Arizona | Falcon Nest
Zillow
Arizona | Falcon Nest
Zillow

McMansion-Free Zone

How’s a house shaped like a mushroom sound? What about a home with no corners, or a humble abode tucked into a cave? While it might seem like the United States is stuffed with cookie-cutter dwellings, some homes break the mold in a big way. These unique places might be a tough sell, but they represent the blood, sweat, and tears of builders who dared to think outside the box (and brick). Here are some of the most unique homes from coast to coast.


Related: Weird and Wacky Property Listings That Will Leave You Scratching Your Head

Alabama | Lighthouse Estate
Zillow

Alabama | Lighthouse Estate

Inland Alabama doesn’t seem like a great place for a lighthouse, but the improbable location didn’t faze the sea-obsessed builder of this six-bedroom, 18,000-square-foot home on Lake Guntersville. The lighthouse itself is six stories high, made of marble and concrete, and topped with a catwalk so the owners can survey their kingdom.


Related: Spectacular Lighthouses Across America

Alaska | Second Star Mansion
Vrbo

Alaska | Second Star Mansion

This 17,000-square-foot mansion on majestic Kachemak Bay may not look strange on the outside, but inside, you’ll find a massive Neverland-themed play area, complete with a pirate ship. You can rent it on Vrbo (it sleeps up to 30 people) and includes some a ton of other amenities, including a home theater, a Turkish bath, and an indoor pool.


Related: America’s Tallest Buildings

Arizona | Falcon Nest
Zillow

Arizona | Falcon Nest

If 185 feet is too tall for you, how about a modest 124 feet? Falcon’s Nest is a futuristic three-bedroom, 10-story home in Prescott that we’re guessing the pizza guy will have no trouble finding. Aside from the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows, other highlights include passive solar technology and a hydraulic elevator that we hope is very, very reliable. 


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Arkansas | Quigley’s Castle
Arkansas | Quigley’s Castle by Brandonrush (CC BY-SA)

Arkansas | Quigley’s Castle

“Castle” might be a bit of a stretch for most observers, but this family home in the Ozarks nonetheless represents the singular vision of its builder, Elise Quigley. The exterior is covered with fossils, stones, and other relics from Quigley’s rock collection, and inside are real gardens where trees and tropical specimens planted in the ‘40s still flourish.


Related: Attractions to See While Driving Across the Country 


California | Flintstone House
California | Flintstone House by Jeffrey Cole (CC BY-SA)

California | Flintstone House

Yabba dabba … whoa. The Bay Area has plenty of unique architecture, including this bulbous orange home built in 1976 and given its cartoony nickname by local residents. The three-bedroom was actually built with concrete that was sprayed over elaborate steel and wire frames given their shape by enormous balloons, according to Atlas Obscura.

Colorado | Sculptured House
Elizabeth
Connecticut | The Round House
Zillow

Connecticut | The Round House

We find another ’60s gem in the Nutmeg State, certainly better known for classic colonial architecture than whimsical, spinning homes. But that’s exactly what you’ll find in Wilton. Built in 1968, this three-bedroom home suspended about 12 feet above the ground can make a full rotation every 45 minutes. It also has a gunite lap pool.

Delaware | The Futuro House
Mark McClure

Delaware | The Futuro House

What was it with the ’60s and flying-saucer homes? This little gem in Milton, Delaware, has no right angles to speak of and was built from plastic, fiberglass, and a rigid foam core. 

District of Columbia | ‘The Spy House’
Google Maps

District of Columbia | ‘The Spy House’

Unlike the other homes on our list, this D.C. home is nothing special on the outside. But the three-story brick residence across from the Russian Embassy was widely known in years past as a camera-filled FBI spy house, and the bureau was even listed as the owner on public records, according to Atlas Obscura. So much for secrecy. 

 Florida | Cape Romano Dome House
Florida | Cape Romano Dome House by Andy Morffew (CC BY)

Florida | Cape Romano Dome House

When it was built in 1980, this six-dome home sat firmly on solid ground. But Mother Nature had other ideas for the unique structure, and “waterfront” quickly took on an entirely different meaning. The home was deemed uninhabitable in 2007, according to the Naples Daily News, and two of the domes are now submerged.


Georgia | The Atlanta White House
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Georgia | The Atlanta White House

An Iranian-born developer built this six-bedroom replica of the White House in 2002. Roughly a third the size of the real thing, it has 1600 Pennsylvania’s signature columns and even its own Oval Office and Lincoln bedroom, according to CNN. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a bit of a tough sell for the owner, who tried to unload it for $10 million in 2009.


Related: Crazy Facts About the White House

Hawaii | Kehena Cliff House
Airbnb

Hawaii | Kehena Cliff House

In a state full of beachy, Polynesian-inspired architecture, this boxy, all-concrete two-bedroom definitely has a different vibe. Rising tall on a lava cliff that overlooks the Pacific, it has enough windows to satisfy the most avid whale-watcher and even affords occasional views of active lava flows. It’s also available to rent on Airbnb


Related: Amazing Airbnbs and Vrbos Across America


Idaho | ‘The Tree House’
Zillow

Idaho | ‘The Tree House’

Described on Zillow as “the love child of Grizzly Adams, Dr. Seuss, and Van Gogh,” this off-grid three-bedroom in northern Idaho spills down a wooded hillside and boasts plenty of unique features. Among them: Hidden rooms and staircases, a hand-carved bird sanctuary, an “eagle’s nest” with river views, a wood-carved spiral staircase, and a mosaic tub carved out of rock. 


Related: Charming Cabins For Sale in Every State

‘The House With No Corners’
‘The House With No Corners’ by IvoShandor (CC BY)

Illinois | ‘The House With No Corners’

The George Stickney House, built around the Civil War northwest of Chicago, looks reasonable enough, but a closer examination reveals gentle curves in place of what would typically be right angles. The reason: Stickney was convinced that evil spirits would get stuck in corners. Today, the home is said to be haunted, and legend has it that the structure did, indeed, include one real corner, and that’s where Stickney was found dead


Related: The Most Terrifying Places in America

Indiana | ‘The Ugliest House in America’
Realtor.com

Indiana | ‘The Ugliest House in America’

This hulking residence in suburban Indianapolis has gained infamy as an eyesore unmatched from sea to shining sea, but we’ll let you be the judge of that. The 11-bedroom is a dizzying mashup of stone, marble, ornate molding, statues, and gargoyles galore (why not?). “How do you calculate a one-of-a-kind opportunity?” Realtor.com asks. We’re not sure, but the home has not-so-shockingly been on the market several times in recent years. 

Iowa | Pyramid House
Vrbo

Iowa | Pyramid House

Rising like a mirage along the shores of north-central Iowa’s Clear Lake, the six-bedroom Pyramid House is certainly a local landmark. You can even gather 29 of your closest friends to rent it on Vrbo, but be forewarned: There is a distinct lack of tombs and hieroglyphs. There is, however, a theater room, a wet bar, and a skylight at the pyramid’s peak that allows for stargazing.  


Kansas | The Garden of Eden
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Kansas | The Garden of Eden

To say this house stands out in the tiny central Kansas town of Lucas is an understatement. Built by a Civil War veteran starting in the 1890s, the Garden of Eden includes a cabin-like dwelling made of limestone “logs” and a concrete garden that aims to tell the story of the world’s creation. It’s filled with more than 150 figures, including 40-foot “trees” that ensure you won’t miss the place. Another curiosity: A pagoda with a glass-lidded coffin holding the builder and his wife.


Related: Weird Tourist Attractions Across America

Kentucky | The Mother Goose House
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Kentucky | The Mother Goose House

Here’s a house that takes the idea of nesting to an extreme level. Built starting in 1935, this egg-shaped eastern Kentucky dwelling is topped by a green-shingled goose that even has headlights for eyes (undoubtedly an unsettling sight at night). In years past, it has been a market, a diner, and even a gas station. Today, it operates as a small inn, and tours are available. 

Louisiana | Converted Gas Station
Google Maps
Maine | ‘My Way’ Cottage
Realtor.com

Maine | ‘My Way’ Cottage

Fittingly located on a drive deemed “My Way,” this three-bedroom built in 2016 has unmistakable storybook vibes and was built by a local inventor, engineer, and artist. The interior is equally whimsical, with stained glass, colorful tile, wood beams, and more. The property was auctioned in 2019 after the builder ultimately decided against moving in.

Maryland | The Mushroom House
Google Maps

Maryland | The Mushroom House

Who wouldn’t want a home described as “a wizard’s polyurethane castle”? Whatever your opinion on the whimsical exterior, this six-bedroom outside Washington sold for a cool $1.5 million in 2018. According to The Lighter Side of Real Estate, a three-year renovation involving a ton of spray foam gave it its distinctive appearance back in the late ’60s. Inside are 30-foot ceilings and plenty of funky niches and alcoves.  

Massachusetts | The Paper House
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Massachusetts | The Paper House

Paper doesn’t exactly spring to mind as a practical building material, but that didn’t faze the engineer and Swedish immigrant who built a Rockport home out of 100,000 newspapers. Yes, there is a wood frame and a real roof, but the walls? All paper, as is the furniture — and there’s even a newspaper grandfather clock. 

Michigan | Pickle Barrel House
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Michigan | Pickle Barrel House

This adorable one-bedroom pickle barrel on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was built as a summer house in 1926. Its occupant: A cartoonist who had a side gig drawing ads for a pickle company. After it outlived its summer-cottage days, it found a second life as a tourist information center, ice cream stand, and gift shop. Today, it’s a museum that’s open to visitors.

Minnesota | Ensculptic
Minnesota | Ensculptic by Mdougla (None)

Minnesota | Ensculptic

This close cousin of Maryland’s Mushroom House is also made of polyurethane foam, with the addition of burlap. Outside, it looks like a low-slung circus tent; inside, the undulating walls look like they’re covered in whipped cream. Built in 1969 by an architect and his students, it has two bedrooms and sprawls over 4,000 decidedly “nonsquare” feet. 

Mississippi | The W.C. Gryder House
MS GOV

Mississippi | The W.C. Gryder House

With its lavender facade and swooping, pointed roof, the Gryder House in Ocean Springs is one of the most distinctive legacies of architect Bruce Goff. The orchid-inspired home has cone-shaped balconies, tear-drop windows, a water garden, and a swanky mid-century perch on a pool.

Missouri | The Cave House
Zillow

Missouri | The Cave House

We’re not sure what’s weirder: The fact that a Missouri couple bought a humanmade cave on eBay, or the fact that they built a home inside it. Either way, the result is a three-bedroom house truly unlike any other. Once home to a roller rink that hosted performers including Ted Nugent and Bob Seger (still with us?), the cave home has no air conditioning, but don’t worry — it stays nice and cool all on its own.


Related: Spectacular Caves You Can Rent

Montana | The Shire
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Nebraska | Underground Earth House
Airbnb

Nebraska | Underground Earth House

When’s the last time you mowed your roof? This Omaha home built over the course of  10 years could make it a regular occurrence. The natural insulation means energy-efficiency galore — it’s nearly always between 64 and 74 inside with no HVAC needed. If you want to experience it for yourself, you can rent out a room on Airbnb.


Related: Historic Farmhouses For Sale Across America

The Underground House Las Vegas
Vegas INC

Nevada | The Underground House

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to this nondescript Vegas abode. At street level, it’s just any other 2,300-square-foot home. Underneath, however, is a 15,000-square-foot “luxury bunker” with a home, yard, guesthouse, pool, spa, waterfall, and even artificial trees. While you wait for the end of the world, you can even use specially designed lighting to simulate dawn, day, dusk, and night.

New Hampshire | Kalil House
New Hampshire | Kalil House by Carl L. Thurman (CC BY-SA)

New Hampshire | Kalil House

Frank Lloyd Wright designed only a handful of what he called “Usonian Automatic” homes, this one among them. You can’t miss it, because it looks like a modest pile of concrete blocks (though with an unmistakable midcentury vibe). That’s by design: Wright wanted the home to look like the owner actually helped stack the blocks themselves. 


Related: Historic Vacation Rentals Across America

New Jersey | Luna Parc
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New Jersey | Luna Parc

Artist Ricky Boscarino has slowly transformed his home in northwestern New Jersey from a modest cottage to a kaleidoscopic mashup of colors, textures, and whimsy over the course of three decades. The interior is even more dazzling; occasional open houses give the public a chance to peek inside.  

New Mexico | Taos Earthships
©TripAdvisor

New Mexico | Taos Earthships

New Mexico boasts not just one funky home, but an entire community of them. Outside of Taos, nearly 80 homes make up the Greater World Earthship Community, made up of structures built directly into the land, often with the aid of materials such as tires and bottles. The aim: sustainability, which is why the homes are built to thrive off-grid, with solar panels, rainwater collection systems, and more.


Related: The Coolest Mountain Hideaways You Can Rent Across America

Mushroom House
Mushroom House by DanielPenfield (CC BY-SA)

New York | The Mushroom House

Our second “mushroom house” was actually designed to look like stems of Queen Anne’s Lace. Built in the early ’70s, the home is made of five “pods” perched on 20-foot stems built from steel and concrete. The interior is just as unique, with mosaics, tunnels, and twisting limbs.

North Carolina | The Mug House
©TripAdvisor

North Carolina | The Mug House

It all started innocently enough, when a North Carolina couple decided they would use some of their mug collection as decor. About 15 years and 20,000 mugs later, their cabin has become a full-fledged roadside spectacle. (According to Roadside America, you’re even welcome to leave your own cup in tribute.)

North Dakota | Polka Dot House
North Dakota | Polka Dot House by Nic Redhead (CC BY-SA)

North Dakota | Polka Dot House

Back in 2012, the owner of a modest century-old rental home in Grand Forks decided to spice things up a bit. A former painter, he decided polka dots were the way to go. Though a city planner was none too pleased with the result, the home has become a minor local sensation and even boasts a smiley-face chimney. 

Ohio | The Mushroom House
©TripAdvisor

Ohio | The Mushroom House

Who knew mushrooms were so popular? This one-bedroom Cincinnati landmark, the brainchild of architect Terry Brown, started out as a small bungalow and took 14 years to finish. If features cedar shingles, a bright orange staircase, and porthole windows outside; inside, there are copper ceilings. One of the most distinctive features: A glass room jutting out of the “mushroom” top

Oklahoma | The Cave House
©TripAdvisor

Oklahoma | The Cave House

Unlike its Missouri counterpart, Tulsa’s cave house isn’t actually in a cave, but its rock-like walls still give it a prehistoric feel. Built in the 1920s, it was originally a restaurant by day — and a speakeasy at night, with a tunnel that took customers into a hidden hillside room where they could kick back with their libations. 


Related: Secret Restaurants and Speakeasies Across America

Oregon | Aqua Star
Realtor.com
Pennsylvania | Haines Shoe House
Pennsylvania | Haines Shoe House by CrazyLegsKC (CC BY-SA)

Pennsylvania | Haines Shoe House

Naturally, this 25-foot, three-bedroom shoe house was built by an enterprising shoe salesman who realized it could double as an advertisement for his business. He even used weeklong stays in the shoe as a prize for customers, complete with a maid, cook, and chauffeur, according to Roadside America. Today, it houses an ice cream and sweets shop, and tours are available. 

Rhode Island | Clingstone
Rhode Island | Clingstone by Brianwwu (CC BY-SA)

Rhode Island | Clingstone

“Clingstone” is a fitting name for this mansion crammed onto a rock in the middle of Narragansett Bay. Built in 1905 by a Philadelphia financier who wanted a home “where no one can bother me,” it even withstood a hurricane in 1938. Starting in the ’60s, a new owner restored the home after it sat vacant for two decades. Today, it’s outfitted with solar panels, a wind turbine, and a seawater filtration system, according to Atlas Obscura

South Carolina | ‘Eye of the Storm’
Google Maps

South Carolina | ‘Eye of the Storm’

This egg-like three-bedroom home in Charleston is a far cry from the city’s historic homes, but the eccentric design is purposeful: It’s meant to help the home withstand hurricanes. The concrete-and-steel structure weighs 650 tons, according to CNBC. There is no separate roof to fly off the home, which also has a bank vault, wet bar, and elevator.

South Dakota | The Turtle House
Airbnb

South Dakota | The Turtle House

If homes can look like mushrooms and UFOs, why not a turtle? With its distinctively shell-like roof, this geodesic western South Dakota home definitely nails the reptilian vibe. And if you’ve ever wanted to stay in a turtle, good news: The owners rent out the lower level as an Airbnb, and it’s close to skiing, Deadwood, and the Black Hills. 

Tennessee | The Spaceship House
Zillow

Tennessee | The Spaceship House

Chattanooga may be better known for its choo choo, but it also lays claim to one of the nation’s most distinctive homes: this three-bedroom “flying saucer” in suburban Signal Mountain. Built starting in 1970 as a futuristic bachelor pad, it rests about 6 feet off the ground. The steps into the home were once retractable.

Texas | The Bruno Steel House
©TripAdvisor

Texas | The Bruno Steel House

Outside Lubbock, there’s a home that defies attempts at categorization. Maybe it’s a UFO? Maybe it’s an animal, ready to pounce? Whatever it is, this is certain: It’s made of a whopping 110 tons of steel and was built by an architect, Robert Bruno, over three decades. The home remains unfinished after Bruno’s death, with holes between levels, according to Atlas Obscura.

Utah | The ‘Up’ House
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Utah | The ‘Up’ House

The adorable pastel-painted house from the Pixar classic “Up” doesn’t just exist in the movies. A Utah builder recreated it in 2011 for the Salt Lake Parade of Homes, nailing every detail from the weathervane to retro blue appliances. A family lives there today, but sometimes opens up their one-of-a-kind home for photo shoots.

Vermont | The Tack House
Airbnb

Vermont | The Tack House

This pointy abode is just one of the unconventional residences on Vermont’s Prickly Mountain, a collection of homes built in the mid-’60s by Yale architecture students who were eager to experiment. The Tack House, the first of the bunch, was built sans blueprint and is a hodgepodge of extreme angles, curved windows, and nooks and crannies. You can come explore yourself: Part of the home can be rented on Airbnb.

Virginia | The Hollensbury Spite House
Virginia | The Hollensbury Spite House by Wayne Thume (CC BY-NC-ND)

Virginia | The Hollensbury Spite House

Alexandria’s historic Old Town is home to plenty of curiosities, including this 7-foot-wide home built back in 1830. The owner of an adjacent home was tired of people and wagons clogging his alley, so he built the oh-so-narrow home to fill it instead. According to The New York Times, there are even still visible gouges from wagon wheel wells on the living-room walls. 


Related: Coolest Tiny Home Rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo


Washington | USS Manzanita
Realtor.com

Washington | USS Manzanita

Anyone familiar with home prices in the Seattle area may not be surprised that a former Navy ship once destined for the scrap pile has become a $2 million home. To be fair, the three-bedroom features high-end finishes such as polished wood paneling, mahogany countertops, and a copper backsplash. It also has 60 feet of waterfront and a view of Mount Rainier. 

West Virginia | Coal House
Amazon

West Virginia | Coal House

It’s only natural that West Virginia boasts at least one house made out of its most famous export. This modest abode in White Sulphur Springs took 30 tons of coal to construct and has served various functions, including as a visitor center and a lounge, according to Roadside America. There’s a second coal house behind it, plus a chamber of commerce in Williamson that is constructed out of 65 tons of the stuff.

Wisconsin | The House on the Rock
Wisconsin | The House on the Rock by Ronincmc (CC BY-SA)

Wisconsin | The House on the Rock

A wacky, Vegas-level home that has become a noted tourist attraction, The House on the Rock in southwestern Wisconsin has a commanding view of the hills and valleys below. But, frankly, that’s the least interesting part. Built originally in the ‘40s, the home grew (and grew) to house an endless array of collections, including everything from dollhouses to suits of armor. Don’t miss the Infinity Room, which juts out over the valley in a dramatically pointy fashion.

Wyoming | The Smith Mansion
Wyoming | The Smith Mansion by Martha T (CC BY-NC-ND)

Wyoming | The Smith Mansion

The rickety-looking Smith Mansion rises on a hill in northwestern Wyoming, between Cody and Yellowstone National Park. An architectural engineer built single-handedly the home starting in 1971 and continuing until 1992, when he died in a fall from the structure. At one point, the home had an indoor basketball court, but it was not luxurious: A lone “hot room” with a wood stove was where occupants slept in the winter.