Ground control to Major Tom: Here's a home unlike any other we've seen.
A lifelong architect went intergalactic to find inspiration for one of his latest designs: a tiny home shaped like a lunar lander.
Nestled on the banks of the Columbia River in central Washington, the roughly 250-square-foot home is hexagon-shaped, perched nearly 9 feet above the ground on three massive steel beams.
Inside, earthlings are greeted by an open floor plan. A breakfast nook has a porthole-shaped window overlooking the river and the hillside; a kitchen with stainless steel appliances provides space to cook up a feast for an astronaut.
A large geodesic dome skylight showers the room with sunlight.
Jonathan Fay lives a double life. By day, he works in software engineering, but once the sun goes down, he opens a window to the heavens - right in his own backyard.
The amateur astronomer designed and built an observatory behind his Woodinville, Washington, home to house his 12-inch telescope. There, he gazes at planetary nebula and photographs galaxies. For Fay, having his own sanctuary is out of this world.
How would you describe your sanctuary? My observatory is a place of peace where I can collect my gear and spend time with the universe. The nature of astronomy in the Pacific Northwest is challenging, but I’m able to open the dome and start observing without having to set up ahead of time and rush to cover things up when it rains.
What do you like best about the physical space? It’s separate from the activity of my home, and it’s quiet. I don't disturb anyone else, and they don't disturb me.
What's your home like? Is your sanctuary an extension or departure from your home? Our home is a two-story wood and brick home. The observatory blends nicely with the house and barn in style, but the dome clearly sets it apart.
Did you have your sanctuary in mind when you chose your home? No. A few years after I moved in, I realized I needed a more permanent place than a second-floor porch off the bedroom to set up my new telescope.
What was the tipping point that made you decide to create a sanctuary? When I would do astrophotography imaging runs on the second-floor porch, people would turn on lights or walk around, and the light and vibration would ruin the image. My wife didn’t like having to shut down her life for my hobby.
How did you build your sanctuary? I designed and built the observatory. I had some occasional help from friends when I needed lifting or a second pair of hands. I also had help from my kids handing me screws and nails while I worked.
What was the biggest challenge in creating your sanctuary? Round stuff is hard. Especially when it has to rotate and be level. The dome was a hemisphere, so it was round in more than two dimensions. Woodworking tools are not optimized for round things.
Has your sanctuary always looked the same, or has it changed over time? We recently added wood floors from carpet. And we put on a new roof when we re-roofed the rest of the buildings on the property.
How much time do you typically spend in your sanctuary? Sometimes many hours for several days in a row. Sometimes I go weeks without going inside. It depends on the ebb and flow of life - and how bad I need it.
How did you get into astronomy in the first place? My aunt gave me a telescope when I was about 12. Since then I have loved space and astronomy, but when I could put a computer-controlled camera on a telescope, that made me want my own Hubble in my backyard.
Does your hobby influence what you do professionally or vice versa? Building my observatory, writing all the software for it, and doing astronomical imaging helped me create the WorldWide Telescope project with two of my co-workers. Now millions of people can visit space on their computer or planetarium because of it.
Do you share your sanctuary with anyone? What about your home? I will share the observatory with just about anyone who asks, and sometimes I invite people to join me. I share my home with my wife and five active kids. So sometimes a getaway is in order!
If you had a do-over, would you change anything about your sanctuary? While I love the look of the dome, I would make the shutters open wider to accommodate a bigger telescope.
Do you wish you had found your sanctuary sooner? It came at the right time for me, and I returned to update it when that time was right.
What advice would you share with those who dream of having a sanctuary someday? You’re not getting any younger. Just go for it, even if you don't use it as much as you think you need to to justify the cost. It will always be a great story to share.
Why live on the bubble when you can experience life inside it?
It's an appropriate question to ponder while gazing at the forest from inside this unusual dome home in upstate New York.
Made to maximize views while maintaining partial privacy, this geodesic bubble tent is equal parts glamping destination and fishbowl. It's the perfect place to observe nature without fully immersing yourself in it.
Tucked away on a farm in Woodridge, New York, the dome is surrounded by a thicket of trees and sits just feet away from a greenhouse, a vegetable garden and a pond.
Ample windows offer views of the natural environment, and screened-in panels allow airflow but deter mosquitoes in the summertime.
Still looking to bask in nature? Two outdoor showers and a clawfoot tub allow you to scrub and soak near the sugar maples.
An open-air kitchen and grill offer up the chance to dine alfresco.
The home is currently available as a short-term rental in the Catskill Mountains, roughly 95 miles from the heart of Manhattan.
Bonus: Guests can interact with animals on the property (hello, goats!) and enjoy a recording studio, hiking trails or a weekly yoga class.
A good spring shower leaves the earth feeling refreshed and renewed - which is not unlike a good shower in your own home. A well-designed and polished bathroom can invigorate you in the morning or relax you before bed.
These 10 bathrooms in for-sale homes across the country give us that feeling of rejuvenation - and make us just the tiniest bit envious.
Spa-like in the city
For sale: $1.3 million
This Tudor revival in Washington, D.C., is equal parts modern and traditional - and its sleek yet comfortable bathroom is exactly what you’d need after a long day in this busy political city. This bathroom has all the spa features of your dreams, including a soaking tub with ample space for bath supplies, a double vanity with tons of storage underneath and a neutral, calming color palette.
This stunning home in De Soto, Wisconsin, is an award-winning architectural structure, but the bathroom is by far the dreamiest of all its spaces. The light hardwoods and paneling contrast beautifully with the slate-gray tub and vanity countertop, and the lighting gives just enough ambience without being too overpowering - perfect for taking a midafternoon soak in the tub on a Saturday.
This bathroom in Austin, Texas, blends neutral tones and contemporary glass to instantly relax you - and add a huge dash of style. A deep soaking tub connects seamlessly to the oversized glass-encased shower, which has a large bench and built-in shelf for bath products.
It’s not hard to imagine yourself spending quality time in this light-filled Tulsa, Oklahoma, bathroom. A free-standing curved bathtub sits beautifully right by a picture window, highlighted by a modern light fixture. And right next to it is a glass-encased shower for early mornings when you don’t have time to leisurely take a dip.
It’s hard to find a favorite thing about this luxury bathroom in Carpinteria, California. Is it the floor-to-ceiling marbled tile or the mountain views as you shower? Whether you love the ceiling-mounted showerhead or the giant tub with cozy built-ins for all your products, this bathroom is an inspiration.
Let us count the ways we love this bathroom in Bellevue, Washington. For one, we can’t get enough of the contrast between the black hexagon tile on the floor and the large white subway tile in the shower. We also love the vessel sink that sits atop an oversize purple-gray vanity, which adds an unexpected pop of color.
The light fixtures in this East Hampton, New York, bathroom are reminiscent of bubbles - appropriate for a room with a free-standing soaking tub. Another set of bubble lights sits above the wall-mounted modern sink with plenty of storage underneath.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and this Dallas, Texas, bathroom is no exception. A picture-perfect free-standing tub is framed by two playful light fixtures, as well as an oversized window that lets in a lot of light but still manages to give you privacy, thanks to the trees right outside.
Large marbled tile and a crystal-clear glass shower door make for a beautiful bathroom in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s not especially hard to imagine taking a nice, relaxing shower with that ceiling-mounted showerhead.
There's a century of history woven into the floors of a contemporary home east of Seattle: golden planks, shiny blondes and the occasional knotted gray.
It's just how Amanda Gatlin wanted it - even if she didn’t expect it would involve recycling an entire Mississippi barn, with pieces dating back to when Woodrow Wilson was president.
"It was my great-grandfather and grandfather and a bunch of people in the community who helped build it," said Gatlin, referring to the barn 2,300 miles away. "Some of the pieces of wood are 100-plus years old."
What started out as a small undertaking - Gatlin and her husband, Jeff Layton, peeling away a couple wood slabs for a picture frame or accent wall in their Northwest new construction - quickly grew into something more.
"I don't know how it transitioned from taking a few pieces to taking down the whole barn," said Jeff. "Amanda's dad talked to the landowner, and they said, 'You can come and take the whole thing.' That evolved into, ‘Gosh, let's salvage this thing.’"
‘I called it my clubhouse’
In 1912, Amanda’s great-grandparents started a farm in rural Choctaw County, Mississippi, about two hours south of Memphis. They ran a small dairy operation while growing corn and cotton. In 1949, the family built a large wooden barn on the same piece of land.
"The lumber was primarily white oak," said Boyd Gatlin, Amanda's father. "I think we kept three jersey cows and a bull. We would hand-milk in the morning, and then we sold it."
"I grew up drinking raw milk. That's why I have such a great immune system," he joked.
Boyd played in the barn as a child, jumping out of the hayloft or getting stung by wasps in the summer. His family eventually moved away, but they later learned the new owner added to the barn using wood from Boyd's grandparents' home nearby.
"So there are some unusual materials," Boyd said, "some of which had square nails, indicating they were more than 100 years old."
The Gatlins repurchased the land when Amanda was 7, using it as a country home to spend weekends or vacations. The sale allowed her to play in the same barn her father played in as a kid.
"I remember sitting up in that loft. I called it my clubhouse," she recalled. "You could dangle your legs over the side and look out onto the other house on the property - into the tall grass."
‘We were swinging sledgehammers’
When Amanda and Jeff set out to salvage the barn in 2016, it no longer belonged to her family, but they struck an agreement with the landowner to take it apart. They booked a flight from Seattle to Mississippi for September, hoping Mother Nature would give them a break from the unrelenting summers of the South.
As with many aspects of the project, it was a lot more complicated than one might expect.
"It was 95 degrees, super high humidity - it was just scorching hot," Jeff recalled. "We were swinging sledgehammers, and it was by hand. Everything was by hand."
The couple had done their research. A lot of people, it turns out, take apart barns for a living.
"[Other people are] using cherry pickers and forklifts. We didn't have access to that," Jeff said. "But as it turns out, it all came apart pretty easily. No electricity. It was all done by hand."
The duo used sledgehammers to take the barn down, piece by piece. Relatives and neighbors joined in for days at a time. A tornado that hit the area a few years back had loosened up some of the planks, making it a little easier.
They got lucky, they say, that there were no menacing bugs or wasps. They found some ants - and the occasional relic.
"Sometimes we found bullets inside [the wood]," Jeff recalled. "Apparently it's really common in the South to go shooting at old barns."
It took the pair a full two weeks to take the building apart and remove the nails by hand. In the process, they discovered the barn was more than 90 percent hardwoods, forming a solid base for their Seattle home’s new floors.
They also discovered something else: the importance of family.
"One huge benefit of doing all this labor is that we've bonded with family," Amanda recalled. "You sweat together, you have lunch together. It's an amazing bonding experience."
Long hours toiling in the hot Mississippi sun sparked great stories of the family's deep roots. Amanda's father shared tales of living on the farm as a child. A cousin talked about flying helicopters in the Vietnam War. Another cousin drove up from Florida and helped for three days, along with her husband.
"It created opportunities that we would not have had otherwise," Jeff added.
‘He was telling me stories from the Navy’
Once the wood was taken apart, it had to be milled and transported across the country. A local Mississippi mill, dating back to 1875, sanded down the boards and created tongue-and-groove joints, costing the family about $6,000.
"A lot of the pieces we were pulling down had that gray patina on it. The mill guys said that 20 years ago you couldn't give it away," Jeff said. "But now it has that aged look people are really looking for."
Jeff planned to drive the wood across the country. His father, who also lives near Seattle, was planning to meet him in Arkansas.
"It was quite an adventure. The day I left Mississippi, there were all these tornado warnings. There were tornadoes touching down around me, and it was really dark," he recalls. "I was thinking, 'What am I doing? What have I done?'"
Jeff and his father drove through the South to escape the cold winter weather. The duo ended up having their own family experience getting the hardwoods back to the West Coast.
"He was telling me stories from the Navy. We talked politics and religion," Jeff added. "I got to spend all this great time with my dad."
‘Putting a puzzle together’
With the wood safely back in Washington, the couple stored it for the winter, enduring subzero temperatures. They placed it in the garage of their rental home, covering the pieces with plastic and putting a heater in the room to keep the moisture down.
Before installing the wood, they sprayed it with an insecticide. The duo worked 12-hour days, laying out the floors in the main rooms, along the stairs and in a couple of small loft spaces.
They were working with five different board widths, along with different wood species. The couple loved the look - even at the risk of having the boards expand and contract at different rates.
"You basically start putting a puzzle together," Jeff says.
That patchwork meant hiding some Easter eggs throughout the house - the couple found a smiley face in one plank of wood, placing it outside their son's room.
"We would find different knots that look like things, [such as] an Eiffel Tower. We have a room that has two bears in it. We have one that looks like a wine spill," Jeff says.
The installation, from bare floor to stained, finished wood, took the family about 2 1/2 weeks.
‘A good substitute’
The couple is now fully moved into their 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom home and ready to welcome guests over the summer, when sunshine brings warm weather and ideal conditions for hiking, rafting and barbecues.
It wasn't the least expensive way to put floors down, added Boyd Gatlin, Amanda's father, but it is certainly special.
"In a nutshell, their flooring was quite expensive, but it is like no other in that it carries family memories," he said. "We had a house fire in 1960 that destroyed all family heirlooms, so Amanda and her cousin both felt the barn wood would be a good substitute."
Not all the wood was solid enough for the floors. Some of it became the lining of the master bath; the couple is also talking about doing some accent walls in wood.
Boyd commissioned two paintings of the barn from a relative. The family plans to build a picture frame out of the leftover wood and some of the square nails. Even the rusty old barn roof will be put to good use as siding on Jeff and Amanda's home.
Most importantly, the family loves to share stories about how their hardwood floors were more than 100 years in the making.
"We've been blown away by the results," he said.
Photos by Jeff Layton, Amanda Gatlin and Boyd Gatlin.
Take a stone farmhouse from 1810, mix it with the best furnishings you can find at flea markets in Paris, and the result is this exquisitely renovated Colonial home outside Philadelphia.
A walk-in fireplace graces the living room, while the formal dining room boasts French doors that open onto a screened porch. For a cozier ambiance, the library of this 4-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot home features a fireplace and picture-window views.
A beautifully upholstered floating wall was installed in one bedroom to allow a lake view while lounging in bed. A chandelier hangs above the bed, and behind it is a sitting room.
Owners Michele and Michael Friezo also remade the nearly 8-acre grounds, adding formal and informal gardens. They planted more than 300 types of flowers in a meadow with a fire pit that overlooks a private lake.
The pleasure of watching the sun on autumn evenings is rivaled only by watching the snow fall while sitting by a roaring fire in the barn, Michele Friezo said.
The couple also renovated the estate’s crumbling horse barn, which is a rustic version of the main home. Concerned that adding insulation would take away the barn-like appearance of the structure’s interior, they bought a second barn and installed it inside the first one.
The barn’s massive French windows face the meadow and the lake, offering front-row seats to the nesting of two bald eagles who live in a nearby grove of pine trees.
Noah and Dennis Brodsky didn't set out to buy a historic home.
They were just looking for a place that could provide a bit more room for their growing family than their 800-square-foot Manhattan apartment. But as soon as they saw this Nyack, New York, home, they knew it was meant to be.
The Gothic Revival house hit all the marks they were looking for and more: It’s spacious with a gorgeous view of the Hudson River, and it’s within walking distance to town.
A powerful history
Discovering the home's history was an added bonus.
Built in the 1850s, the 6,000-square-foot house was once owned by Thomas Edison's lab assistant, William H. Hand. Hand and Edison worked together often in the barn, making significant technological improvements to the battery.
The house was in excellent condition when the Brodskys made the purchase in 2014. "What we really spent time doing was making it feel like ours," explains Noah.
They changed the colors, added their own furniture and built a nursery for their baby. As an homage to the history of the house, they replaced the standard light bulbs in the kitchen with Edison bulbs.
"That personalization is really where we put our energy," Noah remarks.
Quirks and challenges
While the home has been modernized, many historic touches - like original handmade crown moldings and a maid's bell system that no longer works - remain.
Noah says that they also find relics hidden around the property. For example, in the backyard, they discovered an old smokehouse and a rusted animal-pulled mower buried in the ground.
Living in a historic home can have its quirky challenges. Getting Wi-Fi throughout the house is "constantly frustrating" because of all the brick. And after the couple’s first chilly winter, they added insulation in the attic to help with the heating.
Tips for historic home buyers
Dennis advises overestimating maintenance costs. If something needs to be restored or fixed in a historic home, often you can't simply call a contractor.
Additionally, the couple didn't anticipate the impact that having a home on the National Registry of Historic Places would have on their insurance costs.
"But it's a lovely house," says Noah, and the two are relishing creating new family traditions in it.
Steven Favreau is the type to go big - and go home.
When he set out to put down roots near his hometown of Boston, Favreau fell in love with an old country estate in quaint Chelsea, Vermont. It was the perfect place for this interior designer to escape from the hubbub of big city life after working with celebrity clients and more.
"It was a quintessential Vermont house in a quintessential Vermont town," said Favreau, about spotting the house in 2012. "I hopped on a plane and bought it the next week."
Built in 1832, the house was once owned by a man named Aaron Davis, whose family lived in it for at least 100 years. Davis' granddaughter eventually sold the 23-acre property in the 1980s, and the new owner converted it into a bed-and-breakfast. (There's still a portrait of Davis above one of the home's five fireplaces.)
After Favreau purchased the 5-bed, 5-bath home, he sought to restore it to its original grandeur - at a frenetic pace. A contractor brought in a crew to rework everything from the wiring (it was a fire waiting to happen) to the wallpaper (there were eight layers throughout the house). The workers even put in a massive new beam to support the house and keep it from sinking.
Up next on the designer’s list: keeping the look, feel and integrity of the antique touches, while updating the space to accommodate today's trends. He tore out a downstairs wall to expand the kitchen to 700 square feet; the master suite got a modern bath with a soaking tub.
Favreau painted walls in his signature bright colors and added bold wallpaper. He lined the master bathroom with tree-print wallpaper. The dining room got a splash of flamingo pink with a print of Victorian-looking cake plates - a nod to the era in which the house was built.
"What I wanted to use for inspiration was the house and the period of the house, so nodding to the period and updating it with a contemporary aesthetic," Favreau said. "It says today, but it also says yesterday."
Some things are distinctly New England. A wooden footbridge connects the main property to 22 secluded acres on the other side of the White River. On warm summer nights, Favreau’s family will pull a dining room table out onto the bridge and dine alfresco.
In the winter, the adjacent land allows for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
There's also an old wood barn, which Favreau envisions becoming an event space for weddings or storage. The possibilities for the next owner are limitless, he said.
"It's a big glorious house, and my family is a big glorious family. We've enjoyed it," he added. "I feel like I've loved my time being there and up in Vermont, but it's time to find the next one. Maybe an oceanside property."
The home is on the market for $695,000. Zoe Hathorn Washburn of Snyder Donegan carries the listing.
Built in 1680 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this center hall Colonial home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, is not only a living testament to early American architecture - it's also got a storied past of its own.
The home once served as a storefront during the Revolutionary War and was largely used as the Peck Tavern throughout the second half of the 18th century and early part of the 19th century.
It's even rumored that George Washington stopped by to dance in the former ballroom, which is now used as the master bedroom.
The house was also once headquarters for the Old Lyme Guild, an organization started in the 1930s that exhibited and sold arts and crafts.
For a period of time, there were even shops for cabinetmakers, bookbinders, metal workers, potters and weavers out in the barn.
"Can you imagine the conversations that have happened in this house? That's something I like to think about," says the homeowner.
In addition to its spectacular history, the home is also architecturally significant. Hand-hewn beamed ceilings and corner posts, original wide-board floors, and rare double-arched paneling that was specific to the Connecticut River Valley in the 18th century are just a few of the unique features in the home.
Updated for modern living (yet still keeping the historical integrity), the home now has geothermal heating and cooling, a modern kitchen and updated bathrooms, and plenty of space for entertaining.
"It's been a wonderful house to share with friends and family," says the homeowner.
Whether you’re thinking about a permanent move for milder weather or going the seasonal snowbird route, here are eight affordable homes in the warmest cities in the country, all to inspire your search for warmth.
A bright bungalow in Florida
For sale: $299,900
This Spanish bungalow in West Palm Beach, Florida, has everything you need to escape the cold weather: a vibrant green yard, a brightly colored exterior and a back patio perfect for sipping on a beachy cocktail.
If you ever happen to make it inside, you’ll find hardwood floors throughout, an abundance of natural light from the Florida sunshine and unique details, such as arched windows and a clawfoot tub for soaking.
If you’re looking for the definition of a picture-perfect cottage, you might just find a picture of this home in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Besides all the hallmarks of a Southern home - a white picket fence, plantation shutters and brick steps up to the front porch - this home also features an oversized screened-in back porch, ideal for enjoying those low country breezes. When you’re not spending time outside, you can enjoy custom cabinetry and cozy built-in shelves for reading books on a lazy summer day (even in the middle of January).
This Spanish revival home in Phoenix, Arizona, is likely to make you forget that winter ever existed in the first place. Built in 1925 and considered a contributing historic property, this home has all of the Southwest charm you could ask for: colorful stucco on the exterior, a Spanish tile roof and a vibrant interior.
Built in 1886 in Galveston, Texas, this home gives you a sense of history and plenty of character - all within a few blocks of the beach. The home greets you with a double stained-glass door entrance and continues to enchant inside with a grand staircase, wide-plank wood floors and trace ceilings. Other details like a spacious galley kitchen and a master bedroom with a fireplace create a pretty spectacular Gulf Coast getaway.
This sunny early-20th-century Queen Anne in Mobile, Alabama, is a rare architectural find for the city, and this one has been painstakingly remodeled for life in the 21st.
In addition to a major kitchen renovation - featuring quartz countertops and open shelving - new pine flooring coats the whole house, and all the walls have locally sourced tongue-and-groove paneling that brightens the space. This home also has plenty of spots to curl up and enjoy the Alabama warmth that permeates throughout the winter, including a charming front porch and a bay window that lets in plenty of sunshine.
This charismatic pueblo-like home in Tucson, Arizona, is optimal for living like it’s summer year-round. A Southwest color scheme greets you in the front of the house, with orange steps, a teal barrier wall and creamy stucco on the home’s exterior. The backyard, however, is really primed for all-year outdoor living with a built-in barbecue and in-ground pool - perfect for those scorching summer days ahead.
We’d kiss our snow shovel goodbye in a heartbeat for this dreamy beach bungalow in Delray Beach, Florida.
The front walkway and garden - complete with palm trees - is a great place to park your Adirondack chairs for a morning coffee or an evening mai tai. If you ever need to escape the Florida humidity, the home also boasts a custom-built theater system, and it’s just a few minutes away from the nearest beach.