Peter Bahouth appreciates the honor, but he would’ve liked to have had some warning.
On a recent Thursday, Bahouth’s phone started ringing and his email inbox filled up. As he discovered—secondhand—the rustic treehouse in his backyard in Buckhead had just been named the single most popular wish-listed location in Airbnb’s worldwide network of nearly two million rental properties.
Calls and requests came flooding in from folks eager to stay in the self-described “secluded intown treehouse,” which might seem like a good problem to have. Except that Bahouth’s backyard sanctuary is consistently booked solid months in advance—and it’s closed for the winter, meaning it won’t be available until mid-March.
“It was a complete surprise,” Bahouth says. “We never even got a heads-up from Airbnb.”
In fact, it took a close reading of the Airbnb press release for Bahouth to figure out exactly why he was being lauded. The standard used wasn’t the number of bookings or the percentage of five-star reviews—although Bahouth is quick to point out that his treehouse scores well in terms of customer satisfaction. Rather, it’s the location that shows up most often on Airbnb.com users’ “wish lists,” the rough equivalent of being “liked” on Facebook.
The celebrated treehouse, which has been widely written about and pictured online, is actually three rooms built of reclaimed construction material among a stand of poplars, connected by swinging rope bridges. A longtime nonprofit executive for Greenpeace USA, the Turner Foundation and the US Climate Action Network, Bahouth designed and built the airy retreat in his backyard 15 years ago. After he and his wife, Katie, were married in the treehouse in 2010, they began listing it on Airbnb, where it quickly attracted a following.
“About half the people who rent it are from the Atlanta area and book it for a special occasion,” he says. “But we’ve had people come from Detroit, New York, and even Montreal who said they came specifically for the treehouse.”
Bahouth, who now spends his time taking fine-art stereoscopic photographs, doesn’t plan to change his Airbnb set-up in an effort to cash in on the renewed attention. The treehouse currently is restricted to couples, with a two-night minimum. No kids. No dogs. No weddings.
Bahouth concedes that he has been known to make exceptions for military service personnel, friends, and people with a compelling sob story. But he’s firm on keeping the treehouse vacant until spring, when the leaves have returned to the woods behind his house.
“We want people to have a good experience,” he says.