10 Dream Homes from the last 100 years

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(Image credit: Sergio Pirrone)

10 dream homes from the last 100 years

Extraordinary Living looks at some of the most amazing homes in the world. It includes a Modernist desert hideaway and a camouflaged turf lodge.

Home should be a holy place where you feel safe and can relax after a long day. It’s also where we hang out with friends and, more and more, where we work or study. Since the beginning of the 20th century, new techniques and materials have given architects and brave clients all over the world fresh ways to make living spaces and ways of living more creative.

A new book called Houses: Extraordinary Living shows how our tastes, styles, and ways of thinking about home living have changed over time. It does this by showing a variety of creative homes that fully accept their surroundings, from a hidden house in a Swedish forest to a retreat in the California desert. With the right design, any project is possible, whether it’s levitating glass boxes, experimental prototypes, radically open-plan layouts, or homes that connect with their surroundings.

Graham House, Canada

Set on a sheer cliff, the Graham house descended the slope in four levels (Credit: Ezra Stoller/Esto, Courtesy F2 Architecture)

Arthur Erickson, a famous Canadian architect, built this west coast modernist house on a very steep site in West Vancouver with long-time partner Geoffrey Massey. The building on the rough cliff face was finished in 1963. It was made of hovering horizontal beams and glass that enclose the main living areas. It was a multi-story structure with four levels that went down the hill from the garage to the rocky bluff over the Pacific.

Each room had a door that led to a roof deck above the floor below, so that everyone could enjoy the beautiful views. Before he died, Erickson wrote, “The Graham house made me known as the architect you went to when you had a hard site.” Even though it was a famous house, the Graham house was torn down in 2007.

Desert House, United States

The concrete wall enclosure subverts Desert Modernism’s openness (Credit: Jim Jennings Architecture)

Jim Jennings, an architect, and Therese Bissell, a writer, took their time making their beautiful desert home. Even though they bought the land in 1999, it took them ten years to spend time in their Palm Springs retreat: Jennings told Architectural Digest, “When you’re your own client, you can be as picky as you want.””And you know that everything is going to be hard, even though it looks easy.”

Desert Modernism is known for its post-and-beam glass boxes. This space goes against that trend by enclosing the living area in a 2.4-meter wall of horizontal blocks that holds up a steel roof and two courtyards. The flat roof floats above the building, giving views of the palm trees, the San Jacinto Mountains, and the clear blue sky from inside. Overhangs provide critical shade.

Edgeland House, United States

The turf roof keeps the building warm in winter and cool in summer (Credit: Paul Bardagjy)

Bercy Chen Studio architects used a modern take on the Native American pit house as a model for Edgeland House. They dug 2 meters into the ground to try to fix up a brownfield site in Austin, Texas that had been damaged by industry.

The turf roof and sunken excavation, which were finished in 2012, give the house privacy from the street and keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The living and sleeping areas don’t link with a hallway on purpose. This is done so that the owners can spend more time outside.

House in Itsuura, Japan

House in Itsuura, Japan

This angled one-story house in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture sits on two naturally formed poles, which let the rest of the building be carved into the hill. Inside, the walls are made of wood from the area, and the outside has angled slats that control the temperature, let in light, and give privacy.

The structure’s longer wing has places to live, while the shorter wing has places to sleep. Architects’ Way of Life Koubou planted 60 trees to help the area grow back. As the wood around the house gets older, it’s hoped that the house will feel more connected to its natural settings.

Bakkaflöt 1, Iceland

Bakkaflöt dissolves into the landscape, leaving just the roof visible (Credit: Íris Ann)

Hogna Sigurðardóttir was the first woman in Iceland to professionally plan a building. She did this soon after graduating from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1960. A few years later, she would design what is thought to be one of the best buildings in the country: a simple modern turf hut for a family in a street south of Reykjavík.

In 1963, Sigurðardóttir promised the six-person family, “I will build you a nest.” She kept her word by adding three mounds to protect the low house from the hard Icelandic weather. The house and a lot of the furniture, like the sofa and the bathtub, are both made of open concrete using Brutalist methods. This makes the inside and outside of the house feel like they belong together.

The House on the Cliff, Spain

The zinc-clad roof has the appearance of scaly dragon skin (Credit: Jesús Granada)

A mostly buried house in Granada’s steep hillside was designed by Pablo Gil and Jaime Bartolomé. They called it “a contemporary Gaudíesque cave” in honor of Anton Gaudí, who is known as the most important Catalan Modernist builder. The two-story house, which was finished in 2015, stays at a steady 19.5C temperature by using the earth’s natural cooling.

The building has a curved double shell made of reinforced concrete on a metal frame. The handcrafted, rolling zinc tiles on the roof make it look like the skin of a dragon. The pool and cantilevering deck offer views of the Mediterranean Sea. “The metal roof creates a deliberate aesthetic ambiguity between the natural and the artificial, between the skin of a dragon set in the ground and the waves of the sea when seen from above,” the architects wrote.

Dragspel House, Sweden

The cabin can be adjusted to its environment depending on the weather (Credit: Christian Richters)

In Swedish, dragspel means “accordion.” This name comes from the folds of red cedarwood shingles on this addition to a cabin from the late 1800s that is on the shore of Lake Ovre Gla. The house’s organic shape fits in well with the Glaskogen nature reserve, and it was made to be as unobtrusive as possible, with the windows built into the structure’s skin.

Over time, the wood on the outside of the house will turn gray, making it look like it belongs in a rough, rocky forest. Another cool feature is that the front of the cabin can be extended to hang over a stream in the summer, with wide-open windows so you can hear the water. In the winter or on rainy days, it can be pulled back, adapting to its surroundings based on the time of year or the number of guests.

Till House, Chile

The roar of the sea is constant in this Chilean shelter (Credit: Sergio Pirrone)

This small weekend home for a couple was built into a deep shelf on the coast of Chile in Navidad. It is on a rock edge and faces the roaring Pacific Ocean on three sides. The open-plan terrace, which can’t be seen from the road, is a great place to relax with a view of the whole area. The rest of the room is used for sleeping and eating.

To give people privacy, shelving units separate the rooms, and the roof is one big open deck that can be reached by a path along the edge of the cliff. If that wasn’t enough to calm you down, there is also a cuba, which is a wooden bathtub with a fire in the water.

Kirsch Residence, United States

The concrete enclosure’s windows maximised solar gain (Credit: Errol Jay Kirsch Architects)

In the Illinois neighborhood of Oak Park, you might think that Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio would be the most interesting thing to see. That is, until you drive by this huge bunker, which was built by Errol J. Kirsch in 1982 and looks like something out of a science fiction movie.

The unusual geometric shape of the Kirsch residence, which is made of concrete, makes people feel safe. But that’s not all—the sharply pitched roofs, ziggurat shape, and slit windows were all meant to save energy by blocking temperature changes and letting in as much sunlight as possible.

Malator house, Wales

Inside the hill, an ellipse-shaped glass frontage opens to the sea (Credit: Architecture UK/Alamy)

The Malator House, or “Tellytubby house” as locals call it, is a two-bedroom vacation home built into a man-made hill with a view of the Pembrokeshire shore. It was originally an old military barracks that were turned into a home by Future Systems architects Jan Kaplický and Amanda Levete.

It was built in 1998 in the style of an Earth-house, and the grass on top of the wooden roof makes it almost impossible to see. There are different colored service pods inside the space that separate the bathroom and kitchen from the living room, which has a big sofa and a fireplace. An oval window that looks out to sea is the only sign that there is a house inside the hill.

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