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Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space

The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space

"The small abode has become all the rage in Japan," architect Kengo Kuma declares in the foreword to this inspiring book, which should appeal to fans of the small home movement in the U.S. as well. Brown (Small Spaces; The Japanese Dream House) presents 18 residential buildings in his photo-packed volume, all of them built within the past five years. Many of them were designed by leading Japanese architects, such as Tadao Ando and Shigeru Ban.

And although their actual floor spaces may be too small for most American readers-they range from 540 sq. ft. to 1,730 sq. ft.-the volume is so full of ingenious ideas that it's a good bet for anyone trying to maximize the space and light of a small residence. Architect Hoichiro Itai's house, for example, manages to squeeze a garden deck, a study, three bedrooms and a sunny communal dining space into 995 sq. ft. Another house makes the most of a small footprint by setting the entryway between two glass-walled garages, so that the entrance resembles an elegant auto showroom. And a third fits a workspace, a bedroom and a bathhouse all in a long, narrow lot that was once a driveway. But the most impressive aspect of all these homes is the bright, airy feeling they manage to convey within in their tiny confines. As Kuma explains, "Focusing on the essentials and a strong sense of poetry ... they are creating, within finite quarters, a refined living space, generating new and important ideas." Brown's excellent textual commentary will help readers bring those important ideas into their own homes.
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