The Japanese home with two faces

Sana Salam Sana Salam
atelier137 ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN OFFICE Skandynawskie domy Drewno O efekcie drewna
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When you are done browsing through today's 360° project, that much-bandied about idiom 'Don't judge a book by its cover' will have a whole new meaning. Why? Simply because when you first see the exterior of this house, you will probably write it off as another minimalist box home with uninspired interiors. And that's where you'll be surprised.

Located in Yõfu, the capital city of the Yamanashi Prefecture, this gorgeous home is designed by Atelier 137 and houses three generations of a family. Embracing minimalism as well as tranquil Japanese aesthetics, the architects have given the house both a modern and traditional flavour. Composite from the outside, the interiors have a graceful harmony to it that is immediately soothing to the senses. Plus, as a bonus, you have spectacular views of Mt Fuji from here! Try and beat that. 

A restrained facade

Let's start off by exploring the back portion of this house, which is actually, believe it or not, a three-storey house (which we'll come to in a second!). By connecting this portion (the top level) to the top of the sloping road, and even incorporating an entrance, the architects found a clever way to integrate the slope into the design. Additionally, the windows and openings here let plenty of light in.

The timber facade blends in beautifully with the surroundings; it has a modern feel to it but small details like the extended roof and the windows give it a traditional touch.  

Building blocks

Admittedly, this isn't a facade you'd do a double take on. At first glance, it looks like just another concrete structure. Pay attention though, and you'll see the details peeping out. While exposed concrete makes up most of the surfaces, look closer and you find the wooden detailing on the ceilings – yet another traditional infusion to a modern design.

You'll also probably have noticed that there are tons of terraces and balconies here, another feature of Japanese design that places a lot of importance on natural light and bringing nature inside.

Views for days

On the third floor, entering through the rear portion, we walk into this small but sublime living space. Large glass sliding doors open out onto a lawn, which incidentally is concealed within all that industrial-looking concrete. Step out here onto this private terrace and you have stunning views of both the city and Mt Fuji. 

The decor inside is kept minimal but thoughtful; it flows along perfectly with the overall space. The simple staircase and glass balustrade ensure that the visual breakdown is minimised. Small tricks like this can make  a world of difference; speak to our experts if you are looking for more ideas. 

A cosy den

This integrated living space with an open-plan layout on the second floor is where the family congregates. As soon as you walk in here, you are enveloped by the warm and cosy vibe – achieved largely by the extensive use of wood. The floor and ceiling mirror each other while the kitchen island and dining table uses wood of a different grain, all the while maintaining an unbroken sense of unity. 

The plush leather couch acts as a natural divider to the space while affording enough space all around. And no matter where you are in this room, you have that stunning view. 

Bringing back the old

The last thing you'd expect to see in a contemporary home is a traditional hearth, but the architects have incorporated this achingly beautiful design element into the family home, giving it a warm traditional feel that is not too far removed from the city's heritage. Called an irori, the Japanese version of a heath was traditionally used for heating both homes and food. The dark wooden flooring and ceiling, the trout lever, the shoji screens and the stone-lined sunken pit all evoke an intense nostalgia. 

To continue looking at more inspiring spaces, check out The simple wooden house with a difference.

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