By Jill Krasny

Joel Allen was just 26 when he quit his job as a software developer to pursue his lifelong dream of inventing a get-rich-quick scheme.

Things didn't pan exactly as planned: He ran out of money, fell in love and found his calling as a carpenter.
But a brilliant new idea struck him. Allen could use his carpentry skills and materials gathered from Craigslist to build an incredible treehouse on government land in the wilds of British Columbia. He'd live for free in style, right in the middle of one of the most inflated housing markets in the world.

Allen's treehouse, Hemloft, has been featured on his blog and in Dwell magazine. We asked him to share his story and some pictures.

Poor Carpenter Builds An Incredible Treehouse In The Wilds Of Canada Slideshow


It all started with a dream of early retirement and unemployment. "I was formerly in software and I liked it, I was making good money," Allen told BI. But the business went belly-up in 2006 and he was forced to live off his savings. Now Allen had a new mission: Come up with a million-dollar idea and live large. But by the end of 2007, he was living in his car.


Reality hit hard in the spring of 2008. "I was left penniless, at the crossroads of returning to software, or trying something new," Allen said. But a chance meeting with a "magical-looking character" named Old Man John turned Allen on to carpentry. "He was living the life that I had been pining after," Allen wrote on his site. And "I wanted his ability to construct whatever creative idea came to mind."


Allen's dad had built their family home, but his son didn't know a single thing about carpentry. Pressed to find employment and learn the skill quickly, he gave himself a one-week intensive course in carpentry by building a shed for his parents that was an exact replica of their home. The 12-hour workdays paid off: Within a week Allen had landed a job working on a multi-million dollar home overlooking Alta Lake.


Another chance encounter with a laborer nicknamed "Free Range Ryan" got Allen interested in "sport sleeping," a game where players compete to find the craziest place to sleep. Allen had been mulling over the idea of building a treehouse to keep the game going, but wanted something "a bit more elegant."


An architect couple suggested building an egg-shaped treehouse that "would be elegant, organic, unusual," said Allen. The idea for Hemloft was born.


Summer of 2008 was spent roaming Whistler for hours in search of the perfect tree to erect the treehouse on. Allen made a list of requirements: The tree should be serene, close to a road and running water, proportionate to the treehouse, and in tune with its design. It also needed a view.


Once Allen found his tree, it was time to get to work. He had to be discreet about it though, this was government land. He wasn't afraid of getting arrested, but didn't want to chance it either. So he carefully listened for traffic and pretended to check his car's hubcaps. "I kept forging ahead, hoping no one would find it," he said. "It was pretty much a road that nobody ever used except residents."


August 2010 marked the completion of Hemloft. Now all that was left to do was add some final landscaping and decorating touches, then take some photos to share with friends.


As a carpenter, Allen knew what to toss and what could be reused. Among his finds were a double-glass sliding door (valued at $400), ash hardwood floor (worth $1,500) and clear cedar without any knots.


Allen liked the idea, but worried what would happen if strangers (and the government) found out. "I had two options: I could rent a pit bull and a shotgun and neurotically circle the premises for the next ten years of my life, OR … I could just not care, and welcome whatever curious prospectors wander in my direction," he wrote. He decided to throw caution to the wind ...


In 2011, a childhood friend of Heidi's mom suggested that Allen reveal the Hemloft to the world. She submitted the idea to Dwell Magazine.


"It was a surreal feeling to be walking through the woods with a suitcase instead of an armful of plants," said Allen.


His friends were pretty impressed too.


To date, the Hemloft remains untouched and Canadian authorities haven't come after Allen.

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For the complete slideshow of Joel Allen's treehouse...
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