10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes

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By Melissa Dalton
Ranging from the dramatic to the understated and modest, these 10 homes use suspension to thrilling effect.

Cantilevered architecture, pioneered by architect Frank Lloyd Wright (who famously used it in Fallingwater), is evocative both for its surprising form and its cleverness—it is, after all, creating livable space out of thin air. Take a tour of some of our favorite examples below.  

Bolton Residence 

According to _naturehumaine, the firm that designed this sculptural vacation home on a steep slope in an Eastern Quebec forest, the goal of the project was "a country house in perfect symbiosis with its natural environment."   

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 1 of 23 - The home’s geometric silhouette echoes the classic typology of the region’s gable roof barns. "We took our inspiration from this vernacular architecture and re-interpreted it with a contemporary twist," Dworkind says.

The home’s geometric silhouette echoes the classic typology of the region’s gable roof barns. "We took our inspiration from this vernacular architecture and re-interpreted it with a contemporary twist," Dworkind says.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 2 of 23 - The project’s unique challenges—a tight budget and steep, difficult terrain — led the architects to a creative solution that gave the house its delightfully sculptural appearance. Making the first floor’s envelope slightly narrower than the top one’s saved money while minimizing the amount of excavation required. "We were then able to create a wider floor plate on the upper level by having it cantilever over the lower level," Dworkind explains.

The project’s unique challenges—a tight budget and steep, difficult terrain — led the architects to a creative solution that gave the house its delightfully sculptural appearance. Making the first floor’s envelope slightly narrower than the top one’s saved money while minimizing the amount of excavation required. "We were then able to create a wider floor plate on the upper level by having it cantilever over the lower level," Dworkind explains.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 3 of 23 - A centralized fireplace was built into a custom, multi-purpose cabinet welded from sheets of hot-rolled steel. It stores firewood, holds a TV, and even acts as a guardrail for the staircase.

A centralized fireplace was built into a custom, multi-purpose cabinet welded from sheets of hot-rolled steel. It stores firewood, holds a TV, and even acts as a guardrail for the staircase.

The Balancing Barn 

This gleaming, stainless steel-clad "barn" designed by MVRDV and Mole Architects balances on a Suffolk slope, projecting 18 meters out and five meters off the ground.  

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 4 of 23 -
10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 5 of 23 -

Midden Studio 

For this zinc-clad artist's studio nestled into the western coast of Scotland, the London-based firm Studio Weave opted to position the small building so it "floated" over a stream, then designed a "light soffit" to optimize the view. 

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 6 of 23 - The studio is located in the natural context of the Scottish coast, with the island of Jura in the distance. A significant design challenge, according to Blake, was "building something quite refined in an extreme and remote environment." To overcome this logistical obstacle, much of the material was prefabricated offsite and transported to the building location. At the facade, elemental zinc is elevated from raw material to art piece by the unique cladding pattern. The custom embossed standing seam zinc system was designed in collaboration with VM Zinc, and fitted by HLMetals.

The studio is located in the natural context of the Scottish coast, with the island of Jura in the distance. A significant design challenge, according to Blake, was "building something quite refined in an extreme and remote environment." To overcome this logistical obstacle, much of the material was prefabricated offsite and transported to the building location. At the facade, elemental zinc is elevated from raw material to art piece by the unique cladding pattern. The custom embossed standing seam zinc system was designed in collaboration with VM Zinc, and fitted by HLMetals.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 7 of 23 - Occupying a footprint of just 110 square feet, the studio finds smart ways to maximize space. Central to this undertaking is the studio’s cantilever, which appears to float over the stream. The cantilever affords the studio more internal volume, while occupying no greater footprint below.

Occupying a footprint of just 110 square feet, the studio finds smart ways to maximize space. Central to this undertaking is the studio’s cantilever, which appears to float over the stream. The cantilever affords the studio more internal volume, while occupying no greater footprint below.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 8 of 23 - A ‘light soffit’ offers a dynamic view of the stream below, providing both visual and audio stimulation. Throughout the year, the studio is filled with the sound of water, from the ocean waves to the rain and drizzle, to the flowing stream below. The artist, who has a longstanding connection to the site, focuses on "art which leaves marks at once permanent and delicate," much like the structure itself.

A ‘light soffit’ offers a dynamic view of the stream below, providing both visual and audio stimulation. Throughout the year, the studio is filled with the sound of water, from the ocean waves to the rain and drizzle, to the flowing stream below. The artist, who has a longstanding connection to the site, focuses on "art which leaves marks at once permanent and delicate," much like the structure itself.

Altaïr House

In this 2015 home from Bourgeois/Lechasseur Architects, the upper level of the South-facing facade juts over the lower level—all the better to let the living room hover among the surrounding trees and connect with stunning water vistas.  

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 9 of 23 - The south-facing facade looks out towards the forest.

The south-facing facade looks out towards the forest.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 10 of 23 - Located on the second floor, the living room hovers above the lower deck.

Located on the second floor, the living room hovers above the lower deck.

Norwegian Sea Cabins 

The idea behind these cantilevered glass cabins (that you can rent!) was to create an immersive experience that brings visitors up close and personal with the beautiful setting of Manshausen Island in Norway. "The conceptual idea was to expose visitors to the outside elements, while at the same time providing a comfortable shelter," says architect Snorre Stinessen.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 11 of 23 - This boutique hotel on Norway's Manshausen Island is made up of four sea cabins—one of which juts out from a natural ledge. Each of them fit two to four travelers or a family of five.

This boutique hotel on Norway's Manshausen Island is made up of four sea cabins—one of which juts out from a natural ledge. Each of them fit two to four travelers or a family of five.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 12 of 23 - The cabins are made up of two layers of wood construction. The exterior layer is made of Larch wood with a custom glazing.

The cabins are made up of two layers of wood construction. The exterior layer is made of Larch wood with a custom glazing.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 13 of 23 - The large expanses of glass frame views that were perfectly planned. The seating areas are furnished with Scandia lounge chairs that were designed by Hans Brattrud in the 1950s and are now being produced by Fjordfiesta.

The large expanses of glass frame views that were perfectly planned. The seating areas are furnished with Scandia lounge chairs that were designed by Hans Brattrud in the 1950s and are now being produced by Fjordfiesta.

Aleph House 

Architects Elihu Siegman and Michael Silverman of Siegman Associates were inspired by the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet—Aleph—when they created this house on a slope in Asheville, North Carolina, complete with a modest cantilever from the second floor.  

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 14 of 23 - The lower level, finished in stucco and containing studios and guest rooms, blends into the natural contours of the site. The retractable door connects the woodworking studio to an outdoor workspace.

The lower level, finished in stucco and containing studios and guest rooms, blends into the natural contours of the site. The retractable door connects the woodworking studio to an outdoor workspace.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 15 of 23 - A dramatic cantilever forms the home's communal living space.

A dramatic cantilever forms the home's communal living space.

Crane Blvd 

Two precipitous lots in Los Angeles' Mount Washington neighborhood left Anonymous Architects with little build-able area: about 600 square feet each, in fact, for these side-by-side residences. So they cleverly stacked each building's two stories atop concrete pile foundations and added bay windows to extend the envelope.  

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 16 of 23 - While the floor plans are identical, the two story cantilevered houses are offset and have subtle differences in size and height that, along with frosting on some of the windows, enable the owners to retain privacy.

While the floor plans are identical, the two story cantilevered houses are offset and have subtle differences in size and height that, along with frosting on some of the windows, enable the owners to retain privacy.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 17 of 23 - Both the front door and garage are accessible from street level. The floor is cantilevered out over a concrete pile foundation and garden far below.

Both the front door and garage are accessible from street level. The floor is cantilevered out over a concrete pile foundation and garden far below.

Cantilever House 

For the design of this prefab house in the remote Washington wilderness from Anderson Anderson Architecture, a steel frame rests atop a concrete foundation bolted to an existing rock. "That rock is really what allowed this to be such a unique house," says Peter Anderson. "It’s what allowed us to cantilever the whole structure and take advantage of the site, pointing the house directly at the waterfalls, which are incredible."

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 18 of 23 - Looking like a jewel box at dusk, Scott Stafne’s Canti-lever House rests easy in the middle of the Washington woods. With miles of hiking trails, lakes, and waterfalls to explore, Stafne’s property provides almost unlimited opportunity for outdoor adventures. The strong and sturdy house acts as a warm respite from the elements when the weather won’t cooperate, which is often—horizontal rain and whipping winds can be the norm.

Looking like a jewel box at dusk, Scott Stafne’s Canti-lever House rests easy in the middle of the Washington woods. With miles of hiking trails, lakes, and waterfalls to explore, Stafne’s property provides almost unlimited opportunity for outdoor adventures. The strong and sturdy house acts as a warm respite from the elements when the weather won’t cooperate, which is often—horizontal rain and whipping winds can be the norm.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 19 of 23 - The living room looks out toward the two waterfalls that are also part of the property and the inspiration for its name. Artist Constantin Hapaianu made the coffee table and the stainless steel railings surrounding the staircase.

The living room looks out toward the two waterfalls that are also part of the property and the inspiration for its name. Artist Constantin Hapaianu made the coffee table and the stainless steel railings surrounding the staircase.

Berkshire House 

Framework Architecture sited this cantilevered cabin on a rock outcropping in the Berkshires over a 20-foot drop, effectively creating an immersive treehouse effect. Per their website: " No matter where you are in the house, you can see a tree nearby."  

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 20 of 23 - A cantilevered cabin designed by R D Gentzler blends into the forest, even as it hovers above a 20-foot drop-off. Its south face is almost entirely glass, but a roof canopy limits solar gain. "We sit on the deck all afternoon watching the trees, and the time just flies by," says resident Maricela Salas.

A cantilevered cabin designed by R D Gentzler blends into the forest, even as it hovers above a 20-foot drop-off. Its south face is almost entirely glass, but a roof canopy limits solar gain. "We sit on the deck all afternoon watching the trees, and the time just flies by," says resident Maricela Salas.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 21 of 23 - Those costs were partially recouped by using knotted pine planks for the exterior.

Those costs were partially recouped by using knotted pine planks for the exterior.

Sandpath 

Adrian James Architects utilized a modest cantilever over a concrete wall for this Oxford home in order to create an eye-catching entrance. 

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 22 of 23 - On the patio, occupants can take in the views from the oak chairs and table. The home’s rectilinear form was achieved using structural insulated panels that were flat packed and efficiently assembled on site. An integrated steel frame allows for the large openings onto the garden.

On the patio, occupants can take in the views from the oak chairs and table. The home’s rectilinear form was achieved using structural insulated panels that were flat packed and efficiently assembled on site. An integrated steel frame allows for the large openings onto the garden.

10 Gravity-Defying Cantilevered Homes - Photo 23 of 23 - The house cantilevers slightly over a concrete wall, adding a touch of lightness and drama to its approach. Stairs beside to the cantilever lead to the entrance. On the upper level, a bedroom and family bathroom look out through the windows of the cantilevered façade.

The house cantilevers slightly over a concrete wall, adding a touch of lightness and drama to its approach. Stairs beside to the cantilever lead to the entrance. On the upper level, a bedroom and family bathroom look out through the windows of the cantilevered façade.

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