Shelter is a basic human need, but in the immortal words of Swiss architect and urban planner Le Corbusier, “The home should be the treasure chest of the living.” These places we call home are not just roofs over our heads; they are personal expressions of ourselves and the things we value.

The challenge for today’s builders is continuing to meet those aspirations, while keeping one foot on the side of fiscal prudence. When a builder manages to do all of this on budget--be that budget great or small--and still add an element of innovation or surprise to the mix, it’s a structure to behold.  (And it’s an accomplishment that journalists write about.)

No doubt there are legions of great houses built every year that are special for all different kinds of reasons. We looked back through our coverage from this past year and pulled ten of our favorite treasures. Each of these homes, in its own way, tried something a little different and did it exceptionally well. 

Geier House, Williamstown, Mass.
Michael Lavin Flower Geier House, Williamstown, Mass.

1. Fresh Take

This crisp home near the Vermont-Massachusetts border blends classical farmhouse framework with some lovely contemporary turns. It trades traditional clapboard for light-gauge metal wall systems (which are more durable and low-maintenance), and swaps out the region’s historically characteristic small windows for some strategically placed monumental picture glazing. It even has a roofless sun-catcher patio that can be used year-round, thanks to sliding barn doors that close to block the wind. That porch is just one of several intimate outdoor spaces created by the home’s compound-like assembly of barn forms and sheds.

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Project: Geier House
Location: Williamstown, Mass.
Entrant/Builder: Albert J. Cummings General Contractor 
Architect: Burr and McCallum Architects

Magnus Stark

2. Case by Case

The single-family residence that previously stood on this perch overlooking Pasadena and the Rose Bowl was one of California’s original mid-century post-and-beam structures. It was designed by architects Conrad Buff and Don Hensman, who went on to create a number of well-known "case study" houses in a post-WWII initiative commissioning new home designs for returning GI's and their families. While the existing 1,300-square-foot home (built in 1956) was too decrepit to salvage--and an exact replica was impossible to build in light of the area’s updated fire codes and hillside ordinances--D.S. Ewing Architects and Gooler Construction managed to maintain the original home’s spirit by repeating its pivoting footprint, which bends at a 12-degree angle. The resulting two-story structure is engineered with three terraced levels of aluminum grating decks extending down the hillside. To maintain privacy from the street, its western façade is clad in red cedar with high clerestory windows, while the east side of the house is all glass, framed with 6-by-8 foot posts at 8 feet on center.

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Project: 1024 Glen Oaks
Location: Pasadena, Calif.
Architect: D.S. Ewing Architects 
Builder: Gooler Construction
Photo: Magnus Stark

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA, Atlanta, GA.