Watershed was asked to design a treehouse retreat, nestled into a large tract of dense woods and wetlands overlooking Fish River. Our clients named their home Tara Jala, which means Living Waters.

The owners have a healthy respect for the waters of Fish River, and challenged us to create a fortified, resilient home, elevated above the highest recorded flood levels of the river, that still felt open and connected to the landscape.

The final design includes flexible office and craft rooms that can double as bedrooms for larger family gatherings, and a bunk room for grandchildren “camp.”

We wanted to push the definition of an open floor plan, so that even exterior walls dissolve. Every room enjoys views into the tree tops or to water. A wall of windows above the kitchen countertops folds back, so that the living room, kitchen, and porch become one large entertaining space. The master suite also connects to the outdoors through a screened seating area that admits breezes to both bedroom and bath.

Houses that are raised off the ground can feel like an island in the sky, but the generous porches connected to every living space offer easy outdoor living, and great natural ventilation in the spring and fall.

These characteristics may sound like luxuries, but they also contribute to the home’s resilience. The structure achieved FORTIFIED™ Gold certification. Natural ventilation, daylighting, and shading also increase passive survivability and comfort after a storm, in case of an extended power outage. In 2020 Hurricanes Sally and Zeta tested Tara Jala, and she stood strong, even as the river rose beneath her.


Project Type:  New Construction; Residential
Location:  Fairhope, AL
Role:  Architect