A new book highlights houses that integrate seamlessly into their surroundings—whether they're buried under hills, covered in mirrors, or perched over the sea.
Flipping through the coffee table tome Elemental Living will make you feel really, really bad about your house. In fact, you may even start frantically Googling “cabins in the Swiss Alps” after you put it down. The recently released book from Phaidon showcases architecture that makes the most of its natural surroundings, and boy are they dreamy.
The houses are designed to detract as little as possible from the beauty around them. Some are so subtly blended into the surrounding landscape that they are barely noticeable. Others are not quite so hidden, but provide incredible vistas. Here are seven of the most impressive dwellings.
1. DRAGSPEL HOUSE BY NATRUFIED ARCHITECTURE
The Dragspel House in Smolmark, Sweden is a new extension to a 19th century cabin in a nature reserve. The warren-like exterior blends into the woods like a fallen tree. Never mind that it looks like the perfect home for the witch in a medieval fairy tale.
2. ALONI BY DECA ARCHITECTURE
This Greek house built in 2008 is nestled into a hillside on the island of Antiparos. It’s hard to tell how big the house is from a distance, since it’s buried below the grade of the hill and covered in a green roof.
3. NOTONA BY NOT VITAL
The Swiss artist Not Vital designed this island home on an island in Patagonia, Chile. It’s carved directly from a marble outcrop and is largely obscured from view, making it look like a lighthouse when it’s lit up at night. There is a long tunnel from the building to the other side of the island, where there’s a rectangular window out onto the lake.
4. CASA MALAPARTE BY ADALBERTO LIBERA AND CURZIO MALAPARTE
The Casa Malaparte was built in 1942 on the Italian island of Capri, perched atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the Gulf of Salerno. You can’t get to it by car; it has to be reached on foot or by boat.
5. BJELANDSBU HUNTING LODGE BY SNØHETTA
Built in 2013, the Bjelandsbu Hunting Lodge is located in the mountains of western Norway. You can only reach it by foot or horseback. With its sloping, grassy roof, it looks like a tiny hill, it’s surprisingly spacious inside, accommodating up to 21 people.
6. VILLA VALS BY SeARCH & CMA
The 2009 Villa Vals in the Swiss Alps closely resembles a hobbit hole. The entrance to the house is an oval scooped out from the hillside. But this is actually the back door—the main entrance is through an underground tunnel in the nearby barn.
7. M2 HILL HOUSE BY BIG
This turf-covered house in Denmark, built in 2006, has glass exterior walls, and its roof is covered in succulents. Like many of these houses, its roof slopes down to the ground to give it the appearance of rising out of the earth.
It’s $50 on Amazon.