AIA's Annual Home Tour Where Less Means More

To see more pictures, go to our AIA home tour slideshow. Drive long enough in Houston and eventually someone will go out of his way to try and kill you with his car. Yet, the American Institute of Architects' 25th Annual Home Tour carves a 23.5-mile jagged line across town. The route takes more than an hour without traffic. If you're listening to the radio, it is the perfect amount of time to get Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" forever stuck in your head.

There were nine houses in total on the tour, each one offering something radically different from the others for the tour-goers to see. Most interesting was how the architects were able to capture the light from their separate sections of the city. For instance, the Wiess College Masters' House in Rice Village is able to draw light from all sides of the house, but still offers a great amount of privacy to its residents.

Another highlight of the tour was getting to see the view of the Houston skyline from the house on Ridge Street, with each view getting better on the way to the top level. At the top there's a hot tub with one of the best views of the skyline in the Houston area.

When talking about dream homes, it seems strange to consider minimalism as the goal. However, the two smaller houses on Fisher and Grace Lane were the most unique of this year's offerings. Both houses were close to being only about 550 square feet and were probably the most interesting. While small, both houses feel like they have more space inside of them than from what appears on the outside.

The Fisher house, which was the coolest of the small houses, can be picked up and moved. The owner intended to put an Airstream on the lot but was not allowed by city ordinance. Instead, he created a movable home. There's no kitchen but a simple microwave -- fine for most folks on the move. Dirty clothes go straight into the washing machine, located in a closet/washroom area.

On Grace Lane, the most unique characteristics were the windows, which could flip out and turn sideways for a cool look from outside. The house itself incorporated angles to make it look like it was larger on the inside.

The same good use of space could be said about the house on Nottingham. It looks the same as most houses on the exterior, but the interior is a one-bedroom house in a big L shape, including a small office area. Nottingham has a long island in the kitchen that can house hundreds of bottles of wine.

The architect was able to save all the 1935 brick for this 1930s-era house. Although it appears small, it can seat a lot of people and contain a big event. It didn't feel like a small house, but like a house good for entertaining.

Avalon Place was an upgrade of an existing home. It's a modern 1950s house where the add-ons made it several times larger than the original structure. It's another L-shaped home with a big back yard. A great window is located in a hallway overlooking the street, with a bench for sitting and viewing the outdoors, giving the residents a feeling of more freedom.

Meadow Lake Lane has very cool stairways, with interior railings made of an industrial mix of metals that give it a look somewhere between warehouse and battleship scaffolding. It has large open windows and a very unique kitchen. It was the most industrial looking of the houses on the tour, with polished concrete floors. The metal railings pull off the angles of the house and make the interior interesting.

Likewise, the Columbia street house was nice and with interesting angles.

Arbor Street is part of a first house in a new development. It's a bit boxy with its 2,400 square feet. One of the coolest features is an open staircase -- like walking up at Splashtown where you can see your feet. This one is a cool house for young owners.

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