Sometimes getting the best view means risking a little vertigo.
Architects around the world are realizing rocky terrains and strategic building designs can be used to give clients unparalleled views, without hindering them for anyone else. Homes are now built right into cliffsides in a way so natural it's hard to tell where the cliff begins and the home ends. After all, why bother building around a cliff or boulder when it can be part of the bathroom sink or living room structure?
But these cliffside homes aren't necessarily for the faint of heart. "Fall House" in Big Sur, California, for example, is perched 250 feet above the ocean. If the "Modular Cliff House" in Victoria, Australia, is ever built, it will be one of the most precarious-looking homes of all time, clinging to the side of the rocks like a barnacle to the hull of a ship. Still, a correctly-built cliff home is perfectly safe - probably.
Here are eight cliff homes that have enviable views and brave owners.
This small wooden home, dubbed "House 205," sits on concrete stilts on the side of a rocky cliff surrounded by forest in the village of Vacarisses in Barcelona. It has approximately 433-square-feet of space, built-in, ceiling-to-floor bookcases, large windows that let in lots of natural light, a patio space and large sliding doors so the owners can switch between individual rooms and an open floor plan at will.
HARQUITECTES, a Sabadell, Spain-based firm, built "House 205" between 2006 and 2008. They created the simple and modern property, anchored on the side of a rocky cliff and surrounded by forest, with a budget of €200,000 (about $274,000). According to the designer, the site initially seemed unfit for construction. To make it work, the team had removed the top layer of earth and built on top of the rock underneath.
"Wing House," located in the hills of Malibu, California, got its name because the structure used to fly. Architect David Hertz traveled to the Mojave Desert in 2005 -- where retired airplanes go to die - and brought back the Boeing 747 aircraft with a 2,500-square-foot wing that would form the roof of this hilltop house in 2011.
The finished property, which had to be officially registered with the Federal Aviation Administration so it would not be mistaken it for an actual plane, sits on 55 acres of land. It has 4,700-square-feet of space, an art studio, a meditation area, animal barn, guesthouse, terrace, concrete and glass walls and views of the Pacific Ocean.
Separation Creek House
This two-toned, three-bedroom beachfront home in Victoria, Australia, has 2,368-square-feet of space and views of Separation Creek and the Wye River Peninsula.
Situated at a 45-degree incline among trees and bushes as well as the cliff, and inspired by the boxy "fibro shack" architecture of the 1950s, the cement-paneled property looks like a kind of retro treehouse. It features a sunroom, sandpit play area, laundry room, studio and skylight. The Melbourne, Australia-based Jackson Clements Burrows architectural company built the home in 2008.
Modular Cliff House
Many homeowners would be terrified to live in a five-story property balanced right above the water. But for the couple who wanted a vacation home in Victoria, Australia, with a serious coastal view, "Cliff House" could be just the thing. The suburban Melbourne-based company Modscape that designs and builds prefabricated, sustainable homes was inspired by barnacles (which cling to the hulls of ships) to create this theoretical response to its clients' request.
If constructed, the three-bedroom home would be anchored to the cliffside with steel pins. It would feature about 935-square-feet of space, a rooftop car port, patio, spa area with jetted tub, sunken living room, an elevator, outdoor kitchen and minimal furnishings to emphasize the owners' connection to the ocean.
San Francisco-based firm Fougeron Architecture, headed by Anne Fougeron, built this three-bedroom contemporary copper vacation home on the south coast of California's Big Sur region last year. "Fall House" is comprised of two rectangular structures, connected by a glass corridor, that are positioned on a cliffside 250 feet above the ocean. The main entrance is located at the top, with the spaces moving from the most public to the most private, according to the company.
The 3,800-square-foot home features an open floorplan living room and kitchen, patio, library, skylight, floor-to-ceiling windows, built-in shelving, on-site wastewater and freshwater systems, solar control glazing set into the steel frame and low-VOC paint and interior finishes.
"The Pierre," named because "Pierre" is the French word for "stone" or "rock," is located between a group of boulders on the cliffs of San Juan Island in Washington. It's a single-story, stone, cement, steel and drywall property with a green roof that largely disappears into its surroundings. It was built by the Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig Architects for rock-loving client Merrill White in 2010.
The main house has 2,500 square feet of space, built-in shelving, a custom bed with a leather headboard, floor-to-ceiling windows, an outdoor terrace, interior and exterior fireplaces, open concept dining and living areas and a bathroom mirror with a "skytube" that reflects natural light. There is also an additional guesthouse on the property.
"Cliff House" sits on a cliffside on the waterfront of Gig Harbor in Washington. The location was once used for both a guesthouse and boathouse, and came with strong size regulations, but this primarily copper, concrete and wooden space utilizes almost every square foot.
It features a green roof, new guesthouse, glass-enclosed elevator, floor-to-ceiling windows, several decks and bridges, sunscreens, an outdoor fireplace and a wood-burning pizza oven. The Seattle-based architect Scott Allen created the home before founding his company Scott Allen Architecture, when he was a principal at Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects in 2006.
The Lake House
"The Lake House" is located on the Lake Tahoe waterfront in the Incline Village area of Crystal Bay, Nevada, about 40 miles northeast of Reno. The five-story, 8,694-square-foot property is currently on the market for almost $40 million. It's almost entirely built into the granite slope, with just the two-car garage visible at street level.
The Lake House
The home has a glass elevator, glass staircase, pool, circular fireplace, steel pier, 6,000-pound boat lift, an outbuilding for storage, a gym and spa, intercom and security systems, a heated driveway and "secret outdoor rooms," according to the listing. It was built by San Francisco-based firm Mark Dziewulski Architect in 2010.