Above-ground houses: could there be anything more passé? Turns out those smiley Lennon-style glasses on that grassy knoll are the legit windows of a legit house, and said house was carved into a dune in Atlantic Beach, Fla. Built in 1975, Dune House is the brainchild of architect William Morgan, who didn't want any interlopers messing with the character of his block—to this day, he lives next door. "I'm very particular about the buildings on either side of my own home." he says. "The property is original oceanfront dunes that are very beautiful, and we were very interested in preserving the ecological character of our environment as closely as we could, so we surveyed the existing property and then we designed a house that would then be a profile of the original site." Shortly after Morgan completed the project—actually two symmetrical apartments connected by a main landing—it piqued the interest of Playboy magazine, who was in town to photograph Morgan's digs. They were so taken that they photographed Dune House, too.
Now listed for $1.2M, the property first hit the market at the tail beginning of 2009 when Morgan grew tired of renting it out. "I think it happened to coincide with the real estate downturn, the bursting of the bubble, so this particular kind of quality tends to suffer accordingly," he says. It was taken off the market this past November and was re-listed a couple months later for $1.4M.
So what, pray tell, does life inside Dune House look like? Each 750-square-foot apartment consists of a two-story living area with one bedroom and one bathroom and built-in furnishings designed to fit the space. "I built it like a seashell," Morgan says. "It's a little like being in a submarine. When you go down the stairs, you go along the curved side of the shell to descend into the main living area, which looks out through very large glass doors onto the oceanfront. So you have a sense of being in the dune and looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean."
As for heating and cooling—the first question we had after we stopped staring at the pics—apparently this part of Florida is ideal for this sort of living arrangement because the grass roof assumes the temperature of the ground water there: 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidifiers in each unit control the humidity. Sounds heavenly!
Now, about that buyer: "I think it could be a weekend retreat for someone who lives elsewhere—a seasonal retreat," Morgan says, later adding, "It's very quiet, by the way. You don't hear rain when it's raining, because there's earth that covers the roof and the walls of the house." Thus concludes today's moment of Zen.