If you’ve ever wanted to make your very own hobbit hole or construct a life-sized Lego house, you’ll be inspired by these unusual homes. In this collection, I’ve included only real homes that were actually built, not ones created using Photoshop, even though there are some impressive Photoshop designs out there (like the slanted, gravity-defying houses in San Francisco) found on the internet. I’ve organized the collection into four categories:
- Homes Inspired by Nature
- Modern Architecture
- Houses Made from Reused Materials
- Unusual Architecture (you might wonder what they were thinking)
The architects behind these houses are incredibly creative and clever with their ideas. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did!
Hằng Nga Guesthouse, Dalat, Vietnam
This unique guesthouse was originally designed by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga and is locally known as the “Dalat Crazy House.” It somewhat looks like a massive tree. The house features 10 themed guest rooms and is open to tourists. It’s filled with lots of hidden spots, small corners, twists, turns, bridges, hallways, and staircases. It’s promoted as a fairytale-themed house surrounded by sculptures and gardens. All the furniture inside had to be specially crafted to fit the organic shape of the interior.
Monsanto Houses, Monsanto, Portugal
The village of Monsanto in Portugal has many large and massive granite boulders. That’s why the residents chose to build their houses around, between, and even under these boulders a long time ago. The boulders serve as the walls, floors, and even the roofs of the stone cottages. In some cases, they’ve fitted doors into the boulders. Monsanto has remained unchanged for hundreds of years and has been designated as a heritage site by the Portuguese government. It’s like a living museum of these prehistoric-style houses, and people still live in them today.
Dar al Hajar, Wadi Dhahr Valley, Yemen
This unique rock house was built by Imam Yahya in the 1930s as a summer retreat. It’s now open to tourists and offers stunning views. Known as “Imam’s Rock Palace,” this five-story building showcases Yemeni architecture. It even has a system to cool water in clay jars. Originally, Dar al Hajar was constructed on top of an existing building on a rock and has become an iconic structure in Yemen.
Eliphante Art House, Cornville, Arizona USA
Michael Kahn, an artist, and his wife Leda Livant spent 28 years building this house, using materials like driftwood, rocks, and discarded building materials. The Eliphante Art House is known for its handcrafted and sculptural design and was named for its unique entrance. Inside, you’ll find an underground artist’s retreat with intricate wood, tile, and stone mosaics, along with organic shapes and curves. Light filters in through specially crafted windows and light holes. Visitors can tour the house by appointment.
Cappadocia Rock Houses, Central Anatolia, Turkey
Cappadocia Rock Houses, Central Anatolia, Turkey Cappadocia is famous for its cave-like rock houses, mansions, and monasteries. People in this region carved houses and tunnels into soft rock formations created by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The wind and rain eroded the ash into unique shapes like cones, mushrooms, pillars, and chimneys, some as tall as 40 meters. Residents built an underground network of catacombs, leading to towns with buildings up to 8 stories high beneath the ground. Some people still live in these rock homes, and tourists can stay in rock hotels and take hot air balloon rides over the Göreme Valley.
Flintstones-Inspired Home, Malibu, USA
Flintstones-Inspired Home, Malibu, USA This single-story house in Malibu was built by TV legend Dick Clark, inspired by the classic 1960s Flintstones cartoon. The home’s carved and cave-like interior resembles Fred and Wilma’s rocky dwelling. It’s situated on 23 acres and offers views of Serrano Valley, the Boney Mountains, the Channel Islands, and the Pacific Ocean. It’s currently for sale at $3.5 million.
Icelandic Turf Houses, Iceland
Icelandic Turf Houses, Iceland These traditional Icelandic houses date back to Viking times and were constructed due to the challenging climate and limited building materials. They have a foundation of flat stones, a wooden frame, and layers of turf for insulation. In the past, communal toilets were separate from the houses, but indoor lavatories were developed for safety during harsh weather.
The Ancient Cliff House, Guyaju, China
The Ancient Cliff House, Guyaju, China In the Tang Dynasty, more than 110 rooms were carved into a cliff about 92 kilometres northwest of Beijing, and the Xiyi people lived in them. The Guyaju Caves are the largest cliff residences found in China, known as “the biggest maze of China.” Stone steps and ladders connected different levels, and they contained stone hearths, wardrobes, beds, and mangers. The highest level had a two-story stone house, possibly for the tribe’s leader.
Jayson Fann Spirit Nest Homes, California, USA
Jayson Fann Spirit Nest Homes, California, USA These nest homes are used as forest getaways or beach homes in California. Created by artist Jayson Fann, they’re made by twining eucalyptus branches together to create sturdy, small sleeping or relaxing spaces. You can order a customised nest from Jayson on his website. They are strong enough to accommodate up to 8 people and often require a ladder to enter. The nest’s floor has a woven mat for added comfort.
Beehive Houses, Syria, Iran
Beehive Houses, Syria, Iran Built from mud, dirt, straw, and stones, these beehive houses have been around since about 3,700 BC. They can be found in rural farming communities, deserts, and cities. Each beehive has an oculus hole at the top to let in light and release hot air. Their conical shape keeps the interior dry during rain. Thanks to thick walls, they stay cool inside and are still used today as homes and storage barns.
modern architecture examples:
Keret House, Warsaw, Poland Keret House
Keret House, Warsaw, Poland Keret House, known as the world’s narrowest house, is a unique building located in the centre of Warsaw, Poland. Designed by Polish architect Jakub Szczesny, it’s only 122 centimetres wide and is squeezed between two other buildings. The house serves as a temporary home for travelling writers, as it’s too small for long stays. It’s supported by stilts and narrows down to just 72 centimetres at its narrowest point. This architectural marvel has become an icon in Warsaw and a tourist attraction.
Kvivik Igloos, Faroe Islands, Denmark
Kvivik Igloos, Faroe Islands, Denmark Inspired by the Icelandic turf house tradition, the Kvivik Igloos feature turf roofs for insulation and are heated by wood stoves. Two igloos were built near the town of Kvivik, offering temporary and unique accommodations for tourists in a panoramic setting between mountains and the bay. These “micro houses” have a kitchen, lounge area, and a loft with a double bed. The unconventional geometric design draws visitors year-round.
The Mobile Aquatic Pod, Exbury, England
The Mobile Aquatic Pod, Exbury, England Initially an art installation experiment by Stephen Turner, the “Exbury Egg” became his home on the water. This ultra-minimal living space is towed by a boat to its location and designed to blend into the marshes over time. The pod consists of a one-room living space with basic amenities like a shower, hammock, and cooking devices. It has a removable dock for easy access and bobs on the tide, making it a unique floating home.
Element House, Star Axis, New Mexico, USA
Element House, Star Axis, New Mexico, USA The Element House, designed by MOS Architects, is a prefabricated, modular house that can be customised and re-customised as needed over time. The house’s components can be combined in a Fibonacci sequence to create different layouts and expand the space. Extra units can be added or removed to adapt to the homeowner’s needs. The house features chimney-like towers that bring in light and ventilation and is built with a strong environmental focus. The first prototype is nearing completion in Mexico.
Villa Vals, Therme Vals, Switzerland Villa Val
Villa Vals, Therme Vals, Switzerland Villa Vals is built into a hillside to harmonise with its natural surroundings and offer unobstructed views of the Alpine scenery. To reach the front door, visitors must enter through a barn and walk through an underground tunnel. Designed by Christian Müller Architects and SeARCH, the villa has a smart interior and is available for rent to tourists visiting the Therme Vals thermal springs.
In Rotterdam, Netherlands, there’s a unique apartment building called the Urban Cactus. It was designed by UCX Architects to let in more sunlight for outdoor spaces in community housing. The building has 98 apartments and is 19 stories tall. Its unusual design ensures that every apartment gets sunlight on either the garden side or inside. They started building it in 2006, and it offers green space near Vuurplaat Harbour and great city views.
Earth House Estate
In Dietikon, Switzerland, there’s a special place called the Earth House Estate. It has nine Earth Houses that look like hobbit holes, but inside, they’re modern apartments with nice kitchens and bathrooms. Architect Peter Vetsch made these houses to fit into the natural surroundings, using the earth to keep them warm and safe from the weather. The entrance is private, and because these houses were so popular, Vetsch Architecture is making more of them in Switzerland and Germany.
Sea rescue station
On Binz Beach in Rügen, Germany, there’s a unique building that used to be a sea rescue station. It was created by German engineer Ulrich Müther and architect Dietrich Otto in 1968. Later, Ulrich renovated it in 2004. He’s also turned other structures into things like restaurants, mosques, and planetariums during his career. The Binz Rescue Station looks like a great beach house, but now it’s used as a maid room for the registry office.