Visionary works of architecture are among the most compelling showcases of human ingenuity, but is there anything more perfectly designed than nature? Across oceans and continents, terrains and biomes, the planet’s diverse vitality provides a panoply of beautiful locations where people can dwell—and supplies boundless inspiration for the forms, functions, and materiality of what they build.
Here are eight of the earth’s most enchanting and memorable landscapes and eight majestic homes that make the most of them.
With groves forming natural gardens and deciduous trees caressed by a gentle breeze, woodlands are a truly idyllic location. With its cladding of bountiful ivy and the organic color tones of its stately brick, Noxon House in Poughquag, New York is a historic Georgian mansion whose impressive structure and copious greenery are a perfect match for the tangling, towering thickets adorning its perimeters.
Coastlines are where land ends, water begins, and the sea meets and merges with the sky. These are some of the most enthralling landscapes on earth, and Can Rock, a contemporary residence in Formentera, pays homage to them. Its unique, ultramodern build playfully mirrors the sheer angles of the local cliffs, the sun-bleached color of the soft sand, and the harmonious planarity of the endless horizon.
Is there a more breathtaking landscape than a mountain? Amid the sublimity of the West Elk Mountains in Colorado, Needle Rock stands on its own—a singular outcropping of ancient igneous porphyry—made even more splendid by neighboring Mad Dog Ranch. Conceptualized by the unlikely combination of English rock royalty and an award-winning architect, this exceptional estate mimics its surroundings with immense peaks and a stony façade.
Because rivers, glaciers, and snowmelt feed their freshwater, lakeshores cut a much different figure compared to seashores—clearer, calmer, earthier, and more intimately interconnected with the land-based ecosystems surrounding them. Te Kaitaka, a tranquil retreat on the banks of Otago’s Lake Wānaka, has fully integrated with these ecosystems. Its cedar slats complement the area’s vegetation, while skylights create a sense of oneness with the vast, open expanses of the Southern Alps.
Rolling, pastoral hillsides are a completely different canvas on which to design a home. Because of their gradual curves, it’s possible to build in a way that goes with the gradient rather than against it. This property in the Berkshires shows how, with tastefully terraced contours that follow the natural descent towards the dales and meadows beyond. A location like this makes for the best all-season living, with gorgeous springs, glorious summers, astonishing autumns, and picturesque winters.
An entirely unique landscape forms in the spaces where mountains meet. Gorges, canyons, and valleys might start as modest gullies. But over the course of geological epochs, erosion carves them into wide, deep channels where rivers, forests, lakes, and mountains collide in some of earth’s most peaceful yet dynamic environments. Perhaps “peaceful dynamism” is the best way to describe this deluxe bohemian guesthouse in Cluj, whose architecture of wood, plaster, and stone is embedded directly in the local terrain and living roofs infuse the home with a vigorous, elemental energy.
Fundamentally shaped by their proximity to water, yet fully distinct in their ambience and visual appeal, marshlands are windswept vistas that demarcate the boundary between the terrestrial and the aquatic—shrubs and grasses giving way to dunes before opening onto the ocean. On the island of Sylt, this historic cabin’s thatched roof instills a sense of authenticity and continuity with the serene heath it stands upon.
Austere, severe, striking, stunning—the words used to describe deserts tend to blend their harshness and magnificence. To a lost traveler, these arid stretches may seem unforgiving; but once a home base is established and the wilderness tamed, there’s no environment more scenic. It’s therefore appropriate that this grand villa in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is a habitable artwork of moveable glass, dubbed “The House of Doors” in LUXE Magazine. It’s a design meant to maximize views, where boulders and cactuses appear as avant-garde as the property’s meticulously curated statues.
Sometimes, the boldest statements arise out of simple humility. Instead of diminishing into the local landscape, architecture that honors its natural heritage stands out, achieving brilliance through balance and creating some of the world’s most original homes.
Looking for more properties with unique curb appeal? See these homes that channel iconic artists.