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Inspiring open-air homes

Marcelle Sussman Fischler

There’s a good reason your life coach tells you to “bring down your walls.” It opens your mind, gives more breathing room and helps create a feeling of continuity. The same applies for architecture. Homeowners opting for fewer walls, floor-to-ceiling glass surfaces and wide-open spaces can bring in more light, make small areas look expansive and meld the living room with the backyard.

More home buyers are striving to capture better views and “more of an indoor-outdoor relationship” with their homes and the environment, according to Utah-based architect Clive Bridgwater. Take, for example, the award-winning 9,000-square-foot abode Bridgwater designed with dramatic views of the snow-capped Wasatch Mountains.

Instead of duplicating all the elements of a two-tier great room outside, Bridgwater employed new technologies that made it possible for a 30-foot stretch of wall to fold into a corner and seemingly disappear, instantly creating an outdoor living room. During the summer, an equivalent room below opens to the pool area and lawn.

Read on for more about this and other open-air homes:

Glass Pavilion, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Price: $13.99 million

Like a jewelry case filled with sparkly baubles, the walls of “The Glass Pavilion” are “crystal clear,” from floor to ceiling, says Suzanne Perkins of Sotheby’s International Realty, who handles the $13.9 million listing. At stake? Only a 14,000-square-foot modern home in exclusive Montecito with walls so clear, it's hard to distinguish whether they’re open or not.

But there’s no need to worry about neighbors taking a peek -- the five-bedroom residence is privately set on nearly four acres of oak groves. The open floor plan continues inside and a bookcase between the living and dining spaces provides definition to the great room. Downstairs a walnut-lined gallery can display up to 32 cars.

Mountain View Home, Park City, Utah

Behold an award-winning, 9,000-square-foot home with dramatic views of the snow-capped Wasatch Mountains. Instead of duplicating all the elements of a two-tier great room outside, a 30-foot stretch of wall folds like an accordion to one side, instantly creating an outdoor living room. Come summer, an equivalent room below opens onto the pool area and lawn. Mosquitoes and other bugs are not a worry, said architect Clive Bridgwater, but the chipmunks can’t readily distinguish between outdoors and in.

Surfside House, Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Price: $29.95 million

For the ultimate open-air living experience, the rooftop lounge on this new, modern $29.94 million spec mansion has two fireplaces to call its own. Perched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Hamptons’ legendary Sagg Pond, the contemporary home was designed to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out.

“It’s very sexy,” says listing agent Matthew Breitenbach of the Corcoran Group, especially on the waterfront where entertaining is king. “It is all about indoor/outdoor living.” Two outdoor kitchens, an infinity edge pool and a spa furnish the 6,000-square-foot outdoor deck. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and soaring ceilings let ocean breezes flow through the seven-bedroom, 10-bath 9,500-square-foot home.

House Na, Tokyo, Japan

The potential downside of living in a see-through house on a small lot on a narrow city street surrounded by more traditional buildings may be lack of privacy. The upside is loads of natural light.

The architectural photographer Iwan Baan describes the architect Sui Fujimoto’s minimalist all-glass House Na, as “one continuous space of staircases, small platforms and glass.” The platforms become a place to set or can serve as a desk, a step up to the next platform or a place to roll out a bed.

Bamboo House, Guanacoste, Costa Rica

It’s like living in a forest within a forest. The moon is visible through a cone-shaped dome under an umbrella roof on this jungle home made of bamboo. The ultra-open floor plan includes an internal garden that links the kitchen and living area with the bedroom space, yet feels secure for the architect’s mother, for whom the home was designed. And the open-air construction and overhanging tin roofs provide natural ventilation and protection from the sun.

Click here to see more impressive open-air homes.