Favorite Organic House

Builder's Choice 2011Casey Key Guest House, Osprey, FLA.

Casey Key Guest House, Osprey, Fla.

Credit: William Speer

The Casey Key Guest House resembles the hull of a ship that sat still long enough to take on the curve of the wind-shaped, long-limbed coastal oak forest around it. Or maybe those glulam beams represent the waves breaking out front. In any case, the water-front guest home’s form is part organic and part ship’s belly. Inside, the beams encircle the space, blurring the distinction between roof and walls. Outside, it is clad with standing-seam metal roofing and cypress shiplap siding. The structure, which is in a flood plain, sits on a special steel piling foundation system that avoids disturbing the roots of the trees that surround it. TOTeMS Architecture of Sarasota, Fla., designed the one-bedroom, one-bath home, which was built by Michael K. Walker & Associates, also of Sarasota.

Favorite Metamorphosis

  • Tone It Down This natural beauty was once an emblem of big wealth and poor taste that most considered unsalvageable.

    Credit: James Ray Spahn

    Tone It Down This natural beauty was once an emblem of big wealth and poor taste that most considered unsalvageable.

This custom Aspen, Colo., house started life in the 1980s as an ugly custom McMansion. After a thoughtful, mostly cosmetic, make-over, it became a Cinderella house, barely resembling its former clunky mish-mash of architecture. Because of restrictive city codes and a nearby river bank, Charles Cunniffe Architects was required to stick to the existing foundation of the 5,075-square-foot structure. Outside, its façade was heavily edited down to a simpler, friendlier face with a barrel-vaulted focal point. Inside, interiors were opened up to sunlight and breezes with windows and skylights. Reverse shed dormers in the great room and master bedroom were added to capture mountain views. The finishes are sustainable and natural including concrete, bamboo, and figured Anigre wood.

Favorite Little House with a Big View

  • Sky RanchSeattle

    Credit: Benjamin Benschneider

    Sky Ranch Seattle

There may be wildflowers by the deck, but this is no hill-side house. Rather it sits atop a warehouse overlooking Seattle’s Salmon Bay. Built as a caretaker’s unit, there must be multiple applicants for the job that comes with such a view. The house itself is a simple 20-foot-by-40-foot box clad in light-gauge metal and glass aplenty to capture the view, with a 500-square-foot deck that wraps around the unit. A spine-wall full of built-in shelves and cabinets separates the home into living spaces and utilitarian areas. While the structure looks simple, it’s underpinning came at a high cost. To ensure the structural integrity of the homes’ roof-top foundation, three columns arranged like teepee poles were run through the warehouse with pin-pile footers under each column buried 70 to 90 feet deep into the ground. The cost for that stable footing: $200,000.