Tricked-out tree­house

This pro­fes­sional ma­gi­cian has de­signed the per­fect man cave for him­self.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Spaces - By SHARYN JACKSON

JUST beyond the front gates of Matt Dunn’s es­tate in Ply­mouth, Min­neapo­lis, parked on an ex­pan­sive stretch of lawn, is a hearse.

That’s your first clue that this is no or­di­nary home.

But vis­i­tors are still sur­prised by the many mar­vels hid­den on Dunn’s 1.5ha es­tate. There’s a full­size chess­board made of grass and stone, an aviary for para­keets, Christ­mas elf houses, a stun­ning magic arts col­lec­tion – and an an­tique cof­fin in the garage.

Beyond all of that, in a wooded patch be­hind his al­ready am­ple 600sq m house, is Dunn’s crown­ing achieve­ment in per­son­alised liv­ing. It’s a two-storey tree­house he built him­self, and it’s the ul­ti­mate man cave.

Dunn, a pro­fes­sional ma­gi­cian, is 35. Along with his youth­ful looks, he has man­aged to re­tain the spirit of a child, some­one who sees a wooded lot as a blank can­vas for the dreams of his child­hood.

He bought the es­tate three years ago, and when he saw the back­yard, he thought, “OK, this is the per­fect lo­ca­tion for a tree­house,” then adds, “be­cause you’re talking to an adult child.”

He started Googling tree­houses and got sucked into a dig­i­tal vor­tex of in­creas­ingly elab­o­rate back­yard abodes.

“By the third page, there was a tree­house with a pool,” he says. That, how­ever, was too much even for Dunn.

In­stead, he sketched up a taste­ful playpen in the sky, com­plete with a sleep­ing loft and a Juliet bal­cony.

He started build­ing it in the mid­dle of last year, and fin­ished his mas­ter­piece ear­lier this year.

Since then, he has been spend­ing a few nights a week in the deluxe, 45sq m tree­house.

Other than plumb­ing, it has ev­ery­thing a ma­gi­cian needs: a stuffed ze­bra head, a grand­fa­ther clock from old Day­ton Bal­let Christ­mas Nut-cracker dis­plays, a mar­ble-topped bar, and a deck for watch­ing hor­ror movies that he projects onto a screen mounted in the woods.

Dunn and his fa­ther built a tree­house when he was a child. It was noth­ing more than a plat­form with a cou­ple of walls. A tree­house on this grand scale was a first, not only for Dunn but also for the city of Ply­mouth.

“Some­times you get re­quests, and you just shake your head,” says Steve Juet­ten, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment for the city. “I have never seen any­thing like it.”

Dunn had to get per­mis­sion to al­low elec­tric­ity in the struc­ture, and was re­quired to add rail­ings and fenc­ing to keep it safe for vis­i­tors.

He risked his own safety to make the tree­house look ex­actly how he en­vi­sioned – by stand­ing on a ledge and toss­ing moss up to the roof.

Dunn’s at­ten­tion to de­tail comes from his fas­ci­na­tion with the im­mer­sive amuse­ment parks he vis­ited in his youth.

“Dis­ney World dam­aged me heav­ily,” he jokes. He loved the an­i­ma­tronic-pop­u­lated rides like Pi­rates Of The Caribbean and the Haunted Man­sion, and won­dered, “How could I make some­thing like this?”

He didn’t hes­i­tate to start try­ing. He be­gan col­lect­ing Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions at age 10, mak­ing ex­trav­a­gant dis­plays on the front lawn of his fam­ily’s Ply­mouth home.

“You never know with Matthew,” says his mother, Sue Dunn. “He’s been full of cre­ativ­ity and en­thu­si­asm all along.”

Dunn now makes more than half his in­come in one month each year as the owner of Scream Town, con­sid­ered one of Amer­ica’s best Hal­loween at­trac­tions, on the es­tate nearby.

The rest of the year, he earns his liv­ing per­form­ing sleight-of­hand tricks – saw­ing peo­ple in half and the like – as a ma­gi­cian at par­ties and cor­po­rate events.

He’s per­formed for ev­ery­one from the Min­nesota Vik­ings foot­ball team to State Gov­er­nor Mark Day­ton.

“My big thing is en­ter­tain­ment,” Dunn says. “I like to see peo­ple hav­ing a good time.”

The tree­house is his love for his pro­fes­sion made man­i­fest. Cov­ered in dark green wood sid­ing, with antlers mounted above the front door, the ex­te­rior has a rus­tic cabin aes­thetic.

But in­side, Dunn dec­o­rated it to evoke Hol­ly­wood’s Magic Cas­tle, a famed club­house for ma­gi­cians that’s out­fit­ted sump­tu­ously with leather chairs and se­cret doors.

“I al­ways liked that Ad­dams Fam­ily look,” he says re­fer­ring to the movie about the kooky fam­ily liv­ing in a crum­bling man­sion.

Dunn cre­ated his own per­sonal magic cas­tle with red leather so­fas, boxes of cigars, and lots of taxi­dermy that he found on Craigslist – in­clud­ing that shock­ing ze­bra head. It’s at once classy and a lit­tle eerie.

As far as tree­houses go, Dunn’s has more of a high-end feel than, say, “a Den­nis the Me­nace type thing”, says Larry Kahlow, owner of the Ea­gle Magic and Joke Store and a men­tor to Dunn.

“You can pull out a cigar and sit there and watch Hou­dini es­cape from a trunk,” says Kahlow, who has been a reg­u­lar guest at the tree­house, com­ing over to watch movies on the pro­jec­tor.

Dunn, who is sin­gle, likes the term “man cave” for what he’s built. Not that he needs a name.

The sprawl­ing main house is filled with more magic mem­o­ra­bilia and half-fin­ished ex­am­ples of his new­est hobby, sculpt­ing busts from clay.

He rents out rooms of what he calls his “Ma­gi­cian’s Es­tate” on Airbnb. Guests of­ten jump at the life­like man­nequin seated at the pi­ano.

It’s all part of Dunn’s ob­ses­sively de­tailed, whim­si­cal world-mak­ing.

“I love to see child­hood dreams come true,” he says. – Star Tri­bune/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Dunn loves sur­pris­ing guests with strange things, like that stuffed ze­bra head.

This might be a deluxe, two-storey ver­sion of a tree­house but it still has lash­ings s of rus­tic charm on the out­side. The in­side is an­other mat­ter – that’s of where the luxe comes in. — Pho­tos: TNS

A cari­bou rack of antlers hangs over the front door; this view is from the Juliet bal­cony off the loft bed­room on the first floor.

Like the Haunted Man­sion Dis­ney World ride, Dunn’s tree­house has a sur­prise around ev­ery cor­ner, like this fierce stuffed an­i­mal hid­ing by a sofa!


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