Ever since Homo Sapiens made the collective (if involuntary) decision to give up the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and settle in permanent residences in order to acquiesce to the whims of wheat, that permanent residence has held a special place in our hearts. The saying is a cliché, but a house is more than a home for the ones who live there – everything positive we associate with family, kinship and belonging are inextricably tied to the place we hang our hat. This is especially true for our childhood home; whether you grew up in a Mongolian Yurt, a Tudor Mansion or a treehouse in the Philipines, every other house you encounter will be judged by this yardstick. In our adult lives, the social expectation to own our own home, particularly in the western world, percolates through every aspect of society. But the very fabric of that society is entwined in the concept of inalienable, irrevocable individual property rights, meaning that just because your neighbour has a four bedroom brick and mortar classic, or you live in the middle of a modern suburb surrounded by identical architecturally designed Lego blocks, doesn't mean you have to do the same. Your house reflects your character, it should be as quirky, as odd, as unique as you are, it should be a place for your kids to explore and enjoy themselves, or it should be none of these things – I can't tell you how to make your house the only thing it really should be: a home. What follows are a few examples of house types from around the world that you're unlikely to see spring up in the latest subdivision, but just might inspire you to build, find or improve the home of your dreams.
These tent like structures were originally created to be rapidly disassembled and reassembled in case of dust-storms, wild horse stampedes, and numerous other outrageously Mongolian things, such as the sudden and overwhelming desire to go and conquer something. But while the structure and style has remained the same for centuries, the available materials and design blueprints have allowed the Yurt to become a semi-permanent, or even permanent form of accommodation for thousands of people across the world. Particularly throughout the Asian steppes, a Yurt is a ready made bedroom for countless locals who still live their lives following herds of wild horses across the plains, warm and cosy with a fire blazing in the centre, large enough for the whole family, the overwhelming scent of tea and stew providing the backdrop for endless nighttime storytelling.
Depending on who you talk to, Kampung can refer to an individual house, or a small village of up to 10,000 residents, in which case the houses are called Rumah Melayu. These houses on stilts tend to be built without metal (even nails), relying solely on wood, with roofs thatched out of palm leaves and walls and floor made of a combination of timber and bamboo. The stilts made it easier to keep the floors clean, a vital element of traditional Malay dinner times, where the food is placed on banana leaf plates on the floor which the whole family sit around for a wholly social occasion, complete with storytelling and singalongs.
Built directly into the surrounding hills, these traditional Andalusian homes have long kept Spaniards warm in the winter and cool in the summer, natural aircon keeping them a cool 20 degrees Celsius despite it being over forty outside.
How could I leave Igloos’ off a list of cool houses? Even if you can overcome the climate change issue and find yourself enough snow to build one, it's not as simple as it looks. The trick is layering the snow-bricks in a gently rising spiral, then covering the whole thing with fresh snow. The various techniques of the Inuit tribes are rigorously adhered too and passed down through the generations, allowing the few remaining Inuit to create cosy semi-permanent homes that make a mockery of the below freezing temperatures outside.
Also variously known as EarthShips, EcoShuttles or even Hobbit Homes, these modern attempts at saving Mother Nature from our reckless indifference are built directly into hillsides, utilising this for natural temperature regulation, water retention and green roofing. Imagine being able to grow your veges on your roof, then have the same water you used to cook them in recycled and reused to water the next lot of veges, all while feeling good about yourself at the same time. And if you don't really care about the environment, you’re just doing it to prove a point to Phyllis back at the office, you can still have a pool and a water fountain, just don't tell the hippies.
So there you go. There's enough home deco options to keep anyone occupied for a while. If you ever successfully combine all the above examples into a single home, send me a picture; I always need a laugh.