WOODINVILLE — Tree houses are growing up.
Take the one in the back yard of John and Beth Shephard’s home.
It was built by Pete Nelson, the Fall City contractor who doubles as the star of the reality television show “Treehouse Masters” on Animal Planet.
The Shephards had stayed at Nelson’s Treehouse Point in Fall City; it was a birthday present for John Shephard about 10 years ago.
“We went there and really liked it and it was charming and one thing led to another,” John Shephard said. “We’ve always been fanciful — we’re both musicians — and somehow we decided we were going to have a tree house.”
So they invited Nelson to come to their home at 17324 185th Ave. NE, outside of Woodinville, along the shores of Cottage Lake. The couple had dinner with Nelson, who sketched a design for the tree house.
They employed him to build the project around a thick Douglas fir next to the roof of their home. It was a luxury item built during the recession that cost $40,000. Nelson did the project in a little over a month in 2010.
The Shephards used the space to entertain, to meditate and do art. Mostly it was a novelty for John Shephard, a retired counselor, and Beth Shephard, a retired teacher and educator. So last year, they decided to open it up as a bed and breakfast.
“We had always toyed with the idea of doing a B&B somewhere, and then John retired and needed a project,” Beth Shephard said. It’s called the Cottage Lake Treehouse Bed & Breakfast, but Beth Shephard gave it the informal name The Nest.
“After all of these years of dealing with minds and hearts, now I’m dealing with towels and bedsheets and carpets and breakfasts,” John Shephard said.
The Treehouse Bed & Breakfast is a single room with a queen-sized bed and a couple of wicker chairs and wide windows overlooking Cottage Lake. A small balcony sits off one side for people who want to get fresh air in the treetop.
A stairway built alongside the Shephards’ house leads to a walkway on the roof with motion sensors that lead to the treehouse. The tree house lacks a full bathroom — there’s a small toilet and a bin just out the front door. Guests need to go into a spare apartment in the Shephards’ home for showers and most bathroom activities.
Still, John Shephard said that hasn’t deterred people from signing up for a night’s stay at the Treehouse Bed & Breakfast. They listed the tree house on most of the internet travel sites last year. A night’s stay depends on the season and the night of the week but was usually around $200 last year.
“We were virtually slammed roughly from April through September last year,” John Shephard said.
Some of the people came looking for a lakeside getaway with a dock, kayaks and a hot tub within easy reach.
Others came looking for a novel place to stay while taking in the Woodinville wineries or a concert at the nearby Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery.
The Shephards socialized with some of the guests but offered as much privacy as the guests wanted.
When guests stayed, John Shephard would bring up a breakfast platter in the morning with croissants, a couple of types of yogurt, a couple of types of fruit, some granola and hard-boiled eggs. A Keurig coffee maker is in the treehouse.
About 90 percent of their business came from people finding the bed and breakfast at the Shephards’ website or from Booking.com or Bedandbreakfast.com. They’ve had less success with sites like AirBnB.com or TripAdvisor.
“The people who have stayed here are from everywhere — Europe, China, from around this area and across America,” Beth Shephard said. “We’ve really enjoyed meeting the people.”
The Shephards say they’ve been pleased with the reception they’ve received in online reviews, including people who talk about their friendly black Lab, Harley.
“In counseling, people walk in and they’re unhappy and I have an hour to give them a perspective that makes them feel better,” John Shephard said. “That was always my task and I didn’t realize how heavy it was until after I retired. Here, they come happy and they get happier.”