Five High-Concept Houses You Might Actually Want to Live In

So often, houses high on style and concept are low on practicality and comfort. But it doesn't have to be like that — from suburban remodels to lake-side barns to surprisingly spacious economical options, these five have the best of both.

1. Balancing Barn – When approached from the front, this structure looks like a modest home. Visitors only experience the 30-meter length (half of which hovers in free space, suspended over a slope) when they reach the end of the long driveway. Created by architects MVRDV, the barn is in Suffolk, England, situated near a small lake. The metallic exterior is traditional to the area, as is the barn shape. It's even available to rent here.

2. Cloud House — This Melbourne, Australia home also looks surprisingly conventional from the street — the original facade has been preserved to respect the character of the neighborhood. But walk through the home, and it reveals extensive renovations culminating in a playful, cloud-shaped protrusion leading to the backyard. Its curving and cavernous walls give it a uniquely beautiful silhouette. Designed by McBride Charles Ryan Architects.

3. Hill House — One could mistake it for a gentle, grassy hill in the Danish landscape. To emphasize the harmony between nature and man-made space, architects Bjarke Ingels created this unobtrusive design covered in hardy, low maintenance grass. The design is flexible because it can be altered to accommodate various sites by changing the size and building materials in order to blend into the surroundings.

4. Alligator House — This home was designed and built as a New Orleans re-housing project, post Hurricane Katrina. Although it's only 872 square feet, architects buildingstudio created a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath home to accommodate a family. Funded by donations, the home is an example of how low-cost structures can also be functional and comfortable. It's narrow (13 feet wide) to fit into the long, narrow lots typical of the area, and the large front stoop encourages community involvement, which is essential in flood-ravaged neighborhoods like Central City.

5. ZeroHouse — This is a prefabricated house, easy to ship and assemble. It operates completely self-sufficiently, generating energy through solar panels, collecting rainwater and processing all waste into dry compost, all controlled by sensors and a laptop. Because it requires no foundation and touches the ground at only four places, it can be installed in areas where conventional construction would be impossible, including in up to 10 feet of water or on a slope of up to 35 degrees. It seems ideal for remote living, places without access to external utilities, or for those who just want to live off the grid in any location they choose.

(Images: As linked above)