House in Chikuzen by Design nico Architects

Most of the small houses from Japan that we’ve looked at so far have been on very small lots in dense urban areas. The architects were faced with maximizing the livability within a very small building envelope. Today’s small house is on a relatively large lot in the suburban town of Chikuzen, Japan. It faces an open wheat field to the northeast with views of distant mountains, but has neighbors on the other three sides. With a flat barren lot, the challenge was to create a sense of protection and privacy.

Architect Kazuya Matsuda of Design nico Architects was asked to design a small house for a couple and their future children. He split the 107.3 m2 (1,155 ft2) house into two rectangular volumes, the social areas in one and the private areas in the other. Separate gable roofs on each volume gives the house a strong visual identity.

Rather than placing the two volumes directly side by side, the architect offset them. The living area is placed closer to the street and the private areas are pushed further back on the lot, joining at the kitchen. This makes the house appear larger than it is on the outside, and feel larger inside. It also creates two semi-protected areas on the exterior where two walls come together to form an inside corner. The one at the front of the house is used for an entry garden, while the one at the back is a large patio. Both the dining area and the bedroom wing have large glass doors leading out to the patio.

living area

The living area features a vaulted ceiling. However the ceiling does not follow the line of the roof above; it is kept low at the outside wall. This provides a more cozy, intimate feel than a full vault would, while still providing the visual interest and most of the feeling of spaciousness that a raised ceiling gives. Skylights add light and draw the eye up.

One last thing to note is the care taken with planning and building the house. On the photo of the entrance side of the house above, you can see that the siding has been centered on each gable end, and that the window and the vent above it have been aligned with the siding and the walkway. Paying attention to these kind of details can elevate a house an extra notch.

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Photographs by Ohno Hiroyuki / FAKE, courtesy of Design nico Architects.

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