A few distinctive features include the exterior projection screen mounted to posts 20 feet off the ground, a full wet bar and a screen porch. A ladder leads to the second-story loft, where a queen bed provides a place for Dunn to spend the night. “I thought my bed inside was comfortable, but this one is even better,” he says. Dunn’s favorite feature is the high deck outside the second story, which has a railing lined with heavy-duty netting for an extra safety precaution.
As a kid, Plymouth resident Matt Dunn dreamed of having a treehouse. He was lucky—his dad helped him build one. “He’s not Bob Villa, but he’s handy,” Dunn says. Dunn’s childhood treehouse couldn’t rival the one he built this year, though.
A self-described “big kid” at 35, Dunn seized onto his passions early in life and never let go. A magician since age 6, he now makes his living performing magic shows and running his haunted attraction, Scream Town, in Chaska.
From the outside, he kept the treehouse’s look as natural as possible to blend into the woods, using a paint treatment to make the siding look like bark and putting moss on the roof. For Dunn, the treehouse is all about ambiance. “This to me is a totally different feel and atmosphere. You can feel it moving.” It’s true—sitting in the treehouse on a breezy day, the oak trees to which it’s anchored creak and sway, and branches rattle against the exterior.
The atmosphere inside the treehouse is an Addams Family-cigar lounge mashup. Dunn was inspired by Hollywood’s Magic Castle, a private club housed in a mansion where members can only gain access by using a secret phrase to open a hidden passage. Wood-paneled walls, a wet bar in the corner and leather furniture set off by lots of taxidermy lend the luxe retreat a dusky air. A coyote snarls menacingly toward the entrance, a Muskie hangs like a trophy on the wall, and a zebra head is carefully mounted at eye level. Each detail adds to the clubhouse mood Dunn created piece by piece.
“I’m kind of a thrifty guy, and a big Craigslist monkey. I’m the first person to grab things people are getting rid of,” Dunn says, pointing out pieces that are hand-me-downs from his sister. Most of the taxidermy came from Craigslist, as did the spiral staircase that leads up to the entrance.
The treehouse planning started with Google and Pinterest. “There’s some just crazy stuff out there, crazy treehouses,” Dunn says. The look of the treehouse combined his favorite ideas. The building process mainly happened between June and November 2016, and finished up this spring.
Dunn did the bulk of the building on his own, sometimes bringing in a friend for an odd two-man job. He started with the deck and then built up, climbing as he went. “Layer by layer, like a cake,” he says.
The treehouse combines several of his passions—it gave him a blank slate to create a unique setting, a place to come up with new magic tricks and practice them and a space for brainstorming Scream Town ideas. Dunn mounted a projection screen outside the screened porch, and watches horror movies there for inspiration. He’s also hosted a wine and cheese party for neighbors, held a board meeting for Meals on Wheels, and brought in friends for tours and visits.
One of these friends is Steve Dunbar, who has known Dunn since preschool. Dunbar says it makes perfect sense that Dunn built a treehouse. “It would have been surprising from anybody else,” he says. “He’s probably the most creative person I’ve ever met. He lives out his passion, and he did that with the treehouse, as well.” Dunbar says that even as a little kid, Dunn was a natural magician. “You knew if you were going to hang out with Matt, you were going to see a new trick.”
Dunn’s childhood was when his current passions—namely magic, Halloween and creating atmospheres and settings—developed and began to flourish. He points to a strong influence in his formative years from Marge and Fred Nordstrom, friends of his grandparents who lived in his neighborhood.
“They and their son were such creative people, and they were always like, ‘Let’s go build a treehouse, let’s go build forts, let’s get outside, let’s play music.’ I think having great neighbors like that totally influenced me to get creative. The other day I was taking somebody on a tour of my house, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve turned into Marge Nordstrom.’ When we went down to their retirement home in Florida, she had a whole printed-up tour, and she had decorated different rooms with different themes. That’s kind of what I did. So as I was giving the tour I thought, that’s where it probably came from.”
What’s next for Dunn? A Meals on Wheels fundraiser. Last year, he created a large elf village Christmas display in his front yard, visible from the road. Community businesses participated by sponsoring elves, and the venture raised $3,000 for Meals on Wheels. Dunn plans to add to the display with 14 window figures he bought when Macy’s closed. Businesses interested in sponsoring an elf should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, he says.