There are amazing houses all throughout the world but a lot of them are concentrated in a few regions, one of which is California. We’re not talking just about Hollywood but the entire region in general.
Over the years we’ve seen our share of amazing California houses and we can now honestly say that there’s a lot of inspiration to be found here.
The most expensive house in the U.S.
924 Bel Air Road is where you can find the ultimate billionaire’s house, a mansion designed by Bruce Makowsky for those who only want the best of everything. This is the priciest home every listed for sale in the U.S., with a price tag of $250 million. For this, someone can become the owner of a 12-bedroom mansion with 21 bathrooms, three kitchens, five bars and a home theater that can sit 40 people. Of course, to this we should also add the infinity pool, the numerous terraces, gardens and amazing views.
The Wave House
Although not nearly as expensive as the mansion previously described, a lot of other California houses deserve to be mentioned thanks to their amazing architecture and exquisite designs. One of them is the Wave House, a residence designed by Mario Romano in Venice, Los Angeles. Its name is actually very suggestive of its design. The house has this abstract and unusual form and a unique look given by the undulating metal exterior.
The exterior shell of the building was created using more than 300 white aluminum panels attached to a metal structure. The street facade is the only different one, featuring a stained cedar wall. The exterior is not the only one with fluid lines as the interior spaces are also seamlessly connected. They’re also defined by a lot of organic forms and interestingly carved shapes which are meant to mimic the elements found in nature.
Weathering steel house
Some houses get ugly and outdated as time passes but not always. This house in Sonoma Valley, California has an exterior wrapped in weathering steel which is meant to get a patina over time and to age with the house. The project was developed byAlchemy Architects and it’s very interesting in the sense that it was designed in Minnesota, built-in Oregon and then transported to Santa Rosa, California for a client living in San Francisco. This is an example that illustrates the efficiency of prefabricated designs and structures.
The house is made up of two separate volumes. They’re made of steel and they sit on concrete platforms. One of the volumes is larger than the other and includes the social areas as well as the open plan kitchen. It has glass facades and beautiful views of the valley. Both volumes have access to balconies and warm and open interiors wrapped in wood.
Weekend retreat with a sloped roof
Sometimes it’s not the shape or size of the house that matters the most. The location, the views and the surroundings are just as important. You can see that in the case of this weekend retreat designed by Malcolm Davis Architecture inHealdsburg, a small town in Northern California. Here, in the Sonoma Valley, the views are beautiful and peaceful and the design of this house is meant to reflect all that.
The structure sits on a 165 acre site populated with trees. The architects made sure to preserve the conditions on the site and to make the most of the views and the landscape. The design is similar to that of a cabin but more open to the exterior. The clients specifically requested the house to be as open to the exterior as possible, hence the glazed facade, large windows and a layout that’s strongly focused on the outdoors.
Old barn turned into artist’s studio
This is a very interesting project not necessarily because of the design although that’s pretty impressive as well but because of the transformation the building went through. What used to be a very old and derelict barn became a beautiful artist’s studio. The structure was all redesigned, including both the interior and the exterior. The studio has an entire facade made of sliding glass doors which can be opened to connect the internal living and dining space to the outdoor lounge area.
The transformation was a project byMork-Ulnes Architectswho tried to preserve the original form of the barn while giving it a contemporary appearance. The interior space were significantly remodeled. They were simplified and given a more open feel by giving some of the spaces a double-height ceiling and large windows or glass walls so natural light can enter.
The ambiance inside is very pleasant. The concrete walls give the studio a certain roughness but the wood ceiling makes the spaces feel warm and inviting. What’s really beautiful is the series of little garden pockets spread across the interior. They bring nature into the house and they create a sense of freshness throughout the rooms.
A modern ranch home
The house designed byTurnbull Griffin Haesloop Architectsis impressive both in terms of size and looks. It’s meant to serve as a home for an extended family and it’s located in Marin County, California. It’s both spacious and rich in beautiful features and decor elements. The rooms are large and open, with the kitchen and dining area being designed to accommodate 16 people.
The interior or organized into two main volumes linked by a bridge-like terrace. Out in the courtyard there’s a pool, a hot tub and various lounge spaces as well as an outdoor dining area. The exterior of the house is quite interesting, being covered in red cedar. The corrugates zinc roof completes the modest, rustic-inspired look.
Four rentable artist’s cabins
As an artist, where would you go to find inspiration? Well, if you’re close-by, you could rent one of these four cabins situated in Woodside, California. They were designed by CCS Architecture as getaways or retreats for various types of artists. Writers, painters and anyone interested can spend a month out here searching for their inspiring muse. The cabins were designed as part of theDjerassi Resident Artists Program. They have sustainable designs and simple but welcoming interiors and glass walls with views of the Santa Cruz valley.
A house surrounded by vineyards
A lot of California houses are inspired by their surroundings, like this residence in Napa Valley. The house is surrounded by vineyards and trees and the views are wonderful, this being the main reason why the architects made sure to open up the interior spaces and to let the outdoors in. Completed byJørgensen Design, the residence gets to offer its owners both the privacy they were seeking and the option to feel in sync with nature.
The design is structured in two volumes connected by a glass foyer. One of the volumes contains the living spaces and main sleeping area while the other one is for guests. Together they form an L shape with two large walls that isolate the spaces from the busy road. One of the walls is made of stone while the other is made of cedar wood. Both volumes have access to gardens and courtyards.
A contemporary ranch
After it’s been forgotten for 30 years, the Hupomone Ranch was recently transformed byTurnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects and now serves as a contemporary residence. The owners wanted the new design of the ranch to reflect their sustainable lifestyle and love of nature so they requested that the house be open to the surroundings and in harmony with everything around it.
The ranch is located inChileno Valley, California and its design is a modern and more imposing version of a simple barn. The exterior is all white and this helps it contrast with the green surroundings and at the same time to have a pure, bright and airy look meant to offer some extra protection against the hear of the sun. Large windows all around the house offer views of the surroundings and let the natural light in while sliding glass doors connect the open plan to the garden.
Concrete, wood and steel house
There are many beautiful tiny houses in California but this contemporary residence is definitely not one of them and that’s because of its impressive size. This is a residence designed by Arcanum Architecture Inc.in Alberto, California. It has a very beautiful and elegant facade which blends concrete, wood and steel and large windows that offer strategic views of the surroundings. The backyard still has all the trees that were initially on the site, with some added greenery around them.
A modern, ranch-style house
Located in Los Altos, California, this modern family house has an interesting style reminiscent of ranch homes typically found in the area. It was designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jacksonon a single level. The architects were careful to preserve the existing Japanese maple tree and, more than that, they turned it into a crucial element in the design of the house. The building was organized around the tree. Even more, several other trees can be seen in various parts of the house.
The main living space is a double-height room with a wood ceiling. It links the kitchen, dining room and living area and it’s furnished with exquisite and elegant pieces such as a live edge table and classical armchairs. The connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces is a very close one. Every room and every section of the house is in some way connected to the surroundings, either through large windows or sliding glass doors.
A charming and sculptural guest house
Although quite small, this structure is one of the most charming and eye-catching properties we came across so far. It’s one of the many tiny houses California has to offer. It only measures 640 square feet which is around 59 square meters and it’s actually a guest house, not a full residence. It was designed byTurnbull Griffin Haesloop Architectsin Mill Valley, California.
The house is in fact a multifunctional structure. It can either be used as a small retreat or a hangout area but it can also serve as a guest area for visiting relatives or friends. It’s meant to be versatile in every way. It sits in a steep slope and it embraces its surroundings in a very bold and eye-catching way. The first thing anyone gets to see is the outdoor porch which has a flat roof pierced by several circular skylights.
This already suggests a dynamic, bold and modern design and the interior area doesn’t disappoint in this sense. Wood covers some of the walls while the floors are polished concrete. The spaces are open and decorated with neutral colors and comfortable furniture. The overall ambiance is meant to be relaxing, inviting but also sophisticated and intriguing.
Contemporary house replaces an old farmhouse
The idea when designing this house was to create a replacement for an old farmhouse that used to occupy the site. However,Malcolm Davis Architecturedidn’t want to only update the old design but to actually create something new and unique. This contemporary home is located in Los Altos Hills, in California. It has an H-shaped floor plan which allows for a clear distinction between the functions and a well-organized series of spaces.
One section of the house includes the living and dining area as well as the kitchen. The other section houses the bedrooms and in between the two volumes is the entrance, the family room and a small courtyard. These serve as dividers between the day and night zones, being a sort of buffer zone. Both sections are designed with a very comfortable and inviting interior. The living area has a double-sided fireplaces which also acts both as a divider and a connector between the indoor and outdoor spaces.
A lagoon house
Having a view of a lake, river or any body of water from inside a home is wonderful and very relaxing. Don’t believe us? Have a look at this lovely house in Stinson Beach, California. It was built beside a lagoon byTurnbull Griffin Haesloop Architectsand it only has one level, enough to enjoy the views and the surroundings. The design of the house is a very simple one, defined mostly by neutral and earthy colors with a few exceptions such as the blue front door which adds a pop of color to the facade.
Inside the house, the architects maintained a warm and simple decor. The floors and ceilings are covered in cedar wood and most of the furniture is custom built and perfectly fits in and complements the spaces. Large windows let in natural light and the ambiance inside is a very bright, open and welcoming one. The outdoor spaces are natural extensions of the interior living areas.
Remodel of a classic home
In Mountain View, California, there once was this classic and beautiful home that its owners really loved. They wanted to preserve its look and charm but they also needed the home to be remodeled and transformed to better suit their modern lifestyle. They chose to give the house a makeover and to update both the exterior and the interior without making too many radical changes.
It was a collaborative project byKlopf Architecture,Outer Space Landscape Architects, Sezen & Moon Structural Engineer and Flegels Construction. Together they gave the house a new wooden exterior shell and a more modern and open interior with spaces that naturally flow into each other. The living room, the dining area and the kitchen became one. The walls between them were removed and this way a breezy and fresh ambiance was created. The new space is now also connected to a lounge area out on the patio which has a built-in fireplace.
A zen house in Hollywood Hills
Some homes are impressive because of their size and others because of how simple and pure they are. This home in Hollywood Hills, California can easily fit into the second category. It’s a house designed byStruere. Its design is a very simple one. The house is built on a single level, with a long, rectangular form. The interior spaces are completely opened to the exterior through sliding glass doors or large windows. On one side, the house is connected to a minimalist yard with grass growing in a grid pattern between the pavers.
A home in a forest clearing
Some of the most beautiful homes are those that sit in the middle of nature, on steep slopes, surrounded by trees or by mountains. This is one of those homes. It’s a residence designed bySagan Piechota ArchitectureinCarmel Valley, California. The cool thing about such remote locations is the privacy they offer. This house takes advantage of that but not in a very open manner. The design is not open to the exterior in the usual way. It actually embeds the views into the house.
The fact that the house is constructed out of wood means that it’s able to easily blend in and to look as if it belongs into the landscape. But it’s not just that. What we also love about this project is the way the views are framed and integrated into the interior spaces without the need of a fully glazed facade. In fact, the ground floor is pretty compact and closed off in comparison with the upper floor where large windows stretch across the entire wall.
A cabin on a slope
This is a holiday home that StudioBergtraun designed and built in Tahoe, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, on a steep slope overlooking the valley. It’s a bit like a cabin but larger and with a modern and more open design. The building is clad in corrugated metal and wood and this combination of materials helps it integrate into the surroundings and blend in. The project was called Alpine Meadows Cabin and the design direction was a very simple one.
The cabin serves as a cozy home for a family that loves the outdoors and wanted to be able to enjoy nature and to be surrounded by freshness. The house was built on a steep slope and was organized on two levels with an inverted layout meant to match the topography on the site. This means that the public spaces are situated on the upper floor while the private spaces sit on the ground level. Even the entrance is on the upper floor.
A home respectful to its surroundings
Initially, there was a ranch home on the site now occupied by this modern family residence. The new home is designed byKlopf Architecture. It’s a single-story home with a simple and low-profile design chosen as a sign of respect to the surroundings and neighborhood. Located in Orangevale, in Northern California, the residence was built as a replacement for a ranch damaged beyond repair.
Situated on a large plot, the house is strongly connected to its surroundings, featuring numerous outdoor living spaces and direct views and access to the yard and garden spaces. What’s particularly charming is the seamless transition between the interior and exterior spaces and the natural connection of the house to its surroundings. This openness was requested by the clients who wanted their new home to be simple and in sync with the landscape.
A house with panoramic views of the bay
Sometimes houses need a little bit of help to keep up with the times and to continue to suit their owner’s changing lifestyle. Such was the case with this California residence built in the 1930s. It reached a point when it needed a complete makeover and that’s whatAxelrod Architects took care of. They gave the house a modern new look, with huge windows, glass walls and a simplified and timeless interior based on black and white.
The architects goal was to pretty much transform the house completely. They wanted to let it frame the panoramic views and to make the most of its location and surroundings. The house overlooks Oakland and the San Francisco Bay.Originally, it had low ceilings which prevented it from making the most of the views. The architects made sure to open up the spaces and to give them floor-to-ceiling windows while the rest of the walls were painted white.
The white backdrop is complemented by black furniture accents and the result is this simple, elegant and timeless interior decor that suits the rooms perfectly. The indoor living area is seamlessly connected to the deck and the transition is smooth given how the blackened cedar on the deck matches the dark oak floor inside.
Modern desert home
Located at the base of San Jacinto Mountains, this contemporary residence designed byo2 Architecture sits within walking distance from another impressive structure that was built on the plans of architect Al Beadle and named after him. Both houses were built in sync with their surroundings, featuring designs that respond to the views and he topography on the site. They’re open to the surroundings in different ways but the idea behind their designs is the same.
Terraced forest home
The whole point of living in a remote area, surrounded by nature is to come in contact with the surroundings and to become connected to nature so it wouldn’t really make sense to damage it during the construction process.Blaze Makoid Architecturetook great care when designing this holiday home near Lake Tahoe, making sure to preserve as many trees as possible and to have as little impact as possible on the land.
The house was built on three levels spread across a steep slope. The materials chosen include stone, blackened wood and glass. The building sits on a stone-faced plinth created in response to the steep nature of the site. The interior is organized on an L-shaped floor plan and into two volumes connected by a double-height hallway. This is where the entryway is placed.
Minimalist wooden home in a valley
Isn’t this house just charming? It has this beautiful, wooden exterior which suggests a very warm and cozy interior, like a rustic mountain cabin but that’s not exactly how things work. Step inside and a minimalist and very clean and linear decor is revealed. White is the main color and it’s used in combination with a lovely tone of chocolate brown. We love the way the window frames, ceiling beams, doors, cabinets and furniture in general are highlighted. This is a house designed byAspen Leaf Interiorsin Lake Tahoe, California.
Concrete and wood home surrounded by nature
The outdoor features such as the pool, deck, garden and other things are just as important as the interior spaces in a home. It’s something thatSPACE Internationalunderstood well when they designed this house in Beverly Hills, California. The house was built on a steep slope, a detail that always raises challenges. The solution in this case was to build a platform at the rear of the house.
This is where a deck and a pool were positioned. At night, the area is lit up and the lounge area becomes a perfect entertainment space. At the front of the house, a beautiful yard was designed. A set of stairs connect it to the parking area. Accent lights give it a spectacular look at night. In fact, the whole house stands out after the sun sets.
Intimate, bespoke winery among historic structures
Unlike a lot of other wineries from Napa Valley which focus a lot on volume and the number of guests which they can accommodate, this place is meant to be more like an intimate retreat, a place where each and every person gets to enjoy a wonderful experience. You can find the Theorem Winery in Calistoga, United States.
The main building was renovated in 2019 by Richard Beard Architects and is part of a 60-acre complex which also includes a series of structures originally built in the 19th century. The new and improved winery building complements these historic structures and its design, although more modern, takes inspiration from the beautiful local vernacular of this region.
Contemporary Meadow House surrounded by greenery
For this magnificent house in Woodside, California, the main focus was on creating a harmonious and friendly relationship between architecture and the beautiful landscape that surrounds it. At the same time, the talented team of architects and designers at studio Olson Kundig worked on making sure the interior matches the lovely surroundings and has the same feel as the immersive exterior.
The house is a group of structures organized around a central volume. This is where the main living areas are situated, surrounded by a series of reflecting pools and gardens which frame the Santa Cruz Mountains and make the view look even more impressive. All the greenery that surrounds the house is complemented by a very warm and welcoming interior which is both simple and sophisticated at the same time.
A house open to the sky
The idea of architecture and nature blending together is not exactly new and we’ve seen plenty of houses that seem to harmoniously coexist with their surroundings before. However, it’s not every day we see a house as unusual as this one. This was a project completed by studio Craig Steely Architecture and what sets it apart from other similar structures is the fact that instead of embracing its beautiful surroundings on a horizontal axis the focus is in this case on the vertical views.
This is a house that has large interior courtyards that are open to the sky and that feel like a part of the interior. These are surrounded by tall curved walls which, from the outside, make it seem as if the house itself has no roof. They frame the beautiful sky and the large and tall birch trees just outside the interior perimeter and the ambiance within these walls changes throughout the day as the sun traverses the sky and the shadows along with it.
A simple and harmonious redesign
Not every house is perfect from the start and what some find magnificent and cool others can find inconvenient. It’s why redesigning and renovating a house is often so satisfying. A very good example is this residence from Manhattan Beach. It used to have a crazy geometry with all sorts of oddly-shaped rooms and walls placed at unusual angles. In 2019 the owners worked with Blue Truck Studio to change that.
The goal of the project was to simplify the house and to make it more practical and more enjoyable to be in. The owners wanted it to match the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood which is infused with pleasant rustic accents so the architects made sure to use Alaskan yellow cedar for the exterior siding which weathers over time and gains a beautiful rustic patina. They also worked on re-configuring the windows and the walls in order to simplify the geometry and the layout of the house and to create a more calm interior with rooms that seamlessly flow into one another.
Eclectic beach house with magnificent ocean views
It’s important for a house to fit into its surroundings and to feel like it belongs. That of course means different design solutions in each particular case. For this house in Santa Cruz it meant following an eclectic aesthetic and emphasizing the magnificent views of the ocean. It also meant coming up with a custom design and a structure that would suit the coastal landscape while also showing respect towards the immediate surroundings.
It was up to studio Feldman Architecture to come up with a plan that would turn this place into a dream home. The design gives the house an open rear section with lovely yard and a deck that frame the ocean views while the front is more closed off and dedicated to a surfboard storage unit and to the garage. This strategic configuration offers protection from the coastal winds while also making the most of this unique location and especially the views. It’s also what inspired this project to be named the Surf House.