For Paul and Shoko Shozi, a pair of retiring Angelenos, the goal was to shut out the neighborhood but bring in the sunny skies. Their new prefab home, the Tatami House, designed by Swiss architect Roger Kurath of Design*21, makes a central courtyard the physical, and maybe even the spiritual, center of the home. On a fine Marina del Rey morning, Paul shows us around.
During our house hunt in and around Los Angeles, we discovered the Eichler homes in Granada Hills and in Orange County, many of which have a courtyard layout. At first we really wanted an Eichler, but it just did not work out. But after seeing a few we knew that we had to have a courtyard home. We’re pretty private, so it was important that we had a home that faced inward. We didn’t want to open our curtains or blinds and see the neighbors.
We gave him a list of our wants during our first meetings. The top three were a courtyard, a nice office, and an open kitchen. The design actually didn’t change much from Roger’s original concept. Some walls were moved and bathroom layouts changed, but it is pretty much the same. Our courtyard is one of the most important elements of the house. It provides lots of natural light and constant views of the sky from the “public” spaces— the kitchen, dining room, living room, and office—around it. The courtyard also goes with the traditional Japanese concept of bringing the outside in.
We elected to go for it to save time and money—though it took the builder longer than expected to set up the walls, extending construction time a lot. But going prefab did provide other important benefits: The concrete panels do a great job of blocking the sounds from the outside, we get great thermal benefits during the summer and the winter, and aesthetically, I’ve always liked the look of raw concrete.
Since most of my time is spent working away at an office [in the design department of an entertainment firm], I only need a little desk at home. I’m a big movie watcher and video-game player so the master bedroom is my man-cave on the weekends. It’s one of the few rooms where I can close the door and turn up the speakers and not disturb my wife in the office.
We are slowly populating the house with the stuff we’ve collected over the years: Shoko’s extensive book collections, our old Polaroid cameras, locally handblown glass pieces that add some color around the house. We have little to nothing on the walls right now, but eventually we will find art or blow up some Polaroids. We’re taking a “slow-life” approach to decorating, putting things up at an easy pace and not stressing about having to fill a wall just because it’s blank.