7 Clearly Cool Glass Houses

A Carlo Santambrogio designed home in Milan

 Santambrogio Milano

Providing abundant natural daylighting and blurring the boundaries between the interior and exterior worlds, a home boasting a massive glass wall — or two or three — can hold endless architectural appeal to those who don’t mind sacrificing a bit of privacy. Sure, you don’t have to bother stepping outside to enjoy the breathtaking natural scenery that may surround you, but you better pray that your next-door neighbor isn’t nicknamed “Pat the Peeper.” (There’s a good reason why glass-heavy homes are often erected on remote, woodsy estates and not in dense suburban neighborhoods or in close vicinity to golf courses.)

Glass-walled homes have been around for a while now — midcentury showstoppers such as the late Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., set the bar for glass-heavy private residences — and seem to have only gotten more boldly transparent as time has marched on. We’ve rounded up eight of our favorite glass residences from around the globe. Some of these homes are rather famous — fans of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” of course we didn’t forget about you — and some are situated in some very interesting locales. So empty your pockets of stones, grab a Costco-sized bottle of Windex, dig out that old Billy Joel album and join us, won’t you?

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Philip Johnson Glass House

Photo: Carol M. Highsmith/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 1.0]

Architect: Phillip Johnson

Location: New Canaan, Connecticut

The undisputed granddady of glass houses, this interior wall-less masterpiece of modernist architecture complete with “very expensive wallpaper” was completed by lauded American architect Philip Johnson in 1949. Johnson lived in the Glass House (on weekends, anyways) up until his death in 2005 at the age of 98, although the structure was eventually used mainly for entertaining, with Johnson and partner, the art curator David Whitney, opting to sleep in another decidedly more private structure on the couple’s immaculately landscaped 47-acre New Canaan estate: Brick House. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997, ownership of Glass House was passed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and opened for public tours 10 years later.

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Farnsworth House

Photo: Victor Grigas/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 3.0]

Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Location: Plano, Illinois

Although the Philip Johnson Glass House tends to garner much of the fanfare in the modernist glass house department, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (built in 1951 but conceived of a few years earlier) actually served as the inspiration for Johnson’s home, which was completed two years prior in 1949. Apparently, the German-born architect was none too pleased about this, although that didn’t stop him from collaborating with Johnson on Manhattan’s iconic Seagram Building (1958). Erected on a sylvan 62-acre estate near Plano, Illinois, Mies van der Rohe explained the concept behind the 1,5000-square-foot vacation home that blends seamlessly into its natural surroundings: “Nature, too, shall live its own life. We must beware not to disrupt it with the color of our houses and interior fittings. Yet we should attempt to bring nature, houses, and human beings together into a higher unity.” Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006, the Farnsworth House is now owned by National Trust for Historic Preservation and open for public tours.

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Case Study House #22: Stahl House

Photo: mbtrama/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 2.0]

Architect: Pierre Koenig

Location: Los Angeles

The most instantly recognizable of all the Case Study Houses, save for, perhaps, the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, Pierre Koeing’s glassy (floor-to-ceiling glass walls on three sides) modernist masterpiece is most notable for its precarious perch high above Los Angeles in the Hollywood Hills, providing dizzying views. Oh boy, those views. Featured in numerous films, music videos, ad campaigns and one very famous photograph from 1960, the privately owned Stahl House is open for public viewings and, of course, preapproved commercial use. But keep your pants on, folks: No naked bits or see-through clothing is allowed on the property. And to be clear, while Koeing is credited as the Stahl House’s architect, owner CH “Buck” Stahl was the initial designer of this iconic L.A. home where his family still lives.

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Ben Rose Home (aka 'Cameron's House')

Photo: Carmen B/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 1.0]

Architects: A. James Speyer, David Haid

Location: Highland Park, Illinois

This cantilevered, glass-wrapped midcentury stunner comes equipped with a rich cinematic history. OK, so maybe the home’s pavilion/garage only appeared in one film from the 1980s, but what a memorable, cringe-inducing appearance it was. Designed in 1953 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe protégés A. James Speyer and David Haid for client Ben Stein Ben Rose, the 5,300-square-foot abode at 370 Beech St. in the upscale Chicago suburb of Highland Park hit the market in 2011 for a cool $1.65 million. Previously in 2009, the home had listed for $2.3 million and dropped to $1.8 million. A red vintage Ferrari and a male teenager on the verge of a nervous breakdown named Cameron were reportedly not included in the sale.

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Woning Moereels

Crepain Binst Architecture.

Architect: Jo Crepain

Location: Antwerp

Located on the outskirts of Antwerp, Belgium, stands Woning Moereels, an impossible-to-miss six-story abode that, once upon a time, was an active water tower. The structure's 17-year-long transformation from a hulking, early 20th century concrete reservoir into a modern, stair-heavy dream home was overseen by the late Belgian architect Jo Crepain. Woning Moereels’ towering concrete skeleton is enclosed in a semi-transparent glass facade that surely had local voyeurs all worked up when the “lantern-like” home was completed in 2006.

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Glass Pavilion

Steve Hermann Design.

Architect: Steve Hermann

Location: Montecito, California

Just looking at photos of self-taught architect-to-the-stars Steve Hermann’s glassy 14,000-square-foot (!) ultramodern manse in Montecito leaves us speechless. As does the fact that the five-bedroom home includes an art gallery-cum-32-car garage. That said, we’ll let the Glass Pavilion website do most of the talking: “An almost entirely glass home, it allows the occupants to be comfortably inside while completely enveloped within nature. As you drive down the long gated driveway, it slowly comes into view. You are immediately confronted by a large all glass home, floating above gently rolling lawns. The site [sic] of it is awe-inspiring.” So awe-inspired that you want the Glass Pavilion all to yourself? Described by L.A.-based Hermann himself as his “opus,” the Farnsworth House-inspired home that took six years to complete hit the market in 2010. And great news, all you bargain hunters: The initial asking price of $35 million has since been reduced.

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Glass Home

Santambrogiomilano.

Architects: Carlo Santambrogio, Ennio Arosio

Location: Milan

Milanese architect Carlo Santamrogio and furniture designer Ennio Arosio didn’t just stop at blue-tinted glass walls when conceiving Glass Home: Nearly everything inside this cube-shaped concept home is constructed from glass, from the shelving to the staircase to the bathtub. Even the sofa and the bed boast glass frames designed specifically for the project. Cozy! The glass itself is between 6 and 7 millimeters thick and can be specially heated during the colder months. And while the home’s tranquil, sylvan setting makes the whole lack of privacy thing a bit easier to swallow, this isn’t to say you won’t attract a rapt audience of woodland creatures every morning when you groggily descend downstairs in your underpants to make an omlette in your fully glass kitchen.