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OS Cribs: The Treehouse

Like most student housing in State College, this place looks rather inauspicious on the outside. Some beige paneling and a porch that has seen better days greet you as you approach the Prospect Avenue home of Charlie and Dave. The duo occupy the back portion of the duplex. If it looks rather unassuming, that’s because it is. Just wait until you get inside (if you can find the entrance).

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It’s well-kept, relative to pretty much any other house in the area. However, the front of the house is more or less a façade for them. To get to their side, you walk around back, through a patch of dirt and grass and into a backyard with what is generously a 25-degree slope leading to another road. There’s a cooler and a fire pit and a bike that Charlie recently trash picked. “I was gonna see what repairs it needed, but it turns out it was a perfectly good bike.” A small light glows, beckoning us inside. I really don’t know if it turns off or not.

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“We had an Australia Day party, and the snow started falling right at the beginning,” Charlie starts as we approach the rather steep incline and patchwork turf that make up the backyard. “By the end of it, there was like a foot of snow. So some of our friends built a snowboard ramp out of snow, and one guy lost his keys. He didn’t find them until like three months later when the snow melted.”

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The apartment is what your local realtor would call an “efficient” downstairs. The living room and kitchen combine into one open living space. When you walk inside the fridge is to your right, and the TV is directly in front of you. “Make sure you get a picture of my prized artwork” Charlie quips, gesturing to the piece he bought when sand surfing in Nicaragua this winter. The house smells like Penn Kebab and there are some open beers on the table as Keigo, a friend and DJ who often performs while Charlie bartends at Chrome Liquor Lounge, plays a mix. Behind the TV, a cutout of an adolescent Charlie peaks over the television. It is so college in the best way.

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There’s not really a table, per se. The top of an old marble one sits on the floor. Often adorned with a new Hookah rig Keigo is very proud of, the feng shui of the whole thing is rather undeniable. There isn’t much space in the house in terms of square footage, so Charlie and Dave (who was away at the time), like their friends Eddie, Eric, and Gonzalo before them, have adopted a vertical lifestyle. “We call it the Treehouse,” and it certainly has that vibe. Building a rock climbing wall helps with that.

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“Lopes built it in two shifts while I was at work. I wanted to help him build it, but he just got really into it,” Charlie explained. An avid outdoorsman, Charlie will abandon the world of deep house and mixed drinks for a more rugged calling, as he moves to Boulder, Colorado to fight wildfires and finish his degree. The landing pads, scuff marks, and climbing shoes prove that this certainly isn’t just an art piece, but a functional part of the apartment.

A flat wall for more basic climbs gives way to a 45-degree slope that I could not fathom having the upper body or forearm strength to climb, but Keigo makes it all look rather simple. Plus, he can always use the kitchen counter for extra support. The wood is decorated with art of all forms, from self-portraits to general doodles. “Lopes found that neon green baby’s head online and bought it. He was super stoked about it.”

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The wall’s angled part is mounted on the backside of the steep, winding staircase that gives the Treehouse its most obvious vertical challenge. When there’s no room on the ground, go up. Dangling from the rock wall is a cat toy, as Slim enters the frame. “He has every quality you’d want in a good dog, but in a cat” Charlie brags, before explaining that the feline will go home with his mom when he moves to Boulder. Slim has the run of the place for the most part, and has a favorite spot on the stairs that lead to the attic.

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After climbing the staircase, Charlie takes us past his and Dave’s rooms, both with lofted beds. Charlie chooses to sleep below the loft, Dave on top. Having two beds five feet in the air is just about the most straightforward thing about the place. If you climb through the window you’ll reach the balcony entrance, which both sides of the house have shared access to. Recently the roommates mounted a hammock outside.

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Limited space be damned, the residents of the Treehouse have gotten creative with their area. The result is one of the most unique setups you’ll find in an apartment anywhere. Good people, good location, and a rock climbing wall. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the fruits what a creative mind, some labor, and about a hundred bucks of supplies from Home Depot can create you. If it seems like home just from pictures, it feels like it too.  And hey, if you’re still looking, Dave needs a roommate next year.

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