A Tokyo architect’s shape-shifting apartment takes a holistic approach to live/work style.
When Tokyo architect Yuko Shibata and her husband bought an aging 940-square-foot apartment in 2009, she knew she wanted to remodel it to include a home office where she could base her firm. But there was a catch: “My husband wanted to come back to a home, not an office, and I needed a switch of some sort when work was over,” she says. So how to meet the challenge while sticking to a tight budget?
For inspiration, she turned to fusuma, the sliding paper screens that effortlessly divide or expand the rooms in traditional Japanese homes. Instead of cloistering her office in a corner, she made use of her entire house. She cut a hole in the wall between her bedroom and the workroom, then installed a huge door that swings open to reveal built-in bookshelves, expanding the workroom and partitioning the bedroom at the same time. To turn the dining room into a meeting room and library, she built a wall that slides on ceiling-mounted tracks, partitioning the room and adding intrigue to a formerly bland space. At night, the apartment swiftly morphs back into a residence.
To keep costs down, she left the apartment’s original structure, plumbing, and wiring untouched. “Limiting the types of work done made it cheaper,” Shibata says. The result: a full-apartment remodel that cost less than she’d spend to rent an office for three years.