What was this Tokyo apartment like before? Look to the ceiling for clues

Tokyo – After the Second World War, Japanese homes shifted from the local-style layout to its Western-style counterpart – namely, chairs were used when dining and a separate room replaced the tatami for sleeping. As the idea proved groundbreaking and visibly popular, the DK (Dining & Kitchen) type and LDK (Living, Dining & Kitchen) houses were then mass produced in the country

But lifestyles have shifted yet again, and dwellings are shifting with them: as more people work from home and others see the kitchen as a social space, some architectural firms are responding to these new demands by reimagining the possibilities of the DK and the LDK – and even acknowledging the wisdom of the multipurpose rooms of the past. One of them is Office Shogo Onodera, with the House of Wind and Light.

The 69 sq-m apartment went from a three-bedroom unit to a large open-plan dwelling. The team removed every partition to let light and wind pass through – hence the project’s moniker. After figuring out how to locate private spaces such as the bathroom and the bedroom, the firm was left with the question of how to provide much-needed storage in a space meant to be used in a transparent manner. Their solution was to provide a large closet that spans the entire width of the large floor area.

Having a clear contrast between the new and the old, the subtle beauty of the new parts stand out vividly and create a sense of tension peculiar to the act of renovation

Another key decision was to honour the former life of the apartment by leaving the ceiling and walls as they were – the tracks of the old room plan are still visible above. ‘Having a clear contrast between the new and the old, the subtle beauty of the new parts stand out vividly and create a sense of tension peculiar to the act of renovation,’ explained Onodera. So, instead of applying new finishes, the architectural office hung lace curtains along the walls that provided that feeling of textural tension between the past and the present.

But the team also took the future into account. The apartment is occupied by a married couple, but the space is meant to accommodate up to four people. If or when they have children, the main cabinet has the ability to expand and redraw new spaces into thin air. This time, in an oddly fitting reversal of the course of its iterations, there will be no imprint left of the apartment’s current life.

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