Fantasy Homes: Treehouses

I’m tired tonight so I’ll leave this post to your imagination. I think we’ve all dreamed of our ultimate treehouse. The company, BlueForest, in England (of course) actually builds really cool ones in real life!

Amberley Castle Treehouse - BlueForest

Amberley Castle Treehouse – BlueForest

A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.

A street house, a neat house,
Be sure and wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all–
Let’s go live in a tree house
~Shel Silverstein

Until next time…dream up…waaayyyyy UP!

Fantasy Homes: Futuristic Design

Postmodern

I did promise to move away from storybook/medieval fantasy style when discussing fantasy “homes”. As much as ultra modern design is not something I would choose to live in, I can definitely appreciate it and find the design aspect of it fascinating. Futuristic, space age design tends to lead away from individual homes to multiple dwelling complexes. This is probably because, in most places, especially Europe and Asia, there are too many people and too little land to accommodate horizontally sprawling urban centres. Even here in North America we are starting to see the advantage of moving vertically rather than destroying more and more forest and pasture land. Architects are, therefore, predicting trends toward upward movement and multipurpose complexes.

Although you will see a lot of boxy modern houses shown as the current trend – clearly still influenced by Bauhaus and Postmodernism – grander scale, ultra modern designs seem to move toward organic forms based on nature. As you can see in the illustration above, the building is predominantly round and curving as opposed to boxy. Obviously this is a concept design that hasn’t yet been implemented, however, it’s not that far off what is already being built. Interestingly, when I was viewing concept drawings of ultra modern design, one place on earth actually popped into my mind that has actually has started to take on this very futuristic look.

The United Arab Emirates is a place like no other place on earth. From the sky, you’d swear Dubai was something out of a Science Fiction film. In fact, I had a very difficult time deciphering real photos from computer generated conceptual drawings as I was looking for examples. Obviously there’s a lot of money put toward design and construction in that city and in its neighbouring city, Abu Dhabi. Not only are their buildings quite magnificent (think the tallest tower in the world) and cutting edge, but they are also contending with land which would otherwise be relatively inhospitable to living. There are, of course, a lot of negative aspects to creating a city on inhospitable land (think Las Vegas), but I’m sure there have also been great strides in innovation with respect to working in such an environment.

The thing that I think about when I see futuristic buildings such as these is, who the architects are behind the projects. The Burj Khalifa was designed by a Chicago firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and the lead architect was Adrian Smith. Architect Tom Wright of the UK firm, WKK Architects, designed the Burj Al Arab. The architect behind the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre is the most interesting result of my research. Zaha Hadid and her firm, based in London, England, are some of the most creative and innovative architects I have ever seen.

I will not go on to explain how truly amazing they are but will, instead, suggest (strongly) that you watch the following video. I think you will be impressed with the leaps in technology used for design to bring these truly unique concepts to life. I was really blown away.

You see how futuristic, science fiction/fantasy is not really that far in the future? It’s happening now and, if you ask me, it’s REALLY COOL (or “sick” as my son eloquently put it)!

Until next time…enjoy the here and now. Your future is not far behind. :)

Fantasy Homes: Storybook Homes

The amazing, yet often frustrating, thing about the internet is that if you dream it, you can probably find that someone has done it. In the “good ol’ days” if you thought of something new and unique, chances were you wouldn’t have to compete with anyone because no one had access to world wide ideas. Now…well…we all know what it’s like now. You REALLY have to think outside the box (like about 5000 miles in every direction) to come up with something that someone else hasn’t already thought of. For designers and creators this is challenging in a good way and a bad way. For consumers it’s freaking AMAZING!

“I want a house in the shape of a fish with shingles that look like scales and a chimney that looks like a fishing hook.”

Done. fishhousemaster.com (or whatever)

In my quest to find interesting homes inspired by fantasy, I’ve found that I don’t really have to search too darned hard. That being said, just because a lot of people are doing it, it doesn’t mean they’re doing it well. Given that everyone has different tastes and ideas of what fantasy means to them, I would tell you now that I tend toward styles that are inspired by old European fantasy and Fairy tales. I know that there are worlds, realms really, of other fantastic ideas that depart fully from this and I promise to look into them in some future posts.

For now, however, I need to bring to your attention some architects and their plans that I found today. Their company is quite simply (and effectively) called Storybook Homes. They design what inspires them:

We love the whimsy and charm of both the Old-world Picturesque and Storybook style because they’re exciting, they’re entertaining, they can make us smile, and they ignite the imagination! They speak to our hearts and dazzle our eyes with their charm.

The creativity of their plans is sheer genius. So adorable and so whimsical. They also use salvaged materials to add to the authenticity of the old world look. You can buy full plans from them and they are drawn according to US building codes. I mention this, because you often find lovely, fantastical buildings that, if you ever tried to build them here in North America, they would never hold up to our strict building codes.

But that’s all technical stuff…who cares, right? We’re just dreaming here. Let’s look at some of their designs.

Kew

GwyndolynHow wonderful are they? If I had the cash, you can be sure I’d build one in a heartbeat complete with secret rooms and surrounded by a huge, winding garden…and a pond. (why not?!)

Have a look at the Storybook Homes website. It’s wonderfully set up with little storybooks within which to peruse the plans.

Until next time…dream on!

Fantasy Homes: Bag End

Being a fantasy writer, reader, and enthusiast, it occurred to me that maybe I should look at design elements related to fantasy when writing about design on my blog. I mean, all in all, the topic of design can be extremely broad. Last week I talked about colour, this week…who knows?! It could be anything. Fantasy design is even a broad topic itself. After all, there are really no limitations to what could be created! However, I will endeavour to make the posts as consistent as possible and as interesting as possible.

Bag End Blueprints - Daniel Reeve

Bag End Blueprints – Daniel Reeve

If you could live in any fantasy home that you’ve read about or seen in a movie, what would it be? My answer for this one is always quick and easy. It’s the Hobbit house! In fact, if there was a separate Hobbit movie about life in the Shire, I’d be the first one in line for tickets. The way Bilbo Baggins’ house – or Bag End – is portrayed on screen was so wonderfully imaginative. I love the round windows, the wood detail, the cozy nooks, and winding hallways. I really, really want one of my own!

Interestingly, a week or so ago, I saw an article about homes people had built in real life based on cartoons. One of the homes featured was…dun dun dun…a Hobbit home! It is absolutely adorable and what I really like about it is that it fits in with the Tiny House trend (which I LOVE) and takes into account the environment both in the materials used to construct it and also the locations into which it is built.

The Hobbit House, Wales

The Hobbit House, Wales

Simon and Jasmine Dale, the builders of the Hobbit home, live in Wales (of course) and have been working on environmental building projects for more than 10 years. There is an amazing amount of planning and detail that goes into homes like these. For instance, the home is dug into a hillside to create shelter as well as not to interfere with the natural beauty of the surroundings. Everything from straw bale insulation, to lime plaster walls, to water brought in by gravity, speaks to the Dales obvious desire to leave as small a footprint as possible while ensuring comfortable living for themselves.

I don’t know if the Building Code here in Canada would support building something like this. I rather doubt it. Of course you’d have to bump up the insulation and account for the vast temperature variations and seasonal changes which, I rather expect, are more tempered in Wales. Nevertheless, it is fun to dream about and if ever I find myself in a situation where I might build my own house, be not surprise to find me in my very own Bag End!

Bag End Interior

Bag End Interior

Magical Places

Happy New Year everyone! I know, I’m a few weeks late but this is how it is these days with my ongoing renos at home. Not that I’m complaining…but I miss blogging! The other problem was that the year didn’t start too well. I mean, it was fine for me, but there were several events local, and worldwide, that were upsetting. That is to say, upsetting to me, devastating for those involved. The latest of which, being the earthquake in Haiti. Not that I’m in any way ignoring the importance of these events, but I wanted my first post of the year to be positive. So I will delay posting on more critical events by one post, if you’ll forgive my frivolity.

*****

My four year old daughter came to me today and asked me if I knew about fossils. She didn’t want to know what I knew though…she wanted to tell me what she knew. According to her, they are old footprints from a long, long time ago in the ground. Sure. Good start. I tried to expand on that, but her mind was already on something else.

“Are there Unicorn fossils? How long ago were they on the earth?”

I respond slowly and carefully. “I don’t think anyone has found any. They weren’t really on the earth.”

Silence.

“Well…where were they?”

This is where being a consistent atheist becomes difficult. When you think about it, the argument against the existence of God is just as applicable to magic, Santa, and all other imaginary things. But in the end I’m more fearful about curbing imagination than I am about being inconsistent. After all, many of the greatest fantasies were born of wild imaginations intrigued with magic. Think J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Gene Roddenbury to name a few. Sure you can claim that Star Trek is based on science…but when one thinks simply of being able to go from one place to another far away at the push of a button or by closing one’s eyes…is it not a fantasy, a little wish for magic – a wish that inspires invention and innovation? So I think, what’s the harm in allowing her to continue to believe in unicorns?

I turn on my kid-brain. “They’re magical creatures. They live in magical places.”

Her eyes light up. “At the end of rainbows?!”

“Uh huh.”

“Can we go sometime?”

“Well, they are very hard to find. Usually you need elves to show you the way. But if you can find an elf…”

She grabbed her backpack full of supplies and took off. Not too much later I heard her having a great discussion with an elf. I smiled to myself. Nope…no harm…just an afternoon of imagination and adventure.

Pure logic can easily dismiss magic, but it would be a boring, and I might dare to say unprogressive, world without it in our dreams and fantasy don’t you think?