The Zany Spaceship-Inspired House Design That's Out Of This World

The 1960s were all about space exploration, as the decade's spectacle was the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Additionally, the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" debuted in 1968, and a year later, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Taking advantage of this era of space craze and flying saucer fixation, the Futuro Corporation launched a prefab home in 1968 that looked like its design was inspired by spaceships. Spheroid in shape with stairs or a drawbridge entrance to its elevated position, the unique 500 to 600-square-foot design defied the imagination of what a house could be. Futuro's "UFO Modular Design" was as fascinating to mid-20th-century audiences as it is today.

However, while the mid-century Futuro House was an out-of-this-world design, within a decade, Futuro homes were out of production. The oil crisis of 1973 skyrocketed petroleum prices, making plastic a cheap material no longer. Futuro's limited run only produced about 100 of these zany homes. While many are abandoned relics, some original Futuro homes have been restored and converted into unique rentals on Airbnb for one-of-a-kind vacations. Find out more about this unique house design and where these homes are located today.

Elements of the Futuro design

The iconic Futuro design was the brainchild of Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, who was hired to create the new generation of ski chalets. Suuronen's task was to devise a portable, compact home capable of withstanding harsh weather. He designed a spherical prefab home with a central living area, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. They were constructed of mid-century America's preferred material: plastic. The relatively new material was post-World War II's inexpensive, durable, and malleable replacement for traditional building materials. The thin polyester plastic shell contained a layer of polyurethane foam insulation, which kept Futuro homes warm even in cold skiing climates. 

As for pros of this home design, the durable materials were as resilient as Suuronen intended. The Pensacola, Florida Futuro home hasn't been damaged by hurricanes, per Atlas Obscura. In addition, the materials were easy to clean and resistant to deterioration. The homes were also simple to build on-site without a foundation. However, there were some downsides, including that it was difficult to relocate these homes. The original plan was for the lightweight homes to be airlifted by helicopter, but the cost proved impractical. Other drawbacks include the homes' size. At 500 to 600 square feet and 13 feet tall, it's a tight living space for more than one person. And though its elevation with a drawbridge or folding-stairs entrance was part of what made the design UFO-like, it was not an accessible option for those with hindered mobility.

Visit, rent, or buy a Futuro house

Futuro's 10-year run produced around 100 UFO homes, with only 67 remaining today. Though designed with family ski vacations in mind, the Futuros have served many functions over the years such as military buildings, banks, snow cone stands, and party hubs. Today, Futuros can be found across North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Most original Futuro homes are privately owned, and many are in disrepair. Around 20 Futuro Homes exist in the United States. Some of the most iconic are the abandoned Futuro house in Royse City, Texas (per Atlas Obscura), the Futuro at the Pink Elephant Antiques Mall in Livingston, Illinois (per The Futuro House), and Houston, Delaware's "Vincelette" Futuro, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2023 (per the National Park Service). You can even rent some Futuro homes for the night, such as the popular Area 55 California Airbnb that looks like a UFO.

Avid fans can also buy their own Futuro home. Various companies, such as Futuro Houses, are now producing and selling new production Futuro homes. For around $100,000 plus shipping costs, you can get your own off-grid flying saucer delivered in parts to your front door. Or, if you're not ready to commit to a UFO house but like the intergalactic aesthetic, you can start with some subtle ideas to incorporate a space theme in your home.