Simple Tricks For Small Spaces -, 03/17/2008

When I mentioned that I was meeting with Makoto Koizumi, several Japanese architects commented that his work was “very traditional” —a reaction that surprised me. By western standards, Makoto’s unadorned, wooden structures appear thoroughly modern.

It is important to remember, however, that when Walter Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright, and other pioneers of modernism first came to Japan, they found affirmation in the asymmetry and simplicity of traditional Japanese buildings. In other words, it was here that western modernism first found its architectural roots.

This, I think, is important to consider when viewing the homes Makoto designs. He is, by any standard, a master of small space—which, he claims, is itself a Japanese architectural tradition, hearkening back to days when families of four lived in homes the size of 9 tatami mats.

In his shop in Kunitachi-city, he showed me his most recent residential project – and pointed out the “tricks” he used to make the 30 square meter space feel bigger.

Makoto’s primary objective was to keep the space as open as possible. Therefore, he opened the kitchen to the living room, lofted the bedroom, and used the minimum amount of furniture. The wooden deck, which extends the lines of the living room floor, makes the first floor feel wider. And to give the property itself the illusion of expansiveness, he oriented the windows toward the neighbors trees—a tried and true Japanese method he calls “view-borrow.”

   Photo by Toshihide Kajihara