When Kara Lucas was little, she kept busy like most kids building forts and playing pretend. But she didn’t have to use her imagination to dream up a magical place in rural Mississippi.
“Even as young as 4…we were just amazed at this tree house,” Kara recalls. “It was, you know, so big and secluded. This was the ultimate place to come and play.”
With no construction or architecture background, Kara’s great-uncle Johnny Knight built the 1,200-square-foot marvel in 1971. With a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, it wasn’t just a backyard escape. It was his home — an artist’s residence in the trees.
“I think for him it was more [about] being here and being part of nature,” Kara says. Johnny designed the tree house to have eight sides and big windows so you could see in all directions. He used skylights to bring in as much natural light as possible.
Some say the tree house feels like a castle with a moat, perched on a hill surrounded by a creek. Others say it’s like being in Neverland — a tree with a smiling face, a jolly garden gnome and a floating staircase welcome you to a world where you can always be a kid.
Kara’s mom, Gloria, has fond memories watching Johnny’s vision take shape.
“When you walk in, it’s almost like an immediate peace,” she says. “It just feels so quiet and comfortable.”
When Johnny passed away in 2003, the Lucas family thought their memories would be just that — something to remember.
“It was really scary thinking that we might not be a part of this house again,” Gloria recalls.
Luckily, the house sold to a family friend.
“Of course we were sad about the sale of the house, but the previous owner, who was an artist herself, would always make us feel very welcome,” Gloria explains. “We could come out anytime we wanted to and we still felt a part of the house.”
The owner not only welcomed the Lucas family into her new home — she enhanced it. From blowing out the kitchen to adding a bird’s nest and a chandelier, she made the rustic tree house an enchanted retreat.
By this time, Kara no longer lived in Mendenhall, Mississippi. But the farther she moved, the more she missed the tree house.
“I live in a loft apartment in downtown Los Angeles,” she says. “There is constant noise. I hear police sirens, I hear firetrucks and I hear traffic. … I think the balance of that is having something like this [tree]house, where there’s none of that.”
Last summer while at work, Kara checked her Facebook page on a whim. A childhood friend had shared a Zillow tree house listing in Mendenhall.
“When my meeting was over, I had gone home and texted my family members on this group text that we have and said, ‘Does anyone know that Johnny’s house [is] for sale?’ Immediately everyone responded back — I mean, our phones just blew up. Within about a half hour, my brother responded back and said, ‘I want it.'”
By 10 that night, Gloria had signed the contract.
“If they wanted this tree house, I wanted them to have this tree house,” she says.
While the space is small, she’s never regretted her decision to keep it in the family.
“My advice for people wanting to live in a tree house is just go for it,” she says. “You know, if you have a dream, unless you go for it, it never happens.”
“At the end of the day,” she concludes, “home means to me having all my family here.”