Category: Cool Pictures

Strange Houses & Weird Homes

A Home Can Be So Much More Than A House

via You Live Where


This house sure is a doozy, or at least the fall from it is. The archway at the bottom, while sacrificing some stability, is a nice touch. Do you think that the designer of this house likes roofs? As if this house needed to be more top-heavy. My real question is: Where is the electricity coming from to operate that lift? I imagine that it would be a little windy all the way up there. A great little detail that just proves the amazing things people can do with Photoshop these days.



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Level Architects: House with Slide[s]

via Design Boom

‘house with slide’ by level architects | all images courtesy level architects

Yokohoma-based atelier level architects has completed ‘house with slide’, a three-story family residence that features a continuous circulation route that utilizes both stairs and the playground equipment. Circumscribing the volume of the house, the playful layout places the living spaces at the core of the house with a number of access points along the course.

living area on the second level

Since the circulation is placed at the outer edge of the design, the interior is largely lit using
vertical openings in the roof. a centrally-placed courtyard with sliding glass doors illuminate
the living room with natural daylight while creating a small play area for the children of the house.
rounded corners of the layout encourages the light to wash around edges to further light the space.

slide exit into the living space

(left) stairs up to the top of the slide

(right) slide

third floor hall way connecting the stairs and slide

living room with light courtyard

(left) light courtyard

(right) washroom with roof light

entrance and slide exit to the right

(left) library

(right) slide and hallway


circulation diagram

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David Lachapelle, Design Boom

Natural Architecture

The natural environment still manages to fill us with a sense
of awe and amazement. despite the amount of scientific
knowledge mankind has gathered, nature still holds great
mysteries that we may never be able to unravel.
this complexity has continually daunted man. in frustration, we
try to control nature by enforcing order. as a result,
we have distanced ourselves from the earth, even though
our survival is completely dependent on it. we are now trying
to regain our close connection to nature.

There is an emerging art movement that is exploring mankind’s
desire to reconnect to the earth, through the built environment.
referred to as ‘natural architecture’, it aims to create a new,
more harmonious, relationship between man and nature by
exploring what it means to design with nature in mind.

The roots of this movement can be found in earlier artistic
shifts like the ‘land art’ movement of the late nineteen sixties.
although this movement was focused on protesting the
austerity of the gallery and the commercialization of art,
it managed to expand the formal link between art and nature.
this has helped develop a new appreciation of nature in all
forms of art and design.

The ‘natural architecture’ movement aims to expand on ‘land art’
by acting as a form of activism rather than protest. this new
form of art aims to capture the harmonious connection we
seek with nature by merging humanity and nature through
architecture. the core concept of the movement is that
mankind can live harmoniously with nature, using it for our
needs while respecting its importance.

The movement is characterized by the work of a number of
artists, designers and architects that express these principles
in their work. the pieces are simple, humble and built using the
most basic materials and skills. because of this, the results
often resemble indigenous architecture, reflecting the desire
to return to a less technological world. the forms are stripped
down to their essence, expressing the natural beauty inherent
in the materials and location. the movement has many forms of
expression that range from location-based interventions to
structures built from living materials. however all of the works
in the movement share a central ethos that demonstrates a
respect and appreciation for nature.

These works are meant to comment on architecture and provide
a new framework to approach buildings and structures.
they aim to infuse new ideas into architecture by subverting
the idea that architecture should shelter nature. instead,
the structures deliberately expose the natural materials used
in the building process. we see the branches, the rocks and
all the materials for what they are. we understand that these
structures won’t exist forever. the materials will evolve over
time, slowly decomposing until no evidence remains.
these features are intentional, provoking viewers to question
the conventions of architecture. the designers aren’t suggesting
that architecture must conform to their vision, they are just
providing ideas that they hope will inspire us all to rethink the
relationship between nature and the built environment.

‘la tonnelle’ by gilles bruni and marc babarit, 1996

‘ash dome’ by david nash, 1977

‘organic highway’ by mikael hansen 1995

‘bridge in moasi, china’ by edward ng, 2005

‘clemson clay nest’ by nils-udo, 2005

‘weidendom’ by sanfte strukturen, 2001

‘reed chamber’ by chris drury, 2002

‘running in circles’ willow and maple saplings, patrick dougherty, 1996

‘toad hall’ by patrick dougherty, 2004

‘fog pad’ by n architects, 2004

cover of ‘natural architecture’ by alessandro rocca, published by princeton architectural
press, 2007 – all the images featured in this article are taken it.

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Yahoo! Travel

Starting with simple logs from fallen trees or a few stones strategically placed across a stream, bridges and humans have had a long history. Many are designed exclusively for people on foot or on bike; others are for use by cars, boats or trains. Some bridges connect continents; others are known more for their histories and the cultural interest they inspire.

“Few man-made structures combine the technical with the aesthetic in such an evocative way as bridges” wrote David J. Brown, a bridge historian and author of Bridges: Three Thousand Years of Defying Nature. With the help of Brown, and Judith Dupré, a structural historian and bridge expert, we’ve searched the globe for incredible specimens of architecture that span physical obstacles — better known as bridges.

The Singapore Helix Bridge, Singapore

The almost 1,000 foot long curved Singapore Helix Bridge connects Singapore’s Youth Olympic Park with the new Marina Bay Sands integrated resort. Designed by architecture firms the Cox Group and Architects 61, and international engineering firm Arup, the Singapore Helix is the world’s first bridge in the form of an interlocking double helix, and also utilizes lights to highlight its unique structure, Brown said. The bridge has viewing platforms, and also serves as a gallery.

The Singapore Helix Bridge, Singapore

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Florence’s Ponte Vecchio (which means “Old Bridge”), crosses the Arno River, and is an inhabited bridge, common in Europe during the Middle Ages when merchants and residences occupied the space. “The Ponte Vecchio is more than a bridge. It is a street, a marketplace, a public square, and an enduring icon of Florence,” Dupré writes. Today, she said, the bridge houses gold shops and, on the top level, the “secret” Vasari Corridor that Renaissance nobility once used to cross between the Pitti and Vecchio palaces. The bridge is considered to be the first segmental arch bridge built in the West, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and “is an outstanding engineering achievement of the European Middle Ages.” Built in 1345, it required fewer piers than the Roman semicircular-arch design, as the shallower segmental arch offered less obstruction to navigation and freer passage to floodwaters. Its design is generally attributed to Taddeo Gaddi, better known as a painter and pupil of Giotto. During World War II, it was the only bridge in Florence spared from destruction by German bombs, because Hitler took a fancy to it.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA

Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge stretches across the Sacramento River in Redding, California, linking the two campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Opened in 2004, the bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists also serves as a gateway to the Sacramento River Trail system, and its soaring backward-leaning mast with cables stretched like the strings of a harp, is a working sundial, said David J. Brown, a bridge historian and author of Bridges: Three Thousand Years of Defying Nature. The bridge is also environmentally sensitive to its setting. The free-standing construction allows the bridge to avoid impacting the nearby salmon-spawning habitat, as there are no supports in the water, yet its glass-bottom encourages public appreciation of the river, according to Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The Sundial Bridge is one of about fifty — and the first built in the United States — designed by Calatrava, writes Brown.

Sundial Bridge, Redding, California, United States

Leonardo’s "Golden Horn" Bridge, Aas (near Oslo), Norway

Designed in 1502 by Leonardo da Vinci to span the “Golden Horn,” the famous waterway in Istanbul that separates Europe and Asia, the stone bridge was never built because the Turkish sultan feared that it was not technically feasible. A scaled down, laminated wood and stainless steel version based on the famous artist’s original plan is now a footbridge near Oslo, Norway. “For 500 years the beauty and symbolism of this graceful bridge remained an obscure drawing in one of Leonardo’s notebooks, until it was brought into being in Norway in 2001 by the contemporary artist Vebjorn Sand,” according to the website of The Leonardo Bridge Project, a global public arts project. Built in collaboration with the Norwegian transportation ministry, the bridge was the first civil engineering idea by Leonardo to be realized.

Leonardo's 'Golden Horn' Bridge, Aas (near Oslo), Norway

Millau Viaduct, Millau, France

Rising above the clouds, the Millau Viaduct is the tallest road bridge in the world, said Brown, a bridge historian and author of Bridges. With its loftiest pier higher than the Eiffel Tower, it was financed by the same company that built the famous French monument. Conceived by engineer Michel Virlogeux and designed by architect Sir Norman Foster, the cable-stayed bridge (in which the deck is supported from towers by a series of cables), comprises seven concrete piers and a steel deck, and spans more than one-and-a-half miles across the valley of the river Tarn near Millau in southern France. Completed in 2004 after only three years’ construction, the Millau Viaduct was created to have the "delicacy of a butterfly," said Foster in news reports. "A work of man must fuse with nature. The pillars had to look almost organic, like they had grown from the earth," said the English architect, who was interviewed by a regional paper and quoted in a BBC news report.

Millau Viaduct, Millau, France

Ponte Sant’ Angelo, Rome, Italy

Ponte Sant’Angelo spanning the Tiber in Rome, one of the eight stone bridges the Romans are known to have built over the Tiber between 200 B.C. and A.D. 260, is the most celebrated of the six “massive beauties” still in use, said Judith Dupré, author of Bridges. “The Romans perfected the masonry arch,” she said, allowing them to span much greater distances than previously. “Much of Roman engineering genius is underwater, hidden from view, but their inventions — including the cofferdam, cutwater piers that divide water current, and pozzolano, a type of waterproof concrete—are still used today,” Dupré said. Ponte Sant’ Angelo, originally named for Hadrian, the emperor who reigned during its construction, leads to his mausoleum, Castel Sant’ Angelo, a popular tourist attraction in Rome.

Ponte Sant' Angelo, Rome, Italy

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People make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes happen on the job. Usually, the incident is corrected and the whole thing is forgotten within minutes. However, the workplace mistake is harder to ignore when the person who makes it is an architect. After all, when the teenager working the drive-thru window gives you a Quarter Pounder instead of a Big Mac, it causes a lot less trauma than when a 3,000-foot-long suspension bridge collapses into the Puget Sound.

In "The Yale Book of Quotations," the legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright is quoted as saying, “The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines.” While this statement from 1954 is still true today, it doesn’t take into account the architectural, design, and engineering errors that became possible in the decades after his death. Those mistakes have been bigger, costlier, and more spectacular than Wright could have imagined, and there are not enough vines in the world to hide them.

What are some of the more notable architectural failures in modern history? Click ahead to find out.

Aon Center

The Aon Center is the third-tallest building in Chicago. It was completed in 1973 and was originally named the Standard Oil Building. When it was completed, the building was a visual wonder to behold, thanks to the decision to sheath the entire structure in Italian Carrara marble. The building looked great, but its fetching exterior came at a very high price. Carrara marble is much thinner than building materials normally used to clad buildings, and in 1974 one of the slabs detached from the building and crashed into the roof of the neighboring Prudential Center. An investigation revealed the completely unsuitable marble was cracking and bowing all over the exterior. Ultimately, the building was refaced with granite at a cost of more than $80 million .

Playground at Pier One, Brooklyn Bridge Park

Most parents who take their children to the playground know the drill. Before putting their kids into a swing, they touch it first to make sure the seat, which has been sitting in the sun all day, isn’t too hot. However, the designers of the playground at Pier One in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park managed to overlook this principle when they designed three play structures for children to climb on, and built them out of steel. The domed structures regularly became too hot to touch, much less climb. Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, measured their temperature at more than 127 degrees, and parent Roula Fokas observed, “You can fry an egg on them ." In July 2010,The New York Post reported the domes would be replaced with new equipment which, presumably, could be touched by anyone, at any time of year.

John Hancock Tower

The John Hancock Tower is a 60-story skyscraper in Boston that was designed by the I.M. Pei & Partners architectural firm and unveiled in 1976. Its striking, minimalist appearance won it accolades from the architectural community, but it was famously plagued with problems. One major issue the building encountered concerned its windows: They were falling out and crashing to the pavement hundreds of feet below. In the 1992 book "Why Buildings Fall Down," authors Matthys Levy and Mario Salvadori explained that this was due to unanticipated, repeated thermal stresses to the panels. Ultimately, all 10,000 windows would be replaced at a cost of $5 million. The John Hancock Tower encountered one other major problem. Skyscrapers are meant to sway in order to absorb strong gusts of wind, though the sway is normally not felt by the building’s residents. The John Hancock Tower, however, swayed so dramatically that it gave the occupants of its upper floors motion sickness. The problem was finally solved by Cambridge engineer William LeMessurier .

Vdara Hotel & Spa

When researching hotels for an upcoming trip, many potential guests hope to find certain amenities, such as a mini-bar, a gym, or close proximity to sightseeing. However, the Vdara Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas offers a unique accoutrement that neither its guests nor its architect anticipated—a death ray.
The hotel opened in December 2009 and featured a unique, curved structure. However, its design collected solar rays and beamed them to the hotel swimming pool area. Guests sunning themselves nearby were regularly singed, such as Bill Pintas, who claimed that the hotel’s impromptu death ray had burned his hair and melted the plastic bag he had with him .

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a suspension bridge that connected the port city of Tacoma, Wash., with the Kitsap Peninsula. It was the third-longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened to the public on July 1, 1940, but it closed four months later after a spectacular collapse.
The cause of the collapse was inadequate girders that were used to keep construction costs low. They failed to keep the bridge deck in place, allowing it to sway violently whenever a strong enough wind blew. This situation was already noticeable to construction workers, who nicknamed it “Galloping Gertie.” The name stuck when the general public crossed the bridge and noticed its similarity to a bucking bronco. It finally collapsed on Nov. 7, 1940, under the stress of a 40 mile-per-hour wind.

Lotus Riverside

The Lotus Riverside is a residential apartment complex in Shanghai consisting of eleven 13-story buildings. On the morning of June 27, 2009, one of them toppled over, just barely missing an adjacent building. Had it not missed, it might have caused one toppled building to topple into the next, creating a horrifying domino effect that, thankfully, did not come to pass. The cause of the collapse was attributed to excavation that was in progress to create an underground garage . The earth  removed from beneath the building was dumped into a landfill near a creek, and its weight caused the river bank to collapse. Water from the creek then seeped into the ground, turning the building’s foundation into mud.

Ray and Maria Stata Center

The Ray and Maria Stata Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was designed by award-winning architect Frank Gehry. It opened in 2004 and houses the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, and the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems. It was hailed for its logic-defying angles and walls that challenged the laws of physics. Three years after it opened, MIT filed a negligence suit against Gehry, claiming design flaws in the $300 million building had caused major structural problems. Drainage issues had caused cracks in the walls. Icicle daggers hung pendulously from the roof like deadly sash weights. Mold grew on the building’s brick exterior. The school paid more than $1.5 million for repairs. A spokesman for the construction company, Skanska USA Building, claimed the company had tried to warn Gehry of problems with the design on numerous occasions, and had made repeated requests to use more suitable material. "We were told to proceed with the original design," the spokesman said . "It was difficult to make the original design work."

W.E.B. Du Bois Library

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is home to three distinguished libraries, which include the Music Reserve Lab and the Science and Engineering Library. However, the best known is the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, a 26-story structure that is the tallest library in the U.S .
Within two months of its opening, the building began shedding brick chips, a phenomenon known as spalling. There are various urban legends that persist about its causes, the most popular of which is that the architect who designed the building failed to take into account the weight of the books to be housed inside it. While no official cause of the spalling was given, 60,000 books had to be moved out of the building. It was later discovered the building was sinking into the pond-saturated ground on which it was built. However, YouMass, a helpful guide to life on the UMass Amherst campus, says this claim is overblown and describes the degree to which the building is sinking as “ not so much .”

Kemper Arena

Kemper Arena is an indoor stadium in Kansas City, Mo., that opened in 1974. It had been the site of the 1976 Republican National Convention and it won raves for its unique design. Rather than employ view-obstructing columns, the roof was suspended from trusses on its exterior. On June 4, 1979, the roof collapsed when a heavy storm battered the city. Fortunately, it wasn’t being used at the time, so there were no injuries or fatalities, but it was a shock to the city nonetheless. The roof had been designed to release rainwater slowly, in order to avoid flooding the nearby West Bottoms area. This caused rainwater to collect on top and pool anywhere the roof sagged, creating excess weight. Worse yet, the roof was suspended from hangers, and the strength of their bolts had been miscalculated. Once a single bolt gave way, many of the neighboring ones followed suit, ultimately leading to the roof’s collapse.

CNA Center

The CNA Center is a high-rise building in Chicago that opened in 1972. The 44-story building was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. It’s painted bright red, making it impossible not to notice. In 1999, a large piece of a window came loose from the 29th floor of the building and plunged to the ground, causing one fatality. The culprit was thermal expansion , and after an $18 million settlement every one of the building’s windows was replaced. Each window is still checked on a monthly basis to this day.

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DjMick Travel

Pictured here are ten locations around the world photographed years apart showing how some places undergo dramatic change in a relatively short period of time, whilst others can change very little even after forty or fifty years.

Shanghai 1990

Shanghai 1990

Shanghai 2010

Shanghai 2010


Piccadilly Circus, London 1948

Piccadilly Circus London 1948

Piccadilly Circus, London 2010

Piccadilly Circus London 2010


Centralia, Pennsylvania 1962

Centralia 1962

Centralia, Pennsylvania 2008

Centralia 2008


Kabul, Afghanistan 1970

kabul 1970

Kabul, Afghanistan 2010

kabul 2010


Bristol, England 1920

high street bristol 1920

Bristol, England 2009

high street bristol 2009


Hong Kong 1960

hong kong 1960

Hong Kong 2010

hong kong 2010


Brockville, Ontario 1900

Brockville 1900

Brockville, Ontario 2010

Brockville 2010


Jericho Beach 1940s

Jericho Beach 1940s

Jericho Beach 2010

Jericho Beach 2010


Unknown, China 1960s

china 1960s

Unknown, China 2005

china 2005


Port Austin, Michigan 1934

Kayaking the Thumb

Port Austin, Michigan 2009

Kayaking the Thumb

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Photos: Amazing Public Pools

Budget Travel

Open to the public, these 10 pools are our top picks for staying cool this summer—so dive right in!

Bondi Icebergs

For more than a century, Tasman Sea waves have crashed against—and into—the Bondi Icebergs’ pool in Bondi Beach, Australia. Locals who want to become Icebergs (i.e., earn their official stripes as winter swimmers) must log 75 swims here during the winter months.


Berliners clamber aboard the Badeschiff (literally, "bathing ship"), which floats in Germany’s Spree River. Summer attractions include yoga classes, concerts, movie screenings, a cafe, and a man-made beach.

Records of the healing waters on the site of Gellért Thermal Baths in Budapest, Hungary, date back to the 15th century. The effervescent swimming pool in the art-nouveau-style main hall stretches 98 feet long under the double-height glass roof.
Barton Springs

The 1,000-foot-long Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas, is found in idyllic Zilker Metropolitan Park, south of downtown. The natural springs that feed the pool were once considered sacred by Native Americans, who believed in their healing powers. Water temperatures rise from 68 to 78 degrees in the summertime.
Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon, outside of Reykjavík, Iceland, warms visitors with its 100-degree seawater. Steam rises from these sky blue hot springs across a surreal landscape of black lava mounds. The Blue Lagoon also offers a wellness center, which draws visitors from around the globe.


Vienna, Austria’s Krapfenwaldlbad Park has four heated pools for swimmers, socializers, and families. The main pool has become a fixture in the city’s summer social scene. The pools’ exclusive views over the entire city and vineyards—as well as other bathers—make them exceptional.


This circular wooden pavilion in the Baltic Sea, Kastrup Søbad, is a seven-minute train trip from the heart of downtown Copenhagen. The Danish "sea bath" spirals in a way that shields bathers from the wind. The walls also intentionally slope to provide views of the three miles of beaches nearby.

Thermae Spa

From the rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa in Bath, England, visitors can take in the ornate towers of 17th-century Bath Abbey in the center of town. Thermae’s Minerva Bath boasts massage jets, a whirlpool, and a "lazy river." In Thermae’s Cross Bath building (erected on a Celtic goddess-worshipping site), the mineral-rich water boils up out of the earth at 113 degrees.


Coral Gables Venetian Pool in Florida was created in 1924 by the city’s founder, George Merrick. The eight-foot-deep lagoon is drained every night and refilled with 820,000 gallons of spring water.
Piscine Olympique dAntigone  Piscine Olympique dAntigone

At the Piscine Olympique d’Antigone in Montpellier, France, bathers’ diversions include a five-lane pool beneath the retractable roof. The leisure pool, named for the goddess Venus, features a whirlpool and the most chic waterslide you’ve ever seen (leave it to the French).

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Yahoo! Travel

Once in a while, you discover a town that has everything—great coffee, food with character, shop owners with purpose. Each year, the Budget Travel team celebrates these places with our "Coolest Small Towns in America" competition. It starts with a call to you—our readers—to nominate the most interesting towns you know with populations of less than 10,000. From there, our editorial team whittles the selections down to the three most promising contenders. It’s then up to you to vote on your favorite. You won’t find a more charming slice of small town Americana than you will right here.

#10 Greensburg, KS
#10 Greensburg, KS (pop. 777)

The Real Emerald City
When you pull into Greensburg, you may well think you’re not in Kansas anymore: Elegant wind turbines and LED streetlights have replaced cornfields and barns. After a 2007 tornado destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg, those who stayed vowed to build the ecofriendliest town ever. "These are not hippie-dippy concepts," says Stacy Barnes, director of the 5.4.7 Arts Center. "These are the same tenets used in pioneer days—south-facing windows in chicken coops to increase sunlight, reusing everything like Mennonites do. We got lazy over the past century." The gallery, named for the day the storm hit, houses contemporary art from around the U.S.

Many businesses here pay tribute to the past. Green Bean Coffee Co. serves milkshakes to fill the void left by the destruction of the old soda fountain (shakes $3.50). Nearby, you’ll find innovations both high-tech (solar panels) and low (banisters made from tractor parts) at the Silo Eco-Home B&B . Just goes to show: It’s not so hard being green after all.

Ripon, WI

Ripon, WI

Courtesy of Daniel Shea

#9 Ripon, WI (pop. 7,733)

College Town Perfection
In some college towns, the locals and students get along like rivals at the Michigan-Ohio State football game. Not in Ripon. The professors sit on the local school board. The students sing in the church choirs, and church folk welcome the school’s 1,000 or so students with a potluck every fall. Friday evenings in summer, across from the college president’s office in the old public library, townies and academics alike turn out for concerts on the Village Green. "My favorite is Tuba Dan’s polka band," says Professor Mary Avery, who oversees a student group that helps local businesses, such as the Watson Street Sub Shop, create financial plans. Watson Street in turn lets the students use its storefront for fund-raisers.

"We are the quintessential college town," says David Joyce, president of Ripon. "Or maybe it should be the quintessential town with a college?"

Cedar Key, FL

Cedar Key, FL

Courtesy of Stephanie Adams

#8 Cedar Key, FL (pop. 896)

Unspoiled on the Gulf
If someone asked you where to get the best New England clam chowder, you might be inclined to say, "Duh, New England." You’d be wrong—by over 1,000 miles. For the past three years, the Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport, R.I., has been won by Tony’s Seafood Restaurant of Cedar Key. In fact, the town is America’s second-largest producer of farmed clams, one of many surprises in this two-square-mile hamlet 130 miles north of Tampa. Despite its prime location on the Gulf of Mexico, Cedar Key has escaped the pull of developers-its spit of beach isn’t long enough to attract large-scale building projects. Instead, it still feels like a ramshackle, old fishing village straight out of Hemingway.

"People always say it’s like Key West 30 years ago," says innkeeper Ada Lang. Built in 1919 and restored in 2004, Ada’s Wabi Sabi Cottage is a time-capsule example of a "Cracker" cottage, a style of wood-frame house popular in the 19th century.

Newtown Borough, PA

Newtown Borough, PA

Courtesy of Jean-Paul Bernard

#7 Newtown Borough, PA (pop. 2,384)

Amish Country Charm
Newtown Borough isn’t the kind of place where you’d expect to see millionaires tooling around in a fancy car. In fact, the rural Bucks County burg is close enough to Amish Country that most of the convertibles around these parts are horses-and-buggies.

It’s home to the nation’s oldest movie theater, Newtown Theatre, a 375-seat, red-brick treasure that’s been in operation since 1906. The Brick Hotel, built in 1764 and still looking sharp decked out in hunter green shutters and striped awnings, is one of the few places that can honestly claim that George Washington slept here. And director M. Night Shyamalan likes the look of Newtown so much, he filmed Signs here in 2002.

Phoenicia, NY

Phoenicia, NY

Courtesy of Paul Bernard

#6 Phoenicia, NY (pop. 309)

A Riverside Retreat
Phoenicia may look like a one-street river town sandwiched between hills in New York’s Catskills—it does a wicked tubing business in the summer—but it’s got a bookish, cosmopolitan vibe in its soul. "It’s not just crazy guys with cars in their yards," says Michael Koegel of Mama’s Boy, a hip little cafe and smoothie bar. Like Koegel, many Phoenicians came from Manhattan, and they’ve brought a healthy dose of quirk with them. For instance, former New Yorker Alan Fliegel, sells locally made clothing and underground comic books—and runs a well-stocked communal art gallery upstairs.

Yet like its library that loans fishing poles, Phoenicia hasn’t lost touch with its down-home roots. If you spend the night at the cozy Phoenicia Lodge, you may feel like you’ve woken up in Mayberry. You certainly will after breakfast at Sweet Sue’s Restaurant . The pancakes (pumpkin, pineapple-coconut, and 20-plus other varieties) are legendary, as are the lines waiting to get inside.

La Pointe, WI

La Pointe, WI

Courtesy of Daniel Shea

#5 La Pointe, WI (pop. 309)

A Superior Hamlet
It’s called the Island Wave, and to the folks on Madeline Island—a quiet, North Woods enclave of artists on Lake Superior—it means you greet everyone, even when you’re driving. It’s a lovely idea, but in summer it can get, well, dangerous. That’s when La Pointe, the island’s only town, swells with visitors. "The line goes out the door for hours on July 4th," says Marie Noha, owner of the Mission Hill Coffee House.

Eureka Springs, AR

Eureka Springs, AR

Courtesy of Michael Mohr

#4 Eureka Springs, AR (pop 2,073)

Honeymoons and More
Sure, you could sleep in one of the Queen Anne-style B&Bs, visit the monumental 67-foot-tall hilltop Christ of the Ozarks, catch a Branson-style show, or hunt for ghosts in the historic downtown. You could easily spend a week on the tourist circuit in this late-1800s Victorian spa retreat. But you’d never get to meet the real Eureka Springs.

Eureka Springs may be the honeymoon capital of the Ozarks, but don’t let the kitschy, heart-shaped Jacuzzis fool you. The biggest surprise of all may be the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa, a palatial ivy-covered grand hotel with claw-foot tubs and manicured gardens. From this perch, you’ll be inclined to look back to see Eureka Springs, but the leafy Ozarks keep the valley all but hidden from view—an apt vista for a town dubbed Tree City USA.

Clayton, NY

Clayton, NY

Courtesy of Stephanie Adams

#3 Clayton, NY (pop. 1,978)

A River Runs to It
Clayton sits on a peninsula that juts out into the St. Lawrence River, so far north that the fire department’s boat flies the American and Canadian flags. One of the benefits of that isolation is that the river itself is like a neighbor. In the summer, the old ferry terminal, where wealthy visitors once caught rides to their cottages on the Thousand Islands (birthplace of Thousand Island salad dressing), now hosts concerts. Out on the water, the family-run Ferguson Fishing Charters offers morning fishing trips followed by picnics on a private island, where a guide cooks the day’s catch over a fire for lunch (half-day charters for a group of four $325).

Back on dry land, K’s Motel & Cottages’ two-night "ship watch special" includes a room, a two-and-a-half-hour boat cruise, admission to the Antique Boat Museum, and two meals.

Astoria, OR

Astoria, OR

Courtesy of Justin Bailie

#2 Astoria, OR (pop. 9,477)

Pioneers on the Pacific
Astoria has always been on the frontier, both the Lewis and Clark variety (they set up camp here in 1805) and the geographic (it sits both at the mouth of the Columbia River and in a teeming temperate rain forest). Sure, the place has prettied itself up nicely since those pioneer days with the addition of aging Victorians and craftsman-style bungalows, but the folks in sleepy coastal Astoria have never lost touch with their rough-and-tumble side.

Even the city’s swankiest design hotel, the Commodore, embraces a decidedly masculine and nautical aesthetic. Reopened two years ago after being shuttered since 1966, the property pairs modern furnishings with sly nods to the city’s history as a seaside cannery hub: thick braided ropes, nautical charts, and fishing floats.

Lewisburg, WV

Lewisburg, WV

Courtesy of Michael Mohr

#1 Lewisburg, WV (pop. 3,830)

Arts in Appalachia
A small town is usually lucky if there’s a decent one-screen movie theater, maybe a community dance troupe. But a Carnegie Hall? This speck on the map in the Greenbrier River Valley lays claim to one of only four in the world. The 1902 building now serves as Lewisburg’s creative control tower, attracting an unlikely band of artistic characters, back-to-the-land types, and retirees.

Jeanne and Michael Christie embody Lewisburg’s blend. The duo run the Davenport House B&B, where guests can bottle-feed one of the property’s baby lambs after taking coffee and breakfast on their private patio. Michael is a painter whose work has shown in New York City’s Hoorn-Ashby gallery, and Jeanne is the former director of front-office operations at the Greenbrier hotel, 10 miles down the road.

"You know, you always think of the ideal American town, where the kids are safe, the streets are clean. We have that, but we also have Wynton Marsalis coming through," says Jeanne, who’d just finished a morning of shearing sheep.

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Buzz Buzz Home

While compiling this list we learned that some people are really devoted to emulating their favorite fictional characters. Like, really really devoted! After all, how much do you have to love Lord of the Rings to commit to living in a hobbit house? We’re guessing an awful lot considering those low ceilings would surely make things difficult. Let’s have a look at these real life imitations of houses you just might have grown up watching on TV!

Pink overload! This could only be the Barbie house. Let’s move on and give Barbie and Ken their privacy.

Coming straight out of Gotham City, we’re convinced that this HAS to be Batman’s house. Whoops, we mean Bruce Wayne.

Looking like it came from the town of Bedrock in the Flintstone, this rock house is actually located in Portugal and is quite popular with the tourists. 

We’re not Hello Kitty experts, so we’re not sure how close this gets to looking like Hello Kitty’s real house. Did Hello Kitty even have a house? We’re confused, but it could just be a side effect from all the pink.

We’d be too tempted to hop on and fight the Red Baron with this one, so we’d keep our distance from the Snoopy house (okay, information kiosk, but it still counts!)

Anyone born after 1980 should be ashamed if they didn’t recognize this as the Simpsons house. Hardcore Simpsons fans should be ashamed that they didn’t notice that the address on the house is incorrect. The Simpsons lived at 742 Evergreen Terrace, not 712!

Given that The Hobbit film is coming out next year, we’re guessing that whoever lives in this house will be getting a lot more attention soon.

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Yahoo! Real Estate

Million-dollar-and-up homes are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. foreclosure market, with banks seizing some 335% more such properties last year than they did in 2007.

"We’re seeing evidence in our data that the high-end market is starting to get hit more," said Daren Blomquist of foreclosure watcher "I think high-end homeowners have a little more ‘padding’ to get through tough times if they experience a job loss or other trouble. But as the tough times continue, more and more of these homeowners are succumbing to foreclosure."

True, RealtyTrac’s latest figures show that homes with $1 million or higher mortgages represented just 2.3% of houses in foreclosure during the first 10 months of last year. But that’s nearly twice as many such houses as in 2007.

Blomquist suspects more rich people are falling into foreclosure because they had mortgages they could easily afford in good times, but can no longer cover in today’s tough economy.

"No matter how wealthy you are, there’s always that potential that you’ll lose your job," he said. "Even if you have a very high income, you’re always susceptible to not being able to make your mortgage payments."

The good news: Well-heeled house hunters may find they can pick up million-dollar-and-up foreclosures on the cheap. The latest available RealtyTrac figures show foreclosed homes sold for 27% less on average than nonforeclosed properties did during 2011’s first quarter.

Here are the five highest-priced U.S. foreclosures listed for sale on

The Villa Mar Vista Estate, Laguna Beach, CA
For sale: $19.95 million
Bedrooms: Four
Bathrooms: Seven
Square footage: 11,333
Built in: 2010

The estate has a heliport and a view of the nearby Pacific Ocean.
Photo: Engeland Volkers

This newly built estate’s listing describes the property as "a sublime junction of privacy, acreage, generous interiors, tasteful design, plentiful outdoor spaces and vast coastal vistas."

Located about an hour south of Los Angeles in tony Laguna Beach, the Contemporary-style home features four bedroom suites, six full bathrooms and one half-bath, an in-home theater, an infinity-edge pool, a spa, a 20-car garage and private heliport.

Craftsman windows and French doors look out over the property’s gardens and terraces and out to the Pacific Ocean, which is less than a half-mile away. You’re also just a few blocks from the Aliso Creek Golf Course.

The Razor, La Jolla, CA
For sale: $25 million
Bedrooms: Four
Bathrooms: Eight
Square footage: 11,000
Built in: 2007

The oceanside residence has been the site of commercial shoots.
Photo: Hurwitz James Co

You’ll have to act fast if you want to buy the Razor residence, because it’s going up for auction Sept. 28 if it hasn’t sold by then. Bidding will start at $16 million — cash only, please.

Located on bluffs some 15 miles north of San Diego, the Razor (named after a bluff at the nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve state park) overlooks the Pacific Ocean from just a few hundred feet away.

The 11,000-square-foot Contemporary-style home features four bedrooms, six full bathrooms, two half-baths, two fireplaces, a heated pool, a dog run, an eight-car garage and a two-space carport.

Architectural Digest profiled the house in 2008, while Calvin Klein used it as the backdrop for a TV spot for its new high-end Calvin Klein Collection. Visa also shot a commercial there for its top-of-the-line Visa Black Card.

The house is near the University of California at San Diego, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Del Mar thoroughbred race track and the Torrey Pines Golf Course, site of the 2008 U.S. Open.

"This home is truly one of a kind," listing broker Bob Hurwitz says. "With today’s building restrictions, nothing like it could ever possibly be built again in this location."

East Mockingbird Lane, Paradise Valley, AZ
For sale: $17.995 million
Bedrooms: Seven
Bathrooms: Ten
Square footage: 17,015
Built in: 2009

Among the amenities are a robot Elvis and 21-car garage.
Photo: John Hall & Associates

This estate features a main house with five bedrooms, three family rooms, two libraries, a billiard room, a wine room, a piano room and a hidden "panic room." There’s also a mahogany in-home theater with a Dolby sound system and 13 seats that move in sync with the screen action. (A talking, singing Elvis Presley robot greets you at the theater’s glass entrance booth.)

Other amenities include a two-bedroom guest house, two swimming pools, an on-site solar-power station and a $1.2 million security system. There’s climate-controlled garage space for 21 cars — including a four-car "show garage" outfitted with restored genuine gas pumps from the 1920s and ’30s.

Located just outside Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz., the estate is a mile or so from the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, the Camelback Golf Club and the McCormick Ranch Golf Course.

The Wyndham Estate, Newport, RI
For sale: $7.9 million
Bedrooms: Seven
Bathrooms: Eight
Square footage: 12,500
Built in: 1891

The Baronial-style mansion looks out toward Martha’s Vineyard.
Photo: Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty

Located less than a mile from Newport Harbor on the Atlantic Ocean, the Wyndham Estate combines classic 19th century looks with 21st century updates.

The Baronial-style mansion features seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, four fireplaces, a ballroom, a music room and a rooftop deck and whirlpool with ocean views out to Martha’s Vineyard some 20 miles away. The manicured grounds also host a man-made pond, waterfall and garage space for nine cars.

The Newport Country Club, New York Yacht Club and Ocean Drive State Park are nearby.

Biltmore Estates Drive, Phoenix, AZ
For sale: $6.95 million
Bedrooms: Nine
Bathrooms: Eleven
Square footage: 17,799
Built in: 2002

Country clubs and a golf course lie near the estate.
Photo: Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International

Located in Phoenix next to the Arizona Biltmore Golf Course, this 1-acre estate features nine bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, five fireplaces, an in-home theater, library, wine cavern and al fresco patios, balconies and outdoor dining/dancing terraces. The rear courtyard hosts a massive heated pool and an adjacent spa.

In addition to the Arizona Biltmore Golf Course, nearby attractions include the Phoenix Mountains Preserve and Paradise Valley and Arizona country clubs some two miles away.

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