A Compact House in Japan Is Defined by Dynamic Arches and Lush Courtyards
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A Compact House in Japan Is Defined by Dynamic Arches and Lush Courtyards

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By Laura Mauk
Arbol Design creates a tiny house in Osaka with a cantilevered front facade that appears to float above a garden floor.

The 645-square-foot house that architects Yousaku and Madoca Tsutsumi of Arbol Design imagined for a compact lot in Osaka, Japan, is marked by a poetic series of archways and lush courtyards. The clients, a family of three, specifically requested Peranakan architectural details. "They wanted an extraordinary atmosphere; simple, exotic elements that would enrich their hearts," Yousaku says. 

The stucco-clad tiny home is punctuated by archways, including the arched entrance, and two courtyards—one of which peeks out from beneath the cantilevered front facade.

The front door opens to a courtyard. A sliding glass door leads to an open-plan kitchen/dining area.

"This site in Osaka Prefecture is in the center of the city, where there are temples and old Japanese-style row houses," Madoca says. Inspired by Peranakan Architecture, Arbol devised a series of dramatic arches that define pathways from one room to the next. The curved openings also frame views of the courtyards, help gradate the influx of sunlight, and create shadow play.

"The size of the arches varies rhythmically," Yousaka says. "The gardens, the ceiling incline, and the sequence of arches create a sight line that gives psychological depth. You can feel the connection with the outside—the arches and partial arches produce a sense of openness."

Lime plaster walls lend rich texture to the interior, absorbing and reflecting sunlight that pours in through an archway that frames the front courtyard.

Like the neighboring residences, the home presents as a row house, but the arches, the yard just beyond the front facade, and the central courtyard provide an indoor/outdoor connection that lets it live larger than its 645 square feet. "You can feel the sunlight and watch the seasons change," Madoca says.

The archways progress throughout the interior, leading residents from one room to the next. A second courtyard is situated between the kitchen/dining area and a staircase that leads to the loft. Teak flooring in the kitchen/dining area contrasts with the lime plaster walls, adding warmth to the space.

In the kitchen/dining area, the architects suspended brass pendants with a slim silhouette that let the adjacent courtyard be the room’s focal point.

The arches frame views of the sky as well as the interior courtyard. Southeast Asian floor tile marks the transition from the kitchen/dining area to the courtyard and the second level.

The home's numerous arches lend poetry, geometry, and a dynamic quality to the home as their soft curves frame various perspectives and provide a feeling of airiness.

A simple metal railing and Red Acacia flooring create a minimalist aesthetic for the loft area.

The home’s gray stucco cladding gives it a quiet presence, but the cantilevered front facade commands attention. "The gap at the bottom of the front facade lets wind flow through the home," Yousaka says. The negative space also allows for the texture and the scents of the garden to peek through, giving passersby a glimpse of what lies beyond the front door. 

The greenery of the front courtyard peeks out above and below the front facade, giving passersby a glimpse of how the house connects to nature.

In the evenings, a soft glow emits from beneath the cantilevered front facade, creating a whimsical presence.

"We hope the architecture can inject new life into this town," Madoca says. "We planned two external spaces in this house. The window eaves are made of glass, so as not to block the natural light. Strong sunlight comes in from the south window that faces the front yard, and soft light comes in from the big window that faces the courtyard. The large leaves and dark green color of the courtyard plants are in harmony with the concept of the house. It’s a narrow site, but you can feel nature."

The minimalist design lends an artful quality to fabric of the neighborhood.

Related Reading:

A Concrete Micro-House in Japan Works All the Angles

A Tiny House in Tokyo Opens to the Sky—and the Street

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Arbol Design

Secondary Architects: Architects Atelier M.A.R., Yoshikuni Miyamoto Architects

Builder: Iwatsuru Co.

Landscape Design: GreenSpace

Lighting Design: Daiko Electric Co.

Interior Design: Shimomura Photo Office

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