This Serene Japanese Retreat’s Overlapping Roofs Look Like Fallen Leaves

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Aptly named Four Leaves, this curvaceous weekend home in Karuizawa fits organically into the surrounding woods.

Located in Karuizawa, a popular summer resort town in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, Four Leaves is a weekend getaway designed to accommodate the homeowner and their guests in a lush, sylvan setting. Designed by Kentaro Ishida Architects Studio (KIAS), the highlight of the stunning, 2,400-square-foot house is its sloping, angular roof sections that are delicately assembled to resemble fallen leaves. 

Viewed from above, the home wraps around itself and is folded around a small central courtyard. The roof sections overlap in an organic way, giving the home its name: Four Leaves. 

Viewed from above, the home wraps around itself and is folded around a small central courtyard. The roof sections overlap in an organic way, giving the home its name: Four Leaves. 

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The design consists of three interconnected volumes each carefully appointed according to its function. The open-plan living, dining, and kitchen areas face southeast, overlooking an exterior terrace and enjoying a light-filled orientation. The master bedroom and its spa-like bathroom face west for a more private, forest view. 

The roofs’ concave and convex forms are elegantly layered and integrated into the home's forested setting. 

The roofs’ concave and convex forms are elegantly layered and integrated into the home's forested setting. 

The use of simple organic materials, such as timber and stone, helps the home naturally integrate into its forested, mountain setting. Large expanses of glass and exposed wooden beams extend straight into the exteriors to further connect the home to the environment. The uniquely shaped and layered roofs add to the home’s organic form. 

"The roofs were designed as curved surfaces like gently twisted leaves," explains architect Kentaro Ishida in a statement. "Every roof was designed as a ruled surface in which straight LVL joists were arranged continuously to form an organic geometry."  

One portion of the roof arches. 

One portion of the roof arches. 

The arched form of the roofline provides a cozy, second-floor interior space. 

The arched form of the roofline provides a cozy, second-floor interior space. 

The roofs also make for interesting interior spaces. The ceiling of each volume echoes the shape of its roof. An arched roofline creates cozy, curved interiors on a second-floor space, and the main living area exists under a slanted ceiling of exposed wood beams.

The ceiling features exposed wood beams which extend straight out to the eaves. 

The ceiling features exposed wood beams which extend straight out to the eaves. 

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Floor-to-ceiling glazing makes for a bright and airy living space and overlooks the exterior terrace. 

Floor-to-ceiling glazing makes for a bright and airy living space and overlooks the exterior terrace. 

The master bedroom and the master bath enjoy a more private, shaded forest view. 

The master bedroom and the master bath enjoy a more private, shaded forest view. 

The spa-like Japanese bath has a strong connection with the outdoors. 

The spa-like Japanese bath has a strong connection with the outdoors. 

The outline of the bath appears to extend to the exterior of the home. 

The outline of the bath appears to extend to the exterior of the home. 

The villa as it fits into the local landscape.    

The villa as it fits into the local landscape.    

Four Leaves frame model 

Four Leaves frame model 

Four Leaves site plan

Four Leaves site plan

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Kentaro Ishida Architects Studio (KIAS) / @kias_kentaro
Builder/General Contractor: Sasazawa Kensetsu
Structural Engineer: Building Structure Institute, Tokyo / Kazuyuki Ohara
Interior Design: Kentaro Ishida Architects Studio (KIAS) / Kentaro Ishida
Photography: Norihito Yamauchi