Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Small House Design :: A Japanese Open House

Whist on my way to a few sightseeing areas in Kyoto I noticed an "Open House" sign. I was not too sure of the protocol in Japan but decided to wander in anyway!

This particular house was a newly built townhouse designed by Slink Architects and took up a tiny parcel of land on a side street in the famous Gion area of Kyoto. I was unable to take photos but have found a similar house in design and layout by the same architects in a similar location.

The thing that surprised me was how narrow the house was and how small all the rooms were in comparison to the kitchen / living area. Each of the sleeping areas were just large enough for double / queen size futon to be laid out on the floor when it came time to go to sleep. 

To compensate for the building's small size the internal space, including the sleeping areas were mainly open plan and the architect had made the best use of natural daylight by opening up one end of the building onto the garden.

A light timber (pine) was also used for the wall and floor finishes and storage was built-in to any available corner or space.

I was so amazed at how small living spaces were when I first came to Japan but now that I have been here for a while I am getting used to them. With smaller living spaces also comes less furniture and so the interior architecture works harder to give a home more identity and a feeling of space!

Have fun.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Shoe Storage Ideas for the Home :: Entrance Area

Inspired by the Japanese " No Shoe" policy I started to think about what I can store shoes in by my own front door. I know Ikea have a few shoe storage solutions but I would like to stick to my recycled, reuse and reduce approach and look for different ways to store my shoes. 

Here's a few recycled storage ideas for shoes...

1. Recycled crates
A great stackable storage idea. Sand back and apply a natural stain, white wash or paint a colour. The trick here is to find a selection of the same size crates in the style that you like. 
image via funky junk interiors
image via modern house insight
2. Vintage furniture or old furniture
An old wardrobe, side board or even an old Ikea Lac shelf unit can be easily stripped back or painted and a few internal shelves added. For a low side board you can also add a cushion to the top and make into a seat.
top image via skcnis bottom image via apartmenttherapy
image via interior design photos
3. Racks & ladders
If you have loads of high heels and not a lot of space a ladder will also work! 
top image via houzz, bottom via via Michelle on Pinterest
I am thinking maybe a recycled piece of vintage furniture. 
See what I can find when I return...

Have fun.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

No Shoe Policy in Japan :: The Benefits of Leaving Your Shoes at the Front Door

Did you know that shoes are not worn in Japanese homes? 

When I first arrived in Japan one of my first cultural experiences was to remove my shoes in the entrance hallway (called a Genkan), place my shoes on a storage shelf and then put on some complimentary slippers before stepping up into the house.
A Japanese Genkan - notice the lower entrance area and cupboard for storage of shoes.
image via housenary
Japanese house slippers available for guests to use
Typical Ryokan (Japanese Guest House) entrance
image via you in japan

Whilst I thought this was a great idea as it prevents dirt being brought into the home or damage to floor finishes it is also a very important expectation of social etiquette and cleanliness in Japan. 

There are quite a few house design principles that are present in older Japanese homes that are generally not seen in Australian homes. Some of these are:
  • Tatami mats (made from rice straw) for the floor finish in the main living, dining and sleeping areas.
  • With a tatami floor you sit on cushions on the floor and NOT on chairs (no lounges or sofas).
  • Similarly with sleeping, you sleep on futon mattresses spread out on the tatami flooring and NOT in a western style bed.
I will highlight some of these differences in more detail in future posts.

A Japanese dining room with tatami flooring
image via blimi
Futon mattresses spread out on tatami flooring. When you wake the matresses are stored in the surrounding built-in wardrobes 
image via marumura
When you are spending a lot of time on the floor it is so important to keep the floor clean and a "no shoe policy" does just this as well as protecting the delicate tatami flooring. Also when mattresses, pillows and cushions are stored away a room takes on a minimalist feeling of calm with everything hidden from view when not used.

Most of us have a natural flooring of some sort whether it be timber, an expensive wool rug or natural stone. If we could implement this policy in our homes there would be so many benefits:
  • Less washing, vacuuming and cleaning of floors, rugs and carpets
  • Less damage to timber floors, carpets & rugs from heals, dirty shoes and stains
  • Less dust in the house for allergy sufferers
  • Less noise for our neighbours
  • Cleaner floors for children to play on
Personally I would like to implement a "no shoes policy" when I return. As this is not the cultural norm in Australia I will let you know how this goes with my friends and family!

In the meantime I would love to hear of your stories if you have tried to implement this in your home.

Have fun.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Recycled Car Tyre Seats & Tables :: Philippines

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across these recycled car tyre seats and table on Alona beach, Panglao Island, off the coast of Bohol.

The last time I sat on furniture made from recycled car parts was in London many years ago in the warehouse studio of designer Ron Arad (some of his furniture is now housed in the London Design Museum!).
These were made by the restaurant owner from truck tyres and were actually very comfortable to sit on...
I even found this set, painted green, on Cabilao island many miles away...
It's great to see recycled furniture made locally from materials that would otherwise be thrown away given a new life even on a remote beach in the Philippines.

Next stop Japan :)

Have fun.