My Houzz: A Modern Farmhouse Built from Scratch
Detail is everything in this stunning, contemporary home on a hill
“My father, who bought this farmland, told me to build whatever I wanted, and I was so excited to try my hand at it,” Higuchi says. Working with Hokkaido-based architects Atelier O2, Higuchi handpicked every detail of her home – from door hinges to light switches. Drawing on inspiration from around the world, she has created a home that reflects her love of international design.
Who lives here Actress and voice talent Chieko Higuchi
Location Hokkaido, Japan
Property A new-build farmhouse
Year built 2012
Size 4 bedrooms with a kitchen and one big living/dining room, all occupying about 175 sq m
Architect Takashi Osugi from Atelier O2
Photos by Koji Sakai unless otherwise indicated
Higuchi sought to build the embodiment of a farmhouse, but the house’s eye-catching pentagonal-like shape was actually inspired by the type of barn houses you find in Belgium. Higuchi also wanted to invoke Swedish and Danish design styles, too.
Seen from afar, the exterior walls appear to be covered in bricks or tiles, but they are actually clad in red cedar shingles, which are weather-resistant.
Higuchi says a trip to ABC Carpet & Home in Manhattan was the impetus for her love of interiors, but all of her travels have influenced her design style.
“Even when I visit an art museum in France, the architecture catches my attention more than the drawings do,” says Higuchi. “I’ll spend half the day admiring the worn floors and handrails, or watching the workers as they preserve or repair the interiors. I used to wonder ‘What grabs my heart so much?’ Eventually, I realised that I loved how things age, how their colours change and deepen. So, when I decided to build my own house I wanted one that could grow and age together with me.” Higuchi therefore sought to use materials that would age gracefully over time.
Higuchi lives primarily in Tokyo, but Osugi is based in Hokkaido, so they had numerous discussions over Skype. “First I sent him lots of pictures of the colours and textures I like, and also reference materials from the shops and brands I love so that he would have an idea of my tastes and preferences. This step was also necessary because we had to see whether the materials I wanted were available in Japan.”
Higuchi also maintained frequent communication with Osugi during the construction phase. “For example, for even a single light-switch cover I’d make detailed requests like which brand and design to use. Discussions would occasionally become a bit heated. I would sometimes even make sketches and place them in front of the webcam,” says Higuchi with a laugh.
Her ideas for the interior design of this farmhouse were inspired by interiors shops and renovated hotels in Paris or small villages in the south of France, as well as by Zetas Trädgård and even the Swedish restaurant Leva Kungslador.
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Hokkaido, where the farmhouse is located, actually gets snow in winter, but underfloor heating and double-glazed windows provide excellent heat insulation and make Higuchi and her family and friends feel that “inside the house, it’s warmer than in Tokyo.”
There is a pantry behind the door at the end of the room. It is directly connected to the entrance, so it’s not necessary to carry groceries through the main living area. As Higuchi uses the house only occasionally and therefore tends to buy non-perishable items in heavy bulk packages, this is a huge advantage.
The stove in the corner not only provides warmth, but is also used for slowcooking on cold winter days.
Plenty of storage space can be found under the seat and behind the doors.
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When asked about her future plans for the farmhouse, Higuchi answers, after thinking for a moment, “I want to give it alot of care, and I hope it ages well with me.”
Photo provided by Chieko Higuchi