The Lai family—Mayuko, baby Shota on her lap, David, Maya, and Yumi sitting on a cushion on the deck—relaxes in their indoor-outdoor living space, made by opening the glass sliding doors to connect the living room and engawa deck.
The engawa deck is a traditional Japanese feature. It's a place where guests are often greeted to sit with a casual cup of tea. The David and Mayuko also uses it as a viewing porch toward the back yard for when the kids play in the grass.
To avoid running the tap—and pouring water and money down the drain—the Lais installed a Rinnai tankless water heater and Metlund D’MAND recirculating pump for near-instant hot water. When David or Mayuko enter the Miele-outfitted kitchen, a sensor triggers the systems, readying the water to flow out of the faucets at piping-hot temperatures four to five times more quickly than without the setup.
The Lais designed their house to be theirs forever. As such, they were able to make design moves that made sense for themselves but that wouldn't have high resale value, like the Japanese-style master bathroom in the middle of the second floor instead of off of the master bedroom. The traditional setup features bath stools from Muji for washing off.
In the kitchen, an SMA Sunny Beam solar monitor displays the number of kilowatts generated. Though the monitor doesn’t display real-time energy consumption, the family often operates in the negative. “It helps us understand what’s going on and seeing it reminds us to be energy-conscious,” David says.
The house sits on a corner lot, which makes the side yard (shown here) also a front yard. Five-and-a-half-year-old Maya (left) and two-and-a-half-year-old Yumi (right) play on the gravel while Mayuko, David, and Shota sit on the bench.
The larch rainscreen covering the second floor give the house a light appearance and also provides privacy. Though it's difficult for outsiders to look in, the openings between the slats of wood let the family sneak views to the outside.
The most sustainable element of all is the Lais’ intention to make their first home their last home as well. “Some people have this mentality of getting a starter house, then upgrading from there,” David says. “We just wanted to find a place to live in and then stay there forever.” Eventually they imagine passing the home down to their children.