Full Exposure: Ultra-Cool Glass Houses

NEW CANAAN, Conn. ( MainStreet) -- A modernist statement -- aka the use of industrial materials such as glass and steel for domestic home construction -- was made by such visionary architects as Mies van der Rohe, with his 1929 Barcelona Pavilion. Later he did the same in America with his "Farnsworth House," and Phillip Johnson followed suit with his "Glass House," seen here, in New Canaan, Conn.

These homes are studies in transparency and reflection and blur the line between indoor and outdoor spaces. A $1.4 million home in Quepos, Costa Rica, was built on 6.4 acres near Manuel Antonia National Park, one of the most biodiverse in the country. While there is a marble staircase, pool, helipad and a master bedroom suite with a jacuzzi tub behind the bed, the house would be worth much less without its 360-degree views of the surrounding oceans and mountains -- the exotic monkeys, sloths, iguanas and whopping 184 bird species and, along the beach, dolphins and even migrating whales.

Still, while the proverb about "people in glass houses" predates the building of the first glass home, it certainly is good advice for anyone looking to live in one.

It takes a certain kind of person to feel comfortable with all that exposure -- one with either a lot of chutzpah or plenty of private acreage. Not to mention some tight security to keep those gawkers away.

Here are some of the best see-through homes on the market:

The Glass Pavilion
This Montecito, Calif., home was designed by Phillip Steve Hermann, who also designed homes for Christina Aguilera and Lenny Bruce. It's going for a cool $35 million.

The Glass Pavilion, as it's called, is set within a 3.5-acre estate of oak groves in one of the wealthiest communities in the U.S. Inside -- if you can call it that -- is more than 14,000 square feet of living space.

The home is almost entirely glass-constructed with massive structural steel beams and took six years to build. The large glass panels are Star Fire glass, an incredibly clear kind often used for jewelry displays. The multiple fireplaces are statuary marble.

The home has five bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms, a grand hallway and a large wine room. It also includes an art gallery where the architect, who designed the home for himself, displays his vintage car collection. The garage accommodates up to 32 cars within its walnut-lined walls.

Bathe within full view of the outdoors in an Antonio Lupi free-standing tub. Fortunately, there is plenty of security to keep the peeping toms at bay.

The home is within a gated estate at the end of a rather long driveway and comes equipped with a high-tech security system.

Cameron's house
Remember the Highland Park, Ill., house of Ferris Bueller's uptight buddy, Cameron Fry? Well, the iconic house is on the market for $1.7 million (crashed Ferrari not included).

Cameron's house is known as the Ben Rose Home, after the noted photographer who owned it. It was designed by James Speyer and David Haid and built in 1953, just a few years after the famous Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill.

The ultraswank house is dramatically cantilevered over a ravine. It's also set on more than an acre of gorgeous wooded property.

It has 5,400 square feet of living space thanks to the enormous dining room, bedrooms and living rooms. Surrounded by glass and exquisite in style, this home has Hollywood style to spare.

Rebellious roots
This London house overlooks the Victorian-era Highgate Cemetery. Philosopher and economist Karl Marx and punk impresario Malcolm McLaren are just two of the famous figures buried in the backyard.

The windows are almost entirely frameless on the cemetery side, while the street side is a curtain wall of honed black granite, steel panels and opaque glass (for privacy). The house is listed for $8 million.

Inside, you'll be dazzled by 4,225 square feet of living space with four bedrooms and bathrooms. The kitchen has a retractable skylight that transforms the space into an open-air courtyard.

Designed by architect Eldridge Smerin, the house replaced a 1970s structure by John Winter and uses the same carbon footprint. The idea was to design a building with significantly lower energy consumption than the original but with a greater floor area. The home has a green sedum roof, and its temperature is moderated by its stone and glass construction.

Glass island
For $13.7 million, a glass and steel home on Son Vida, Mallorca, the Mediterranean island off the coast of Spain, offers much to admire, thanks to its windowlike walls.

Secured in a gated community overlooking the city of Palma, the Bay of Palma and surrounding mountains, this home offers security and unrivaled natural beauty. The home has six bedrooms and a separate apartment, but even more droolworthy is the large teak-decked pool with its own sauna.

Martha's old crash pad
Private homes aren't the only way to get full exposure. Renowned architect Richard Meier has designed a number of glass-walled apartment buildings that have attracted celebrity interest. A penthouse duplex in his iconic Perry Street Towers is for sale for $13.9 million. It also just so happens to be Martha Stewart's old crash pad.

This really is life in a fishbowl: The apartment has four terraces and spectacular views of the Hudson River and Manhattan through the 11-foot, triple-glazed and UV-protected glass walls. The views go both ways, but while neighbors and traffic on the West Side Highway might be able to gaze inside, physical access is restricted by a keyed elevator.

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