18 amazingly innovative homes

Check out these innovative home designs, from small-home style to custom-built architecture.

Best custom-built home
What we love: The playfulness, the great use of color, and even the bold in-your-face-ness of this eye-catching Santa Monica residence. In a world of boxes, it's a house with real personality. As the architects explain, the space is meant to say, "Come visit―we want to know our neighbors." This openness to the street and to the community offers a new model for the single-family home.
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Best small home design

What we love: We were wowed by this striking glass house built of components shipped from all over the country directly to the picturesque site in the Sierra Foothills. It's small in size (1,200 square feet), but makes an eye-popping impact.
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Best green home

What we love: The optimism and vision of Taliesin students are visible everywhere in this smart prefab in Scottsdale, AZ. The result of a design/build class taught by Jennifer Siegal and Michael P. Johnson, it's a dynamic, livable house that honors Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy while tackling important design issues of today, from innovative prefabrication to sustainable systems like solar panels and rainwater and gray-water collection.
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Best indoor-outdoor design

What we love: This stylish house in Venice, CA expressed the designer's family's desire for a design encompassing landscape and architecture. Sustainable features and native plants up the ante on a seamless integration of indoors and out.
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Best urban living space

What we love: That the architects of this Seattle triplex designed a complex yet elegant system to fit three apartments, each with generous outdoor living space and views, within just 3,800 square feet. The use of a structural steel frame allowed for more flexible floor plans: Someday, for instance, units A and C could be combined to make an apartment large enough to house a home office, an aging parent, or a growing family.
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Best residential remodel

What we love: Clients with modern in mind find it's not always easy to work within the San Francisco Planning Department's historical mandates. But the architects here proved the maxim that good design comes from constraints, creating an updated exterior for the 1910 Edwardian to house a museum-like transformation indoors. We were particularly taken with the dramatic concrete "water wall" (at far left of house) that feeds into a small channel cascading to a pond at the rear of the property.
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