5 tips from a Japanese micro home expert to make your home feel more spacious

September 16, 2016 | By

The Home Story has previously covered tiny homes, which typically provide 250 feet of living space, sometimes more and sometimes less, and can be loaded on trailers and moved to new locations.

But the scarcity of land in Japan, high property prices, and steep tax rates are why some builders there are designing even smaller, permanent structures, called micro homes or kyosho jutaku.

Yasuhiro Yamashita, an architect with Atelier Tekuto, tells CNN “there’s nothing more beautiful” than filling a tiny scrap of land with a beautiful micro home.

“In Japan, there’s a saying (tatte hanjo nete ichijo) that you don’t need more than half a tatami mat to stand and a full mat to sleep,” Yamashita tells CNN. “The idea comes from Zen — and a belief that we don’t need more than the fundamentals.”

Yamashita has built more than 300 micro houses, each “uniquely shaped and packed full of personality,” reports CNN.

So even if you live in the smallest of apartments, condos, rooms, or homes, here are 5 tips from Yamashita to make “petite properties feel more spacious.”

1. Use It or Lose It

It is an architect’s job to work with the land available, no matter how oddly shaped. “Asymmetrical pieces of land can often be obtained cheaper than others,” Yamashita points out, using “Lucky Drops,” a house in downtown Tokyo, as an example. He describes the lot as a “leftover scrap of land” that was less expensive because of its irregular trapezoid shape. “We had to be creative, but the result is beautiful. There’s a saying in Japanese, that the last drop of wine is considered to be lucky. That’s the inspiration,” he tells CNN.

micro homes

Lucky Drops’ long, thin site is just 2.5 feet wide at its narrowest.

 

2. The Sky’s the Limit

Ranch style homes won’t cut it on small, odd-shaped lots. You have to think vertical. “You can build the home higher and create more space. I try to make the house feel like it’s extending upwards into the sky, so it’s almost like the sky is part of the house. I also build high ceilings, so you don’t feel cramped,” Yamashita tells CNN.

micro homes

This Tokyo home, designed by Atelier Tekuto, takes the shape of a polyhedron in order to provide an enormous skylight above the living room.

 

3. Live With Nature

Japan is about 70 percent mountains and forest so its builders expect challenging terrain and surroundings. “Even so, we are not trying to fight against nature — we’re trying to live along with it. You can see this in the homes we design. Most of our homes incorporate natural materials and large windows to let in lots of natural light,” says Yamashita.

micro homes

Home to 16 skylights, Boundary House directly connects its owners with nature. 

 

4. Be Creative With What You Have

With irregular lots comes the need to innovate wall dimensions. Notes Yamashita, “Instead of traditional square corners, I often cut the edges of the house into triangular shapes. This creates more surface area and more room for windows. There’s always a corner open to the sky. That way, as the sun moves, the home is always filled with natural light.”

micro homes

Designed by Atelier Tekuto for a family of five, Iron Mask is steel-based house with a unique curving facade that makes the most of the site’s shape.

 

5. Monochrome Is Not Monotonous

Using variations of a single color can make small spaces appear larger. “Imagine that you’re inside an eggshell, with the same color and texture all over. There’s no real start or finish, no real corners,” says Yamashita. “I think that the color white makes spaces look larger, but I prefer to use the natural colors of materials rather than painting.”

micro homes

White can make spaces look larger, but any consistent palette can create a similar effect.

 

Source: Tight squeeze: The secrets behind Japan’s coolest micro homes, by Kate Springer, for CNN, updated August 23, 2016.

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