Are These the Weirdest Homes in America?

Prepare to be surprised as we showcase spectacularly strange spaces in Portland and Austin.

September 24, 2020

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Amazing Realty

Photo By: Amazing Realty

Photo By: Amazing Realty

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Thanin Viriyaki Photography

Photo By: Plastorm

Photo By: Sarah Rothenfluch

Photo By: Sarah Rothenfluch

Photo By: Jamie Gill

Photo By: Jamie Gill

Homes Gone Wild

The Weird Homes Tour, a Texas- and Oregon-based project that began in 2014 as a way to “reject cookie cutter design and architecture and embrace the wonderfulness of weird,” invites the public to explore some of the country's most singular dwellings.

Can’t wait for a dose of oddball design? Read on.

The Giraffe House in Austin (above), is a labor of love that contains at least 600 of the long-necked creatures (their owner, Autumn, has long since lost count). Autumn was a zoo volunteer in middle school, and she’s now a zoo aficionado: she’s met every giraffe in her home state of Texas. Her Giraffe House collection includes giraffe figurines, giraffe housewares and even giraffe clothing.

She Dwells in Sea Shells

Austin’s “Sand Dollar House” has been a Lake Travis landmark since Frank Lloyd Wright protégé John Covert Watson built it for the artist Eugenia Hunt in 1979. Watson created an intimate relationship between the structure and the natural world both in its literal shape — the roof is a massive sand dollar with holes that function as skylights — and features like bare windows that offer a 270-degree view of the lake.

Living the Dream

The Sand Dollar House’s current owner, Liz, fell hard for its organic elegance. When she first spied it as a young woman, she told herself, “I’m going to live there someday.” She made good on that vow when the home hit the market in 2017.

Embracing Your Curves

Cozying up in a space like this one means accepting that artwork on the walls might never be quite level. But strategically placed plants help enhance the organic feel of this home.

Pop Goes the Home

Austin collectors Steve and Diane are so devoted to products associated with pop culture that their home is packed to the rafters with everything from dolls and lunchboxes to props that were actually used on television (like a portion of the plane wreckage from ABC's show Lost).

Welcome to the Dollhouse

Among Steve and Diane’s pop culture collection is a Barbie trove that includes both limited-edition “Collector Club” Barbies and dolls outfitted with scaled-down versions of ensembles by designers like Oscar de la Renta and Christian Dior.

A Room of One's Own

Barbie isn’t the only pop icon who’s staked out a space of her own: Batman holds court over one of Steve and Diane’s bathrooms. One of their bedrooms, in turn, sports all things Hawaiian, and the office is Kiss-themed.

The Buck Stops Here

If you’ve ever fantasized about swimming through riches in a vault à la Scrooge McDuck, add the Bartlett National Bank to your bucket list. Opened in 1904 and operated through the '30s, the Beaux Arts building occupies a corner in historic Bartlett, Texas (known as the most-photographed town in the state). It sat vacant and unloved until a transformational 2019 renovation that turned it into a vacation retreat. Fancy a trip to Texas with five friends? You can call dibs on the whole building for around $130 a night via Airbnb.

Cash Transfers

The bank has been both restored and reconfigured to better fit its new role as a rental. Onetime offices are now bedrooms, the old teller station is now a kitchen and the manager’s office is now a study. The vaults are now a pantry and wine cellar — and one of them has pennies as flooring.

Personal Finance

History buffs will appreciate the bank owners’ careful cataloguing of artifacts from the building’s first act. On display in the home now is everything from handwritten deposit slips and bank registers to letters from the bank manager.

Dome Sweet Dome

Francisco Reynders — a Dutch artist-musician-actor-mime — designed and built this curvaceous home in West Linn, Oregon, in 1978. A series of nine domes linked by flat roofs, the building reflects its creator’s mistrust of right angles.

Chambers of Secrets

Reynders used materials salvaged from the USS Bunker Hill — an aircraft carrier built for the Navy during World War II and ultimately sold for scrap in 1973 — to construct his home. Those practical bones provide structure for surprises like secret passageways and intricate, hand-painted embellishments. Those labors of love fell into disrepair when Reynders died in 1996, but his home eventually had a stroke of luck: its current owners are devoted to restoring it to its original, whimsical glory.

Tripping the Light Fantastic

Portland artist Christine treats paint as a living entity, and the kaleidoscopic designs she creates for others also cover every square inch of The House of Sarcasm, the bungalow she shares with her husband Charles (a fellow member of the “psychedelic punk doo-wop group” Dartgun and the Vignettes). Her vintage LP and kooky housewares collections are on prominent, beautiful display in the home. Want to take your own trip to the House? Call dibs on its Psychedelic Jazz Room via Airbnb.

Otherworldly Watchmen

Captain Plasma, the imposing figure who peers at North Portland passerby from atop artist and video editor Robert's fence, isn’t a mere sculpture. He’s been known to come to life and call out to pedestrians. Robert calls himself and the futuristic soldiers and androids scattered about his property Plastorm (a name that “came from a dream I had while still in high school, featuring three green lizards carrying briefcases,” he explains on his website). The walkway beyond his home is nicknamed Robot Alley, naturally.

More Is More

Northwest of Portland in the town of Clatskanie, Shannon lives in what was once the local school. From the 50-year-old Cadillac hearse out front to the unusually themed rooms inside, it now emphasizes a very specific lesson: at Shannon’s house, you should expect the unexpected. (The dinosaur "skeleton" in her library is just a taste of the oddities she treasures: she also collects everything from unicorns to hatchets.)

Through the Looking Glass

Shannon’s home is all about unusual juxtapositions, like this nearly-normal gallery wall that takes a turn for the surreal with a pearl-and-feather-embellished boar’s head. From a foyer full of motorcycle helmets and old portraits to a bathroom teeming with vintage sunglasses, scissors and dozens of paintings, it’s a one-of-a-kind wonderland.

Temple for Twi-Hards

When Amber and Dean first purchased this quaint 30s-era home in Saint Helens, Oregon, they knew it had played a key role as Bella’s house in the first installment of the Twilight movies. (The exterior appeared in sequels, but its interior was recreated on sound stages.) They decided to restore it to its silver-screen glory, to the delight of thousands of fans who have made pilgrimages there. It’s now known as the Swan House, and remains a hot commodity since its Airbnb debut in 2019.

Group Effort

Much as Brady Bunch superfans pitched in with their own artifacts to support HGTV’s Brady house restoration, team Twilight has embraced the challenge of replicating its heroine’s home. This plexiglass portion of her closet was a fan suggestion, and the costume reproductions it displays are an ongoing, crowdsourced project as well. Amber and Dean are now restoring a '63 Chevy Stepside truck like the one Bella drove in the movies, and when it’s complete they’ll park it in the driveway for selfie-seekers to enjoy. A passion project is, after all, even more satisfying when it’s shared.

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