When a Japanese couple decided to demolish an old house that had been owned by one of their parents to build a family home, their driving motivation was to create a space filled with natural light. "They used to live in an old, dark house, so they desired a bright space where they could cherish the sunlight," says Daisuke Kishina, lead architect and founder of architecture studio Baum.
The house—known as H House—is located in Sammandani-cho, a tiny community of roughly 200 people in a forested valley in the Fukui Prefecture of Japan. "The challenge was to ensure privacy, and to deal with the low sunshine hours and the heavy snow," reveals Kishina. "In Japan, urban areas are conventionally densely populated, so privacy is the primary aspect to take into account. Here, however, I felt I had the opportunity to stress the relationship between the interior and the exterior."
As a result of this approach, the home features a large number of windows to bring daylight and fresh air into the interior. To maintain a sense of privacy, Kishina devised a concrete-floored area around the interior living space that acts as a filter or a threshold—a concept known in Japanese as doma.
"By including the concrete doma, it was possible to maintain a reasonable sense of distance between the intimacy of the interior and the surrounding neighborhood," says Kishina. "The owners can sit and relax here, enjoying the heat coming from the stove fire, chatting with the neighbors and looking out at the surroundings through the double-height window."
As in most Japanese homes, H House is divided into two parts. The genkan—or entryway—and the main living space. The genkan is positioned one step lower than the rest of the home and is where residents and guests remove shoes before entering the main living space. This leads directly to the concrete threshold, which is situated in front of a large window.
The heart of the home is a double-height space on the ground floor that contains the dining area and kitchen. From here, the sky is visible through a large window on the second floor, emphasizing the relationship with the surrounding landscape. The master bedroom and bathroom are also found on the ground floor, while the children’s bedrooms are on the upper floor.
Due to the size of the site, the living room is also located on the upper floor. "In order to make the kitchen and living room as close as possible, the height of the first floor is quite low," says Kishina. This visual connection is key to promoting a cozy ambiance throughout the home.
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The living space extends into an open, mezzanine-style hall that leads to a small study area, the children’s bedrooms, and a deck over the top of the garage. The deck’s elevation affords it privacy, and the area serves as an outdoor space for family events and al fresco dining.
Apart from the concrete threshold, the home is constructed primarily from timber, to create a feeling of warmth in the interior. The floor is a black cherry wood, while the ceiling is clad in sina wood that reflects natural light and bounces it around the home. "The ceiling intentionally shows the wooden texture to match the gentle atmosphere required by the owner," says Kishina.
"With this project, I was aiming to create a dwelling in harmony with nature and the neighborhood," says Kishina. "I wanted to create a simple shelter where the family could experience a unique relationship between the natural environment and the warmth of the interior—it needed to be cozy but ample, bright, and airy."
Architect of Record: Baum
Photography: MOv (モブ) 明直樹
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