, the Rydens' property in Cary, North Carolina feels as remote as Endor. You half-expect an Ewok to pop up at any moment, so it's only fitting it's where they decided to build a 1,000-square-foot treehouse inspired by Star Wars' Millennium Falcon. And that's the key word here: "Inspired."

"I kept saying 'inspired by the Millennium Falcon, not a replica of it,'" laughs Ashley Ryden. She and her husband, Carl, hired Treehouse Masters star—and gravity-defying builder extraordinaire—Pete Nelson to design the house, and initially, an homage to the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy wasn't part of their master plan.

For years, Carl and his best friend—also named Pete—had talked about building a treehouse together. It'd always been a goal, to the point that Pete had collected Nelson's books, reading up on how to get it done. Then, just after New Year's in 2005, Pete passed away, and the dreamed was shelved indefinitely. Carl and Ashley went on to have a son, whom they named Pete in their friend's honor, and it wasn't until "Little Pete" got to be around tree-climbing age that the dream started to grab hold of Carl once again.

Photo credit: Brie Williams
Photo credit: Brie Williams

They looked into buying land overlooking Lake James with one stipulation in mind: "It had to have a spot to build a treehouse," Ashley says. After closing on five acres in the woods, in a spot so secluded you need all-wheel drive to get to, Carl decided to email Nelson Treehouse. At first, they planned on a modest little house in the trees, where the family could hold game nights and hang out, but as he thought about some of Carl's favorite things—like his Star Wars Lego collection—a different idea started to take shape.

"He said, 'Am I crazy to imagine the Millennium Falcon in a tree?'" Pete Nelson recalls of their first face-to-face meeting. "That's just an invitation to me. I'd never thought of that. It was a challenge, and that was exciting to me."

"I really wasn't on board at first," Ashley admits. "I was looking for something with a lot of character—I was looking for a natural treehouse."

Hence her "inspired, not replica," mantra. Immediately, Pete and the Nelson Treehouse team got to work, studying the Millennium Falcon and determining how they could realistically riff on it. Right away, one issue presented itself: scale.

Photo credit: Brie Williams
Photo credit: Brie Williams

"To make it look like the Millennium Falcon, it had to be a much larger treehouse than we initially planned," Ashley said.

When they saw Pete's plans—which called for a rounded treehouse with a wall of windows that'd look like the thrusters of the ship when the lights were on at night, as well as a forked deck that'd resemble its forward mandibles—they were all in. "Carl said if this was his mid-life crisis, this would be his Ferrari," Ashley says.

They put a full bathroom in the treehouse, as well as a kitchen, dining room, living room, office, and master bedroom. Then, up a stairwell that mirrors the angle of the ramp onto the Millennium Falcon—because yes, the Nelson Treehouse team's attention to detail is that spot-on—there's a loft area with twin beds.

Star Wars fans will immediately recognize Carl's office—it's built out to look just like Han Solo and Chewbacca's cockpit, with a stellar view of the water. Little nods to the series are everywhere: stitched pillows, bath towels with X-Wing Fighters on them, even Darth Vader and Stormtrooper spatulas.

Photo credit: Brie Williams

Still, Pete made sure the treehouse retained its rustic charm: He incorporated reclaimed barn wood, as well as tongue and groove unfinished pine. To truly appreciate the craftsmanship, you only have to look up—the woodwork in the ceiling is so artfully arranged that it almost has a kaleidoscopic effect.

Photo credit: Brie Williams

"Every single beam was measured and cut by hand," Ashley says, which makes it all the more surprising to hear that Pete's team completed the house in less time than it took for the Rydens' dock to be built. (Roughly three months, in case you're curious.) And though Ashley had her initial concerns about building a Star Wars-themed treehouse, she and Carl have been thrilled with the end result: "Personally, I think it's a work of art. If it had been any other treehouse, I'm sure I would've been happy, but this is something else."

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