House In Saitama by Satoru Hirota Architects
The outside of this Japanese home is so nondescript, it could easily be mistaken for a storage shed. Only the erratic window placement on the front facade hints at what is inside. Architect Satoru Hirota has created a small house with a number of surprises. The 109.4 m2 (1,178 ft 2) home has the living area and a guest room downstairs, with three more bedrooms and an office up.
The interior is modern but not austere, with crisp white walls offset by various wood tones in the flooring, doors and cabinetry. Half the lower floor has the ceiling at just above the doors. Moving from the entrance to the living room, the ceiling height increases to a normal level. However the ceiling stops a few feet short of the far wall. That gap is a lightwell that allows light from skylights above to reach the living area. It also makes more of the wall visible, increasing the apparent height of the room. There is what appears to be another small gap where the ceiling meets the end wall. That is really just a shallow recess with a light fixture, but at first glance the ceiling seems to be floating in space.
The varied ceiling heights downstairs add interest upstairs by creating a split-level. There was room for the architect to add lofts above the rooms on the lower half of the floor.
Two of the upstairs bedrooms have window-like openings into the lightwell, giving them extra light plus views of the sky. Hirota could have made the openings extend from wall to wall, but limiting the size adds an element of surprise by limiting the view: You can only get a glimpse through the skylight unless you are standing almost directly in front of the opening. There is a similar opening providing glimpses of view between the stairwell and the upper hall.
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