Designed by maverick American architect Bruce Goff, the Ruth Ford House — known variously as the Round House, Coal House, and Umbrella House — is a creative tour de force. It could not look less like neighboring houses in suburban Aurora, Illinois, where it was built in 1947-49, and local people took it as an architectural affront. Fortunately, as the photo below attests, the owners of the house were undaunted -
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Back in the late 1950s, when living in the suburbs was understood to be the common aspiration of mankind, the magazine Suburbia Today asked this question of its readers. In an article about the “unusual suburban home” of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Benson, whose circular floor plan offered ample open space for entertaining guests, it gave an appealing glimpse of life in the round.
Stunning views, tasteful furnishings, elegant cocktail parties — a round home was modern and glamorous, the magazine suggested.
The Walter Bensons wanted their house to be round so that they could get maximum exposure to their magnificent views. To live way, way up on the top of a mountain in a house that seems to melt in with its surroundings; to look freely all about you and see the mountain ridges to the side, the bay and ocean below, and the teeming city across that you must be part of and yet can turn away from at will — this was the dream of the Bensons.
This pretty circular house in Båstad, Sweden, was on the market earlier this year -
Beautifully located just off the beach, it was apparently build decades ago as some sort of outbuilding for the neighboring Hotel Riviera. Later it was converted into a vacation home, and later still into a permanent residence. Simple, elegant, and very cool.
You can find round and circular-form houses for sale right now in the US, UK, Australia and Canada for prices ranging from $87,500 to $10 million. On the lavish — and arguably garish — end of the spectrum, there’s this 1980s luxury villa on Hamilton Island, in Australia, and the “Corbetta Estate” in Los Altos Hills, California (which was the cooler and much more fun Corbetta Party House in a former incarnation).
Bringing up the low end of the market, at a modest 696 square feet in size, is one of the many small post-war round houses in Des Moines, Iowa.
A few other houses stand out -
- A 1961 modernist home in Highland Park, Illinois, above, is stunning. Designed by architect George Keck, the house encompasses a pool with a retractable roof.
- This mid-century modern house in Ontario, Canada, has some style. The listing photos are not great, but I can make out a nifty fireplace and a nice curving staircase.
- Everyone wants their own island, right? Especially one that’s only a half hour from Manhattan.
- Possibly designed by Gilbert Spindel, this Arkansas property has lots of potential, and comes with nearly an acre of land. (Advice to the future buyer: replace the garage with something that doesn’t clash with the house, rip out the homey, faux-colonial decor, and take some design tips from Spindel owners.)
You can also find two round houses for sale in the UK, one in Portland, Dorset, selling for £925,000, and the other in Sidmouth, Devon, selling for £849,950.
Take a tour of a fabulous Gilbert Spindel-designed round house in Louisiana.
“Be ‘different’ in a round house,” urged the Sydney Morning Herald in April 1964, advertising a small, two-bedroom circular house with a flat roof, clerestory windows, and adjoining carport -
For a fee of ten guineas (equivalent to ten-and-a-half pounds), the paper offered readers the building plans for the small round house below -
By the early ’60s, circular homes had gained a modicum of acceptance in Australia. Noted architects Roy Grounds and Alex Jelinek had already designed round houses on the outskirts of Melbourne and Canberra, and the Sydney Morning Herald had run articles on round houses in the US. How many circular house plans were sold — and whether any were built — is not known.