7 of the Strangest Homes on Earth

From shipping container homes to houses built into caves, these are some of the strangest - and smartest - homes out there.

1. Shipping Container Home
Not just for resourceful squatters, container architecture is taking the world by storm. Recycled freight containers bring efficiency, flexibility and affordability to innovative green buildings, from small vacation cabins to movable cafes, schools and skyscrapers.

With its modern lines and appealing spaces, the award-winning Redondo Beach House by De Maria Design turns heads. The luxury beachside showpiece was built from eight prefabricated, recycled steel shipping containers, along with some traditional building materials. According to the architects, the modified containers are "nearly indestructible," as well as resistant to mold, fire, and termites. Seventy percent of the building was efficiently assembled in a shop, saving time, money and resources.

Related: Check out photos of vacation homes, student housing and even a coffee shop made from shipping containers!


2. Treehouse
Not your average treehouse. Perched high in the forest of Okinawa is a unique creation by master Japanese treehouse builder Taka, author of Treedom: The Road to Freedom. The "Plexiglas portal to the universe" is an attraction at the rustic Beach Rock resort, a popular stopover for young Japanese backpackers and those who want to get away from the ordinary for a while. The treehouse was built in 2005, and weathered a typhoon the following season.

Related: See photos of a treehouse school, complete with a main lodge and guest rooms.



3. Floating Home

As with many architectural designs coming out of Dubai, this houseboat is stunning. The 220-square meter home was cleverly designed by Dubai-based architectural firm X-Architects. Set on two catamaran beams, this two-story structure is encased in glass windows, allowing sunlight to flood the interior. It'll take the average person more than a few bank loans to get his hands on the swish fittings and up-market features of this chic and spacious floating home, even if it's just to rent for a week!

Related: Don't miss Brad Pitt's floating home!




4. Cave Home

People have been hollowing out caves to make their homes for many thousands of years. We all need shelter from the elements, and it didn't take long for our ancestors to run out of available real estate in natural caves.While many of these ancient structures are still standing, and a few are still inhabited by contemporary residents, there are also people experimenting with the benefits of modern cave living. And what may surprise you is that many of these homes are well appointed, with modern conveniences, good ventilation and even spectacular views. Most of them cost less than conventional housing.

Tucked into a 17,000-square-foot hole left by a sandstone mine in Festus, Missouri, is the spacious, beautiful home of William "Curt" Sleeper, his wife Deborah and their three kids. The home includes three bedrooms, oak flooring, goldfish pool and even a laundry room.

Related: See photos from inside this cave home - it will blow your mind!


5. Green Modular Home


"Modular" is no longer a dirty word. These homes are stylish, forward-thinking -- and green.

The eye-catching, quirky Vail Grant House from Pugh + Scarpa Architects is constructed from prefabricated structural concrete insulating panels (SCIPS) made by Green Sandwich Technologies. All panels are 60% recycled material, including wire mesh made from recycled auto parts and fly ash, a byproduct of coal burning.

Related: Flip through photos of more cutting-edge homes located in New Orleans and L.A.


6. Straw Home
This enchanting Hobbit-like home is partially dug into the hillside in a Welsh village, and is a lovely example of deep care for the environment. It took the inventor, Simon Dale, and some helpful friends four months and £3,000 to complete, and features straw bales in the walls, floors and roof to guarantee maximum insulation and a cozy ambience. Simon comments on his creation: "Being your own architect is a lot of fun and allows you to enjoy something that is part of yourself and the land rather than at worst a mass-produced box designed for maximum profit." He adds, "Building from natural materials does away with producers' profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings."

Related: See photos of modern straw homes built in the U.S.


7. Oddly-Shaped Home
Perhaps what Gaudí would have envisioned if he were asked to decorate a sea shell, the Nautilus in Mexico City was completed in 2006 by architect Javier Sensonian of Arquitectura Orgánica. Sensonian practices what he calls "bio-architecture," and has designed buildings shaped like snakes, whales and other living things. The Nautilus was built for a young family that wanted something that felt more integrated with nature, and it is filled with lush vegetation. The front door blends into the colorful mosaic façade.

Related: Check out more unique designs, including structures that look like they're straight from a Star Wars set!

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.