Every deep, alabaster-white bathtub in the Dune House takes after a seashell. Their smooth, lustrous surfaces give way to cavities perfect for cradling warm water. It’s only natural, then, that bathing in one offers sweeping views of England’s blustery Suffolk coast, and the sea beyond it.
This setting might sound like the stuff of a billionaire’s home, but in fact, the Dune House is a vacation rental—one designed specifically with the goal of making daring, exquisite contemporary architecture accessible to more people.
The home is one of eight commissioned by Living Architecture, a company founded in 2006 by the renowned philosopher Alain de Botton. At the time, he’d recently penned a book titled The Architecture of Happiness, which mulled the impact of our dwellings on the human psyche. “An ugly room can coagulate any loose suspicions as to the incompleteness of life,” he wrote in the introduction, “while a sun-lit one set with honey-colored limestone tiles can lend support to whatever is most hopeful within us.”
It wasn’t enough for de Botton to simply write about the sundry ways in which design affects us, though; he wanted to bring his theories to life. And so he embarked on a mission to build rental homes commissioned by a number of the globe’s most forward-thinking architects. They would expose more people to contemporary architecture, he thought, and convince them of design’s power to make their lives better. “Our hope is that a holiday in a Living Architecture house will, in a modest but determined way, help to change the debate about what sort of houses we want to live in,” de Botton later wrote.
This past month, de Botton and his team completed Living Architecture’s final dwelling, the Secular Retreat. The company’s seven homes (one has been retired since erected) stretch across the United Kingdom, from Suffolk to Essex to Wales, and are designed by a range of international architecture firms, from Peter Zumthor to
, occasionally in concert with artists like
. Each can be rented for a relatively affordable £900 to £3,000 per week (the equivalent of around £50 to £200 per person per night, if a given rental is filled to capacity).
Below, we give you a glimpse into the homes, each marked with thoughtfully arranged details like sunken tubs, glass floors, biomorphic façades resembling dunes, and rooms designed specifically for quiet contemplation.