This wonderful passive home in the Miyako District of Japan is characteristic of Matsuoka Architects aesthetic and their deep engagement with the inhabitants needs and lifestyle. While the exterior appears dark and mysterious, the interior unfolds as a warm and inviting space. A ubiquity of natural timbers, unfinished and irregularly textured, imbue the space with a homeliness; imperfection is elevated to a position of beauty. This is a home for living, and the images tell a story of what that looks like for the family who inhabits the space. Left reasonably minimal, the users bring the space to life.
The dark and austere geometric volumes give no hint of what lays inside; the warm timber interior comes as a delightful surprise. However, the arrangement of the exterior is striking, forming an interesting composition when viewed from the street. The house is raised above the finished ground level on a concrete slab. The protruding balcony forms a porte cochère at the front. It's supports carry through the floor line of the house by adopting on the same change in materials.
There is a slight elevation of the home above the floor level of the entry lobby. This means a single step is required to enter through the front door; this is a device that is used in Japanese architecture to denote threshold, separating in from out. The term denoting threshold in Japanese is Shiiki. It elevates the moment of being in-between; between in and out, oneself and their environment or situation. The change in flooring further highlights this transition, separating activities and preserving their difference. This is a very subtle moment in the design; but powerful in it’s poetic simplicity.
Once inside the main living area of the home, the floor steps back down, returning to concrete. This large recess creates an informal place to perch around it's edge. Furniture is minimal, and decoration is purposefully neglected. The unfinished natural timber ceiling and wall linings have an irregular texture and make no attempt to conceal the jointing. The Japanese principal of wabi-sabi pervades. This aesthetic principal reflects a deeper belief that is based on an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Derived from Buddhist teaching, it is thought to nurture authenticity through the acknowledgement of three things; nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.
Isn’t it nice to see photographs that demonstrate the family activating the spaces? We are given a sense of how the inhabitants engage with the space; a glimpse into the daily life of the family. The recognition of who lives in the space and how they live in the space is characteristic of the Architects, who prioritise the individual lifestyles of their clients. For more inspiration for designing an inviting space to share in daily life, take a look at these living rooms!
Opening out to a private courtyard, the living spaces are afforded a seamless transition between inside and out. A strong connection to nature pervades Japanese design. The dramatic visual changes that occur through the various seasons connect one with the cycles of life.
For another simple Japanese home with a beautiful timber interior take a look at this Contemporary Japanese Abode!