Houses by 桑原茂建築設計事務所 / Shigeru Kuwahara Architects

A surprisingly spacious narrow home

April Kennedy April Kennedy
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Today we will explore a delightful Japanese home with one very playful feature. We won't give away too much yet, so first, let's cover the basics. It is a two-level home with 110sqm of floor space and it's located in a fairly dense urban neighbourhood. It may be free standing, but there is just a sliver of space between the neighbours on either side. This kind of building site often leads to a lack of natural light and privacy. But the architects, Swerve, have bypassed these issues and added a little bit of fun along the way. Let's check it out in photos…

Narrow cube-like exterior

The home has a very simple and straightforward exterior. The home has been narrowed so there's a very important sliver of space on either side of the narrow plot. This creates access to the back garden and makes for a natural position for a side entrance. Note the lovely upper terrace area. It's quite deep-set and has a relatively high wall. This gives it some privacy despite the street-front location.

Big box-like design

The main living area of the home is designed as a big simple box in some ways. The room has a double height and this makes the relatively small home feel big and spacious. It also allows for lots of natural light to bounce around the white room. The spacious feel is emphasized by a couple of eye-catching elements on the upper half of the room. The open timber beam draws the eye upwards and of course, there is that interesting upper level room we will examine in a moment.

Single light source

Let's look at how the windowless kitchen is placed so it faces the main windows. This makes the kitchen a social part of the living area and of course allows for natural light to enter this area. The reflections from the glossy white kitchen cabinets help too. The windows are really important because they provide all the light in this main area. But they do face the street and the occupants could feel a little exposed. But we guess, that's what that little upper room is for…

Unique internal opening

Modern Japanese homes sometimes have unique little rooms that can be used for napping or just playtime for children. We love the internal window on this one. It acts as a little bench seat and comes with its' own table too! There is no way to close the internal window so it's clearly connected to the living room. But it's also a room that could be used when one needs a little time away from the main activities in the home. Let's have a look inside.

A room with reduced ceiling height

The ceiling is reduced to child height almost like something out of an old fairytale! It might be small and confined, but there is nothing lacking in this little room. The exposed wooden timber beams and golden floors add a rich warm ambience to the little room. This kind of room might be used like a traditional tatami room or as an extra living room.

Flexible spaces and fine design

Newcomers to Japanese architecture might be interested to know that Japanese homes traditionally have flexible living spaces, so rooms aren't given a designated function as you might expect. This room has a hammock that suggests it could be used as a living room or even a bedroom. Either way, there are few details and furnishings because the quality of the materials, the basic design and the natural elements are of prime importance in Japanese design. Here our focus remains on the rich variations in the wooden flooring and the slight variation in the square window designs.

If you love the private internal focus of this home, you will be interested to see A simple but elegant one-story home.

What do you think of the unique little room in this house?
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