Man Spends Two Years Covering Every Inch of His House with Seashells

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Xiao Yongsheng is the owner of a small beach and a traditional Chinese house on Lingshan Island, off the coast of Qingdao city in eastern China’s Shandong province. When he decided to renovate his large home, he wondered if it was worth spending money on expensive designers and architects. Ultimately, he decided to save up and do it for free – he spent two whole years covering every inch of his 1,500-square meter house with seashells that he collected from his own beach.

“I’d always liked shells but it never struck me to use them until I was walking on a beach one morning and came across a very unusually colored clam shell and then it hit me,” said the 58-year-old. “I realised I was sitting next to a huge, free supply of beautiful building material – so why not use it?” So he began collecting every kind of shell he could find – right from tiny 3-millimeter ones to giant conches that weighed over four kilograms.

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Impressive-Looking Gothic Castle in Connecticut Can Be Yours for $45 Million

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Gothic castles aren’t commonplace in America, so this impressive real-life Hogwarts in Woodstock, Connecticut, definitely stands out. ‘Chrismark Castle’ is only a decade old but with its moat and turrets, it has all the markings of a genuine medieval castle.

Chrismark Castle presents itself as a perfectly preserved medieval structure on the outside, with all sorts of modern amenities and technology concealed on the inside. It stands on a 354-acre property, encompassing 22,000 square ft. and consists of a massive lower-level garage, eight bedrooms, ten bathrooms, 12 fireplaces, a maid’s room, a library, a pool, and several massage rooms.

The star of the castle’s opulent interiors is perhaps the 1,200 square ft. circular kitchen – it has windows all around the walls, offering a 180-degree view of Lake Porter. The dining room spells grandeur as well – it has a unique ceiling design and can accommodate a huge dinner party. The master bedroom also offers gorgeous views of the grounds, and the granite-fitted master bathroom has its own whirlpool. All the doors in the castle are custom-fit and handmade, as are the hardwood floors.

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Texas Man Spends $2.2 Million Turning His Backyard into Four-Pool Waterpark

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Summer in Texas may be merciless, but Hal Jones from Austin has found a great way to stay cool at all times. He spent a whopping $2.2 million to have four enormous pools built into his backyard. He wanted to create a pool experience that’s ‘second-to-none’, so he chose a property located on the shores of Lake Travis – where his guests could arrive by boat.

Once he identified the property, Jones hired designer Evan Mills to come up with a plan for the water-park and create four pools, each with its own unique design. “We have the hot tub, the kiddie pool, Lazy River and Negative Edge pool,” said Jones.

The lazy river pool, which includes a swim-up bar, is where he entertains his friends. “I traveled throughout Texas and saw how people loved the lazy river pools,” he said. “You don’t need to get out of the pool to enjoy a drink!”

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Chinese Entrepreneur Turns Industrial Concrete Tube into Popular Low-Cost Hotel

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While some people enjoy luxurious travel, others are more than happy to make do with the bare minimum. A clever Chinese hotelier has used this fact to his advantage – he constructed a highly unusual, low cost hotel by reusing industrial grade concrete tubing.

The ingenious young man, from Henan Province, managed to acquire several meters of recycled concrete tubing and sliced it into 15 separate mini structures. Each sturdy structure, designed to accommodate two people, is equipped with a double bed, a restroom, and a few ‘extra touches’ like air conditioning and sound proofing. The exteriors of the circular dwellings have even been decorated with some street art to make them look more appealing.

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Costa Rican ‘Mole Man’ Spends 10 Years Digging Large Underground Home by Hand

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Manuel Barrantes, fondly known as ‘El Hombre Topo’ or ‘The Mole Man’, has spent the last 10 years building himself a unique underground home. The 62-year-old Costa Rican did it all by hand, using only picks and shovels for tools. He now uses the large tunnel as a residence and a museum, welcoming tourists and teaching children about archeology and geography.

The underground dwelling is located in Perez Zeledon, a canton of San José Province in Costa Rica. Popularly known as ‘Topolandia’, the unique dwelling features over 400 square meters of tunnels. The walls and corridors of the caves are adorned with a variety of hand-carved sculptures of turtles, dinosaurs and even TV characters like the Flintstones. The largest tunnel inside the house is at least 16 meters deep, with a comfortable lounge to welcome visitors.

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Kindhearted Artist Turns Trash into Tiny Mobile Homes for the Homeless

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Gregory Kloehn is an artist who uses his skills for a really worthy cause – building homes for the homeless. Making use of recycled and reclaimed materials found on the street, he creates small mobile homes, each about the size of a sofa. These homes come with pitched roofs to keep out the rain and wheels at the bottom, for mobility. So far, he’s built about 10 shelters through the ‘Homeless Homes Project’, and hopes to create more in the future.

Although they’re not made of much, the tiny homes are more than enough for someone with no other place to sleep. They are painted in bright colors and have a few quirky elements – like washing machine doors for windows and minivan tops for roofs. Gregory, 43, is a sculptor by profession, but he went on a construction spree after building his five-unit live-work condominium from scratch. Originally from Denver, he now lives in Oakland, California, where he carries out his philanthropic construction project.

“Before, I was all about sculpture, but I realized it just sits there,” he said. “And you’re just peddling it to rich people. I kind of think if you’re putting so much effort into something it would be nice if it did something.” So with his new-found fascination for architecture, Gregory began to study homeless shanties in his neighborhood. He wrote a book called ‘Homeless Architecture’ at the time, admiring how they were able to recycle all day and make homes out of almost nothing.

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Colombia’s Flintstone House Is Made Entirely from Baked Clay

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64-year-old architect Octavio Mendoza literally baked the house that he lives in. He calls the 5,400 square foot house ‘the biggest piece of pottery in the world’. Casa Terracotta, or Casa Barro in Spanish, was built exclusively by hand using clay and baked in the sun. Located in Villa de Leyva, a colonial mountain village in Colombia, it is also known to locals as the ‘Casa de Flintstone’ or Flintstone House.

From the outside, Casa Terracotta looks like a huge mound of clay, loosely fashioned to resemble a cottage. It is surrounded by lush green farmland, set against a breathtaking backdrop of the mountains. Inside, the rooms curve and flow into each other, as though the entire house was cast in a single mold. Rustic as it seems, the clay cottage does offer a few modern conveniences – solar panels for hot water, toilets and sinks covered in colorful mosaic tiles, two floors with lounge and sleeping areas, and a fully functional kitchen. Of course, the kitchen table and all the utensils are all fashioned out of the same material – clay. The beer mugs that adorn the kitchen are made of recycled glass and the lighting fixtures from scrap metal.

Mendoza, who spent most of his career designing homes, commercial buildings and churches, calls the clay house his ‘project for life’. He started to work on it over 14 years ago – his goal was to demonstrate how soil can be transformed into habitable architecture by simply using the natural resources at hand. So Casa Terracotta doesn’t contain an ounce of cement or steel. Mendoza, who is also an environmental activist, said: “Think of it this way. In desert places (which exist all across the planet), soil is perfect for this type of architecture. This means that for all those regions, a system like this could bring housing to millions of families.”

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Korean Photography Enthusiasts Build Awesome Camera-Shaped Cafe

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‘Dreaming Camera’ is a quaint little coffee shop located in the breathtaking countryside of Yangpyeong County of South Korea. The spectacular café was built by a photography enthusiast, which is quite obvious, seeing as how the building is shaped like a gigantic vintage camera.

I’m not sure who the owners are, but here’s what I could gather from the website: it’s a mom-and-pop type café, run by a family of three. The husband is a former air-force helicopter pilot with a huge passion for photography. He lives in a beautiful bungalow just next to the café with his wife and adorable daughter. The camera-shaped coffee shop had been his dream for many years before he finally got the chance to make it a reality.

Café Dreaming Camera is designed like a Rolleiflex camera – it is two storeys high with panoramic, round windows. The first floor is decorated with miniature and toy cameras. A few real ones are displayed as well, on a shelf beside the large window. On the website, the owner’s wife writes that all the real cameras are her husband’s area of expertise; she just knows that ‘everything is working’. The second floor has a photo exhibition on display, in which patrons are encouraged to participate.

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World’s Most Amazing Home Railroad System Can Be Yours for Only $3.5 Million

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The suburb of Sherwood, just outside of Portland, Oregon, is home to one of the most spectacular properties in the world. Not only does it have all the regular stuff – a 5,000 Square Feet house, professional landscaping, a garden, a barn and a shop – it also has a fabulous world-class personal railway system with real steam-engine trains.

So if you lived at 18055 SW Seiffert Road, you’d be able to go on train rides every single day. You don’t need a ticket, you don’t have to deal with crowds and the best part – you can never miss a train! All that costs a measly $3.5 million.

Todd Miller, the owner of 18055, spent a large part of his life building the trains and tracks that spread across the 20-acre property. Miller has built handmade steam locomotives, 11,000ft of track, a 30ft railroad trestle and a 400ft-long tunnel. “My passion for railroads started when I was about five years old,” he says. “I got an American Flyer train set for Christmas and it kind of got out of hand from there.”

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English Farmer Builds Incredible Hobbit House for Just 150 Pounds

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At a time when housing rates are hitting the roof, an English farmer has gone and built a house for almost nothing. 59-year-old Michael Buck spent a measly £150( $250) to construct a small, yet cozy house in the garden of his Oxfordshire home.

The former art teacher drew plans for the house on the back of an envelope. He didn’t need any special planning permissions since it was classified as a summer home. Buck spent two years gathering natural and reclaimed materials for construction. It took him an additional eight months to construct it with his bare hands; he didn’t use any power tools at all.

To make the base, he learned the ancient technique of cob from a book. The technique comes from prehistoric times and involves a mixture of sand, clay, water and earth. Clay based subsoil is mixed with sand, straw and water and then ladled onto a stone foundation. Workers and oxen then trample upon the mixture – a process known as cobbing. The layers of cob gradually build up and harden over time.

For the 300 sq. ft. floor space, Buck rescued the floorboards from a neighbor’s unused skip. He retrieved the windscreen of an old lorry and converted the glass into windows. The walls are painted with a mixture of chalk and plant resin. The roof is a simple wooden frame thatched with straw from nearby fields.

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Chinese Millionaire Builds Six European-Style Castles in China, Plans to Make it 100

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59-year-old Liu Chonghua is the latest to join a string of wealthy Chinese businessmen with eccentric hobbies. Liu is spending millions of dollars building fake European castles in the megacity of Chongqing. And get this – he copies the designs out of a book of castle pictures he keeps in his office.

One of the castles Liu built is a gray stone structure resembling Britain’s Windsor Castle. The only difference – the Chinese version is surrounded by lush green paddy fields. Another one is a red brick fairytale structure with soaring spires, inspired by the Disney movie, Aladdin. He also has a white castle with candy-colored towers, similar to 19th century Bavarian ‘Mad’ King Ludwig’s hilltop fantasy – Neuschwanstein.

Recreating foreign designs on Chinese soil might involve architectural challenges, but Liu’s team has dismissed them. Ma Wenneng, former soldier and now a construction worker, says, “Actually, European castles are really easy to build.”

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Ordinary Miracle – Russia’s Fairy-Tale School

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The Secondary School no.5, in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia, may be called “Ordinary Miracle”, but there is certainly nothing ordinary about the way it looks. Unlike most bland communist era schools around the country, this particular learning institution looks like something out of a children’s fairy-tale. And that’s exactly what makes it so popular.

Ordinary Miracle was built 12 years ago, by Sergey Mamaev, one of Russia’s most successful businessmen, who wanted to fulfill his wife Tatiana’s dream of teaching in a school where children actually wanted to go. She just didn’t find all the official-looking buildings used as schools throughout Russia suitable for molding young minds, so she came up with a more appealing design inspired by fairy-tale castles. Construction began in 1998, and in just three years time, the entire complex was completed and opened for business. Parents have to pay a tuition of 2,000 rubles ($61) per month, to have their children educated in this unique setting featuring a state of the art kindergarten, elementary and middle schools, cafeteria, swimming pool, gym and more. Mamaev’s investment in Ordinary Miracle is being praised on Russian sites as an example for other wealthy businessmen.

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Closer to Heaven – A Temple Built on the Rooftop of a Chinese Skyscraper

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Architectural wonders erected on the rooftops of skyscrapers seems to be the latest constructions trend in China. Just days after the scandal involving a mountain villa built on the roof of a Beijing apartment building, a microblogger from Shenzen discovered a traditional private temple located atop a similar residential building.

According to several Chinese media reports, the mysterious temple constructed on the roof of a 21-storey luxury apartment building in the Nanfang district of Shenzen has been around for at least three years, yet nobody, not even the tenants know who it belongs to. The rooftop structure is surrounded by foliage, has glazed golden tiles and features traditional upturned eaves decorated with carvings of dragons and phoenixes. A fingerprint scanner, security cameras and dogs barking on the other side of a locked door prevent access to the temple, but neighbors say it’s often used for traditional Chinese religious practices, as indicated by the ashes of burned offerings that float down from the roof. The private temple, suspected to be yet another illegal rooftop structure, jeopardizes the structural integrity of the entire building, but tenants say their complaints have so far landed on dead ears.

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Israeli Women Convert Old Public Transportation Bus into Beautiful Living Space

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Two women from Even Yehuda, Israel, seem to have found a practical solution to the country’s growing housing problem. They have taken a beat-down public transportation bus and turned it into a luxury home anyone would be lucky to live in.

Tali Shaul, a psychotherapist, and Hagit Morevski, an ecological pond water treatment specialist, became friends after their two sons started playing together. Sharing similar views, the two looked for a creative project and joint business idea for a long time, before finding their inspiration in the pages of a women’s style magazine. “I read an article about alternative housing solutions, such as containers and tents,” Shaul told Xnet, “and suggested Hagit and I turn an old bus into a living space.” That same week, they went to a scrapyard and bought an old public transportation bus. After stripping away all the seats and clearing up the space for the big transformation, Tali and Hagit found themselves wondering whether to keep the original outlay of the bus or turn it into a container-like space. Unable to make a decision on heir own, they reached out to their designer friend, Vered Sofer Drori, who ultimately found a way to keep the bus’ general layout and design the living space around it.

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Eccentric Businessman Builds Mountain Villa atop Beijing Apartment Building

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Zhang Biqing, a successful Chinese businessman from Beijing, has spent the last six years building a realistic-looking two-story mountain villa atop a high apartment building right in China’s capital city.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could retreat somewhere quiet and get away from it all, without actually leaving your home? That’s probably what Zhang Biqing, a former government adviser turned successful entrepreneur, thought when he decided to build his dream mountain villa at the top of a 26-floor apartment building in Beijing’s upscale Park View estate. During the six years it took to complete, residents complained about the infernal construction noise, but after seeing the enormity of the complex covering the entire top of their building, they began to worry about structural damage. The mountain in which Biqing’s villa appears to be carved may be fake, but the materials used to make it are reportedly pretty heavy as well, and threaten to weaken the residential building’s resistance. It turns out the whole rooftop project is illegal, as Zhang never received the necessary planning permission for his extreme dwelling, yet no one ever bothered him about it until Chinese newspapers recently covered the topic sparking public outrage.

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