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