In Depth

Here to stay: Living Architecture's modern holiday homes

Alain de Botton's architecture-cum-holiday-rental company provides contemporary accommodation across the country

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It was a decade ago that philosopher and author Alain de Botton wrote The Architecture of Happiness, centred around the idea that where we are influences who we can be and therefore that architecture can play a role in helping us discover our full potential. It would set the cogs in motion for what would become an innovative not-for-profit organisation spearheaded by De Botton – part holiday rental enterprise, part architecture company – that would set out to democratise access to some of the UK's most creative and inspiring buildings.

Living Architecture commissions leading architects to design houses that can then be rented by the public short term. While most examples of modern architecture are privately owned or found in places such as airports or museums that one merely passes through, these landmarks have been specifically placed in interesting destinations up and down the country for the purpose of exposing the general public to great modern design, allowing guests to eat, sleep and relax in a home imagined by one of the industry's foremost figures.

Here are some of its most unusual properties.

A House for Essex

Journey through the Essex countryside and you can't fail to miss this intriguing house, designed by Grayson Perry and FAT Architecture. A delightful mishmash of Perry's bold and eclectic style, it is based on the design of traditional chapels and marks the artist's very personal tribute to his home county. Unsurprisingly, it's one of the most popular destinations on Living Architecture's books – keep an eye out for the ballots to book a stay.

From £750 for a four-night stay; living-architecture.co.uk

The Balancing Barn

As the name suggests, this 100ft-long building appears to defy gravity, with one half tentatively hanging in mid air. Set in a secluded spot in Suffolk and neighbouring a wildlife nature reserve, its interiors are every bit as impressive as its surrounds, designed by leading contemporary Dutch designers Studio Makkink & Bey.

From £650 for a four-night stay; living-architecture.co.uk

The Shingle House

A modern – and rather luxurious – take on a beach hut, the Shingle House is a stone's throw from the sea on the beach at Dungeness, Kent. Created by young Scottish practice Nord and sleeping up to eight guests, it takes inspiration from the nature on the Kent coast, with an exterior finished in tarred black shingles. Inside, it's bright, spacious and modern with folding doors opening up on to the natural drama of the beach.

From £750 for a four-night stay; living-architecture.co.uk

The Life House

Built for quiet nights in, calm and reflection, the Life House is positioned among the picturesque hills of the Welsh countryside. Designed by John Pawson, the architect behind the new Design Museum in London, it includes inside and outside contemplation zones, a library bedroom containing therapeutic works of eastern and western literature and a music bedroom, where you can let the carefully chosen soundtrack of transcendent music wash over you in peace.

From £750 for a four-night stay; living-architecture.co.uk

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