16 Amazing Upside Down Houses

Want to maximise the views from your home, or need a design to work around a difficult plot? Check out these inspirational upside down projects
Shona Jackson
by Shona Jackson
13th September 2022

If you’re lucky enough to have a dramatic landscape on the doorstep of your property or building plot, chances are you’ll want to make the most of it. An upside down floor plan may therefore be the best architectural choice when it comes to framing your site’s scenic surroundings.

The basis of an upside down layout is to locate the bedrooms on the ground floor, while living areas occupy a home’s first floor. This allows the most sociable spaces – the kitchen and reception zones – to enjoy panoramic views of rolling hills, a glistening coastline or the bright lights of a cityscape.

Such a design can also benefit a self-build on a sloping site, where ground floor space may be restricted.

From a converted fire station with a tranquil sun terrace, to a chameleon home that blends into its rural surroundings, here are 11 of the best upside down projects that show the exciting possibilities an upside down layout could unlock for you.

1. Art Deco bungalow conversion

Bauhaus-Inspired Bungalow Conversion

John Wignall extended this former bungalow upwards to create a bespoke three-storey home that maximises light and views

Set amongst a street of 1930s houses in Brighton, John Wignall’s striking five-bed home makes a stunning statement.

Immediately attracted to the site’s original bungalow, John set about converting the property. Advised by Arch Angels Architects, he opted for a three-storey structure with a flipped interior layout to accommodate the home’s sloping terrain.

An elevated living space was created on the first floor, with full height windows and paved areas to the front and rear to soak up the surroundings.

Read more about this bungalow conversion >>

2. Barn-style upside down home

Contemporary space with glazed doors

To ensure the ground floor of their self-build was spacious and light-filled, the Kingstons included plenty of glazing

Nestled on the outskirts of a Scottish golf course, this plot had the right mix of local amenities and picturesque surroundings for Mark and Marjorie Kingston, who were looking for the perfect place to retire to.

With help from Oliver & Robb Architects, they created a fabulous agriculture-inspired design, with an upside down layout that maximises the views from this timber frame property.

Two bedrooms and a library occupy the light-filled ground floor. A bespoke staircase leads up to an impressive sitting gallery with a vast glazed wall, drawing the rural landscape inside.

Read more about this timber frame home >>

3. Self build on a sloping plot

Wood-clad upside down home

Striking views and fond memories inspired the Gray family to self-build on this inclined plot

When Murray and Lora Gray stumbled upon a site for sale on the Isle of Skye – the very spot where they’d spent their honeymoon – it seemed too coincidental to pass up.

They consulted Alan Dickson of Rural Design to help them plan a home around the plot’s tricky steep incline. He produced drawings for a contemporary upside down house that would work in harmony with the terrain.

Spread over three levels, the top storey accommodates a zoned living space with floor-to-ceiling windows and rooflights, offering panoramic sea views.

Read more about this self build in Scotland>>

4. Converted fire station

Converted fire station with wood cladding

Built in 1964, the unusual design potential of this traditional village fire station caught the Brunjes’ eye

Mark and Rhonda Brunjes fought off prospective buyers to secure an old fire station, ripe for conversion, in their favourite Scottish holiday town.

As the building was previously single-storey, the couple decided to add an extra floor to accommodate a large living area. Layout-wise, they opted for an upside down arrangement, as the property’s ground floor was relatively dark and viewless.

The first floor open-plan space contains the living zone, kitchen and dining area. This is flooded with natural sunlight thanks to a swathe of glazing that spans the entire south-facing wall.

Leading off from the social areas, a stylish sun terrace channels the Mediterranean, with idyllic views overlooking the water.

Read more about this fire station conversion >>

5. Maximising views on a highland plot

Highland home with zinc roof

John Ritchie was enchanted by the coastal views and quirky rock formations surrounding this plot of land, situated near a popular walking area in Skye

A dramatic location was paramount for John Ritchie when it came to searching for a self-build site. When he found his dream spot – a piece of grazing land in Skye surrounded by impressive mountain and coastal vistas – he reached out to local company Dualchas Architects.

Ground stability problems were unearthed during construction and the house had to be tucked into the hillside, inadvertently creating an upside down scheme that draws on an innovative use of glass.

Contemporary details, such as a zinc roof, mixed with traditional elements, give a fresh interpretation to the area’s croft-style houses.

Read more about this timber clad self build >>

6. Self build by the beach

Wood-clad self-build home

Lesley Richardson embraced a knockdown and rebuild opportunity to create this impressive coastal home

While planning permission drew out into a three-year battle, Lesley Richardson eventually gained approval to demolish the existing structure on this plot and replace it with a contemporary home overlooking the rugged Cornish coastline.

Driven by the functional aspects of her future home, as opposed to a particular architectural style, upside down living and plenty of glazing were both important elements of Lesley’s design brief.

The completed property features a recessed balcony and vast windows in the gables of the airy upstairs living area. These open up the space to spectacular views of the glistening bay and surrounding sand dunes.

Read more about this coastal timber frame home >>

7. Modular house accessed by bridge

wood-clad modular home

The MacDonalds turned to prefab modular specialists Carbon Dynamic to design and build this timber frame home

Perched on the edge of a sea loch, this eye-catching property utilises several key features to capture the best of the landscape, including a balcony that stretches the full length of the structure.

Homeowners Iain and Lesley MacDonald decided an upside down interior scheme was the best option for their plot. This was in part due to the number of trees which impeded the ground floor outlook, which belonged to their neighbours and weren’t likely to be removed.

This design choice allows the sociable zones to benefit from breathtaking views across the water, whilst the downstairs bedrooms open out onto sun terraces.

Read more about this upside down layout>>

8. Modern upside down house

Wood-clad modern home

Enamoured with the landscape, but not the site’s rundown bungalow, the Stewarts decided to demolish and start anew

An unexpected knock-down and rebuild opportunity allowed Tracey and Stephen Stewart to self-build a unique and ultra modern home.

Surrounded by the Oxfordshire countryside, an upside down layout allows the outdoors to become a part of the interior. Floor-to-ceiling glazing in the first floor kitchen and living area frames stunning rural panoramas, from which hares, Muntjac deer and skylarks can be glimpsed.

Downstairs, the ground floor houses guest bedrooms and a utility, with sliding doors leading out to the garden and an alfresco dining patio.

Read more about this modern home >>

9. Coastal renovation

Renovated coastal retreat home

Enticed by its coastal location, Jonathan and Jane Eddy decided to modernise the home inside and out

Once a tired 1980s pebbledash home, Jonathan and Jane Eddy’s renovation works have transformed this property into a sleek and stylish abode.

The influence behind the revamp, which was mostly achieved through permitted development, came from the surrounding Cornish coastline.

Intent on framing their picture-perfect views, the couple decided an upside layout with plenty of glazing – including full height sliding doors – was the right choice for their house.

Read more about this thorough renovation>>

10. Contemporary camouflaged property

Gourlay Home

In an isolated spot in Dumfries and Galloway, the Gourlays self-built a home that’s almost completely off-grid

While architectural choices are often made with the surrounding terrain in mind, Neil and Mary Gourlay decided to go one step further by integrating materials from the local landscape into their home’s fabric.

Designed with an emphasis on sustainability, their softwood timber frame was sourced locally. In addition, 500 tonnes of stone were gathered from surrounding fields, and fleeces from neighbouring farms’ sheep were used for wall insulation.

Nature shaped the interior scheme, too. After examining the path of the sun across the plot, the couple settled on an upside down house in order to maximise the available light in their living space.

Read more about this self build >>

11. Upside down home in a valley

Timber frame self-build home on a sloping plot

Land on the edge of a rural development offered a great opportunity for Simon and Alison Watkins to create their dream home

A yearning to be closer to nature led Simon and Alison Watkins to purchase a sloping plot in the Scottish Borders, complete with a design and build package by Gilbert Developments.

With the help of architect Gordon Melrose, they created a home in two halves, with a window-lined corridor linking the two levels.

On the first floor, the living spaces and master bedroom enjoy uninterrupted views of the rolling valley. Meanwhile, the bedrooms downstairs form a guest annex for visitors and the couple’s grown up children.

Read more about this package home >>

12. Upside Down Timber Frame Home

Exterior of new build close to St Andrews

Having already worked with timber specialists, Fleming homes, this couple were keen to use the familiar company again – knowing that they were reliable

Aileen and David Downie opted for an upside-down layout in their self build.  This allowed them to maximise the stunning views over the local Scottish countryside. Four expansive Velux windows have been installed overhead to flood the open-plan kitchen-dining-living area with sunshine.

“We love the idea of the house being bright, spacious, airy and sociable,” says Aileen. “I feel like that’s more difficult to achieve in a traditional dwelling.”

13. An Industrial Garage Conversion

When the Hammills first purchased this space, it was a disused commercial garage that was dark and full of damp.

Since buying the dilapidated building they have managed to convert it into an expansive three-storey home with an open-plan, upside down layout and outside terrace.

The space has been maximised through placing the kitchen-diner on the first floor, with open space, exposed beams and roof windows characterising the design.

With accommodation spread over three storeys, Michael and Erica Hammill have used extraordinary design and industrial materials to link the building’s history as a commercial mechanical garage to its new identity.


14. Upside Down Oak Frame Home

Global V Tech was commissioned to create a stunning 3-bedroom upside down oak-frame house overlooking Snowdon, Wales.

The home was originally designed by an award-winning Italian architect, which was adapted and remodelled to fit both the clients style and oak frame, with the bedrooms on the ground floor and the kitchen and living area set on the first floor.

The home’s roof was finished in welsh slate and all doors and windows were made from African hardwood, stained to match the internal oak frame.

The project was started by cutting into the granite rock side of a hill, which would house the ground floor, followed by an oak frame open living and kitchen area that would sit on top.

The ground floor of the property was constructed of concrete blocks and finished with welsh stone; with the rear of the property carved into the side of the hill.


15. Renovated Timber Frame Station House

When the Harrises bought a beautiful 19th century station house in East Yorkshire, they applied to build a contemporary annex on the plot that would provide the extra space that would house two generations.

Although, the planning officers wanted the new building to display an evident journey of the structure’s history.

The structure was completed with a combination of timber frame, brick and zinc which work to create a modern yet characterful build

Architects Ingleby and Hobson helped the two meet in the middle, designing an upside down property that brings together both the history of the site and the family’s needs.

The structure has been completed by Turner Timber Frames, who created a uniquely split structure blending brick, zinc and timber frame to reveal a modern finish housing the upper living/kitchen spaces and ground floor bedrooms.

This open space area on the first floor makes perfect use of the plots open surroundings, with the large windows allowing natural light to pour in from either end.

16. Spacious Oak Frame Annexe

Steve and Janine Carney created this striking oak frame annexe following rejected plans to build a brand new home in their garden.

The self build project features a unique upside down interior, with the kitchen/living areas positioned on the first floor, and bedroom, garage and office contained below.

Materials of sandstone, brick and timber are in keeping with the character of the original property, and the roofline is a couple of metres lower than the main house so it doesn’t dominate the original structure

The upside down layout of the house ensures that the oak frame structure is both seen and appreciated. With exposed beams, high vaulted ceilings and roof windows throughout the first-floor, the open plan living areas make use of copious natural light and space.


Main image: Douglas Gibb

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