House in Honjo / Jorge Almazán Architects
Text description provided by the architects. A fashion critic from Tokyo moved to the countryside of a neighboring prefecture to take a managerial job. Instead of building a new house, she preferred to renovate an existing one conveniently close to her new company’s buildings. Her home had to be spacious and filled with natural light as well as a place where she could hold family and friends gatherings. Jorge Almazán Architects renovated the first floor to create an open area while leaving the rest untouched.
The house was initially subdivided into numerous small, rather dark rooms. The proposal clears away most of the walls to create an open space and removes the existing ceiling to increase its height, partially exposing the steel beams. This continuous space is softly articulated to create the entrance, kitchen, dining, and living zones. Thin hanging shelves separate the entrance from the other zones. Views from the entrance can be conveniently filtered and adjusted by the number, type, and position of the objects standing on the shelves.
After crossing the entrance zone, one encounters a generous kitchen. Instead of relegating it to a backspace, the kitchen stands in the middle, and the person cooking faces the dining and living zones. The large kitchen counter—a single 1.4 x 2.9 m sheet of stainless steel—becomes the center stage, a large communal table to enjoy cooking and eating together. The necessary storage and appliances are built-in under the counter and into the surrounding walls. The dining and living zones accommodate multiple uses. The dining table—a 3 m long white marble surface—allows family dinners and also serves as a conference table.
The living room is an ample space with lightweight sofas and coffee tables. This furniture can be quickly moved to make room for in-door exercise or children’s play. The proposal increases the luminosity of this area by adding a new window with a deep sill. The owner cultivates herb plants on this windowsill, adding a tiny inner garden into the living room. The owner’s interest in clothing inspired the architects to add a sensual range of tactile experiences: the cold hardness of both the stainless steel kitchen and the white marble dining table; the softness of the leather sofas; the warm roughness of the plywood of the walls and shelves, the smoothness of the birch wood flooring, and the plaster on walls and ceilings. Each element is “dressed” with a distinctive tactile and visual experience.
The proposal takes particular care of thermal comfort. This area is famous in Japan for its suffocating summers and chilly winters. The project includes floor heating, allowing a uniform warm space in winter, and avoiding the dryness created by air-conditioning. In summer, the spatial openness promotes natural cross-ventilation, minimizing air conditioning. The house has proved to be especially suited for the new domestic conditions imposed by the pandemic. The comfort of natural light and ventilation, the rich tactility of its surfaces, and the spatial openness and versatility have allowed this renovated house to become an enjoyable interior oasis.