From cute off-grid pods to wall-less structures with ladders for stairs — these are the homes that wowed in 2016.
Architects from around the globe brought us no shortage of exciting ideas, and with them, a few common trends emerged.
Historically and environmentally sympathetic design, minimalist aesthetics and an emphasis on functionality and mobility were bigger than ever in the world of residential architecture.
Check out the favourites below.
1. Dutch woodland cabin
This Unique woodland villa built by Dutch architects KRFT was one of the most architecturally innovative homes of 2017.
Built into an artificial hill so its northern side is camouflaged, the home uses the earth as its thermal insulation.
The 12×9-metre rectangular building has stacked rooms made from light wooden structures that can be easily added or removed over time.
The result is a home that blends quietly with its surroundings, evolving along with its inhabitants.
2. Concrete cavern in Cape Town
A slick South African Pad stands out for its inventive use of the spare room.
Inhouse Brand Architects transformed the lower ground area of a Cape Town home into a hip hangout centred around a skate bowl for the owners’ teenage son.
From the wall illustrations by renowned South African street artist to the TV area zoned off by a cascading timber ‘wave’, there isn’t one inch of this space that hasn’t been tailored exactly to the preferences of the lucky teen.
3. Vietnamese stepped roof garden
The owners of this site in the coastal Vietnamese town of Nha Trang wanted a large house with a large garden.
The problem was they only had 492sqm of floor space.
Enter architects Vo Trong Nghia and Masaaki Iwamoto, who designed a rooftop garden in compliance with local building codes (which stipulates a sloping roof at least half-covered in tiling).
The resulting structure looks like a large, broad staircase punctuated by patches of green from the trees, plants and flowers.
4. Japanese ‘ninja house’
Dubbed House T or the Ninja House this Japanese home has no interior walls and hardly any floor space.
The couple who live there must navigate the home’s four levels via wooden ladders, and one small staircase which doubles as a bookshelf.
The radical design by Hiroyuki Shinozaki Architects has forced the home’s owners to become extremely nimble when moving from one room to another.
5. Recycled Netherlands coach house
The award for best use of recycled materials goes to this Utrecht former coach house designed and lived in by architect Rolf Bruggink.
Bruggink redesigned the entire internal space using almost entirely recycled materials from a demolished outbuilding added in the 1950s.
The beams, floorboards, doors and wooden frames of the home all came from the outbuilding, as did less useable materials like the carpet, steel radiators and modular ceiling.
6. London sliding house
When an English couple said they wanted something “a little different” with their Suffolk country home, they surely didn’t expect this.
The Sliding House is essentially three conventional buildings — house, garage and annexe — that can move to each other via a hidden railway.
The result is a home that accommodates the seasons by varying the shape and space of the shell home to control shelter, sunlight and insulation.
7. Canadian tiny home that comes on wheels
This completely off grid Canadian Tiny home packs a punch at only 31sqm.
It runs sustainably with a propane heater, wood-burning stove and roof water recovery system.
Interiors are decked in birch timber and recycled materials.
8. Chocolate factory turned Fitzroy loft
One hundred and 25 years ago, this Fitzroy loft was once part of the MacRobertson chocolate factory.
Last year the apartment won national recognition for its sympathetic building construction.
Architects EAT did not touch the boundary walls, original bricks, timber columns or existing roof structure.
The commitment paid off with archaeological discoveries including an old fire alarm and ‘secret door’ incorporated into construction.
9. Museum-like Sydney apartment
This sky high penthouse boasts views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but it’s the thoughtful design of internal space that sets it apart.
The Darling Point apartment by Sydney architecture practice Chenchow Little won the Premier Award at the 2016 Australian Interior Design Awards for its clever use of hinged and sliding timber panels to form a gallery space to house the owners’ extensive art collection.
10. Circular Canberra house
Some people take home orientation really seriously.
Designed by Ross Norwood of architecture firm DNA, Canberra home Girasole, which means ‘turn to the sun’, can do exactly that with sound-proof motors supporting a wheel structure that allows the house to pivot according to which way the sun is facing.
That means maximum direct sunlight during the day, and morning and night if you love sunrises and sunsets.