By Whitney Christy
Raising Cane’s founder Todd Graves built forts with his childhood friends, but none of them came close to the towering structure in his present-day backyard.
Over the course of a month, the Graves have seen a magical place come to life in their own backyard – a fantasy inspired by Johann David Wyss’s 1812 classic novel, The Swiss Family Robinson. The Graves’ family treehouse was revealed on Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters last Friday night.
“We are huge fans of [designer and host] Pete Nelson and of Treehouse Masters. So when we decided to move forward, we wanted the best and Pete is definitely the best!” Graves explained.
This treehouse was the show’s and Nelson’s first treehouse in Louisiana, as well as the largest. For this reason, the episode is titled “Triple Decker Record Setter.”
“When Todd and Gwen asked me to build this treehouse, I didn’t know what to expect…but it quickly became our hardest build yet,” said Nelson. “Our guys were inspired by Louisiana, and I hope Todd and Gwen love this treehouse and much as I do.”
The final design cost over $200,000 — equivalent to about 2,223 orders of Raising Cane’s largest tailgating box, which is almost 225,000 chicken fingers. The tri-level treetop getaway is constructed around a massive oak, weighing at over 75,000 pounds and at 1,200 square feet, and was finished in less than a month just two weeks before the show’s airdate. Nelson claims this to be his “most ambitious design ever.”
And of course, the Washington-based designer had to have a taste of the famous Cane’s fare.
“Best chicken sauce ever!” Nelson said. “It’s so hot and tasty! All of a sudden I was addicted and I was going to Raising Cane’s all the time. [Todd] better get a store in Seattle soon.”
The treehouse was composed completely of sturdy yellow wood and aged Louisiana cypress. From the ground begins a staircase that leads to a large sunset deck with a fireplace that converts into an outdoor grill and patio seating.
From the sunset deck is the entrance to a 12×8 foot living area that includes a sectional sofa, a 3×9 foot skylight looking into the tree branches, half bathroom, microwave, sink, fridge, bar with four cypress stools, and a flat-screen TV. Paintings of Cane II and Roux (Raising Cane’s friendly yellow lab mascots) by the Graves’ daughter, 12-year-old Sophia, are hung throughout the area to give the treehouse a personal touch.
“We wanted a unique space with a southern flair where we could spend time with our family and enjoy each other up in the trees,” said Graves. “ We didn’t set out for it to be any certain size. We worked with Pete on how we would use the space and it evolved.”
Nelson was very fond of Raising Cane’s and decided to incorporate some of the key aspects of it into the final design. The first Cane’s restaurant had a skylight and disco balls are found throughout as well. This inspired the skylights on the first and second level. Two disco balls are adorned in the treehouse – one on the second level’s ceiling and another hangs from the bridge’s platform above a swinging bench.
From the first level one can travel across a 65-foot long Star Wars Ewok Village inspired swaying foot bridge that leads to another patio deck and sitting area, or follow a ladder leading up to an open hatch that invites you to the second living quarter.
The highest level, the crow’s nest, is over 35 feet high and in it one can see past the Grave’s home, LSU’s lake, and apartments.
“The bridge and the sunset deck are my two favorite features. Pete thought of everything,” Todd mentioned.
The family seemed to enjoy the experience with Nelson and his team and couldn’t be happier to share the finished project with friends, family, and the community.
“Having seen the show so much, I was looking forward to the experience but it was better than I imagined,” said Graves. “We will make so many memories in the treehouse. We really enjoyed having Pete and his team here and they loved being in Baton Rouge. They loved the food, the people and the culture. From enjoying the Super Bowl at Walk-On’s to dinner at Ruffino’s, they had a great time here.”
Nelson and his team were sad to leave Baton Rouge — especially the food — but are happy to know that the treehouse has been left in good hands.
“Seeing the warmth of a community that has a zest for fun, and having the love and support for one another,” Nelson said. “That’s what drives Todd and Gwen’s success, business, and in life – keeping the good times rolling. Realizing that prosperity is a byproduct of being surrounded by people that love and care about you.”
Detailed custom designs by Pete can be purchased for $125 online, for those interested in having a treehouse for your own family (at a much smaller scale).