I’ve been spending a lot of time at other people’s places during the pandemic.
Not physically, of course—I’ve been clocking up minutes watching YouTube tours of beautiful homes across the world which, given how you’re feeling this pandemic, is either incredibly stupid or thoroughly satisfying. (If the walls of your home feel particularly claustrophobic today, look away now). I’ve dropped by celebrity homes in Brazil, checked out the micro-apartment trend in Sydney, and now we’re here: a Flemish castle, a glorified garden shed, a remodelled concrete factory, and a zen den in the forest. Sound chaotic? Welcome to my brain, let’s get into it.
Ricardo Bofill – Barcelona
Yes, I know you’ve seen this before, but I don’t care—Ricardo’s digs are a masterpiece, and hands down my favourite place on this list. The legendary Spanish architect bought a run-down cement factory on the outskirts of Barcelona and transformed it into what I believe heaven will probably look like, if I’m allowed entry through the pearly gates to see for myself. If not, I’m happy to roam the hallways of Bofill’s La Fabrica for the rest of eternity as a friendly ghost. I’d tell you more about this unparalleled architectural feat, but you should really just hit play on the video from Nowness above.
Alas, we don’t all have the funds and creative vision required to turn an abandoned factory into our dream home, but this tiny home proves you can do a lot, with a little. Japanese architect Hosaka Takeshi and his wife decided they weren’t going to allow Tokyo’s notorious property prices stop them from building the perfect tiny home—which they did, using only 18 square metres on a miniature block in the heart of the city. Though it’s not much bigger than a generous-sized garden shed, he’s managed to fit in 300 volumes of books, 300 records (priorities) a two-door refrigerator, and an outdoor bath. There’s method behind the roof madness too; the curved, elevated roof fits two skylights to allow for light to filter through at all times of the day. Genius.
Highlights: Curved skylights and balcony bathtub
Sheats-Goldstein Residence by John Lautner – Los Angeles
Look familiar? You’ve probably seen this place before in The Big Lebowski, or any number of music videos or films that have been shot there over the past few decades. Though technically no longer a residence (owner James Goldstein donated it to LACMA after living here for 40 years, in hopes of increasing architectural awareness in Los Angeles), I’m going to include it because I’m the one making the rules here, alright? Just look at those lush garden surrounds, sharp angles, automatic skylights and custom made couch, and then imagine being so rich you can give it away for free. Hurts, doesn’t it.
Highlights: Floor-to-ceiling windows in the master bedroom. Also, Goldstein’s outfits.
Sue Webster – London
DIY punk artist Sue Webster did what no one else wanted to do: purchase a decrepit home in Hackney that was owned by a notorious amateur tunneller known as Mole Man. Despite architects recommending she pull the whole thing down and build it from scratch, Webster wanted to incorporate the weird and wonderful elements she inherited from Hackney’s Mole Man into a remodelled home. Working with his half-baked tunnels (according to The Guardian, he’s estimated to have scooped 100 cubic metres of earth from beneath the roads and houses that surrounded the property), they created a studio-home featuring concrete living spaces and a landscaped garden that’s made all the more appealing by the history that’s built into it.
Highlight: The ghost of Mole Man
Yuriko Takagi – Karuizawa
Yuriko Takagi is a photographer who’s worked all across the world, but at the age of 65 decided to put down some roots in the forest of Karuizawa, Japan. The home she had built nestled in amongst the trees is exactly as zen as it sounds, and your brain will feel like it’s had a bubble bath just watching this video.
Highlight: The curved studio with a forest outlook
Mattia Bonetti – Switzerland
Yuck. Disgusting. Absolutely horrid. That’s what I think of my own place after virtually touring through Paris-based artist and designer Mattia Bonetti’s waterfront place on Lake Lugano in southern Switzerland. His home is filled with so many thoughtful touches and priceless antiques it almost outshines the actual lake itself, which is saying something. I’m no longer certain whether I should pay my rent this month, or invest in some custom wall sconces.
Alex Vervoordt – Antwerp
This is just getting stupid now. But like I said—my list, my rules, and I’d like to live in this Flemish castle, please. Gravenwezel Castle belongs to renowned designer, artist and art dealer Alex Vervoordt, and ain’t it a beauty? He even used to open it to the public twice a year so people from all over could drop by and appreciate his impeccable taste. This whole video is worth a watch, but four minutes in is where my brain went into overdrive and I began to smash everything I own from Kmart.
Highlight: The indoor sitting room that could be mistaken for a garden
Pamela Shamshiri – Los Angeles
Pamela Shamshiri’s mind-numbingly beautiful home is a treehouse for adults, on steroids. With endless glass windows that frame the valley below, it gives the illusion that you’re living amongst the treetops. The LA-based designer spent eight years restoring the modernist building, and it’s obviously paid off.
Highlight: The V-shape shape of the home