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AOL Real Estate - Blog

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    One Square Meter House

    You could have your very own house to stay in for the cost of a little more than $1 a night! What? You think there's a catch? OK, there is: The house is only a cozy 1 square meter large.

    The aptly named "One-Sqm-House," designed by Berlin-based architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel, features a lockable door, a window and comes with ... a chair. Planning on crashing there for the night? The structure can be turned on its side, offering access to the built-in mattress.

    The ultra-portable structure -- said to be the smallest "home" in the world -- has wheels and weighs less than 90 pounds. According to airbnb, it can fit through most doors, in elevators and even in Berlin's subway cars. Not having any plumbing might be a problem, so the nightly fee includes access to the kitchen and bathrooms at Berlin's Eastseven Hostel.



    Le-Mentzel was inspired by his dream of creating a home that he could take with him. As he told BMW Guggenheim: "So I said, OK, I want to have my own square meter ... that no one other than I, myself, can decide what happens with this one square meter of mine in the world. It's the only square meter in the world where I can decide what direction the window looks in, what direction the door opens in, what neighbors I have."

    If you aren't intent on renting the home, you can build a One-Sqm-House for yourself for just $300. BMW Guggenheim Lab is offering a one-day workshop that includes all the materials needed.



    Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

    See also:
    Tiny Houses, Big Trend

    Life's Grand in Tiny Towns of 6 People (or Less)

    The Weirdest Paint Jobs We've Ever Seen


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    Style Spotlight Shingle style home

    By Bud Dietrich, AIA


    First popularized by the Vanderbilts, Astors, Morgans and their peers, the Shingle style developed in New England in the mid to late 1800s in reaction to the highly ornamented Victorian revival styles. Simple forms and a minimum of ornamentation made the Shingle style America's first "modern" style, suitable for the new suburban home as well as seaside "cottages."

    The Shingle style's most telling feature was that it treated the house as one large volume of space that the exterior wrapped around and enclosed. Like a balloon, the Shingle style exterior was all taut and tensioned to hold the interior space in place.

    The Shingle style fell out of favor at the turn of the 20th century when the Colonial Revival style came into vogue. It wasn't until the 1980s that the style came back in popularity, having been resurrected by architects in New England. Today, new homes built in the Shingle style can be seen from the Northeast to the Southwest, from the rocky coasts of Maine to the sunny suburbs of Southern California and everywhere in between.

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    See more examples of Shingle-style homes on Houzz.

    See more on Houzz:
    Photos: Browse 45k+ of Home Exteriors
    Photos: Browse Thousands of Contemporary Home Design Photos

    Help: Find an Architect in Your Area

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    Shingle-Style Homes

     

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    kitchen lighting

    Beautiful and functional kitchen lighting breaks down into three categories: Ambient, task and accent lighting. Incorporating all three into your kitchen layout will provide you with a well-lit and attractive space. Considering how much money goes into outfitting a kitchen with cabinets, counters, sinks, appliances and flooring, it's a wise to approach the task with a solid grasp of kitchen lighting options.

    Ambient lighting

    Ambient lighting is the overall background lighting of a room. The obvious benefit is that it enables you to navigate the room without bumping into things, but when put on a dimmer it can also serve as mood lighting for entertaining. Here are some popular kitchen ambient lighting options:
    o. Drum chandeliers are the hottest kitchen-lighting trend. These playful lighting options look like giant, illuminated lampshades suspended from the ceiling.
    o. Casual chandeliers add drama, style and function in larger kitchens that have a ceiling height of nine feet or higher.
    o. Ceiling fixtures add style and function in smaller kitchens with a ceiling height of eight feet or lower.
    o. Recessed lights spaced evenly through the kitchen.
    o. Up-lights tucked behind decorative objects on top of the cabinets.
    o. Rope lighting tucked behind crown molding or beneath the upper cabinets. These lights will illuminate softly and cast a glow over the kitchen, which looks particularly elegant for evening entertaining.

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    Task Lighting

    Task lighting is exactly what it sounds like: lighting to help you accomplish the tasks you set out to do in your kitchen. Whether it's preparing meals, washing dishes, paying bills, or helping kids with homework, all of these jobs would be difficult to complete with poor lighting. Task lighting sources include:
    o. Recessed or "can" lights -- there should be one over the sink, one for every four feet of counter space (at a minimum), and also over the island, if not using pendant lights.
    o. Pendant lights over the kitchen island serves three purposes -- they provide task lighting, make a design statement, and serve as a visual distinction between the open spaces.
    o. Under-cabinet lighting, in the form of compact fluorescent lights, is another great option for task lighting in the food preparation areas.

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    Accent Lighting

    Accent lighting is used to draw attention to the unique details of your kitchen. Accent lighting sources include:
    o. Puck lights to illuminate glass front cabinets, much like in a curio or china cabinet.
    o. Toe-kick lights to focus attention on flooring with a unique texture or design. They are also helpful to those who like a midnight snack but don't want bright overhead lighting waking them up.
    o. A table lamp on the counter adds a warm glow to visually soften the hard surfaces of a kitchen. This looks particularly attractive near the desk area of the kitchen, keeping it away from the prep stations and kitchen sink.

    One final recommendation: Put each light source on a separate control and a dimmer. This gives you infinite options for creating the perfect ambiance for any situation.

    See also:
    10 Home Improvements That Are a Waste of Money

    Home Improvement: Do's and Don'ts From a Pro
    Remodeling: When It's Worth the Cost


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    How to Plan a Kitchen Remodeling Project

     

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    colonial house style spotlight

    By Bud Dietrich, AIA

    From sea to shining sea, America's most enduring home style remains the New England Colonial. It conjures up images of small-town America, the village green, Fourth of July parades and that independent spirit that defines the American character. Even as other styles gain in popularity, this distinctive design continues to be a perennial favorite.

    Read on to learn about the elements of Colonial-style architecture, both in historic homes and today's interpretations.

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    Saltbox Architecture

     

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    bungalow style house

    By Bud Dietrich, AIA


    As the Great War came to its end and the Roaring Twenties started, America became ever increasingly an automobile-dominated society. Cars, cheap gas and the availability of inexpensive land created a housing boom in the suburbs and outlying areas. A new house style, the bungalow, came about as the result.

    Though the particulars varied from location to location (a Chicago bungalow is visually very different from its Southern California cousin), the bungalow was typically small, with all its living spaces on one floor. The houses typically had five or six rooms, with two or three bedrooms and one bathroom.

    As much as these homes were brought about by the growing popularity of the car, it would take a subsequent generation of domestic design (ranches, split-levels, 1970s Colonials) and larger lots to fully integrate the garage with the house. In bungalows, the garage was typically detached and accessed by a back alley or, if the lot was wide enough, a side driveway.

    Expanded, renovated and updated, bungalows have an enduring quality that make them enviable homes for today's family. Many cities across the country have actively promoted the preservation and renovation of bungalows. Chicago, in fact, has a citywide initiative, the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, to encourage and strengthen the many bungalow neighborhoods in the city.

    An interesting side note is that the term "bungalow" originated in India and has Hindi roots. It was used to describe small lodgings and later came to mean a one-story, detached home with a veranda.

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    See more bungalow photos on Houzz.

    Or read more on Houzz:

    Photos: Browse 45k+ Exterior Design Photos
    Photos: Browse Thousands of Traditional Home Design Photos

    Help: Find an Architect in Your Area

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    Rome Colosseum leaning

    By Philip Pullella

    Rome's Colosseum might be leaning slightly but its stability is not in danger, said officials who on Tuesday announced that the ancient amphitheatre is about to undergo its first comprehensive restoration in 73 years.

    An Italian newspaper reported at the weekend that the Colosseum, famous for hosting bloody gladiator fights in the days of the Roman Empire, was about 40 cm (16 inches) lower on the south side than on the north, suggesting it was in danger.

    The Italian media described it as the "leaning tower of Pisa effect."

    "There is no problem with its stability," Mariarosaria Barbera, Rome's archaeological superintendent, told a news conference.

    "We are talking about a structure whose foundations are 13 meters (14 yards) deep. Roman constructions do not only stand up to centuries, they stand up to millennia," she said.

    "We are monitoring it, but there is no Tower of Pisa effect," Barbera said at the unveiling of the 25 million euro restoration project which will start in December and end in 2015.

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    The project, which had been delayed by three years of bureaucratic problems, will include the cleaning and restoration of the entire Colosseum, known in Roman times as the Flavian Amphitheatre.

    It will be carried out in phases so that the Colosseum, which receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, will remain open. Only part of it will be covered by scaffolding at any one time.

    "The monument is so big that there won't be too much inconvenience for visitors," Barbera said.

    An underground visitors centre will be built under an adjacent piazza, freeing up more areas inside the monument, which are currently used as meeting points and ticket stalls.

    Overall, some 25 percent more of the Colosseum will be open to visitors after the restoration, particularly the underground network of tunnels, storerooms and cages.

    Two thirds of the underground parts are currently not open to the public.

    Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said the traffic around the Colosseum will be re-routed by the end of the restoration to decrease damage from vibration. He said at a news conference that it would be the first major restoration in 73 years.

    "There have been various small projects but nothing of this level has been carried out in all this time," Alemanno said.

    The work is being sponsored by Tod's, the luxury shoemaker and leather goods company.

    Diego Della Valle, chairman of Tod's, said the Colosseum had to be taken care of because "it does not only belong to Italians but to every citizen of the world."

    (Reporting By Philip Pullella, editing by Diana Abdallah.)

    Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

    See also:
    Athens Olympics Stadium in Decay (PHOTOS)
    Astrodome, World's '8th Wonder,' Lies Abandoned (PHOTOS)
    Blueprints of Ebbets Field, Home of Brooklyn Dodgers, on Display


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    star trek house australia fo sale

    Are you a Trekkie with a few mil to burn? Well, here's the opportunity of a lifetime: For $10.5 million, you can own this Australian home designed by a lifelong "Star Trek" fan -- using the Starship Enterprise as his inspiration.

    Owner Peter Chedid told The Wall Street Journal that he has been a fan of the show since he was a child. He said he wanted to create a living space that was also a work of art. Though the house doesn't travel at warp speed, the modern design's layout does create a feeling of "endless open space," Chedid said.

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    The home has six bedrooms, six bathrooms and an underground five-car garage. And in true Trekkie fashion, the home features an entertainment room with a 120-inch projector screen and custom-made, feather-filled seating for up to 10 people. The walls of the room are airbrushed with a mural of an image taken from the Hubble telescope.

    To take advantage of being on earth, the backyard has a "resort-style" 40-foot infinity edge swimming pool, providing spectacular views of a surrounding national park.

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    Max Walls International has the listing.

    View Poll



    See also: Apartment With a 'Star Trek' Interior

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    mountain home style spotlight
    By Bud Dietrich, AIA


    I've just started the design of a new home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia. The property, more than 5 acres, is spectacular -- heavily wooded, with a change in elevation of almost 100 feet from front to back. As the land slopes away, the treetops drop down revealing mountain and forest vistas and a stream in the valley below.

    As part of the design process, we looked at classic American mountain houses built from the 19th century onward. From the Adirondacks to the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond, there's a specific aesthetic for a house in a wooded and mountainous site. Big and simple gable roofs reflect the shape of the mountains while easily shedding rain and snow. Big, tree-like timbers, often used as found on the site, support these roofs. All of this rests on local stone formed into foundations, plinths and chimneys. The metal plates and anchors joining these elements have a heft and scale to match the surroundings.

    These homes situated in the wild have given up the refined elegance, gentility and constraints of the city. They are raw, natural and massive. And it's this massiveness, this scale, that is most intriguing about these homes. Built in the land of giants where mountaintops touch the heavens, trees reach for the sky and lakes appear bottomless, these homes can hold their own.

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    See more mountain homes on Houzz:

    Photos: Browse 45k+ of Home Exteriors
    Photos: Browse Thousands of Traditional Home Design Photos

    Help: Find an Architect in Your Area


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    Log House Architecture

     

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    By Bud Dietrich, AIA


    From the early 19th century through the early 20th, America's cities grew at a rapid pace. Immigrants from other countries as well as a migration from farms to city centers fueled this growth. To accommodate the new urban population, block after block of a new type of urban dwelling, the row house, was constructed. This narrow and tall structure could be built quickly and efficiently and could be single or multifamily depending on neighborhood economics.

    The distinguishing feature of these row houses was their narrowness. Typically 20 feet wide, row houses were multiple levels of living space sandwiched between masonry, typically brick, party (shared) walls that provided excellent fire resistance and sound control.

    Though many of these houses were demolished for new development, there are several neighborhoods where these homes still reign supreme. In places like New York's Harlem, Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope as well as neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and more there are many wonderful old and renovated 19th-century row houses.

    In fact, it's the adaptability to our 21st-century lifestyles that makes these houses as relevant today as they were more than a century ago.

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    Row Houses Architecture

     

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    Love letters, flowers and jewelry would make a lot of women swoon, but Nick Bylsma wanted to do something extraordinary for his wife, Melissa, on their second wedding anniversary.

    So when she went away with her family one weekend last year, he told her that he'd be spending the time working. And that wasn't exactly a fib: She left on a Friday morning, and when she returned the following Sunday evening, he had remodeled the entire kitchen.

    "How many women do you know who want something like that?" said Nick Bylsma, 28, of Topeka, Kan., an actor who plans to move to Los Angeles this year to pursue his dream full-time. "She never really liked the kitchen."

    He described the original kitchen as "dingy and uninviting," with "Pepto Bismol-pink" tiles on the walls, cabinets covered on the outside with ugly tack paper and makeshift countertops that didn't have enough space. (Story continues after the gallery below.)

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    "I didn't want to use it because I really didn't like that room," said Melissa Bylsma, 23, of the couple's old kitchen.

    Over the course of the three days that his wife was gone, Bylsma peeled off the pink tiles, stripped the cabinets of their paper, ripped up the linoleum floor and took out the old countertops.

    Bylsma said that he worked 37 hours straight with no sleep pulling up the linoleum on the floor and sanding and staining the wood underneath; cutting the trim for the floor and crown molding; painting the walls a light green and the cabinets an off-white; installing new countertops that offered twice the amount of space as the originals; and installing a dishwasher that had just sat there unattached. After he grabbed a couple of short naps, his mother and sister came over to help finish the decorating and install new light fixtures.

    When she returned home, Nick told his wife that there was something he wanted her to see.

    "I told her, 'I did something, and I don't know if you're going to like it.' I pretended like something was wrong," he said.

    Bylsma made his wife close her eyes as he led her into their new, fabulous kitchen -- and then had her open them.

    "I wish I had a camera to take pictures of her," Bylsma said. "She cried tears of joy -- she was so surprised."

    "I was completely shocked," Melissa Bylsma said. "I don't think I could even speak. It was such a drastic change from what we had."

    In place of the ratty linoleum floor was gleaming hardwood. The walls had shed their old '80s look. The appliances looked like new -- and actually worked. The whole place was so much brighter.

    "I love looking at [the kitchen] now," Melissa Bylsma said. "I love cleaning it, making everything look nice.... I certainly didn't think he was crazy enough to do it all in one weekend."

    The new kitchen has even turned out to be a gift for Bylsma himself.

    "I'm not a cook, but even I spend more time there," he said.

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    treehouses luxury

    You might think that treehouses are for children -- but wait until you get a load of these treetop beauties! Creative, unique and gorgeous, these treehouses are luxurious playgrounds for the most adult among us. Click through the gallery below to see jaw-dropping homes in the trees.

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    See more great galleries from AOL Real Estate:
    Home Makeovers: From Sorry to Stunning
    'Models' in Listing Photos
    10 of the Biggest Homes on the Market

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    Frank Lloyd Wright Arcadia Arizona David design house

    Conservationists are rushing to win landmark status for a home in Arizona built by iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright to block its pending demolition.

    In June, developer 8081 Meridian paid $1.8 million for the David and Gladys Wright House -- which Frank Lloyd Wright designed for one of his sons. Its plan is to tear down the house in Arcadia, Ariz., to make way for two McMansions.

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    The developer had agreed to hold off on the house's demolition for 60 days while it explored a deal with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. But time ran out, and now the conservancy has launched a petition to save the house from destruction by designating it a historic landmark.

    Demolition permits can't be granted for properties considered for landmark status.

    "This house is a piece of history, it represents a piece of Arizona that Frank Lloyd Wright loved so much," Anne Wright Levi, his great-granddaughter, told AZFamily.com.

    Built in the 1950s, the Phoenix-area home is considered to be one of Wright's most innovative and significant buildings. The house, with a spiral ramp, was built as he was developing his plans for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which has a similar look.

    The conservancy has proposed other ways to save the home: Buy the house back from the developer for $2.7 million, or parcel the land and just buy back the house for under $1 million. The latter option would still allow the developer to build large structures on the land that could tower over the home.

    If you want to sign the conservancy's petition, you can do so by clicking here.


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    TV homes floor plansIt only happens on TV: People living in the best apartments money can buy in the middle of New York City (but seemingly never spending any time at a job to pay for them).

    For the rest of us, we'll never have Carrie Bradshaw's brownstone apartment in "Sex and the City" or Monica and Rachel's spacious pad in "Friends" -- but we can at least hang them on the walls of our own homes.

    Artist Brandi Roberts of Columbia, S.C., marries her love of real estate and pop culture by drawing blueprints of some of the most famous homes on television, from Jerry Seinfeld's to Don Draper's. She sells frame-able versions on her site, fantasyfloorplans.com.

    Roberts has been drawing TV homes since she was 7 years old, she said.

    "I've always tried to map out TV interiors into plausible floor plans while watching the shows," Roberts told AOL Real Estate. "I thought why not take my talents for drawing floor plans and tie it to my love of TV. It's a challenge because I have to interpret what I feel is the most crucial to the design of a plausible floor plan."

    She has created dozens of TV floor plans, but it's safe to say her "Mad Men" drawings are her favorites: She has made a series of seven drawings of Don Draper's homes and his Sterling Cooper offices.

    "My work is an evolution of a childhood fascination with floor plans and a desire to document the American TV home over the last seven decades," she said.

    See her depictions of some of TV's best-known homes below.

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    See also:
    Look Out for That House! School's Wild Art Installation

    Listing Fails: The Best of the Worst in Real Estate
    Google Engineer Turns Home Into Gamer's Fantasy-LAN


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    We are currently living in a way that is indisputably unsustainable. The ecological resources on which modern housing depend are becoming increasingly scarce, and the excessive carbon footprint left behind by "McMansions" and sprawling suburban developments are leading more and more people to seek radically greener housing alternatives.

    This is the second of a five-part series called "Off the Grid," in which we explore environmentally-sustainable, self-sufficient communities across the globe. We'll attempt to answer the question: Is green, off-grid living our future? This week, we take a look at an Earthship community in the deserts of New Mexico in the United States.



    Earthship Taos New Mexico

    At sunset, the desert of Taos, N.M., spreads out like a gleaming sheet of gold stretched flat across the earth. A harsh, amber sun sheds light over the largely barren landscape framed by distant, cobalt-hued mountains. It's a breathtaking, semi-arid terrain that's about as far away as you can get from the lush rainforests of Costa Rica. Here you won't find towering trees dripping with dew, or rushing waterfalls. Instead, you'll find endless miles of dry yellow earth peppered with rock, desert foliage and the odd creek: a place where one might imagine civilization ends.

    But a little farther west, in a mesa valley tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, sits an unlikely community teeming with activity and purpose. In this colony of peculiar-looking structures dotting the rugged landscape, you'll find a residential hub that's self-sufficient, sustainable and sophisticated. You'll find life in the desert.

    It's better known as the Greater World Earthship subdivision, a gathering of radically green homes whose collective carbon footprint is negligible. Each home is constructed using only natural and recycled materials -- consumed products that society discards, such as glass bottles, aluminum cans and tires -- that constitute the thermal mass foundation and walls of each home. The structures are entirely untethered from mass public utilities like power, water and gas lines, and they run entirely on passive solar heating as well as cooling and photovoltaic power. What does one call these unique, 100 percent sustainable structures? "Earthships," of course. (Story continues after the gallery.)

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    Sounds crazy? It's not as wild as you think, said Kirsten Jacobsen, a director at Earthship Biotecture, a company that designs and constructs earthships across the globe. She added that Earthship living is fast becoming a rational solution to combat the wastefulness associated with traditional modern housing.

    "As the world's problems get worse with climate change, resource depletion, water, power, sewage, and access to good food, there's been an increasing national and global interest and demand for this kind of living," Jacobsen said. "Taos is just the beginning. We've built Earthships across the globe -- in Canada, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, Bolivia, Scotland, England, Belgium, France...."

    But don't call it a global "trend." For the architects behind these Earthships and the residents who live in them, it's a veritable blueprint for what the future of housing might -- and should -- be like. In fact, if you ask architect and Earthship creator Michael Reynolds, that was the whole point.

    'Built to Sail on the Seas of Tomorrow'

    Earthship Taos New MexicoReynolds graduated from architecture school in 1969, dissatisfied with what he had been taught about designing modern, conventional brick-and-mortar housing. Instead, he began a 30-year study and practice of integrative, resource-efficient home construction: Homes built literally from everyday trash (such as the one pictured at left). Most importantly, he attempted to create a structure that would work seamlessly with natural processes and wouldn't rely on grid-based resources.

    "A house is a shelter box that nuclear power plants and sewage systems come in and out of," Reynolds told AOL Real Estate. "[The earthship] is really a machine to take the place of housing and infrastructure for the future, built to sail on the seas of tomorrow."

    Unlike regular homes, each Earthship is an "independent vessel," Reynolds said. Each home uses solar or wind energy for power. Rainwater is caught from a roof with a potable surface, channeled through silt catches into cisterns, then gravity-fed into a water-organizing module with a pump and filter. Waste water and sewage is drained and filtered via linear, biologically-developed gray-water treatment and containment systems. Propane tanks, refilled each year, offer gas for stovetop cooking. And fresh produce is grown onsite via indoor food production areas and veggie beds.

    According to Jacobsen, it's all about adapting the needs of humans to the already existing "activities of the planet" -- utilizing a logical model that works to make the most of the structure's surrounding environment and natural resources rather than perpetually draining them. Jacobsen said that though idealism gave birth to these Earthships, their pragmatism secured their success; they're proven to ensure survival when the traditional grid-based system, inevitably, falters.

    "When the power goes out in town, [Earthship] community members still have warm homes, Internet, working fridges and lights," said Jacobsen. "Plus, Earthship community members don't pay any utility bills."

    Another financial plus? The price of Earthships tend to run under the average market price for a traditional brick-and-mortar home of the same size, according to real estate agent John Kejr, who specializes in selling Earthship homes in Taos. You can even snap one up for as little as $100,000, Kejr said. Some bare-bones Earthships featuring small power systems (known as "survival huts") are available for a mere $2,500. (On the other end of the spectrum, the late actor Dennis Weaver once put his Earthship home on the market for $4.25 million.)

    "The people who want to buy Earthship homes range from wealthy people to those of very modest wealth," Kejr told AOL Real Estate. "I am just amazed at this continuous growth in interest.

    'Just Regular People'

    Contrary to popular belief, the residents of Taos' Greater Earthship Community are not all "granola environmentalists," hermit-like survivalists and staunch anti-capitalists. Jacobsen admits that one of the most challenging aspects of living in such a community is trying to dispel the myth that its residents are barefoot hippies and cult members. They're quite the opposite: Kejr said that most people who have shown interest in Earthship homes are just "regular people" with a myriad of interests and motivations.

    "The mixture of people is much more diverse then I expected -- they range from very young people to retirees, large families to single people," Kejr told AOL Real Estate. "Some are looking to lessen their environmental footprint, others just don't want to pay an electric bill. A few are pessimistic about the future and feel that living off-grid protects them from vulnerability to future energy shortages."

    Whatever their reasons, the Earthship residents of Taos join a growing number of Americans who have chosen an off-grid lifestyle. Currently, approximately 750,000 households live off the grid, with that number increasing about 10 percent each year, according to Nick Rosen, author of "Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America." In his book, Rosen explains that unlike their earlier counterparts, modern-day off-gridders are able to live very comfortably and enjoy the same creature comforts as "traditional" home-dwellers. He adds that one of the major hindrances to the mainstream acceptance of off-grid living is society's ideal that homes should look and be "a certain way."

    That said, Earthship living still remains a lifestyle choice that, realistically, is not one that everyone is comfortable with. Particularly for many city dwellers, literally pulling the plug and building one's own home from recycled consumer waste may seem like an inconceivable leap. But Kejr insisted that, even for these people, there are still significant lessons to be learned from the desert dwellers of Taos, such as resource awareness, learning to lessen one's carbon footprint and the convergence of home design and function.

    "I believe that [Earthship living] is 'a future' rather than 'the future,' " admits Kejr. "I would never say everyone should live in an Earthship, as it's a lifestlye choice. Still, many things make sense about this lifestyle and I believe that many Earthship features should be -- and will be -- incorporated into more traditional homes."

    Interested in Earthship living but not ready to make the leap? You can rent one by the night.

    See also:
    Apple Unveils 'Mothership' Campus That Braces for Disaster
    Living Off the Grid in a Mail-Order Home

    Hamptons' First Eco-Container Home on Sale for $1.3 Million


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    The Earth Project: Less Than Zero

     

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    Want to make your living room a little more cozy? Here's an idea: Throw in a pit with hungry alligators snapping their jagged teeth at your feet.

    Well, not real ones, of course. But Russian-born artist Nikolaj Arndt can paint you a picture of them that looks pretty darn real -- and that looks like those gators are leaping right out of your floor.

    Arndt is a street artist who lives in Germany, and he paints trompe l'oeil -- French for "fools the eye" -- pictures on floors and sidewalks, giving the illusion that his art is popping up out of the surfaces he draws on. We first got a glimpse of his amazing skill on the blog Laughing Squid. The photo above is one of Arndt's artworks on a living room floor.

    Arndt isn't the only artist to master these kinds of eye-popping images. Artist Julian Beever is also well known for creating 3-D artworks using chalk on sidewalks.

    Arndt explained in an interview with pxleyes.com that he began drawing his eye-fooling images on sidewalks with chalk about three years ago. He would enter festivals in Germany where he would showcase his street art. He also uses paint to create works in homes.

    "For me, the main thing in art is to give positive emotions to the audience," Arndt told pxleyes.com. "When people are smiling looking at my pictures, I'm happy."

    We know you're dying to see more of Arndt's work, so click through the gallery below.

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    Correction: An earlier version of this story included a photo gallery that featured artworks for which artist Nikolaj Arndt was not the creator.

    See also:
    Columbus Circle's Iconic Statue at Center of Art Exhibit and Controversy
    Inside Look: Frank Sinatra's Rat-Pack-Era Penthouse

    Off the Grid: New Mexico's Earthship Homes


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    Victorian house style


    By Vanessa Brunner


    For most people, the term "Victorian architecture" defines a diverse but singular style. The reality is that this term encompasses several architectural house styles, all of which were used during the mid to late 19th century. The name, of course, comes from the reigning British queen at the time: Victoria.

    Victorian homeowners were very social; dinner parties took place several times a week and consisted of pre- and postmeal activities. For these socialites, having a house that was impressive and built in the latest style was key. (The ornate look was soon spurned, however, by the development of new construction technology, particularly the availability of affordable wood and the ability to incorporate steel into buildings.)

    Although Victorian architecture is rooted in England, it quickly spread worldwide as British architects started to emigrate to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Eventually, improved communications in the 19th century began to inform international architects of the latest and greatest styles and trends, and the Victorian influence in houses grew.

    Still, what's considered the Victorian period differs from country to country, along with the names of its architectural styles. In the United States, the Victorian style was generally popular from 1860 to 1900. San Francisco in particular is well known for its Victorian style houses. In Australia, the Victorian period is recognized as 1840 to 1890. Melbourne's world-heritage Royal Exhibition Building and Rialto Building are both good examples of classic Victorian architecture in Australia.

    Many Victorian-era homes combine several different styles and features, but the following is a basic guideline for the most common Victorian architectural styles.

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    See more on Houzz:
    Photos: Browse 65k+ photos of home exteriors

    Photos: Browse thousands of traditional home design ideas
    Help: Find an architect in your area

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    Frank Lloyd Wright, David and Gladys Wright House

    A developer who planned to tear down a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Phoenix has abandoned demolition plans in the face of staunch opposition from preservationists, but the fight is far from over.

    As the Phoenix City Council prepares to vote for giving the David and Gladys Wright House landmark status, Steve Sells, co-owner of development company 8081 Meridian, which bought the home, said that he let his demolition permit expire.

    "We have no intention of pursuing an extension of or acting on our current demolition permit," Sells told The Arizona Republic.

    The company's plan to raze the home ignited a feud with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in June. The conservancy launched a petition to save the home and pleaded with the local government to grant it landmark status to stop demolition.

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    Now, with Meridian allowing its demolition permit to lapse, it looks as though the Wright home is on a clear path to gaining historic-landmark status. But there's more to the story.

    Sells said that Meridian plans to sue the city of Phoenix, claiming that, as the owner, the company had the right to be notified of plans to designate it a landmark. Sells said the city went ahead with those plans without notifying or consulting with Meridian.

    The city said that, according to law, it is not obliged to consult with the owners of properties being considered for landmark status.

    Dwight Amery, Phoenix's planning commissioner, argued that, even though he understood Meridian's frustration, the company would have pulled out of the sale of the home if they were aware of landmark discussions.

    "I feel for the owners," Amery told the Republic. "They were blindsided. The city started the process, but nobody told them. It's like trying to close the stable door after the horse has gotten out."

    Even if the city does approve landmark status for the Wright home -- which appears very likely -- it won't prevent the house from eventually being torn down.

    Under Phoenix law, landmark status protects properties from development for only three years - and Sells has a plan to work around that.

    "I'll move in, invite everybody to come in and take their pictures, and I'm going to wait three years," Sells told The New York Times. "Then I'm going to knock it down to recoup my losses."

    One famous homeowner who was informed about his properties' road to landmark status didn't hesitate to proceed with demolition plans. When "Friends" actor David Schwimmer found out that his New York City townhouse was being considered as a historic landmark, he knocked it down before anyone could prevent him. In another case, hedge fund honcho David Tepper tore down his $43.5 million Long Island mansion to build an even bigger one.

    See more:
    Frank Lloyd Wright's Famed Ennis House Sells for $4.5 Million
    QUIZ: Do You Know Your House Styles?


    The Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Chicago, Illinois


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    Naomi Campbell's Moscow mansion by Zaha Hadid

    There's only one thing that can top the epic "Star Trek" home shaped like the Starship Enterprise. That would be supermodel Naomi Campbell's "Battlestar Galactica" mansion. Campbell's billionaire boyfriend, Vladislav Doronin, is building the dream home of sci-fi nerds, dubbed the "Capital Hill Residence," in a forest near Moscow, Russia.

    The 27,524-square-foot house by renowned architect Zaha Hadid -- who also designed the Olympics Aquatics Center in London -- is nearly complete after six years of construction. The home features two large white towers rising about 65 feet above ground which, according to the architect, houses the master bedrooms (who lives with only one master bedroom?) and a lounge with an exterior terrace. To add to the apparent spaceship theme, the tower is connected to the lower levels with a transparent glass elevator and staircase.

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    The home's interior aims to be just as eccentric as the exterior. It will feature enormous glass panels, extremely high ceilings and smooth curves throughout. Some luxurious amenities will include an indoor pool (that converts to a dance floor), a gym, a Finnish spa, and both a Turkish and a Russian bath.

    See also:
    The Carolwood Estate, a Home That Replaced Walt Disney's Spread

    Alicia Keys to Buy Eddie Murphy's $15 Million Home?
    Hilary Swank Lists Home for $9.5 Million

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    wall murals in homesEver since caveman days, humans have longed to decorate bare walls with their own paintings. However, wall decor commemorating an exceptional antelope hunt no longer pleases modern interior designers, but is it a better alternative to stark, white walls?

    Murals and frescoes appear less frequently today than they did in ancient Greece, but they definitely make a home stand out. Those included in the collection below are hand painted, but there are plenty of other options that offer a similar look. Wallpaper murals allow photos to be blown up to cover entire walls or ceilings. There are dozens of sites peddling inexpensive wall decals to add color to a home's interior. Your home may even have its own mural hiding somewhere behind a layer of wallpaper or a false wall. Check out some murals from these Estately listings:

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    See more on Estately.com:
    Why Aren't More Homes Hurricane-Proof?
    Is the Economy Commanding You to Remodel Your Kitchen?
    A Woman's Place is in Her Own Ma'am Cave

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