Tokyo’s impermanent skinny house made to age well with owners




Inheritance taxes on land in Japan means plots often get smaller as they are passed on. This “divide and sell” phenomenon in Tokyo translates into some very tiny home sites. When architects Masahiro and Mao Harada were tasked with creating a home on a lot only 2 meters (6.5 feet) wide at its narrowest point, they chose to interpret small as “near” and use the small scale to their advantage.

On the narrowest portion of the lot, along the street, they created a “gatehouse”: used as both an entryway and offices for the clients. The lower level is a gallery for the wife’s art, which is mostly, appropriately, very tiny objects. The second floor, accessible only by a small, wooden ladder, houses the husband’s office with walls lined with books and movies (he directs commercial).

Everything in the Gatehouse is within touching distance, and this is important, and a positive thing. Masahiro calls this type of design “peach skin”. “The nearness between the materials and my eye make clear the very small grains, like a peach skin, so the resolution is richer. When you see big things from a distance you can miss details.”

Behind the Gatehouse, the lot opens up a bit to accommodate the rest of the home. To comply with building codes limiting home height, the Haradas chose to build the home a few feet underground. Again, they chose to see this as an advantage, allowing for a partly submerged bedroom and bathroom, that allow one to feel “like an animal” while having a bath in the ground or “like an insect” when lying on the bed, at eye level with the plants.

After the small, intimate room downstairs the completely open, and high-ceilinged, upstairs feels large. Here one wall is dedicated to a kitchen (partly camouflaged behind tan doors and cabinets) and the other to a full-wall bookshelf which is also structural. Masahiro explains the benefits of using vertical shelf supports that are narrow and very close to each other: the material is cheap; it can be brought in by hand; and it can be created without heavy equipment and instead, by skilled craftspeople.

For the interior finish on both the walls and the floors, they used MDF (medium-density fiberboard) both because it is very affordable, but also because it resembles the paper walls in traditional Japanese homes.

“Here we use paper and wooden materials and everything can return to the earth, so the time scale is near, or small,” explains Masahiro. “We are always thinking about scale. Scale isn’t just big or small. Scale is also time. This building has a permanent quality, but it also feels ephemeral. This house lives with people, and dies with people, and that’s a good thing.”

Mount Fuji Architects:

Original story:

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29 Comments

  1. Nicolas Nieri
    November 24, 2017
    Reply

    Someone likes Tim Burton

  2. Danielle Staggs
    November 24, 2017
    Reply

    I'd LOVE to live there

  3. Funkyard Dawg
    November 25, 2017
    Reply

    ….and Tha house is spotless……

  4. ART
    November 25, 2017
    Reply

    i love the large windows of the bedroom and the living room as a way to connect with nature. how amazing the idea of the pockets with the plants : ) kawaii

  5. myredfast
    November 25, 2017
    Reply

    “Here everything is touching” as he has DIVIDER boxes in the framing of the wall haha

  6. issa madriaga
    November 25, 2017
    Reply

    Although the space is so small the landscape makes it look more bigger… i love the idea…

  7. Alexa648
    November 26, 2017
    Reply

    me the entire video: WHERE IS ALL THIS SPACE COMING FROM

  8. Rebecca Stevens
    November 27, 2017
    Reply

    I find their home so cozy!

  9. Butter Toast
    November 27, 2017
    Reply

    I don't like owning much so this looks like a good house for me. Very beautiful and organized house they have.

  10. Chris Brown
    November 27, 2017
    Reply

    Freakn sweet..a buisness and home in one.

  11. Mat
    November 27, 2017
    Reply

    I love their philosophy, it makes it easier to adapt into a small place, which for itself, it’s not an easy way of living without the right mindset. Be water.

  12. Isa IsaLee
    November 28, 2017
    Reply

    Lovely!

  13. Sherilyne Oh
    November 28, 2017
    Reply

    very deep meaning.. thanks for this vid. it makes me learn how to see things in a positive way

  14. Anna Henkins
    November 28, 2017
    Reply

    I love very small spaces. As I fall asleep in an MRI scan machine. Very cozy to me!!!

  15. GeneNonymous
    November 28, 2017
    Reply

    Omaewa no Husbando director of commercials desu? SO YOU'RE THE PERPETRATOR!!!!
    .
    Yall people prolly wont get me

  16. Sunshine Girl
    November 28, 2017
    Reply

    Omgosh yes please. I want one…

  17. Val Oblate
    November 28, 2017
    Reply

    very nice

  18. ruwiki
    November 30, 2017
    Reply

    one oft the best "houses" shown on his channel. I would move in!

  19. Janie Basinger
    November 30, 2017
    Reply

    Nice and clean place to live!

  20. Iona Watson
    December 3, 2017
    Reply

    I absolutely love this house it seems so relaxed, peaceful and friendly.

  21. Tree-hugger Sans-cœur
    December 11, 2017
    Reply

    “I like small things” That explains it!

  22. Jennifer
    December 13, 2017
    Reply

    Love this house.

  23. Michael Scarboro
    December 15, 2017
    Reply

    This project was so poetic

  24. Mark Thompson
    December 17, 2017
    Reply

    she likes small things eh?

  25. Tasnim Mohamad Rosli
    December 19, 2017
    Reply

    how can i get this kinda house at japan? is there any service for this kind of house?

  26. donjuan42566
    December 20, 2017
    Reply

    Really nice

  27. Sky Rostova
    December 21, 2017
    Reply

    That bathroom is so beautiful n simple. Unlike the rest of that clutter

  28. Sky Rostova
    December 21, 2017
    Reply

    I have not heard someone say, "so-so" in so long

  29. montana gardiner
    December 21, 2017
    Reply

    I would so live there

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