31 Visionary Projects Proudly Designed by Women

31 Visionary Projects Proudly Designed by Women

By Paige Alexus and Grace Miller
Dwell honors the monumentally talented women who have graced our pages over the years.

Through architecture and design, these women have made a profound impact on the modern world we live in, and we’re grateful to have worked with each and every one of them. Whether their work resulted in the creation of comfortable home base, a live/work creative space, or an urban backyard for an active family, these women are responsible for some of the most incredible homes that we’ve featured in the past. Without their intelligence, unique creativity, and dedication to design, these homes simply would not exist. That’s why today—and everyday—we celebrate women across the globe. 

Jane Macrae and the Family Home Inspired by a Pink Song

Inspiration can come from many places—and when Jane Macrae, founder of Nine Muses Design, was working on a colorful family home in the coastal town of Point Lonsdale in Victoria, Australia, it came from singer Pink’s hit "The FUN House." 

"The process of designing the home was so much fun," says Macrae. "Each time we developed and refined the design, more quirky and colorful elements made it onto the page. I started to label the home ‘The FUN House,’ and I would listen to this tune and bop along whilst drafting and smiling."

The home is divided into three distinct pavilions. Orange box gutters break up these three forms, and a green pergola unites them. Instead of downpipes, rain chains are used as a visual element.

Shirley Shen and the Home She Crafted for Her Grandparents

Set within the East Asian community of Richmond, BC, Curio House allows two Chinese scholars—the architect’s grandparents—to age in place. "I have a very close relationship with them," says Haeccity Studio Architecture cofounder Shirley Shen, "and it was kind of a family endeavor." The homeowners had lived in a two-story home on the same street for 40 years, but it was falling into disrepair, and the stairs proved a challenge at their age. "So, [the design] was to reinterpret using their cultural background as the basis, but to do it in a modern way."

A remote-controlled kitchen island rises and lowers to accommodate wheelchairs.

Gabrielle Toledano and the Wood Ribbon Apartment

Soon after returning to work from maternity leave, Toledano was eager to flex her design prowess in reshaping an old apartment into a contemporary home. Informed by her clients’ programmatic needs, curved walls with built-in storage were prefabricated in a carpenter’s workshop from laser-cut plywood sheets and then bent with custom molds. The panels were assembled on-site within a day.

The view from the dining area toward the front entrance shows the wooden ribbons on either side. "The fluidity of the space encourages and fosters movement as well as creativity," says Toledano.

Michelle Morrison, Jessica Weigley, and Kirsten Elliott and the Womansion

Morrison set her sights on a lofty goal: to convert an Oakland warehouse space into her dream home with just a $125,000 budget. With Siol Studios and Elliott Build in tow, the results came in on time and exactly within her budget—and she was able to move in just seven months after closing. Says Morrison, "I was on a pre-election feminist high, and I bought the loft from a woman and I had a female loan officer, so it only made sense to find a design and build team who were also women. I started calling my home the Womansion."

Morrison and her two greyhounds pose with her brother and roommate, Michael Anthony Morrison—an artist who is also responsible for much of her art collection. 

Fernanda Canales and Her Self-Sufficient Casa Terreno

When architect Fernanda Canales decided to create a vacation home for her family on a secluded plateau in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, she knew that the remote location and temperamental weather would be a challenge. But her attraction to the area’s exceptional landscapes and rich history, she says, made the endeavor more than worth it.

At the heart of the home is a large, open-air courtyard that brings the wild landscape into the home with native landscaping. The greenery continues on the home's flat roofs.

Mariana de Delás and Palma Hideaway, a Converted Motorcycle Repair Shop

Spanish architect Mariana de Delás was undaunted by the prospect of converting a crumbling motorcycle repair shop into an apartment. In 2017, she’d transformed an industrial space in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona into a live/work studio, and she considers Palma Hideaway, as the project is called, a continuation of that work. "Palma Hideaway is the result of an ongoing exploration on how to dwell in ground-floor spaces sited in dense urban fabrics," says the firm.

"This garden buffer area serves as a way to get light inside and also act as an acoustic and privacy barrier from the street," says the firm.

Gina Stevens and the Cherry Picker Tiny House

When a recently retired, well-traveled couple in New Zealand needed a guest house for friends and family who visit from oversees for long periods of time, they called upon Build Tiny. "Our clients, who live on the North Island of New Zealand, wanted a home away from home for their loved ones," says Gina Stevens, Build Tiny’s co-founder and director. "It’s hard to talk about this house and not also mention the stunning views of farmland, a pine tree forest, and the South Pacific Ocean."

Cherry Picker, a guest home designed by Build Tiny, is situated on the North Island of New Zealand. It features views of the South Pacific Ocean and a lush pine forest.

Mardi Doherty and Her Farmhouse’s Hidden Japanese Interior

In the historic town of Beechworth, found in the Australian state of Victoria, Doherty Design Studio masterfully subverts expectations in this two-story stone farmhouse. It’s a holiday home that looks as if it has belonged to its rural surroundings for centuries, while cocooning a surprising jewel box of contemporary design inside.

Although strikingly different from its traditional farmhouse exterior, the interiors reference the outer appearance with an exposed solid granite wall in the living room and exposed roof trusses with black plated junctions that recall the artisanal joinery and construction techniques found in traditional Japanese homes.

Eva Holbrook and Her Bonny Doon Forest Temple

Interior designer Eva Holbrook and artist Jamie Williams purchased their cabin for the vibe. Surrounded by lush forest and located just 15 minutes from the beach, it’s the perfect setting for a retreat that doubles as their main residence. Their goal was to develop the property into a space that would allow them—and visitors—to "disconnect from civilization, breathe in the fresh air, and rejuvenate on a cellular level," explains Eva.

In designing the space, Eva and Jamie were all about bringing the outdoors in—hence they incorporated lots of wood and reclaimed materials. The living room sofa and chair are from Article.

Madeleine Blanchfield and Her Mirrored Outhouse in the Australian Bush

Madeleine Blanchfield Architects was tasked with creating an outhouse that posed minimal impact on the surrounding landscape while providing the sense of being immersed in nature. This brief led to the creation of the Kangaroo Valley Outhouse—a simple cube wrapped in reflective glass that provides services for a small cabin available for overnight stays.

The mirrored box disappears into the hillside, reflecting the dense foliage.

Linda Bergroth and Her Prefab Shed/Summer Home

Linda Bergroth had gardening and storage in mind when she developed this scaled-down prefab prototype. The Finnish designer collaborated with Helsinki-based Avanto Architects for two years to perfect the compact unit—now available for purchase from outdoor brand Kekkilä—which artfully merges shed and greenhouse into one wood-framed, gabled-roof, glass-walled structure.

This dreamy, glass bedroom by the lake was created as an early prototype for the prefabricated greenhouse/she kits known as the Kekkilä Green Sheds.

Marianne Borge and the Woody35 Prefab Cabin

Large vacation homes have become almost the standard in this affluent Northern European country in later years, in contrast to the small and quite simple ones that were built by previous generations. The bigger, the better, seems to have been the mantra. But is that really true? When Oslo-based architect Marianne Borge was approached in 2004 by a client who wanted an actual cabin rather than a second home, she was instantly inspired by the challenge of working on a smaller scale.

When Oslo-based architect Marianne Borge was approached in 2004 by a client who wanted an actual cabin rather than a second home, she was instantly inspired by the challenge of working on a smaller scale. The home, called Woody35, has a distinct shape that makes it stand out from its surroundings despite the modest size of the building.

Karen Braitmayer, Carol Sundstrom, and Their Highly Accessible Midcentury Renovation

Braitmayer, whose firm, Studio Pacifica, specializes in universal access space planning and ADA compliance, is a wheelchair user, as is her teenage daughter. With its open layout and single-floor plan, her house worked fairly well for many years, but, as Braitmayer says, "It was really my daughter growing up that spurred us to make some changes. Her disability is a little bit different from mine, and some of the things I was able to work around for a long time weren’t going to work for her." Braitmayer called in another architect, Carol Sundstrom of Seattle-based Röm Architecture Studio, who specializes in single-family remodels and with whom Braitmayer has collaborated on many projects.

As an architect who specializes in universal access design and ADA compliance and as a wheelchair user herself, Karen Braitmayer was no stranger to the challenges of accessible design. Although she had been able to take advantage of her 1954 home’s single-level, open layout, as her daughter (also a wheelchair user) grew up, the family’s accessibility needs also shifted. The main living area includes a more formal sitting area near the entrance, the dining area, Braitmayer’s workspace, and the kitchen.

AnnKathrin Lundqvist and Her Floating Hotel in Sweden’s Lule River

In Sweden’s frigid Lule River floats Arctic Bath, a luxe wellness destination offering a menu of spa treatments, a traditional cold plunge, daytime excursions, a restaurant serving locally-sourced, regional fare, and on-site accommodations. Six rentable cabins float at the end of wooden docks, while six more perch above the snow on stilts—and all feature sleek, Scandinavian design by architect AnnKathrin Lundqvist. Guests wake up to heated floors, peer out of floor-to-ceiling windows (in the land cabins), and sip hot beverages from floating suites while gazing upon the water.

Logs splayed around the structure’s facade emulate a log jam—a reference to Harads’ logging industry from days of yore. During the summer, the bath floats freely in the Lule River and it’s anchored to shore by a wooden dock. In the winter, the frozen river does the trick.

Vanessa Fong and Her Shou Sugi Ban Lakeside Cottage

Architect Vanessa Fong designed the cottage for her mother-in-law with respect for the site and a strong understanding of the family’s programmatic needs. The result is a year-round cottage that maximizes lake views, embraces solar orientation, and provides a variety of public and private spaces—both open and enclosed.

In the public spaces, large sliding glass doors provide a seamless connection for indoor/outdoor living.

Maria Milans del Bosch and Camp O, Her House and Studio

Imagine a rectangular building with a pitched roof. Then imagine slicing the building into two unequal parts and placing them end to end so that the roof now slants in two directions. This shape defines the home, which is set into a slope and cradled by a concrete retaining wall. The shou sugi ban skin lets the house visually melt into the wooded landscape. "On a clear day, you can see the mountains," Maria says, looking west into the mist.

Maria Milans del Bosch’s Catskills home is attuned to the changing seasons. Sunlight pours into the double-height living room, where a Stûv fireplace and radiant floors keep the space warm in winter.

Hanna Karits and a Baltic Sea Beach House

Architect Hanna Karits designed a coastal getaway at Matsi Beach in Pärnumaa, Estonia for a family to use as an escape from the big city. Embracing the duality of the Baltic region’s long, dark winters and sun-soaked summers, the house is dark on the outside and light on the inside. Exterior walls are clad in black spruce boards and the roof is covered in black concrete tiles. Dark smoked ash decks connect the main house with the neighboring structure.

 A substantial sandstone fireplace grounds the voluminous living room.

Sarah Featherstone and Her Green-Roofed Stonecrop House

On a small and awkward site in the Midlands village of Wing, Featherstone Young built a 3,735-square-foot home for retired doctors Matthew and Nicky Lyttelton. The architects embraced the sloping topography by designing two graceful wings—one for the couple’s everyday use, and one that can be opened up for visiting family and friends.

A distinctive faceted green roof melds the building with the surrounding landscape, spiraling around the wings of the house and encircling a central open courtyard, while a rough drystone wall built from locally sourced Clip­sham limestone acts as a thermal buffer for the main living area.   

Sonia Radović Jelovac and Her Haystack-Inspired Home

Located on the edge of a larch forest in Kolasin, Montenegro, Chalet Jelovac is a 3,229-square-foot home created by Sonja Radović Jelovac, the principal of Studio Synthesis Architecture & Design. The residence serves as both Sonja’s family retreat, and as a teaching tool for architecture students. It’s also one of the most energy-efficient buildings in Montenegro—complete with smart heating and cooling systems, three-layer, low-emission glass windows, and a wood-fired central heating system that recirculates hot water through large-capacity heaters in the basement.

Inspired by a haystack, Chalet Jelovac was designed to have a "good visual, spiritual, and physical connection" with its natural surroundings. 

An All-Female Architecture Team and Their One MANI House

In Fitzroy North, an all-female architecture team crafts a "family home of the future" that champions great design. Proving that great architecture can—and should—be accessible, Melbourne-based Mani Architecture completed a unique home that’s purpose-built for the housing market. It’s a rarity in Australia, where architect-designed homes make up less than 10% of residential properties.

A view of the rear of the home. Recycled materials, such as salvaged red bricks and steel window details, were repurposed from other building sites.

Fernanda Canales and the Blacked-Out Casa Bruma

About 100 miles southwest of Mexico City, nine black concrete blocks in a forest clearing make up one family's holiday home. Designed by Mexican architect Fernanda Canales with landscaping by Claudia Rodríguez, Casa Bruma makes elegant use of a construction material that's commonplace in Latin America.

The design allows each volume to assert its independence while interacting with the other buildings in a rhythmic sequence.

Barbara Hill and Her Renovated Casita in Marfa, Texas

After reviving a casita next door to her former home in Marfa, Texas, designer Barbara Hill's plans of renting it out quickly changed as she realized she should make it her own. As a Texan to the core, the Houston-based designer spends about four months of the year in Marfa, where she’s transformed former beauty parlors and dance halls into unique second homes since the 1980s.

Hill sits on a Casalino chair from Design Within Reach in the living room; on the wall is Quivers, a sculpture by her daughter, Claire Cusak. Collaborator George Sacaris made the stump table.

Jennifer Siegal and Her Modular Home in Venice

Designer and prefab proponent Jennifer Siegal designed her modular home in Venice where she lives with her daughter Sydney. Since she began the Office of Mobile Design (OMD) in 1998, she’s continuously experimented with the possibilities of portability, repurposing materials, and offsite construction. Her home has served as a laboratory for these ideas since 2002. 

Siegal sits at a table made by Granada Millwork. The chairs are from West Elm and the pendants are from Patrick Braden.

Tiffany Bowie and an Efficient Home She Designed For Her Father

Tiffany Bowie of Malboeuf Bowie Architecture built an energy-efficient house for her father Dave—a retired engineer—in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. Managed by a Kirio operating system, the house consumes 90-percent less energy than its neighbors. 

Passive House guidelines, like thick insulation, can often result in very simple forms, she says. Here, a recessed entrance in the shou sugi ban front facade provides privacy without complicating the design.

Monica Viarengo and an Urban Garden She Created For a Family

San Francisco–based landscape designer Monica Viarengo was tasked with rethinking a backyard for a family of five. She created a colorful, light-hearted, urban garden where the three young daughters can play amidst space-saving vertical gardens, a water wall, and a playful mural.  

A pebble mosaic and artificial turf divide the yard into zones that never need to be mowed.

Susan Fitzgerald and Her Multi-Use Residence in Canada

When architect Susan Fitzgerald decided to create her home with her builder partner Brainard, she embraced the diverse and evolving community of their transitional neighborhood, Halifax, Canada. The design also doubles as a commercial space for their firms and a live/work rental unit. 

Concrete was chosen for both structural and finish material throughout much of the home, for its aesthetic, functional, and budgetary appeal. The polished concrete floors in the bedroom complement the birch bed and cabinetry. The home provides living space for the couple, two kids, one dog, and two cats.

Mia Dalgas and Her Family’s Copenhagen Home She Helped Plan 

Mia Dalgas, a marketing director for Carl Hansen & Søn, did the majority of the planning and project management for her family’s 1880s home in Copenhagen’s Potato Rows District. "But since I’m not an architect, we hired Søren Nilsson of Ingvartsen Arkitekter to tweak my hand drawings," says Dalgas. She personally held biweekly meetings with the building crew during the six-month project.

"The house really works well because we don’t have to sit in each other’s laps," Mia says. A CH327 dining table and CH47 chairs by Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen & Søn provide a gathering place on the first floor, lit by a vintage pendant and Gubi’s Pedrera PD2 floor lamp.

Stephanie Horowitz and a Barn She Transformed for a Community

At Powisset Farm in Dover, Massachusetts, Architect Stephanie Horowitz of Boston’s ZeroEnergy Design transformed a former barn into a community hub that’s wired to provide power and produce for more than 300 local members. 

The Powisset barn’s state-of-the-art learning kitchen hosts public classes on everything from jam-making to food security. Its aged floors and ceilings are packed with cellulose insulation.

Christi Azevedo and a Home She Customized For a Couple

Architect Christi Azevedo, who is known for her experience with modernizing worn-out houses, was tasked with rebranding an uninteresting box home in San Francisco’s Noe Valley for a pair of tech industry veterans from Silicon Valley. Along with covering the facade with cedar boards finished with the Japanese technique shou sugi ban, she brought it to the modern age with a smart home system that works perfectly for their lives. 

The couple source ideas for their garden from their trips to Japan.

Anne Fougeron and a Colorful San Francisco Home She Designed for a Young Family

San Francisco couple Jim and Noriko would be the first to admit they never thought much about architecture—that is, until late 2013, when they took possession of one of the city’s many worn-out Victorians. By hiring acclaimed architect Anne Fougeron, they hoped to compensate for their lack of knowledge and create something extraordinary for themselves and their young daughter. 

Three shades of paint—Kensington Blue, Old Blue Jeans, and Denim Wash, all by Benjamin Moore—cover built-ins and delineate space.

Alda Ly and the Co-Working Space For Women

When Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan joined forces to develop The Wing in New York in 2016, they had one mission in mind: "To create space for women to advance their pursuits and build community together." Now, just two years later, the dynamic duo have launched their third "home base for women on their way. " This time, the space takes place in a renovated factory overlooking the East River in Brooklyn, New York.

A dramatic pink granite table provides a central meeting spot.

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