written by:
August 15, 2012

When compiling the list of the 20 most popular modern homes featured throughout Dwell's 12-year history, certain themes began to surface: small space projects, renovations, unconventional living situations, and crisp, Spartan interiors. Click through for a look at the projects, ranging in scope from prefab prototypes to communal living and more.

Yellow North Face tent atop a wooden deck
A Platform for Living Photographer Dean Kaufman described this retreat in Japan's Chichibu mountain range as “finely balanced between rustic camping and feeling like the Farnsworth House.” One of the most unique projects we've featured, the minimalist structure includes platforms upon which to pitch tents for sleeping and an enclosed space for cooking, eating, bathing, and lounging. Favorite features include a series of wall-mounted climbing holds and products from the residents' camping gear company.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in A Platform for Living
1 / 20
Modern living room with Wiggle chair by Frank Gehry and local artwork
Undivided Intentions A 1972 David Boone design proved to be the perfect site for Primo Orpilla and Verda Alexander, principals of San Francisco interior design consultancy Studio O+A. The sprawling 2,8000-square-foot modern house perched on a hillside in Orinda, California, includes two separate sections: one for living and one for working. The interior features an eclectic mix of design classics and contemporary pieces in bright and airy rooms capped with a redwood-clad ceiling. In the studio space is a visual pandemonium of colorful photographs, architectural models, art supplies, and bric-a-brac.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in You Don't Have to Just Be at Your Desk When Working from Home
2 / 20
When it’s time to eat or do homework, the adults lower the tabletop, revealing a dozen book cubbies.
A Narrow Victory A family of four manages to squeeze into this shoebox-sized New York apartment thanks to brilliant design tactics by no roof architects. To combat the constraints of living in a small space—a familiar dilemma for apartment dwellers—the residents opted for Murphy beds, fold-down tables, and storage in nearly even nook and cranny to make the most of the 700-square feet they occupy.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Storage-Smart Renovation in New York City
3 / 20
Minimalist kitchen with sliding doors hiding anodized aluminum Miele fixtures
Basic Instincts “There’s a soulfulness in this small house that’s impossible to replicate in something completely new. The sweetness truly lingers," says architect Michael Lee of this Manhattan Beach, California, house. Originally built in the 1930s, it recently underwent a gut renovation that included vaulting the ceilings, adding custom storage, and building a sliding door system that hides the compact kitchen. Though small in size, the residence contains owner Matt Jacobson's collection of vintage furniture—including pieces by George Nelson, Alexander Girard, Massimo Vignelli, Willy Guhl, and Robin Day—the blend of old and being a winning combination.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Basic Instincts
4 / 20
Bob Krone and Paula van Dijk go for a walk while Lucas and Jillis Noordhoek lounge on the grass. Their parents, Jacquelien and Cees Noordhoek, chat farther to the right.
Creative Commons The rooftops of country buildings in Holland were the inspiration for Villa van Vijven's orange facade. The structure consists of five apartments and brings an experiment in communal living where five families banded together to create an architecturally minded retreat just outside of Amsterdam. “I think we all still wonder what on earth it was that made us go for this unusual design,” say one of the residents. “It surprises me every day that we dared to do it. It really is the building of our dreams.”
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Modern Communal Living in the Netherlands
5 / 20
The materials palette that I chose is light in color with a few splashes of color. This lightness holds the space open and gives it a contemporary feel.
The Airstream Life Andreas Stavropoulos describes the metamorphosis of his kitted-out Airstream as "an archeological study in all things Americana." After scouring Craigslist to find the 1959 travel trailer, Stavropoulos added "cork flooring, track lighting, fresh colorful paint, and custom designed cabinets and furniture to fit the sinuous interior topography."
Photo by 
Originally appeared in The Airstream Life
6 / 20
Visitors enter through a narrow staircase, visible here as a slit to the right of the courtyard.
Underground House in Seoul All that's visible of architect Byoung Soo Cho’s Earth House is a slab of concrete and a staircase leading below ground. An exercise in Taoist ideas about positive and negative space, the residence is used as a weekend retreat and for stargazing.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Underground House in Seoul
7 / 20
New Grass Roots With its corrugated-aluminum exterior, X House in Hennepin, Illinois, was built to resemble rural silos. The inside, however, features rich wood paneling and spare furnishings. From floor-to-ceiling windows, the residents have a view of the surrounding grassland.
8 / 20
<p>In the new kitchen, taking maximum advantage of the southern exposure was key. "I'm always conscious when doing townhouses about the fact that they limit daylight to only two directions," Willmer says. She raised the roof to a create a taller
Park Street Renovation The renovation of a Victorian in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood nearly doubled its size. Behind its unassuming traditional facade lies a spacious modern kitchen, bright bedrooms, and a roof deck.
Originally appeared in Park Street Renovation
9 / 20
The private site allowed for generous windows and decks, but the Res 4 design could be adapted to 
a more urban setting as well. Ultimately, the Dwell Home proves that a manufactured house can be site-specific. The design, scale, and materials are appropr
Prefab Proven In January 2003, Dwell issued a challenge to 16 architects: Design a modern prefab home for $200,000. Resolution: 4 Architecture entered this prefab wonder clad in red cedar and surrounded by decks to facilitate outdoor living into the contest.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Prefab, Proven
10 / 20
Modern living room with curving glass and steel wall
Designed In-House Here's the house that started it all: Dwell founder Lara Deam's Mill Valley abode. Her husband, architect Christopher Deam, recently spearheaded its renovation. "It feels like this design unlocked what the house wanted to be," says Lara. "We had the advantage of being here since ’94, studying how the sun moves throughout the year, seeing how we all lived in it, and finally figuring out how we wanted to live in it. I think it allows for that now. To use the kids’ words, we made it 'more awesomer!'"
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Designed In-House
11 / 20
Stainless steel Bulthaup kitchen
A Rational Approach The stainless steel Bulthaup kitchen of typography guru Erik Spiekermann and his wife, designer Susanna Dulkinys, “cost as much as a small house,” said Spiekermann. Their sleek Berlin domicile was designed with function and aesthetics in mind—the same principals as designing a typeface, says Spiekrmann.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in A Rational Approach
12 / 20
Dining area with a mint green door and cedar ceiling
New Prospects Jeff Sherman's Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, renovation took 10 years to complete. "Every time I got a paycheck, I’d go buy some materials and think of the next thing to do. It forced me to pace myself. I began by taking care of basic needs, like building a rudimentary kitchen and a closet so I could put away my clothes. I also knew I really wanted a big tree in the backyard, so I planted a baby American elm, knowing it takes a long time to grow. Ten years later, it’s taller than the house," says Sherman.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in New Prospects
13 / 20
H2O Architectes used curvy cutouts in the space’s central column to draw the eye around its corners. A clever recessed cupboard conceals the TV screen. Comics, clearly, are everywhere.
Comic book collector Mathieu Vinciguerra requested ample built-in shelving for his 635-square-foot Paris apartment. In a 21st-century homage to both the compartmentalization of Hausmann-era interiors and graphic novels, it features dozens of boxy shelves, highlighted by saturated colors.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Shelf Life
14 / 20
Karen White, David MacNaughtan, and their sons, Griffin and Finlay, hang out on the front deck, which lines up next to the neighbors' porch.
Slim Fit “We didn’t want to have a dark old Victorian. But we also didn’t want to have a contemporary bowling alley,” says David MacNaughtan of his Toronto house.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Narrow Modernist Three-Story Home in Toronto
15 / 20
Modern living room with contemporary furniture such as carpets by InterfaceFLOR and armchairs by Blu Dot.
How to Play FlatPak “FlatPak didn’t start out as a grand plan,” architect Charlie Lazor says about his prefab system. “It started from my own frustration. Zelda and I wanted a house. We didn’t like what was out there. So I started to design a system appropriate to my needs.”
Photo by 
Originally appeared in How to Play FlatPak
16 / 20
The sliding pocket wall opens to reveal Series 7 chairs by Arne Jacobsen. The kid's chair is a Tripp Trapp by Stokke.
Family Style When a Japanese couple asked architects Takaharu and Yui Tezuka to design a small home that would evoke the Italian love of food, informal gatherings, and natural settings, the result was la dolce vita in Tokyo.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Family Style
17 / 20
The living room of the Nissenboim and Rice residence, featuing a ladder leading to the master bedroom.
Raise High the Roofbeams “It was our love of the old materials that dictated a lot of the renovation decisions,” says Helen Rice of her resuscitated classic Charleston single. “We didn’t want to overshadow or alter those elements in any unnatural way. We wanted the space to feel warm but spare, with a mixture of old and new.”
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Raise High the Roof Beams
18 / 20
Modern kitchen and living room design ideas
A Place to Stand Designed for her parents and generations to come, Amanda Yates's seaside New Zealand house is "somewhere between architecture and landscape" but firmly rooted in family life. The concrete wall mimics the slope of the hill outside as a reference to early Maori structures that were dug into the land. The simple kitchen has strandboard cabinetry and an MDF island that conceals a fireplace at one end. The ceramic works on the built-in seat at right are by Raewyn Atkinson and Robyn Lewis.
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
matthew williams
Originally appeared in Make Your Parents Happy by Building Them a House
19 / 20
The reading corner can be turned into an extra bed. Schonning designed the leather poufs himself, and made the cushions from an Ikea carpet. Under the concrete slab there is room for wood, books and newspapers. Photo by <a href="http://www.permagnuspersso
An Attic Studio in Stockholm In the 495-square-foot attic apartment of Jimmy Schonning, there's no wasted space. The reading corner can be turned into an extra bed. Schonning designed the leather pouffes himself, and made the cushions from an Ikea carpet. Under the concrete slab there is room for wood, books, and newspapers.
Courtesy of 
Copyright Per Magnus Persson
Originally appeared in An Attic Studio in Stockholm
20 / 20
Yellow North Face tent atop a wooden deck
A Platform for Living Photographer Dean Kaufman described this retreat in Japan's Chichibu mountain range as “finely balanced between rustic camping and feeling like the Farnsworth House.” One of the most unique projects we've featured, the minimalist structure includes platforms upon which to pitch tents for sleeping and an enclosed space for cooking, eating, bathing, and lounging. Favorite features include a series of wall-mounted climbing holds and products from the residents' camping gear company. Photo by Dean Kaufman.

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