America's Coolest Houses
Courtesy of 2011 Stahl House ® Inc
Houses are generally private places. (No trespassing, please!) Some of America’s coolest houses, however, let you peek behind the curtains to inspire and satisfy your curiosity.
Cool houses are always experiments, domestic laboratories where designers, builders, and homeowners work out better ways to live.
When you think of experimental architecture, you usually think big: a museum by Santiago Calatrava or a city library by Rem Koolhaas. But the innovations that truly change our lives happen at home.
America’s coolest houses may have started out as experiments, but today they’re guaranteed to be an interesting visit. Even if you can’t sip your morning coffee in the kitchen of California’s Hearst Castle, spending a little time in someone else’s pad might give you a few new ideas about your own.
Case Study House #22
You’ve surely seen the Julius Shulman photo of the girls in the white dresses seemingly floating over L.A. The glass-and-steel house in the picture, a minimalist masterpiece designed by architect Pierre Koenig, was completed in 1960 as part of the famous Case Study program sponsored by Arts and Architecture Magazine. Now the original owners, the Stahl family, have opened their icon to the public for regularly scheduled viewings.
Book Today: Viewings are on weekends. Tickets sell out quickly. Wear a white dress.
More revealing than where Elvis wound up—garish Graceland—is where he came from. The two-room shotgun-style house in which the King was born in 1935 was built by his father on a borrowed $180 budget, and lost two years later for nonpayment of the loan. The house, plain as it is, has been spruced up since Baby Elvis’s day; the flowered wallpaper now on the bedroom wall, for instance, was probably just newspaper when the Presleys lived there.
Birthday Party: If you visit on January 8, Elvis’s birthday, you might get a piece of cake.
From the back, Earthships, built primarily out of dirt and old tires, look like giant anthills. From the front, they appear more normal, with glass walls, gardens, and major appliances. Renegade architect Mike Reynolds has been building these solar-powered, rainwater-harvesting, sewage-treating houses for decades.