The art of being happier with less is becoming common practice, and what better style to teach us than Japanese architecture? And what better example to have of that style than this minimal and unassuming home? So simply designed with few rooms, and just the bare essentials, this minute home is peaceful, harmonious and quiet.
Designed by K.K. DEN, a group of Japanese architects based in Toyokawa, this property is not even 400 ft², but it's more than enough room to live comfortably, and to live peacefully. The designers have taken aspects of traditional Japanese architecture—like sliding doors and movable walls, and made them modern. Another quintessential element of the culture, and of this home, is wood. Today we will have a look at the importance of this material, and the other techniques this home uses to create that quiet, magical, meditative environment that is so commonly associated with Japanese architecture. So let's get started!
As you can see from this view, the exterior is simple, unfussy, and unadorned. The walls are plain and white, the door: simple and wooden, and the roof is clad in dark grey to match the foundations and edging around the building. The shape of the roof recalls that of a shrine or temple—a subtle reference to the architecture of past centuries.
The windows are actually sliding glass doors to connect interior and exterior, and to fuse together nature and architecture—an important idea in Japanese design. There are no unnecessary details here—everything is kept to the bare essentials.
Stretches of big blank spaces are also often used throughout Japanese architecture, and this property tries to honor that rule. The living room is open plan, and kept as wide as possible, as is the landscaping outside.
This garden has similar properties to Zen rock gardens—it is highly stylized and carefully composed with a long, uninterrupted lawn space, a simple hill and tree, a wooden platform and the driveway. It is designed to be enjoyed from a single viewpoint—in this case from the house. It's a garden that requires little maintenance, and has an instant calming effect.
The sleeping space is similarly paired back and minimal. The partition is fully removable, or can open up to let light in during the day, and be closed for privacy and tranquility at night. Colors are neutral, and the wooden ceiling is the main element here.
The simplicity of all of the rooms, and the elimination of clutter is key to the aesthetic of this house. It allows clarity of thought rather than fussing over decorations and furnishings. It's an aesthetic that works well in a small house!
The living room complete with fireplace is where you can really see that the focus is on wood. It's not only burnt for warmth, but lines the ceiling all over the house, and is in huge panels in every room. The appreciation of nature is important here, as is untouched beauty, and saying more with less.
There are two words that perfectly describe this home, and this room: ku (emptiness) and mu (nothingness). They are Zen ideals that have meant a lot in Japanese architecture—from centuries ago, right through to today.
If you want to see more of this style, then check out these 11 other incredible Japanese interiors.
From the bathroom you can see more of the garden—and more of the principles we have been talking about. Stones, water and wood are often used together in Japanese gardens, and from this stand point you can see them all.
Japanese design is about using these different elements in harmony together, and representing the varying forms of nature, along with their properties. Every corner of this house is trying to achieve some form of purity—either through materials, or through simplicity of form. We think that it definitely does that, and all in under 400 ft²! Now that is magic.