Tobermory treetop pods

Harmony Acres owner Laurie Adams is planning E’terra, a luxury eco-villa down an unpaved road outside of Tobermory, ON.

Laurie Adams, at her E’terra property on the shore of Georgian Bay.

Laurie Adams, at her E’terra property on the shore of Georgian Bay.

By Elaine Anselmi

TOBERMORY, ON—In suspending samara-shaped bedroom pods from trees, several factors are taken into consideration: weight—particularly when incorporating a fully functioning washroom, mitigating any impact or harm on the tree; and privacy–since the end of the pod is open, from the foot of the bed on. The latter concern is top-of-mind at E’terra, a luxury eco-villa down an unpaved road outside of Tobermory, ON, the directions to which are not given out until reservations are complete.

CLN toured the Harmony Acres and associated E’terra properties where owner Laurie Adams has designated portions of her land overlooking Lake Huron and a hardwood forest for bedroom pods. An old oak tree will host the treetop café, starting on the ground and wrapping around the massive trunk with dining pods interwoven with branches.

“Each pod will be different because it has to fit into the tree. The café will be completely secured to the ground,” said Adams. For the café, the layers will wrap all the way around. “As you come up, you’re almost in a spiral around the trees,” she said. “You’ll have sections that are sitting where the tree branches are.”

The Harmony Acres site, currently functioning as a 30-site campground, hosts the existing 60-seat restaurant facility that closed in 1999. Adams said it would operate as the production kitchen serving the treetop café, which will be open to the public as well as those staying on the grounds.

In her E’terra villa, Adams had professional chefs operate the kitchen beginning in 2007 and experimented with having the public in for dinner service in the 18-seat dining room. She has been in talks with notable Toronto chef Brad Long, of Café Belong at the Evergreen Brickworks, on developing the treetop café concept and she said he will mentor the incoming chef.

The existing restaurant has been gutted for the project and Adams said she is aiming for a construction period beginning in 2014, with staggered openings over two years. Since the restaurant is fixed to the ground and presents less design obstacles than the bedrooms, it will most likely be the first to open. Offering appropriate accommodation for the chef brought in to operate the café will be another, albeit necessary, challenge, she said. 

For the bedroom pods, Adams is looking at sourcing an ultra lightweight nickel-based  metal out of California to build the skeleton, which will be wrapped in a material, possibly made of a gortex-like fabric.

“We’re trying to see if we can move into that, to have at least one pod for next summer molded,” she said.

Building a lightweight pod that won’t harm the tree is the main challenge, said Adams.  She and architect Tye Farrow, have considered cantilevering the pods off of a rocky cliff that lines the property.

“I just know the weight is horrendous for what any tree would hold,” said Adams. “I’m a little bit more diligent on that because I grew up with those trees.”

Adams is also considering the addition of luxury tents. She said both concepts came largely out of an interest in increasing E’terra’s capacity without significantly increasing its footprint.

“There are half a million people in three months, going through Tobermory,” said Adams. “Tobermory’s got lots of motels and the world’s got lots of hotels, but I thought ‘how do we go to the next level of luxury?’”