Small Tweaks Turn a Traditional Japanese House Into a Home for a Potter and His Family

Architecture studio Raumus applied flattering finishes and created flexible spaces for work, play, and family living.

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Project Details:

Location: Okayama City, Japan

Architect: Raumus

Structural Engineer: Nishi Structural Design

Contractor: Yamato House

Photographer: Norihito Yamauchi

From the Architect: "This is a renovation of a ‘minka’—a traditional Japanese-style house—for a family of four in Okayama, Japan. We wanted to revive the form of the house and modify the floor plan for modern-day family living.

"The home is not only a residence but also a place of work and gathering—the husband, a potter, works in his studio during the day and has many clients visiting, and the wife, a cook, often gathers people together for meals. We decided to reconfigure the house into three spaces: the doma/tatami room for guests, the living space, and the sleeping areas.

"The doma (the traditional, earthen-floored space between indoors and outdoors) and the hall are separated by three sliding doors that can be opened to make one large room with a four-meter-high hipped ceiling. Rather than create a dedicated nursery, the earthen-floored area is also used as a children’s room.

"The porch facing the large window on the south side is used for reading, drinking tea, and as a playground for children; the hall is used to store firewood collected from the surrounding mountains; and the rear study space features a niche made of lauan plywood and is also used by the children.

"It was important that the home is friendly to both people and the environment. The sashes were replaced with new, more efficient ones; the walls and ceilings were insulated; the home is heated by a wood-burning stove in combination with hot-water floor heating; and a heat pump is used instead of air conditioning.

"The ceiling has been finished with a dark lauan plywood that matches the color of the existing beams and columns, while the lower part of the ceiling is finished with a lighter color to complement the modern furniture. We avoided contrasting the old and new parts of the house, and instead used time-honored materials to harmonize the existing and new elements and respond to the client’s desire to ‘enjoy the flavor of old things’ while practicing a modern way of living."

Floor plan of the renovated minka by Raumus.

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