Most home decorators know that it is really important to use the vertical space in a small urban home. But we bet that few readers have seen a home quite like the one we will explore today. The free-standing home is located in a densely built-up urban area of Japan, with neighbouring homes quite close on either side. The floor space is not tiny—it runs at around 110sqm. But it is surprisingly small for a home with such a big, open heart.
The architect Yokoyama, has employed a few innovative and traditional Japanese techniques to create a very spacious and sunlit interior. Let's go on a photo tour for all the details…
The home is designed as a series of volumes of varying heights. The difference in the wall heights has been used to create some very private high panel windows that face the side of the home. There are no windows on the street frontage at all. Also, note the wood-covered area in the centre of the home. This forms the wall of a private courtyard that we'll explore next…
The courtyard has a huge amount of privacy. This is an excellent alternative to an ordinary urban garden. It runs off from the main living area and also allows the centre of the home to receive a lot of light. Something like this could even be surrounded by glass walls on all sides for extra impact. There are few furnishings because this is a typically minimalist modern Japanese home. Instead, we have the rich, warming effect of a natural wooden floor.
In the living room here, we can see the powerful effect of the high panel windows. This area almost acts like a light-well in the home. It is not common to see a traditional tatami floor used as a passageway like this. But it is one more example of how flexible Japanese architects can be about incorporating traditional elements into contemporary designs.
From this angle we have a better view of the high panel windows and the exposed wooden beams. They add a sense of the great outdoors to this rather private home. Also, have a look at the wooden staircase to the left. This may be a minimalist home, but it also has a very earthy, warming feel. A design feature like this should really be shown off - so a big white paper lantern has been used to drawn attention to the height of the room.
The living space has multiple private outlooks and such a sunny, natural interior that it's hard to believe that there is barely a single ground floor window. Although the floor space of the home is relatively modest, it's important to account for the sense of spaciousness brought about by the ability to see outdoor greenery in multiple directions. Finally, note the profusion of neutral colours and natural wood.
The bathroom is usually the last place for a big window, but here we have one. There is a good blind of course and the outlook does provide a restful view for anyone soaking in the bathtub. Small bathrooms often look and feel bigger when the tile extends all the way to the ceiling. Of course, in this home, the effect is doubled when you have a gorgeous high panel window too.
For more architectural ideas, have a look at A young family's chic, but practical apartment.