Houzz Tour: An Ingenious Layout Creates Space in a Small Home
This architect coaxed more floor space out of a tall, narrow property with a flexible, multi-level design
They asked Tomoko Sasaki of TENHACHI Architect & Interior Design to design their house. Sasaki is a childhood friend of Naoko’s and a member of Masaki’s lab in graduate school. “She simply fulfilled our childhood pact that she would design my house someday,” Naoko says.
Who lives here? Naoko and Masaki Miyamoto
Location Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Plot size About 25 sq m
Total floor area About 72 sq m
Date completed 2018
Architect Tomoko Sasaki of TENHACHI Architect & Interior Design
Structural engineers Tetsuya Tanaka Structural Engineers
Construction Fuji Solar House
Photos by Akihide Mishima
The plot is narrow and subject to height restrictions, so the couple asked Sasaki what their options were. Both builders who were contacted first proposed centring the ground floor on a longitudinal staircase, with a living/dining/kitchen area on the first floor and a bedroom on the second, with floor area totalling 64 sq m.
Her proposal did not include a balcony, garage or entrance hall, but increased the overall floor space to 70 sq m. “The different levels on each storey add interest and connect the spaces, with the next area sometimes obviously visible, sometimes subtly hidden from view,” Masaki says.
“I based my proposal for making the living space comfortable on incorporating environmental elements (such as the light and ventilation) as much as possible,” Sasaki says.
The ceiling is about 3.4m high, and this height is emphasised by large windows, exposed ceiling beams, hanging houseplants and lighting.
Love this house? Find an interior designer on Houzz today to help kick-start your own home makeover.
The top of the box serves as a bedroom, while the inside is divided into two spaces. The entrance in the foreground leads to a guest toilet. The back door leads to a private utility space, as well as the master bathroom and pantry. The two are separated outside the box by the glass door in this image, which can be locked to cordon off the private zones when the doma is rented out.
The worktop is made of fibre-reinforced cement board. The kitchen was custom-made from Ikea cabinet carcasses framed with larch wood, and even the dishwasher is covered with an Ikea front. Sasaki chose a hanging cupboard framed in the same wood, to create continuity in the design and show off the grain of the butt-end of the larch.
The frames of the windows and the bookshelf on the edge of the second-storey loft also show off the butt-end of the wood. The shelf ends in a board on the left. Although this was structurally unnecessary, it makes the shelf look like furniture.
The carpenter’s skill is apparent in the fine details of the woodwork. The urethane paint finish was applied over three days by the couple themselves, with help from friends.
In the process of creating the diagonal sides, the couple were very impressed to see the construction workers skilfully creating the shape “as though they were folding a piece of origami”.
Masaki says that people who come to visit tend to get the impression that the house looks like a piece of furniture: “Owing to the unified wood-centred design and colour palette, the line between furniture and architecture is blurred.”
Maximising the useable area through open-plan rooms without set function gives this home flexibility and a cosy atmosphere.
What clever design ideas do you like about this house? Let us know in the Comments section.