How does one accommodate a growing family and a much-needed home extension without going to the trouble of getting neighbors’ permission? AThe architects at EM2N found their answer underground. Haus Gross in Greifensee, Switzerland, looks like a typical house by all accounts. But this modern and inventive design proves that looks can be deceiving. This understated, low-profile house holds a buried treasure in the form of an underground living space. The 721-sq.-ft. sub-grade home addition includes two sunken open-air courtyards leading into the three children’s bedrooms, a bathroom and a state-of-the-art home theater for private film screenings. A two-storey glazed façade lets light flood every corner, above ground and below. And while you’d think this design would mean a lot of stair climbing, the architects let their fun side out to play in this funky design, incorporating a slide to take the kids from the upper ground level down the slope and to the lower deck, which leads inside. EM2N.
And the Dutch Design Award for “Best Private Interior Design” goes to Villa 1, the architectural dichotomy designed by Powerhouse Company and completed in 2007. This modern design is sleek, polish, and commands attention among its wooded surroundings in Arnhem, the Netherlands. The architects did a 50/50 number of this futuristic design, with 240m2 of the home’s volume above ground, and the other 240m2 nestled below grade. Like its physical placement, the upper portion of the house is light, boasting a glass-box enclosure that’s bathed in bright, natural light. The lower level of the home takes on what the architects call a “medieval” persona where the living areas are cave-like – “carved out of a mass.” Interiors are finishes with barely-there glass, mirrors and ultra-polished woods that are the picture of perfection as curved walls and closets, and pristine white walls and floors. Powerhouse Company.
Seattle’s Pb Elemental Architecture is putting an organic notch on the city’s concrete skyline. The Dang Residence is a two-storey private wooden house of 3,600 sq. ft., clad in naturally beautiful cedar. Interiors are divided into a series of modern loft-style living spaces, including three bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a media room and a study. The upper and lower levels are connected by a sky-lit staircase that allows the spill of natural light into the whole of the home. Throughout the house, thoughtfully placed skylights and windows light up corners and crannies, and unique architectural details like art niches. Two balconies and an intimate courtyard at the center of this design embrace outdoor living. Pb Elemental Architecture.
Dressed to the nines is nature’s finest, this contemporary wood home by Pb Elemental Architecture stands tall among its Seattle surroundings. The exotic Norman Residence is a sleek-looking single-family home clad in three main materials – cedar, glass and hardipanel – which form this natural architectural wonder of 2,647 sq. ft. This modern design occupies a small footprint, but its strong vertical presence makes a bold statement. Thoughtfully placed windows break up the woody facade while flooding interiors with natural light. Interiors, like the home’s exterior, are finished in rich and refined woods. Walls are minimal. A central staircase is the home’s centerpiece awash with warm sunlight. Three bedrooms, a master suite and a “lower-level accessory dwelling” complete this spectacular home design. Pb Elemental Architecture.
You know what they say about people who live in glass houses – those fortunate folks get the best view. In the case of this magnificent, modern glass house by London-based architects Eldridge Smerin, the view is a peaceful one of the historic Victorian-era Highgate Cemetery in London, UK. Notable of this unique, contemporary design is the home’s two contrasting faced. The glazed facade of the house facing towards the cemetery allows light to spill into every corner inside; while the street side of the home boasts a combination black granite, glass and steel. The design is also distinctive for the architect’s innovative incorporation of the outdoors into indoor spaces, the expansive windows being the most obvious. As one passes through the house, the ceiling opens up to reveal an open sky above the top-floor kitchen which is covered with a sliding glass skylight. Below, in the home’s four storeys, spacious living rooms, bedrooms, and gracious entertaining areas are the mark of a truly grand home. The outdoors make their way in through multiple balconies. Individual interior living areas are united through the glass floors, wall panels and frameless doors. Eldridge Smerin
For curiosities and architectural oddities, the aptly names Curiosity Inc. delivers with some unique modern residential designs, like C-2 House in Yamanashi, Japan. This cool house design is characteristic for its contemporary facade which comes to a peak – literally and figuratively – with a unique shape. The home’s exterior carries a retro quality, clad in dark-stained cedar shakes and bright-white slabs, while interiors are cleanly contemporary with a minimalist feel that follows the sharp angles of a distinctive roofline. The home’s unconventional entrance welcomes you into an open hallway that leads through the house and out the opposite end. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring you back to nature, revealing a splendid view of earth and trees. Curiosity Inc.
It’s something you might expect to see in a lakeside city in the south of Chile. The exotic, unyielding essence of this modern home by Beals Architects boasts two competing volumes, parallel in both position and presence, and working their way through the immediate forest, Lake Rupanco and an endless sky. With an exterior of pine treated with a black sealer, this modern design pays tribute to the grandeur of the trees that surround it. Picture windows neatly frame the breathtaking views while flooding interiors with soft sunlight. But the home’s overall rustic character is complemented by the fine, contemporary details. Rich, untreated, warmly lit manio and ulmu wood is a natural highlight of interiors, covering the floors, walls and ceilings; flowing from the entrance, through the kitchen, hallways, a lounge, the dining room and office, and full circle back, outside to the terrace. A modern floating staircase leads upstairs, where at the rear of each volume is a bedroom, connected to its counterpart via a glassed-in hallway. Following the sloping landscape, the home narrows and ends each volume with an observatory open to the magnificent view. Beals Architects
via Plataforma Arquitectura
When architect Nils Finne of Seattle-based Finne Architects conceived this contemporary residential design, he had an artful vision of wood and windows intermingling with nature in the Seattle suburb of Redmond. The delicate design offers intricacies imagined impossible in large-scale construction. But this 4,225-sq.-ft. luxury wooden house proves those theories wrong. Both inside and out, this modern home’s meticulous woodwork is simply spectacular, becoming a focal motif of the overall design. "There isn't a whole lot of drywall in this place. Nature's my artwork," owner Julie Burnett told The Seattle Times. Windows appear at every turn, flooding the home with natural light. “During the day I don't have to turn on the lights, even in winter,” said Burnett. From the grid-patterned exposed ceiling beams to the sleek and polished floors; throughout bedrooms, 3.5 baths, the sprawling 1,100-sq.-ft. kitchen and all living spaces, wood in the king of this castle. Finne Architects
via The Seattle Times. Images courtesy of Finne Architects.
Touted as the UK first net-zero carbon house to meet the highest code for sustainable building, the Lighthouse by Potton was designed with thoughts toward a sustainable future. Almost a decade before zero-net carbon homes are code, this innovative eco-friendly design is meant to “encourage a way of living that is inherently ‘light’ on the world’s resources whilst combining the practicalities of today’s average homeowner,” according to Potton. From the ground up, all building methods and materials have been thoughtfully chosen to maximize the eco-friendly factor. The house itself sits on screw piled foundations, raising it off the ground to minimize impact. The house is clad in a rapid-growth chestnut wood cladding, with a sloping 40-degree roof that’s topped by a glass device designed to “catch” wind for passive cooling and ventilation and off-the-grid lighting. The large windows are triple glazed to reduce heat loss and gain, and the home features biomass boiler, photovoltaics and rainwater recycling. That said, the Lighthouse looks very cool too. Potton.
Leave it to Seattle-based Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects to add some contemporary class to a country cabin. Chicken Point Cabin is a house on a lake in northern Idaho which the architects describe as “a little box with a big window that opens to the surrounding landscape.” The facade of the house is an expansive 30-by-20-ft. window, which winds open with a rustic hand crank – a quirky touch. Constructed of concrete, steel and plywood, are unfinished to lend the cabin an authentic feel. Inside, knotty woods and gritty concrete floors are complemented by bare brick walls and a repurposed pipe-turned-fireplace at the hub of the home. The floor plan is designed around the awe-inspiring window, providing each room a piece of this spectacular view. Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects.
Clean, green and ultra-contemporary, this cool house by the architects at Nolaster conceals something quite spectacular beneath its grassy cap. Located in the city of Laredo along the northern coast of Spain, this house isn’t so easy to spot from above. A bird’s-eye view is of a site where grass climbs to the edge of an imposing cliff, with the waters crashing below. But a closer look reveals an innovative home designed into this rocky landscape. This modern single-storey home sits perched on stilts, with a covered outdoor living area tucked beneath the house. The home’s facade is designed for function, enclosed in a durable cladding to withstand the strong northern winds off the Bay of Biscay. Inside, you can almost feel the spray of the waves as you sit at the storefront-style windows and take in the view. A stairway leads up to the lush rooftop overlooking the beach below. Nolaster
A more luxury rural retreat there could not be, thanks to the opulent creativity of the architects at Brininstool + Lynch. The contemporary Coffou cottage on Lake Michigan is the dream retreat for a Chicago family looking to trade the hustle and bustle for the trees, the water and the unobstructed views. Essentially a custom cottage – but so much more than just a cottage in its traditional sense – this magnificent, modern retreat blends seamlessly with surrounding nature. Concealed by a wooded rain screen and clad in large expanses of glass, the three-bedroom house has a certain quietness; an understated quality about it that disappears as soon as you cross the threshold. A charming country exterior gives way to chic, contemporary interiors that continue to make great use of natural materials. The open-concept kitchen, living and dining room and porch frame the forest views. In fact, Brininstool + Lynch have thoughtfully planned every room to underline the pristine views. But behind the beauty there is a purpose. These floor-to-ceiling windows absorb the sun to passively heat the home during the cold months of the year. Radiant-heat concrete flooring also does its part. Brininstool + Lynch.
The New York Times reported on a unique house design with the grace of a bird and the innovation of a modern mind. Forward-thinking architect Tom Kundig, of Seattle-based firm Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen, brings a beautiful sense of motion to this awesome residential design, set in the Southern California landscape with a view of the ocean. An aerial perspective of this home reveals a bird-like silhouette, with the upswept wings of the roof inclined for flight, and a 100-ft. long passage leading to the front door concealed beneath the bird’s tail – the home’s roof. Kundig wanted the home to resemble “a small building that landed lightly on the landscape,” according to The Times. Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen
photo credit: Tim Bies
The designers at San Francisco-based Feldman Architecture were thinking outside the open box in this contemporary urban house design. Tucked within a dense downtown, the Open Box 2 House in San Francisco embraces cool northern modernity, while paying tribute to its hot California roots with a unique open-roof design. Topping this sophisticated structure, the contemporary rooftop deck features a removable roof for sun-soaked afternoons. Inside, the two storeys of living space are flooded with natural light and modern touches at every turn. “With eco-friendly principles guiding the design direction, elements that once appeared dark and unwelcoming were given a glamorous new beginning with the introduction of translucent glass kitchen tiles, white oak plank floors and fold-away ground-level doors,” according to Feldman Architecture.
This modern house by Julien De Smedt Architects was designed for the Ordos 100 project in Inner Mongolia, China. One of 100 participating designs, Big Brother house is a 1,000-sq.-meter structure where you can be seen at any place, at any time, hence its name. In terms of interior environment, this house functions like an igloo, with a cooler exterior layer insulating the interior. In terms of layout, Big Brother House boasts a central atrium, surrounded by a series of stacked, open-ended boxes that make up the individual living areas. At the very top, a lone cube houses the master bedroom. The open boxes and their voids allow for natural ventilation, not to mention a curiously contemporary concept for the future of residential design. Julien De Smedt Architects