Near the center of Kyoto city down a small street lies Yamaguchi House. In size it easily fits in with it’s neighbors but in looks it is quite different. The house has clearly been made by skilled wood craftsmen and stands out against its neighbours factory made materials. The contrasting use of light and dark also attract the eye, it’s whole outer facade hinting at the jewel which lies behind.
The house was designed for one occupant in his retirement who wanted a three story house. This type of construction despite having proved itself over the many centuries is frowned down upon by the building authorities and therefore this was a very difficult house to get built. The two side walls were retained whilst the whole inner structure of the the original house was destroyed. The original house was much like its neighbours, and small and pokey inside. The wooden structure was then constructed within the two wall frame.
The house was designed by Yasushi Ozeki of Satoyamasha, who has clearly crossed over from carpenter to designer with this house. It is full of strong statements as well as beautiful details. Spaces are clearly defined but in subtle ways. The ground floor is flooded with light, whilst a dramatic staircase announces the first floor which is full of Japanese shadows and instills a serene calm within its occupants. The attic contains a lovely loft bedroom, too full of storage for a photo.
My favourite detail. So subtle but the change of wood on the ground floor, sensors your feet to be ready for the stairs. Also a small line of light appears at night when the down stairs lights are on.
This house is very different to western homes, which try to attract and bounce as much as light as possible. In this house, the stained wood, the paper, the transparent doors and the clay wall all absorb the light. It is incredibly soothing.
Ozeki calls this house traditional, but apart from the use of traditional materials and construction the actual design of this house is very modern and very livable for today’s world. It is clear that a lot of thought went in to the house design and it is very well made, the combination of these things and the natural materials makes this house just incredibly beautiful.