Would You Live in a Cave if It Looked Like This?

People have been hollowing out caves to make their homes for many thousands of years. In certain parts of the world, it was easier for prehistoric people who ran out of natural caves to carve out warm, dry spaces than to use other building methods. Houses were cut into soft sandstone cliffs in China and the Middle East, and into volcanic ash and lava flows on Pacific islands.

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.

As anyone who has ever visited a natural cave knows, underground spaces are naturally quiet and maintain a constant temperature, cool in summer and warm in winter. Plus, their primary structure is all-natural material, and it is as locally sourced as it could possibly be. Cave homes certainly aren't available everywhere and may not be for everyone, but they are a good reminder of what's possible when we think outside of the ticky-tacky box. (Or think inside the box: check out these amazing homes made from shipping containers.)

The Sleeper Cave House
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 Sleepers almost lost their unique three-bedroom house to foreclosure, but they recently received backing from a private investor after media exposure.

"We feel that our home is eco-friendly," Curt told The Daily Green. He explained that he needs to run no heating or cooling, since the natural insulation of the cave walls keep the inside air 65 to 70 degrees year round. The Sleepers constructed the façade of their dwelling out of 300 sliding glass doors purchased from a local resale shop. "I stripped the aluminum and resold it to the local recycle center," Curt adds. "We pull more than 100 gallons of water per day from the air with our dehumidifiers and then pump that outside to water our gardens and feed chickens." Find out your home energy IQ.

"The Cave House"
Want your own luxury cave? In the eclectic town of Bisbee, Arizona (near the historic Tombstone) you'll find The Cave House, which is currently on the market for just under $2 million. The Cave House has no water bills (reduce yours with this easy trick), thanks to a natural spring, or heating or cooling bills. It does have an efficient pellet fireplace, as well as a guesthouse, workshop, shed, carport, hot tub, barbeque area and separate office and library.

The truly unique Cave House sits 5,300 feet above sea level and with a rise of 2,000 feet. There are sweeping views of the Mule Mountains and canyon, as well as a refreshing natural creek, with natural swimming pools and gorgeous rock patios. Like water? Check out these floating homes (including Brad Pitt's).

Forestiere Underground Gardens
Now a tourist attraction in Fresno, California, the Forestiere Underground Gardens were designed and hand-built by Sicilian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere, a vineyardist and horticulturalist. Starting in 1906, Forestiere spent forty years carving a mysterious underground escape from the San Joaquin Valley's powerful heat. Fashioned after the "visions stored in my mind," his caverns are a network of gardens illuminated with skylights, as well as comfortable living spaces for himself, including a kitchen, bedroom and fish pond.

The complex sprawls across ten acres, and is now listed as a California Historic Landmark. It goes to show that not only can one live well in the earth, but one can even grow fruit trees (Forestiere had citrus, dates, olives and much more, as well as a bounty of other vegetation).

PLUS: See more strange and smart green homes!

TELL US: Would you live in one of these homes?

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.