TreeHouse Annual favors substance over facts and figures

Annual reports—those often-glossy Big Co. compendiums filled with financial facts and figures, tell-alls of company business activities, and liberal doses of Co.-centric illustrations, infographics, and photographs—are designed largely as retention tools for current shareholders while encouraging potential investors to climb on board.  So when TreeHouse, a privately-held, Austin, Texas-based home improvement retailer had published their first TreeHouse Annual, our curiosity was piqued.

The TreeHouse Annual 2015.

The TreeHouse Annual 2015.

Now TreeHouse, a positive outlier in the realm of home improvement retail stores, describes themselves as “a home design and performance center focused on sustainability, health, and top quality.” Alright, we have visited them and get that. But why the Annual?

That burning question was answered on page 3 of the Annual by the affable Jason Ballard, president and co-founder of TreeHouse via, well, posing another question. Asks Ballard in his welcoming note: “Is it possible for us to build and maintain our shelters without causing irreparable harm to the world, its creatures, and ourselves? We could give all sorts of facts, figures, and statistics about why this is such an important question, but the truth is that we don’t get out of bed in the morning because of stats . . .”

All the more evidence this is not your father’s Annual.

In sharp contrast to that Big Co. annual, the TreeHouse take on relaying the company’s story prefers to show rather than tell through compelling original editorial and creative elements, and that approach makes this 68-page softbound book feel and read much more like a magazine than a report. And most definitely not a kin of the glossy catalog, though they managed to work in a 4-page section in the center of the book entitled “Tech Roundup,” a nice collection of smart-home tech products rendered in watercolor illustrations.

TreeHouse tooled up to produce its first Annual with help from a trio of editorial and creative professionals.

TreeHouse tooled up to produce its first Annual with help from a trio of editorial and creative professionals.

A total of 11 other articles grace this complimentary book, covering a broad-brush swath of topics as supporting cast members in the TreeHouse mantra to support long-term health, sustainability, environmental stewardship, and their community. These range from behind-the-scenes stories of relevant architects, builders, designers, and suppliers; to rainwater harvesting, recipes, and restauranteurs; and as far-flung as National Geographic-worthy photo galleries of the Texas landscape (from the cameras of photographer Jody Horton). In addition to Horton, TreeHouse also teamed up with journalist Logan Ward and graphic designer Blair Richardson to help craft the annual.

Among some of the more notable editorial bits:

  • The saga of triathlete-and-bicycle-shop-owner-turned-healthy-home-builder Adam Reiser, where living in an older, mold-infested house sickened and nearly killed him. That watershed moment led to the demolition of the old structure, carefully-planned construction of an air-quality centric replacement home, and the impetus to launch launch building company Shelter.
  • Small-house design insights from Hatch Works partners Adam Talianchich and Ashley Menger, who brought their design-build expertise together to make these smaller places live bigger.
  • A backgrounder and timeline around the people and process behind the start-up of the Austin Energy Green Building program in 1991, a nationally recognized residential building rating system that directly led to the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council and their Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program.

So, we think it’s worth a read if you are contemplating a minor or major remodel, planning to build a healthy and zero net energy home from the ground up, or just want to get away from the facts and figures of the typical annual report and consume something entirely different.  And you may find yourself compelled, as were we, to try the Grilled Kale Salad recipe on page 26. It was delicious.

Where to get this book:

Visit TreeHouse at their flagship store in Austin, Texas


Visit photographer Jody Horton’s Tumblr page

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Tom Kolnowski
About Tom Kolnowski 160 Articles
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC and Digitized House Magazine, and has enjoyed a career in hi-tech, publishing, marketing, and creative roles—including 10 years as head of global content publishing at a leading hi-tech firm. He lives and works in Austin, Texas.