#1 – Above is our most liked Instagram post.

When this first popped up as our #1 Instagram post for 2021, I have to admit, I was a bit surprised.  This home renovation project by Shed Architecture is modest, simple, and would fit right in our neighborhood.  And that’s the key to its popularity. This awesome transformation seems achievable, something we could do with our own homes.  With the right design team to guide us, this home is less of a dream and more of a possible reality.

Design Note: By the way, the dark color of this home helps it to visually recede, becoming subtle and not overwhelming.  By adding the contrasting natural wood color stairs and entry doors, we become intrigued and know exactly where to go.

Photography by Rafael Soldi

#2 – Home as a place to recharge the batteries.

This cabin, designed by Olson Kundig, represents the ultimate getaway.  The cabin stands in harmony with its natural surroundings while at the same time offering protection from the elements., comfort, and warmth.  The “treehouse” vibe detaches living spaces from the ground, further emphasizing the separation from society, literally getting away from the chaos of the world around us. Throw in Olson Kundig’s signature “industrial-warmth” palette of materials and you get a Modern Cottage that feels cozy, warm, and inviting.

Fun Fact:  Olson Kundig’s homes, cottages, and cabins are full of fun, mechanical, and moving elements.  They refer to these as “Gizmos,” and have “Gizmologists” on staff that engineer these complex elements.

#3 – Simple shapes clearly defined.

Sometimes the best solutions to problems are the simple ones.  This Modern Cottage designed by Imbue Design offers an extremely simple design composition in the midst of a complex natural environment.  The beautiful shape and materials of this home help it stand out in contrast to the natural environment.  But, as you look deeper, you begin to notice that the slope of the roof and the rhythm of the windows and siding in fact abstractly mimic the mountain.  It’s this delicate balance of simple and sympathetic design that makes this Modern Cottage feel perfectly at home.

Design Note: Rhythms of materials help bring “human scale” to homes.  Our eyes (but really our brains) love to look for patterns, which allow us to understand objects in simpler terms.


#4 – Traditional forms in a modern composition.

Birdseye begin their designs with traditional building forms, shapes, and compositions. Then, they flip this nod to tradition on its head and explode the homes with modern spaces, industrial building elements, and stripped-down detailing.  It’s this contrast of old and new that leads to homes that are livable for today with spaces help connect people with each other and their natural environments.

Designer Note: Our traditional local surroundings (where we have lived) influence how we perceive building and homes today.  We feel comfortable with shapes and forms of buildings that represent the local vernacular structures of the past. This is one reason why we love modern barn structures – homes built for today, but rooted deeply in the past, and in our hearts.

Landscape Architects – Wagner Hodgson 

Photography by Jim Westphalen

#5 – Living modern within a majestic old forest.

Most of us just love the idea of a simple cottage set in the middle of an old growth forest. This desire seems to come from fairy tales from our childhood.  This modest home designed by Heliotrope Architects, turns the fairy tale into a modern reality.

It’s the contrasts that intrigue us.  We absolutely love to compare things against each other.  For example, this home uses contrasts in two very bold ways.  First, and most obviously, the simple box of the home sharply contrasts with organic shapes of the forest.  The home is clearly recognized as “different” from the natural environment.  And second, the home itself is designed with contrasting materials – a protective dark outer shell and the “softer” white walls where people are invited to enter the home.

Fun Fact: The architects of this home worked diligently to ensure the least amount of impact to the forest by placing the home just right. They also maximized the owners enjoyment of the home and views to the water beyond.

Photography by Sean Airhart

#6 – Simple design with the promise of simple living.

Let’s not kid ourselves, 2021 sucked in many ways.  So, it’s no wonder this design by Garrison Foundry Architecture + Decor (GFA) made our list of top posts.  It just represents something we are all longing for these days: peace, calm, and serenity.  The dark color of this home allows it to become the backdrop to living spaces (and furniture) that blend seamlessly inside and out.  Also, the color creates the impression that the home recedes into the woods, allowing the green lush landscape to envelope us.  What better way to escape the daily grind than to come home to this little paradise?

Fun Fact:  We feel better, both mentally and physically, when we are in nature.  Recent scientific studies show that our bodies release endorphins when we are outside.  These help to reduce stress, something we all could use.

Photography by Beatrice Pediconi