WHEN I TELL PEOPLE in the city that I live in the mountains of California, the typical response is “what, like in a log cabin hidden in the forest? No wonder you wear so much flannel.”

While my city-dwelling friends might be right about my wardrobe decisions, my lame townhouse is nothing like these dreamy homes. Here are my picks for 23 of the weirdest, coolest, and most flannel-friendly houses built into nature.


The House of Stone, Fafe, Portugal

Built between four huge boulders overlooking a meadow full of wind turbines, the interior of the House of Stone is furnished with Stone Age-y features and has a swimming pool carved out of rock.
Photo: Jsome1


Meteora Monasteries, Thessaly, Greece

Monks have resided at Meteora since the 11th century. These monasteries were built atop huge sandstone pillars -- most of which were inaccessible by road -- to protect their inhabitants during unstable political times.
Photo: lo.tangelini


Minister's Treehouse, Crossville, Tennessee

The owner of this 97ft-tall treehouse claims it was commissioned by God. Hard at work since 1993, the Minister Horace Burgess says he'll keep adding to the already 10-story house to ensure it stays the "largest in the world." Seeing as how nobody has stepped up to challenge his self-proclaimed title, I think it's safe to take a lunch break.
Photo: Roger Smith


Ben Rose House, Highland Park, Illinois

Built in 1953, the Ben Rose House blends in with the surrounding landscape thanks to its glass shell and unobtrusive shape sticking out from the hillside. It's become a bit more prominent since the mid-1980s, when the garage's see-through walls were smashed by a Ferrari in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Photo: cb804


House on the Drina River, Bajina Basta, Serbia

45 years and multiple floods later, this tiny house still balances on top of a rock in the middle of Serbia's Drina River. The owner built the house with the help of some friends on the site of their favorite sunbathing spot, and still enjoys a boat-assisted vacation here from time to time.
Photo: mmilanovic


Festus Cave House, Festus, Missouri

This cave south of St. Louis was once used as a roller rink and a concert venue, but has since been converted into an enormous, modern, 3-bedroom family home. The 15,000-square-foot space retains the cave's sandstone walls and uses geothermal heating, eliminating the need for a furnace or air conditioning.


Nottingham Cave Houses, East Midlands, England

Hacked into cliffs and steep hills, cave houses were residences for Nottingham's poorest until outlawed in 1845. More recently, the easy-to-carve sandstone underneath Nottingham allowed generations of city dwellers to carve out little additions and cellars underneath and behind their traditional homes.
Photo: Dunc(an)


House Beyond in Hiroshima, Japan

Designed by visual artist Kenjiro Okazaki, this house was built on a steep forested slope as a working space for artists and writers. Supported by cypress trees and beams, the building is not fixed to the trees and can be lowered to the ground if needed. Good news for the artists housed inside, this method of construction allows the house to yield in the event of earthquakes or high winds -- it's already survived several typhoons.
Photo: m-louis


Puebloan cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park is a maze of sandstone-block dwellings built into an alcove under an overhanging cliff. The area is made up of at least 23 kivas and 150 rooms, which were inhabited by Ancestral Puebloans until about 1300 AD.
Photo: Ken Lund


Turf houses, Iceland

Icelanders have been digging homes into the ground long before earth-homes became the new eco-friendly building trend. Dirt makes a great insulator and helps keep residents warm and mostly dry. Plus, it's easier to come by in a region where acquiring other construction materials is a challenge.
Photo: sly06


Casa Malaparte, Capri, Italy

The cliff that Casa Malaparte is sitting on is 32 meters above the Gulf of Salerno. Built right into the island's crags, the private home's minimalist style is most easily seen by boat.
Photo: Thilo Hilberer


Kandovan Village, Azerbaijan Province, Iran

The cone-shaped structures in Kandovan Village were naturally formed from volcanic ash and debris. Natural erosion created small pockets in the pillars that were found and shaped into cave dwellings. Most of these houses are 2-4 floors high and have connecting tunnels leading to surrounding structures.
Photo: basheem


DreamCaught houses, Chaing Mai, Thailand

This Chiang Mai treehouse might look all rickety and rustic, but that tree stabbing through the deck floor also doubles as a cocktail table, where you can rest your beverage of choice while enjoying the WiFi.


Marhala Hotel, Matmata, Tunisia

If you're totally getting high school first date flashbacks right now, you might have seen Matmata double as Luke Skywalker's Tatooine home in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Here, many people still live underground in homes that were made by digging down into the desert floor to create courtyards, then radially outward to form separate rooms.
Photo: archer10 (Dennis)


Ring around the tree, Tachikawa, Japan

Tokyo's Tezuka Architects created this treehouse at a kindergarten in Tachikawa. The structure, which was built around a Zelkova tree, has a see-through classroom on each level for students to enjoy lessons on warmer days and a play area where kids can run around among the branches.


Fancy dacha, Russia

Russian families in the city often retire to their dachas. These country homes are all about escape from modern life -- often sitting on tiny plots of land without many modern conveniences, where families can grow vegetables or store preserves for the winter.


Hanging House, Cuenca, Spain

When the Spanish city of Cuenca ran out of space to expand horizontally, they built upwards instead. The "hanging houses" that were built into the rocky cliffs sometimes maxed out at 7 or 8 floors up and hung over the Huecar Gorge.
Photo: el_rigster


Swiss earth house

Earth homes are popping up all over the world as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and live in harmony with the surrounding landscape. The structures don't adapt the surroundings to fit the building, but rather shape the house around what's already there.
Photo: Kecko


Terceira House, Azores, Portugal

This house on Azorean island Terceira looks like an ideal place to hang a hammock.
Photo: pedrosimoes7


Miners' homes, Klein, Montana

Coal workers in the historic mining town of Klein, Montana occasionally built their homes directly into the surrounding sandstone. These tiny shelters, a few of which can still be seen today, are protected from the wind and are insulated by the surrounding rock.
Photo: Wyoming_Jackrabbit


Coober Pedy, South Australia

Located between Adelaide and Alice Springs, Coober Pedy was established when opal was found in the area. To avoid the surface-of-the-sun-like summer heat, most warm-blooded humans moved into dugouts: caves bored into the hillsides. For some above-ground action, keep an eye out for the local golf course, where most play happens at night with the assistance of glowing golf balls.
Photo: TikiTourer | The Travels of Jude and Tui


Gibbon Experience treehouse, Bokeo Nature Reserve, Laos

This treehouse in Laos sleeps up to 8 people, and somehow has sufficient enough plumbing for a kitchen, a bathroom, and a shower. The Gibbon Experience runs these guesthouses, all of which are connected to one another with zip lines, and all profits are reinvested into conservation projects within the reserve.
Photo: Christian Haugen


Alnwick Garden treehouse, Northumberland, England

The treehouse on the grounds of Alnwick Castle was built in a lime tree forest out of sustainably sourced wood. Though it looks more like it would house a Disney princess and a bevvy of anthropomorphic woodland creatures, this treehouse actually houses a restaurant where you can dine on said woodland creatures.
Photo: Effervescing Elephant

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