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Artists take nesting to a whole new level

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Families can commission custom nests. Click on a photo to go to a slideshow. (Photo credit: Jayson Fann)

Porky Hefer in a nest he designed.

Click on a photo to go to a slideshow. (Photo credit: Porky Hefer)

Take a trip through California's Big Sur and you might spot some odd nests.

They’re round, they’re made of tree branches and they’re perched up in the air. But these nests aren’t for the birds. They’re built by humans for humans.

Artists such as Jayson Fann of Big Sur, Calif., and Porky Hefer of Cape Town, South Africa, are redefining the term “nesting” by designing nests that act as an extension of a home. These nests are built to hold anywhere from one to 40 people, who use the spaces to gather and relax--a bit like a treehouse for adults. Some nests are even available for overnight camping. (Click here or on a photo to go to an extensive slideshow.)

“They are just chill places at the present,” Hefer said. “[The nest] is a place where you could disappear into nature and observe it. I think far too often we try to make things fit in with our lives rather than us considering alternatives.”

Porky Hefer’s nests come in a variety of materials including non-native, invasive "alien" trees, bark twigs, cane, leather, truck tires, plastic and felt. Visitors to the nests can climb inside and lounge around, enjoying the area where they’re built.

“I used to make standard designs that had no real relationship with where they were to hang, but rather, where they were made,” Hefer said. “I now go to each site and customize the design according to the tree it hangs in, and the views from it, and the beings that will use it.”

Depending on the materials he uses, Hefer said his nests cost anywhere from $2,000 to $17,000. His customers are generally in remote or farming locations.

Fann’s designs, dubbed Spirit Nests, are located throughout the U.S., including some at private homes. Most of them are in Big Sur. Two of his nests are available to experience at Big Sur resorts: the Post Ranch Inn and at the Treebones Resort.

His material of choice is locally harvested eucalyptus branches.

“In California, we have such a large quantity of eucalyptus,” he said. “I prefer it because it’s a hard, beautiful wood that lasts such a long time. Its natural spiraling pattern aids in the weaving process of the nests.”

Once Fann weaves eucalyptus branches into a natural nest shape, securing it with invisible screws and bolts, it is rolled onto a platform or lifted by a crane and placed onto a base secure enough to support up to 2,000 pounds of wet wood and people.

Fann said his nests vary in size and, depending on the scale, take anywhere from five to 10 days up to two to three months to construct, and cost anywhere from $4,000 to upwards of $60,000, not including the pieces he donates to philanthropic groups or to charity. (Click here or on a photo to go to an extensive slideshow.)

He’s even gone so far as to design little neighborhoods of nests.

“I’ve created a group of several nests to create a little nest village with bridges and walkways,” he said. “It’s a constellation of different pieces, if you will -- sort of like rearranging chess pieces.”

One of Fann’s Spirit Nests has been a particularly popular fixture at the Treebones Resort, which mainly offers accommodations in expansive tents called yurts. Donna Heckert, manager of guest relations and reservations at the resort, said the open nest is located on the beach overlooking the ocean. It's booked most of the time, and months in advance. (At the time of publication, it wasn't available until the fall -- and even then, only for a single day in September and two in October before more spots opened up in November.)

“People like the fact that it is unique and different. After all, how often can you say, ‘I slept in a nest’?” Heckert said.

For about $100 a night (two-night minimum), two adults can haul pillows and sleeping bags up to the Spirit Nest, which is equipped with a full-size futon mattress. Because the nest is on the beach, Heckert said, visitors should be prepared to retreat to a tent on the ground in the case of cold weather or rain.

It appears that those who have spent some time in the nests have spent it productively.

“I’ve received about five to six photos of children who have been conceived in one of the Spirit Nests,” Fann laughed. “It’s just magical. You can hear the sea lions and peek through the weaving of the nest to see the stars and the ocean.”

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.

Click here or on a photo to go to an extensive slideshow.

Interview with Porky Hefer (he discusses nests starting about 2 minutes and 15 seconds in):

Video of the Treebones Resort nest, shot by a visitor to the resort:

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