We love bringing natural materials into our lives — beautiful woods, real stone, healthy plants. But some home owners (and designers) go the extra mile to accommodate the natch, blurring the distinction between what’s natural and what’s built by hand. How far would you go to let nature into your home life? Check out our slideshow, then give us a comment and let us know what your natural inclination is.
When trees get in the way of building sites, the building usually wins. But not always. This venerable avocado tree was spared during a California home building project, where its crooked limbs provided shade for the deck and make for a cool living conversation piece. Accommodating the tree added only about $200 to the project. The benefit? Priceless.
Bringing Nature Into Your HomeHigh Stylin’ the Stone Age
If you like rockin’ out, you’d probably enjoy the Cave House in Bisbee, Ariz. This $1.5 million burrow features rooms tunneled into solid granite. Inside the 2,980-sq.-ft. grotto there’s a yoga room, living area, bedroom, and a gourmet kitchen with — surprise! — stone walls.
Looking a like a giant golf divot, this Swiss residence is buried inside a hill so it won’t obstruct the mountain views of a world-famous spa located nearby. Because underground temperatures are fairly stable throughout the year, costs for heating and cooling a subterranean house can be substantially lower than for an above-ground house of the same size.
Bringing Nature Into Your HomeOut on a Limb or Two
The framing members of this hand-built house in Wales are oak trees harvested from a nearby woodlot. The DIY home owner used a chainsaw, hammer, chisel, and “little else” to construct this hobbit-like hacienda. The walls are straw-bale construction, which can provide an insulating value of more than R-50, or about twice what the Dept. of Energy recommends for cold climates.
To say this sweet 1-bedroom cabin is a lakeside retreat isn’t quite accurate; it’s not next to a lake, it’s on it. Built atop steel pontoons, the floating bungalow was towed to a remote island on Lake Huron and fastened to the rocky shore. A moveable access walkway lets the cabin ride up and down as lake levels change. The slatted lower-level walls offer home privacy — not that you’d need it.
Bringing Nature Into Your HomeA Tree (or Two) Runs Through It
Very tall and very narrow, this 900-sq.-ft. house in Tokyo is perched on a hillside lot. The architects decided to incorporate the trees for novelty, and so that their root structure would help stabilize the soil directly below the house. Deciduous trees give shade in summer and let sunlight through in colder months.
Bringing Nature Into Your HomeBetween a Rock and a Hard Place
Squeezed between two giant boulders, this house in Portugal puts a whole new perspective on masonry walls. Concrete tile roofing tops off a structure that’s about as fireproof and wind resistant as a house can get. Termites had better look elsewhere!
Californians love their trees, and go to great lengths to preserve them. If you go this far, make sure your siding is properly caulked to prevent moisture from getting inside where it can cause mold, mildew, and rot. BTW, would you go this far to keep a tree on your property?