Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

 

‘Unagi No Nedoko’ is a style of Japanese residential architecture that features distinctive long and narrow interiors dictated by the shape of the land plots they are built on. Humorously, the Japanese refer to this traditional, vernacular housing in Kyoto as an ‘eel’s bed’.

This house in Shiga was designed by Hearth Architects who predominately focus on residential projects in Japan. Typical of an ‘eel bed’, the home was built on a plot that’s mere 5.5 meters wide. It’s a difficult format to work within, mostly due to the light restrictions coming from the north-south axis that stretches 35 meters. Finding ways to bring in fresh air with other buildings closing in on the shorter side of the site is another challenge.

The way the design team has managed such a task was to embrace the limitations this space imposed. It also helped they had some crafty design strategies up their sleeve. The architects have taken what could have ended up being a house that felt more like a coffin and instead created an homage to the essence of Japanese design, celebrating light, grace and transparency.

 

Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

Warm Minimalism: Shoei House in Japan by Hearth Architects | Yellowtrace

 

Their first crafty plan was to put all of the main spaces on the second floor – the kitchen, dining and living room – and put the less used spaces like bedrooms downstairs in the darker area of the house. The next task was to offer the suggestion of the house being light and open. Often when one is opening a house up, one in some manner connects it to nature, often by incorporating a view of the garden, the sky, water or green space. In this case, with no ‘traditional garden’, the architects placed plants and single trees within the house and also in the limited space outside. Every square inch of space is accounted for. The integration of these trees not only enables a connection to nature but they have been used to fill voids within the house, specifically in the double hight areas. These extended ceiling heights combined with skylights in the roof enable the trees to grow properly within the ‘skyspace’ and to feel like real trees, not ornamental ones only added for decoration. The design of both the botanical element combined with the view from the second storey living spaces enable the owners to appreciate the natural element of this interior garden which in turn makes the house feel more spacious and certainly more layered.

“There aren’t useless spaces in this house. Alternatively, we arranged trees and plants inside and outside the house. So, you can feel the nature and enjoy the change of the seasons and time in the space. The clients enjoy the artistic change of the seasons in the simple and peaceful Japanese style space,” said the architects.

The house has been finished with simple decorative elements, exposed wooden beams in the ceiling and horizontal slatted blinds which cast striped shadows on the walls. The clean lines, simple material selection, beautiful furniture and fine detailing make this long and narrow eel’s bed certainly an emperor amongst eel beds.

 

 


[Images courtesy of Hearth Architects. Photography by Yuta Yamada.]

 

About The Author

Susanna McArdle
Contributor

Susanna has a background in Interior Architecture and a passion for writing. Based in Sydney, she has worked both in Asia and Australia designing. An avid writer, it’s hard to know what she prefers more, stringing words together or creating spaces. But one thing she does know, is that she loves doing the both together.

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