To transform what had been a dark and compartmentalized house, architect Masaaki Higashi of Mas-aqui in Barcelona focused on two concepts: Akari, a Japanese term embracing the emotional power of light, and polyvalence, a space's ability to be adapted for multiple uses.
To address akari, Higashi opened up windows throughout the structure and cut large skylights out of its core, which brighten not only the kitchen directly below, but also the open dining room, living area, and master bedroom. In addition, a new overhanging staircase "spills light" from the top floor terrace.
Furnishings are minimal, mostly built-ins of pale wood, and colors are neutral and natural so that nothing detracts from the weightlessness of the bright, open space. The white walls reflect the light, making the rooms appear larger, and the volta catalana arches in the ceiling catch and reflect the light as well.
Higashi relied on Japanese sliding doors to achieve polyvalence within the space, which he felt was necessary given the size of the house. On the second floor, a large sliding door separates the kitchen from the master bedroom and bathroom. When the door is left open, the corridor view flows naturally to the large bedroom window. When closed, the bedroom disappears, its own separate, private escape.
The first floor is at once the vestibule, a corridor, a second bedroom, and a study. The red tile Higashi used evokes a "traditional village house."
Here, the clever sliding door system consists of five doors sliding on a dual track to permit this versatility of space. Close one door and the bedroom becomes a separate room, open another door and the corridor opens into a bigger work study space.
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Finally, the top floor opens onto a red tile terrace with views over Barcelona. "It is a small house," Higashi adds, "but we have adapted it to be enjoyed at all times and all kinds of activities: Meetings, cooking, working, relaxing can all happen here."
More by Mas-aqui: A Barcelona Couple Turn a Warehouse Addition Into a Live/Work Space
Architect & Designer: Mas-aqui (architect Masaaki Higashi and artist Esther Mir) / @masaqui.architecture
General Contractor: REHAB design
Photographer: José Hevia
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