I f you could build your ultimate dream house, what would it look like? Would it feature a massive pool? Maybe a sweeping wraparound porch? These artists, architects, and visionaries opted to build something a bit more surreal, taking the idea of the dream home to entirely other level.
The Twisted Twig Castles of Patrick Dougherty
They may not be actual livable homes, but visitors are quick to point out they dream of feathering a little nest inside these whimsical, romantic forts made of tree branches and saplings. “They’re housing for the imagination,” says Patrick Dougherty, the builder of the structures, who gently bends and twists maple, sweet gum, elm, and dogwood branches and saplings, coaxing them into a layered matrix. “Perfect, perhaps, if you lived in the Garden of Eden.”
Inspired by the woodlands of North Carolina, where he grew up and saw towering trees twist and writhe into fantasy shapes, Dougherty has since made more than 230 of these structures – what he simply calls “Stickwork” – for both public and private projects worldwide. Whether he creates a leaning, fluid hobbit house or a tall chateau-like cottage, his fanciful designs tell a story, while speaking to a sense of place. In his 2014 project at the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany in Ville de Nantes, France, he constructed a 150-foot-wide by 12-foot-tall maze-like royal garden that overlooks the moat. A February 2014 piece for the North Carolina Zoo was essentially a 14- by 25-foot upside-down nest, where children raced around its woven columns.
Heidi Danilchik’s Fairy-Tale-Inspired Tree House
In a seemingly normal Pacific Northwest forest in Poulsbo, Washington, a carved wooden ramp climbs 20 feet off the ground, leading to a carved wooden door of a carved wooden playhouse nestled between two giant Western red cedar trees. Made almost entirely of wood, including recessed pine paneling and fir timbers, the home appears to float above the forest floor and flows in voluptuous curves that speak purely of handcrafted detail.
A creation of Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters stars Pete Nelson and Jake Jacob, and Anna Daeuble, owner of AnnaRiver Designs, the structure was built as a 450-square-foot guest retreat for Heidi Danilchik’s residence about 100 feet away. Aptly known as Heidi’s Fairytale Tree House Chalet, the home is very much a fairy-tale experience, one where you’d expect to find Hansel and Gretel happily escaped from the witch. Living rooms are separated by polished keyhole-shaped doorways, cultured stone comes in touches like a stucco fireplace, and the front porch is supported by a tree trunk and is lined with stained-glass windows and flower-filled window boxes. “It is like living within art,” Danilchik says.
Architect Hank Butitta’s Wonder Bus
This is not a “flower power” or graffiti-themed love bus from the ’60s. In fact, the boring exterior of the oh-so-ordinary school bus was very much a purposeful element to mask the sleek modular home inside – put there by architect Hank Butitta. Actually the final project for his masters in architecture at the University of Minnesota, “the converted home’s drab gray exterior,” Butitta says, “keeps the profile pretty low.”
Equipped with four distinct zones – a living/seating space, a kitchen, and sleeping and bath areas – the entire interior is trimmed floor to ceiling in gleaming blond wood. Even the flooring, reclaimed from an old school gym in Minneapolis and complete with the three-point line, shines brightly. The entire space is lit simply by LED strip lighting, which can be turned on by each zone, and almost all of the furniture has storage built into it to take advantage of every square inch of the 225 square foot space. But Butitta’s favorite feature? The retractable roof windows of the skylights (previously, the emergency hatches): “We often cleared our minds while on the road simply by sticking our heads out into the breeze.”
The Floating Home By Robert Oschatz
“I wanted to capture the sensation of the river,” Robert Harvey Oshatz says of what’s known as Portland, Oregon’s “Floating Home.” Built by Oshatz in 2005, the curvaceous multilevel bobs quietly against a pier on the eastern side of the Willamette, where the water level beneath is forever changing, both rising and lowering the home with the influx of storms and rain runoff. Its “foundation” – a 34- by 80-foot buoyant platform of Douglas fir logs – adjusts to the currents and wakes from passing boats.
The 2,364-square-foot structure exists under a single radius of curved Douglas fir beams and evokes the sense of standing in the hull of a monstrous-sized boat. But Oshatz says the curves are meant to mimic the river’s own contours and ripples. The swooping interior flows from room to room like rushing river water, over Brazilian cherry floors and out to the Willamette via massive sliding glass doors. Pendant lights in the living and dining space purposely swing with the movement of the water. Interior shadows shift with the daily rotation of the sun but are emphasized by the curvilinear nooks and crannies for a feeling somewhat like being inside a snail shell.