18 Homes That Keep Things Fresh With Central Atriums

The lofty atriums in these dwellings bring in light, fresh air, and greenery.
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Descended from ancient Roman homes, the atrium can typically be found in large-scale public spaces like office buildings, hotel lobbies, and even some large apartment buildings. On a smaller scale, atriums—central, skylit spaces—are a literal breath of fresh air in modern homes, bringing light and nature indoors. Take a look as we review some of our favorite atrium homes that have taken this traditional layout to new heights.

1) A Neoclassical Gallery Home in Belgium

At a design-focused mansion in Belgium, the soaring atrium is home to a jacaranda high board from the 1960s, a chrome and glass lamp from Italy, a black leather chair and footstool by Sergio Rodrigues, a Berber rug, and a pair of photographs by the Brazilian artist Luiz Braga.

The plan of this house in British Columbia by Vancouver architects Heather Howat and David Battersby of BattersbyHowat Architects revolves around a rocky outcropping lush with life that acts as the home’s central atrium. The granite was left intact in order to serve as the nucleus of the courtyard, and the walls of windows draw a wealth of natural daylight into the back of the building.

The concept of a house in Croatia by 3LDH is inspired by the shape of a snail’s shell, which involves a spiral twisting around its own axis. As such, all functional elements of the house follow each other and are built around a central atrium. The atrium was made in order to compensate for a lack of sunlight in the home.

Built by Joseph Eichler, the home was designed by A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons. While bringing the home back to its former glory, the family with two children also made some modern updates. Materials original to classic Eichler homes such as interior wood paneling, aluminum sliding doors, glass walls, and VCT flooring were restored, and other original spaces like an open atrium were maintained.

Linda Hutchins and John Montague hired Works Partnership Architecture to turn a former warehouse and auto repair shop into a versatile live/work space. The building is full of natural light, thanks to 11 skylights and a glass atrium in the center of the space, where a hammock and a vine maple tree sway in the breeze.

Architect Kevin Toukoumidis and his team at dSPACE Studio reworked an unusual layout of a Chicago home to fit its new owners: a family with two children and a dog. The result was a radical change without dramatic intervention, particularly of the home's large central atrium space.

LA-based real estate development company Prime Five Homes sought to create a home that was clean, peaceful, and uncluttered, particularly through material choices and large, open spaces. The central atrium—a recurring element used to expand indoor/outdoor space in Prime Five Homes projects—helps lengthen the living room vertically and creates a light well that fills both the upstairs and downstairs areas with bright daylight.

SPAN Architecture recast this two-level space in New York City—previously a photography studio—as a loft-like residence that is rich in materials. A blackened steel staircase, executed by general contractor Richard Kaleta, leads to the private quarters on the duplex's second floor. The walkway is composed of custom etched glass, stretched across an open atrium to below. Michael Moran

Designed by Choeff Levy Fischman, this home in Miami Beach emphasizes transparency, views, indoor/outdoor living, and entertaining. A critical component of this is an atrium in the center of the residence, which creates an outdoor seating area while still inside the home.

Minimal interventions by architect Andrew Simpson allowed this former jam warehouse outside of Melbourne, Australia, to be turned into a family residence. "To draw light and ventilation into what was a poorly oriented and deep footprint, an extensive number of operable skylights were introduced on the north- and south-facing roof pitches, and a large void connecting the floors was strategically positioned to also take advantage of this amenity," Simpson says. American oak floorboards and Dulux paint were used throughout the property for continuity.

After being damaged by a fire, architect Stephen Moser had the opportunity to design a major renovation of a home in Southern New York using the existing footprint. The renovation included an atrium over the main staircase, which features a custom stainless steel railing designed by Moser and manufactured by the homeowners’ son-in-law, who owns a local fabrication shop. The self-supporting steel rod system and Sonneman Bubbles Light pendant light nicely contrast with the surrounding woodwork.

In Orange, California, a 1964 Model OC584 Eichler home designed by architect Claude Oakland was recently updated as a four-bedroom, two-bath home with an expanded master bathroom. The central outdoor atrium to the home is typical of the open-plan, indoor-outdoor style of living that Eichler homes are known form.

Villa Mosca Bianca by Design Haus Liberty is surrounded by outdoor terraces that cascade down to the waters of Lake Maggiore. Within the house itself, though, the central atrium not only acts as a focal point but also supports a rainwater collection system, and its operable glass facilitates passive ventilation. "It's also just peaceful watching it rain inside the house," says Dara Huang, founder of Design Haus Liberty.

A double-height entrance atrium welcomes visitors into this multi-generational family home in Agra, India, in a project designed by the New Delhi design firm of flyYingseeds Studio. The different parts of the existing home were reshuffled, bringing together a large family.

In southern Osaka, Japan, Horibe Associates designed a 911-square foot house that directs views outwards towards rice fields and woods beyond. However, at the center of the home is an open-air atrium with access from multiple rooms, creating garden-facing rooms that give a serene and nature-focused backdrop that changes with the seasons.

Like other Eichler homes, this 1964 model designed by Claude Oakland and Jones & Emmons opens to a spacious central atrium, which has been updated with concrete pads bordered by loose stones that house local succulents under the semi-enclosed space. Deep eaves allow for some shade, while a larger central portion remains open for trees and sunlight.

A 100-year old olive tree sits at the first floor of this atrium at the entry to a Beverly Hills mansion. On the second floor, the corridors of the second level open out to the level below, while a glass skylight above allows daylight to stream in.

The outdoor atrium of Family House Litvínovice is a completely private space that's well-suited for the installation of a hammock, outdoor bath, or shower. A11 designed the home to be an exploration of minimalism and privacy from the outside world.


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