A small space wedged between homes in Okazaki, in South Central Japan, the plot was narrower than some inner-city alleys. But when architect Katsutoshi Sasaki was presented with the challenge of carving out a home for a two-child family in what was ostensibly leftover land, he pivoted. Instead of focusing on the three meter width, he played with length and height to create a light-filled, wood-clad home that used its inherent limitations to its advantages.
“The lot is so small—it was previously used for a garden—so I thought the client needed to get a feeling of freedom,” he says. “I connected the different spaces, and still managed to plot a garden at the edge of the house.”
Sasaki realized that with limited floor space, he couldn’t be bound by assigned roles for each room. He concentrated on airy, open, and overlapping environments, such as deconstructed children’s rooms that accommodate activities from sleep to study and allow the occupants freedom of movement. Incorporating outdoor areas, such as the ground floor terrace, and playing with alternating room heights (the living room is nearly three times higher than the bedrooms) provided character and definition in what otherwise could have been a series of boxy spaces resembling Tetris pieces. Sasaki also loosened up the potentially confining space with an excess of natural light. High windows in the main living area bath the space in natural illumination, while the staggered series of smaller windows in the children’s rooms function like portholes.
“The windows were positioned in front of the children’s bedroom to give them their own personal scenery,” says Sasaki.
After the six-month project, Sasaki received the highest compliment possible; the family told him the space energized the children and brought the family together. While it’s not exactly a yard with a white picket fence, the re-imagined space gave the family room to expand.