Takashi Kobayashi is out of his tree. The self-taught Japanese designer, carpenter and architect of 120 jaw-dropping tree houses — some sleek modernist cubes, some gnarly fairy-tale cottages — recently unveiled his first Los Angeles work, a small-scale installation of found wood and live plants at In Aqua Veritas, the vintage goods outpost of the Silver Lake home décor store Feal Mor.
“There’s a whole modern-hippie, tree-hugger vibe,” store co-owner Shaheen Plunier said of Kobayashi's designs, which also include T-shirts and a line of the jumpsuits he wears while building tree houses. “Taka has the pure ability to create something functional, like a handicapped-accessible tree house for kids at a medical center [pictured in the related photo gallery], out of nothing.”
Infused with the spirit of 1970s pop culture and West Coast arboreal architects such as Pete Nelson, the designer creates fantasy environments using reclaimed lumber, custom built doors and windows, and stained glass.
“I am a professor of nature,” Kobayashi, who heads a collective called Treehouse People, said during the installation of his L.A. piece. “I am no good at mathematics and science. I always feel the power of the tree. A tree always grows until it dies, and nobody knows how it will grow. So, it’s interesting and difficult. Every location and every tree creates a different problem.”