But never did we ever imagine that we'd one day see this: introducing China's Piano House. Yes, it's a house -- in the shape of a grand piano -- which you access via a staircase and escalators inside of a giant glass violin.
The building in Huainan City was reportedly designed in 2007 by architectural students at Hefei University of Technology. It acts as a showroom for city planners to show off their plans for the Shannan district in Huainan City.
Other details and interior shots of the structure are hard to come by, unfortunately. But regardless, it's music to our ... eyes? Makes perfect sense to us.
If you thought you were having a tough time staging your home for sale, try selling this room to the Joneses down the street. Thanks to TopTenRealEstateDeals.com and their list of the weirdest homes in America, you won't have to worry about being the odd house on the block at the next barbecue. We've got everything from hobbit holes to catacombs, pod people to dome homes, and all the polyurethane you can shake a stick at. Click on to see the strangest homes in America.
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Price: $1.4 M
The new owner of this starchitect designed hobbit home has to take "green living" to heart. Constructed in 1975 by architect William Morgan, the “Dune House” is so named because it was actually built into the Atlantic beach sand dunes. As much a product of its era as it is a part of the natural terrain, this precursor to the modern green movement has a thing or two to teach today’s sustainable architects. Click on to see a totally different take on “beach house.”
The home is actually comprised of two double-height apartments made from the unique combination of earth, cast concrete and gunite shell – the same material used in swimming pool construction. The key to this synergistic design is the comingling of modern architecture and the natural order. The apartments are actually built into the dunes, giving the impression that the home is built entirely from a mantle of greenery.
Descend the curving staircase to find the heart of the home – the kitchen, living and dining rooms. Don’t let the grass-covered mounds fool you; each room faces east to a wide-open view of the ocean. As for the décor, much of the furniture is built into the home, giving it the feel of a state room on a luxury ship.
And what beach house would be complete without fantastic views of the coastline? Perch a lawn chair atop your space age hobbit hole and peer out into the balmy blue. Pay no heed to the neighbors shooting you the stink eye.
881 Innes Ave, San Francisco, CA 94124
Price: $1.49 M
Ever wanted to live in a castle? What about a brewery? If you lived in the Albion Castle, you'd be well on your way to fulfilling both your irrational dreams. This storied mansion was first built in 1870 to house the Albion Ale and Porter Brewery. After prohibition, it was converted into this stunning home. But this castle hides yet another secret beneath its regal facade--watery catacombs! Click on for some virtual real estate spelunking.
This barley-colored den is the perfect escape for an afternoon swig. From its stone fireplace and wood paneled walls, to its high ceilings and antique chandelier, everything about the space screams beer-swilling royalty. And with four bedrooms and two baths, this 1,436 square-foot home is big enough to house the next generation of noble brewers. Best of all, the sales price actually includes the rights to the "Albion Ale and Porter Brewery" name! But before you sign the dotted line, you have to see what else the deed gets you. (Hint: it blows this elegant room out of the water.)
Along with the brewery title, the new owner of this surreal estate will gain the rights to the underground springs that produce approximately 10,000 gallons of water a day. (Mind you, we're in San Francisco, not the catacombs of Rome.) After a long day’s work, retreat to your subterranean hideaway for some much needed R&R – or treat your sweetheart to an unforgettable gondola ride on your personal love canal.
Back up top, your neighbors are oblivious to your beer brewing, cave-diving ways – and this tasteful kitchen will keep them in the dark for years to come. Entertain your naïve guests with rustic aperitivos, served up hot from your newly furnished oven. After dinner, take a walk down to the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay, just minutes from your doorstep.
Is anyone else getting a "Great Expectations" vibe from this odd room? Miss Havisham did live beside an abandoned brewery, after all. Forgetting for a moment that this home sits atop a massive waterway, the property itself is fit for a queen. Whether you’re a Disney princess, seasoned brewmaster or avid spelunker, this unassuming castle-cum-catacomb has a little something for everyone—provided you don’t drink and cave dive.
The fantasy realm of Shangri-La is an eternally blissful city, hidden away from the world in the mists of the bucolic Himalayan mountain range. And this is Aguilar, Colorado. Sure, the flight path is slightly different, but this dome shaped oasis shares many of the same values as its mythical inspiration. Consisting of eight two-tiered and interconnected domes on 40-acres of land, the Dome Home of Aguilar is as close to a perfect spiritual retreat as you’ll find this side of the Himalayas.
Breathe deep before you walk into this colorful retreat. If the eye-popping color scheme doesn't leave you breathless, the altitude will -- the home is perched at 6,700 feet above sea level, and the view is magnificent from every room. The dwelling's open design and wide windows ensure that every room is flush with natural light. And to all the urbanites dreaming of the open plain, expect to see the night sky canvassed in more stars than you’ve ever dreamed possible. That twinkle is the North Star, not a jumbo jet.
Helping you on your path to nirvana are the numerous green design features that make this home as eco-conscious as it is wallet-friendly. The dome design proves to be naturally energy efficient, with the seller claiming the entire home can be heated from the main fireplace with just four or five cords of wood per year. Additionally, a solar-powered well on the premises allows the owner to manage all their water needs.
There is at least one other natural benefit to living in an interconnected, two-tiered dome home -- awesome acoustics. The current owners made full use of this knowledge by setting up their very own personal theater. And with acres of lush greenery between you and your nearest neighbor, you can blast even your most embarrassing DVDs without fear of judgment.
Walk outside your dome-shaped domicile and become one with nature. In the distance, enjoy views of the Spanish Peaks (known locally as the Breasts of the Earth) and live off the land by enjoying the pine nut trees that surround the home. If you’re the outdoorsy type (which wouldn’t surprise many if you flew out to Aguilar, Colorado), there is also ample space on your 40-acre estate for raising horses.
670 North Branch Road Minnetrista, MN 55359
The 1960s were a groovy time in architectural design, but this polyurethane spray-foam home represents a future that just didn’t jive with The Man. Created in 1969 by architect Winslow Wedin, this iconoclastic model, known as the Ensculptic House, was poised to set a new standard in sustainable design. Say what you will about the look and feel of the home, but it set the stage for some industry-changing standards in green living. Click on to see this ‘shroom from the inside out.
At the time, who would have guessed that polyurethane wouldn't catch on as a building material? The home cost an estimated $30,000 to build, is built to withstand just about anything short of an A-Bomb, and stays warm in the winter at a fraction of the conventional home cost. Since polyurethane is a kind of insulation, the owners were able to heat the entire building with just an air exchange pump -- even in the harshest Minnesota winters.
Strange how the Ensculptic house reads like something out of "The Jetsons," but looks like an episode of "The Flinstones." "You have to be interested in quirky," said realtor Dayna Murray in a feature we ran on the home last year. In addition to polyurethane foam, the home is held together by chicken wire and 2X2 planks of wood. That might not sound like much, but this 'shroom has survived record cold winters, sizzling summers and even a direct lightning strike in its short history.
Whether or not the home ever finds a new owner remains up in the air, but such is the price of innovation. Wedin, the mastermind behind the mushroom house, says he's unsure of the fate of the other 9 Ensculptic homes he created. It's clearly not the easiest home to put a mortgage on, either. But for the adventurous buyer -- not unlike the other tenants on this list -- a piece of history hangs in the balance.
28655 South Dixie Highway, Miami, FL 33033
Price: Not for sale
To the undiscerning eye, Coral Castle may look like a miniature golf range, but take a closer look and discover the enchanting story behind its strange creator. Mr. Ed Leedskalnin, the first tenant and proprietor of this one-of-a-kind attraction, built the entire estate from coral rock. Just how he completed this massive undertaking without the help of any heavy tools remains a mystery to this day. Click on to read Leedskalnin’s strange tale.
From 1923 to 1951, Leedskalnin quietly built his castle home from 1,100 tons of coral rock. His singular achievement is even stranger when we consider that he reportedly stood just over 5 feet tall and hovered around 100 pounds. Today, his home is open to the public as a museum – which, ironically, is exactly what he had in mind when he charged strangers 10 cents admission to enter his castle back in the 1940s.
What drove this tiny titan to build such a monumental palace? Unrequited love, of course. One night before he was to be married, his bride-to-be cancelled the wedding and dashed her quizzical suitor’s hopes for love. Despondent and heartbroken, Leedskalnin allegedly began building the Coral Castle soon after the breakup. The man, and his creation, have been legend ever since. In the 1980s, punk rocker Billy Idol actually recorded his hit song “Sweet Sixteen” at the site of the Coral Castle.
The methods by which Leedskalnin built the castle remain a mystery to this day. In the 28 years it took him to construct the coral castle, no one has ever claimed to have seen the man in action. As legend has it, he would work only at night. His mystery was crystallized forever when he reportedly told enquirers that he knew the secrets of the pyramids, and could thus complete such a massive undertaking on his own.
East Hampton, NY, United States
Sq ft: 3,700
This is the mantra of "reversible destiny" architecture, the brainchild of philosopher architects Arakawa + Gins. The Bioscleave House, built on the tenets of renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, is the first example of this PoMo brand of architecture in the United States. The driving principle of reversible destiny design is that complacency leads to death, and thus the key to immortality is in disrupting architecture norms. In essence (though the duo would probably hate such determinate language), the goal is to never be comfortable. Care to see what immortality looks like?
Feeling younger yet? Reversible destiny architecture in theory presents an interesting play on Derridean thought. In practice, it kind of looks like the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. The strangeness of the floor plan is not lost on the artists, however. The home comes with its own printed “Directions for Use.”
An interesting wrinkle in this already complex tapestry is the artists' unfortunate involvement with one Bernie Madoff. Arakawa and Gin lost their life savings through Madoff’s now infamous Ponzi scheme, in which he defrauded his clients out of billions of dollars. The financial blow was crippling to the couple, who had one day hoped to open a village of reversible destiny homes. Should you decide to buy the property, you’d not only be doing a service to conceptual art, you’d also be sticking it to Mr. Madoff.
800 East Mineral Road, Phoenix, AZ 85042
Price: Not for sale
Do you ever get the urge to just walk out and leave it all behind? Boyce Luther Gulley did in 1927, when he left work for a one hour doctor's appointment and never returned. As mysteriously as he disappeared, he reemerged 3 years later in the hills of South Phoenix, seemingly reborn. This 18-room mansion is his quixotic legacy. Click on to see what 15 years in the desert does to your sense of design.
The three-story tall structure is an odd hodgepodge of Native American motifs and sun-baked adobe. Petroglyphs share wall space with vintage automobile parts and paintings of Frida Kahlo. The walls are held together by an admixture of mortar, cement calcium and goat’s milk. After his death in 1945, Gulley’s wife and daughter inherited the strange estate. His daughter lived here until her death last year.
It may seem like chaos, but there was a method to Gulley's freewheeling aesthetic. He paid great attention to the sanctity of the natural landscape. To get from the parlor to the bedroom, a flight of stairs was built over a boulder as not to disturb the natural order. This room exemplifies his veneration to nature.
Last but not least, one can't go off into the Arizona wilderness for 15 years without living in a tipi for at least half of them. One can only imagine what went through Gulley's mind as he mused on his life atop this quiet terrace.
Beam us up, Scottie. This “earthship” is docked in southern New Mexico, just a UFO’s throw from nearby Roswell. Hand-built following the guidelines of father earthship architect Michael Reynolds, it is approximately 85 percent complete (but who could tell?). Designed for off-the-grid living, the bunker-style exterior helps keep the inside cool and comfortable in the desert sun. And as for the interior details—well, set your phaser on “stun.”
Inside, the house is decorated with “found” objects, like the pieces of colored glass that make a porthole-shaped window for this ship. More glass is set into the plaster walls. Hand-hewn beamed ceilings and earthen floors complete the back-to-nature look. Gourmet cooks need not apply.
This house is not for just anyone—and we mean that literally. Community bylaws require that the buyer join the City of the Sun, which was developed in 1971 “to provide a shared home base for people of different faiths and spiritual paths.” According to City of the Sun’s web site, your neighbors will include Sufis, Pagans, Christians, and Native Americans.
4318 Ridgecrest Drive, Las Vegas, NV
If you think the Las Vegas Strip is an architectural oddity, just wait till you get a load of neurosurgeon Lonnie Hammargren’s house-as-museum. Or, more correctly, houses: the trio of structures includes a planetarium and observatory in the shape of Mayan pyramid Chichen Itza and a house inspired by the “Mayan Revival” designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” guru Robin Leach once called it “the most interesting home in the world,” and who are we to argue?
In 65 years of shopping, Hammargren got his hands on just about every object a person might want to own--and quite a few that nobody else would even think about collecting. Among the treasures on display in the private home: an entry from one of Liberace’s Easter shows, a Batmobile, an Apollo space capsule, and a toilet belonging to famed Las Vegas gangster Bugsy Siegel.
In a city whose monuments to excess include the Temple of Luxor, the Eiffel Tower and Caesar’s Palace, nobody blinks an eye at the doctor’s exact scale model replica of the House of the Governor at the ancient Mayan site of Uxmal. The famed structure in the Yucatan has stood for more than 1,000 years—we wonder if the same will be true of the doctor’s palace.