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June 24, 2014
Architects constantly refer to Japanese design when crafting small spaces; Dwell goes straight to the source for inspiration on how to make the most out of every square foot.
Modern box house in Nagoya, Japan

This flower shop, art gallery, and home for two looks like the simplest of cubes, but configuring a home and business into 1,115 square feet took finesse. The concept is what architect Makoto Tanijiri called “a new kind of normal”: a structure that appeared ordinary on first glance but that would reveal its uniqueness the more time one spent in it. Tanijiri didn’t want to design something strange for the sake of strangeness. Instead, much like Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa, the design duo behind the renowned Super Normal exhibition, he was trying to find the core of good design within a ubiquitous form. Photo by Takashi Homma

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Originally appeared in Small Space Live/Work Box Home in Japan
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Called the “LDK,” for living, dining, and kitchen, the space is flexible—a blend of Western loft life and traditional Japanese homes, where rooms are multipurpose.

Building on the footprint of his childhood home, Motoshi Yatabe worked with architect Russell N. Thomsen to configure an inviting, modern home for his growing family. This room, called the “LDK,” for living, dining, and kitchen, the space is flexible—a blend of Western loft life and traditional Japanese homes, where rooms are multipurpose. Photo by Dean Kaufman.

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Originally appeared in Small Box Home with Black Metal Facade in Japan
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Imai House by Katsutoshi Sasaki + Associates

Architect Katsutoshi Sasaki was tasked with designing a home in a plot that is barely ten-feet-long. He worked within the limited space by keeping everything ope and airy rather than restricting each room to one purpose. Photo provided by Katsutoshi Sasaki + Associates

Originally appeared in Minimal Home on a Narrow Plot in Japan
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oak boards in tiny tokyo home

When Masahiro and Mao Harada of Mount Fuji Architects Studio designed this tiny Tokyo home, they decided to cover the interior surfaces with oak boards hammered one-by-one into a honey-colored herringbone pattern. “Using a different material for the wall versus the ceiling versus the floor has become a symbol that signifies a typical ‘house,’” says Masahiro. “I wanted to get away from that and create something more like a cave. I thought that would free up the residents’ approach to how they proactively use the space.”

Originally appeared in Compact Wooden Home in Japan
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Modern linden plywood and ash staircase cabinet

In traditional Japanese houses, clever carpenters often combined staircases with storage to maximize living space. This project in Fukushima Prefecture inspired Nihonmatsu-based architect Kotaro Anzai to borrow the approach and create a custom-built kaidan dansu, or staircase cabinet, to connect the living room to the second story of a 1,078-square-foot home. “We were able to create a clean, uncluttered space, but in a playful way,” says Anzai.

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Originally appeared in Top Drawer
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Though the terraces are inside, they offer the sensibility of outdoor rooms.
“In architecture we tend to measure everything using a certain scale,” 36-year-old Makoto Tanijiri says about the standard dimensions and relative proportions of architectural elements. “People experience a space to be much bigger if they cannot figure out the exact size of it.”
 
Tanijiri put this theory into test in House in Fukawa, a house for four located in the suburbs of Hiroshima. A central staircase stands like a thick tree trunk at the heart of the residence. Three bedrooms clad with coniferous plywood are suspended from this core, each at a different height and turned at different angles. The residents can use the spaces between, above, and below the closed boxes in any number of ways; the uppermost reaches are akin to a rooftop terrace, the closed spaces bedrooms. 
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Originally appeared in House in Fukawa
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Modern box house in Nagoya, Japan

This flower shop, art gallery, and home for two looks like the simplest of cubes, but configuring a home and business into 1,115 square feet took finesse. The concept is what architect Makoto Tanijiri called “a new kind of normal”: a structure that appeared ordinary on first glance but that would reveal its uniqueness the more time one spent in it. Tanijiri didn’t want to design something strange for the sake of strangeness. Instead, much like Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa, the design duo behind the renowned Super Normal exhibition, he was trying to find the core of good design within a ubiquitous form. Photo by Takashi Homma

Photo by Takashi Homma.

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