If you're planning a Christmas vacation and looking for five-star accommodations during your stay, you might be browsing the rates at a Marriott or Four Seasons hotel. But if you're headed to England, you might consider this: a luxury treehouse.
It's the first of its kind in Britain, built by Chris Whalley (pictured below), a builder who owns four other properties that he uses as vacation rentals. Sitting 20 feet above the ground, the treehouse in Kent, England, comes with almost every amenity you'd find in a top-drawer hotel room: a hot tub, a 60-inch plasma TV -- even a log burner (as dangerous as that might sound in a tree). There's fully functional plumbing and electricity as well.
Whalley and his wife, Michelle, who run Kent Cottage Holidays, told AOL Real Estate that the project took seven months to complete. Chris built the structure out of driftwood from a nearby beach and scraps from other builders. He even used the extra materials to build cupboards, a table and a bed for the interior. He didn't use any scaffolding during construction, just some rope.
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And the project was a real labor of love: The idea for the treehouse began as a gift to a little girl.
"The idea came from children of guests we had staying in our previous properties who wanted to climb one of the trees in the garden," Michelle told AOL Real Estate. "Chris told them if she [the little girl] returned next year, he would build her a treehouse, which he did."
Michelle said that the couple has two children's treehouses on two of their other properties, and visiting adults commented that it would be fun to stay in one.
"So Chris built an adult treehouse for a holiday let," she added.
"I built it almost entirely by myself," Chris Whalley told AOL Real Estate. "Solid work nonstop, so it took its toll on my already aching body -- due to a previous project on the same site, which is a hand-built log cabin."
His treehouse was nearly grounded, though, when neighbors objected to it, he said.
"Planning permission was a little tricky, as the locals in most sleepy villages don't take too kindly to changes of any kind, not to mention treehouses," Chris said.
But eventually, the treehouse was cleared, and Chris and Michelle have since had nine sets of guests stay there. They are expecting their 10th reservation this weekend, and "we have no weekends available now until April 2013," Michelle said.
Though local media outlets in England reported that Chris spent 60,000 pounds (about $97,000) to build the treehouse, he told AOL Real Estate that it actually cost a lot less -- but he didn't name the price.
Chris is already working on his next project, which he expects to be just as unique and exciting as his treehouse -- maybe even more so.
"It will have a theme like Bedrock meets Hobbit, but I don't want to let too much away," he said. "Yabba-dabba doo!"