After rounding up our most popular Australian homes in 2021, we are venturing further abroad to revisit our most popular global homes of the year.

We are capping off 2021 with our annual Best of est series. In this next instalment, we return to five standout homes from around the world, including Canada, Norway, Belgium, Italy and Brazil. We hope that you find a sense of escapism in each of them; a little taste of what’s (fingers-crossed) right around the corner.

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The Rock by Gort Scott

It is no surprise that The Rock by London-based architects Gort Scott is one of the top 5 global homes this year. Resting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Alta Lake in Whistler, Canada, the home has been strategically built into the landscape. Enclosed by dense pine trees and a breathtaking mountain range, the four-story home falls effortlessly in line with the site’s natural contours.

Gort Scott Architects director Jay Gort says the London team spent five days on the site absorbing its characteristics to achieve this harmonious layout; the weather, topography, fauna and distant views. “This appreciation of the site has been critical to the design, siting and arrangement of the building,” he says. 

The open-plan kitchen, living and dining area are positioned across split levels around the crest of the rock on the second floor to capitalise on the views. Subterranean spaces carved into the rock on the first floor include a cinema room, gym and wine room, while the master suite occupies the top floor with 360-degree mountain views.

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Oslo House by Paulsen & Nilsen

Our next destination is Oslo House by Paulsen & Nilsen, set high among the treetops overlooking the Oslofjord inlet in Oslo, Norway. Here, a panoramic glass facade and robust materials complement the site’s natural topography, eliminating the divide between inside and out.

Paulsen & Nilsen have challenged the cool Norwegian climate through a consistently muted colour palette, injecting warmth into the home at every opportunity. Paulsen & Nilsen cofounder Mariann Paulsen says the team chose to work with a limited number of materials to create cohesion, opting for materials that ‘made sense’ with the surrounding natural environment. As a result, there is a striking combination of linear forms in timber, steel and concrete in the centre of the home, where every level connects through the large light-filled void. This similar interplay of light repeats itself in the study and master ensuite through the external timber screen.

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Seaside Retreat by Stef Claes

A mid-century inspired apartment overlooking Belgium’s North Sea takes the next spot on this year’s lineup of best global homes. Designed by architect Stef Claes as a family retreat during the warmer Belgian months, it’s no wonder that the home takes full advantage of its coastal setting. Located in a 1970s banana-shaped building, the compact apartment is oriented towards the sea, with views of the salt marshes and mudflats on the other that make up a nature reserve.

By pursuing natural light and the apartment’s scenic outlook, Stef Claes has opened up the apartment to its surroundings to encompass a summer house replete with Mid-century notes and artisanal qualities that reflect all of the rituals of retreating by the sea.

For Stef, the see-through perspective of the home is a winning feature, where clever transparency through the bathrooms and bedrooms ensures the nature reserve is no longer obstructed. Now opened up to natural light from both sides, the home is an efficient use of space – and a warm and welcoming Belgian beachside retreat unto itself.

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Villa Peduzzi by Andrea Meirana and Studio Daminato

We move south to a destination on everyone’s bucket list, Lake Como, where we explore the restored Villa Peduzzi. Andrea Meirana and Studio Daminato carefully stitched the abandoned century-old villa back together and re-invented it into something so magnificent that it looks to be almost made-up.  

Known locally as ‘Il Castello in Cielo’ or ‘the castle in the sky’, the villa was originally built in 1909 as a large family residence, designed by its then Italian family patriarch. However, like many villas in Italy and across Europe, the home was left unoccupied for 50 years before the design team’s recent intervention in 2016. Interior designers Studio Daminato and Andrea Meirana Architects were commissioned by the new owners to modernise the historic home to accommodate up to 14 guests, offering an unmatched hospitality experience in the heart of Lombardy.

Each material, textile, and finish in the villa was inspired by the murals found in the original building to unite old and new. A tasteful mix of vintage, mid-century, and custom-designed furniture sit side-by-side with Italian and Scandinavian design classics, tapping into the charm and eclecticism of traditional Italian villas.

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Brazilian Residence by MF Arquitetos

We finish with a tour through a one-of-a-kind vacation home in the heart of Brazil, designed by MF Arquitetos. Embodying the essence of summer and a life lived effortlessly between inside and out, Brazilian Residence celebrates the natural. Through a series of integrated gestures, MF Arquitetos create unique opportunities for the interplay of light and texture.

Horizontal lines are a signature of the home, reinforcing openings and the flattened nature of the home. The timber-lined ceiling shares a similar vernacular, where battened lines wrap up from integrated joinery and encase the interior.

Drawing from contextual cues, Brazilian Residence brings together local design through custom furniture and ingrains an element of the handmade into the home as a result. Emphasising the natural stone and timber insertions, the use of travertine, rustic granite and black slate see MF Arquitetos elevate the enviable holiday home well beyond the typical.

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