Light And Bright
Benjamin Budde -- Interior Design, 7/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
An essential aspect of this Tokyo house by Atsushi Kitagawara Architects is directly linked to the owners' 7-year-old son. Not only does he have an unusually sunny disposition, but his name, Hikaru, happens to means light. Accordingly, a nuanced use of daylight is at the heart of the four-story house.
A contrast of light and dark was the subject of an early conversation between the boy's father, Shigeo Sato, and the architects. "We really considered how light was going to come into the space, how we would control the amount of light," chief architect Atsuhiro Kouda says. The idea of brightness even carries through to materials choices, such as Scandinavian pine for the floors. Walls are untreated concrete, an Atsushi Kitagawara signature, as conventional treatments can darken concrete's surface.
Among multiple light-oriented features, the most arresting are the glazed cutouts seemingly placed at random on the wall that runs down one side of the stairwell. The cutouts' shapes—mostly circles interspersed with rounded rods—establish a sense of connection throughout. "Even though people can be in different areas of the house, there's a feeling of shared space," Kitagawara explains. Kouda adds, "No matter where people are, they see the same cutouts. That way, we could balance private and shared spaces, rather than designing a big open box."
The compact structure exudes a simple luxury that's characteristically Japanese: modest in scale, not quite 2,200 square feet, but superbly executed. Though Hikaru had already joined the Sato family at design and construction time, his parents were planning for only one bedroom. A judicious grandparent encouraged providing the boy with his own room—which, despite being literally a converted closet, seems to be a happy refuge for studies and troublemaking.
His parents entertain regularly, so Kitagawara designed a graciously flowing open-plan kitchen and living area on the top floor. "Since guests see the kitchen, it was important for it to be sharp and clean," he says. The white polyurethane-finished plywood cabinetry has no handles, and counters are stainless steel that's thicker than usual, 1/5 inch, to resist buckling. Concealed at the top and bottom of the virtually full-height side cabinets is an intricate speaker and TV projection system to keep those guests impressed. Meals occurs at a stained-oak counter that cantilevers from the stainless-steel island incorporating a cooktop.
The sanctity of the Japanese bathing ritual does not go overlooked. In the master bath, ceiling and floor are finished in cypress boards, a nod to Japan's traditional tub material. At the foot of the actual tub, this one in white acrylic, a white-tiled wall angles outward to admit a sliver of sunlight at the top. Both the master and guest bathrooms also benefit from the cutouts in the stairwell wall.
On weekends and holidays, the Japanese like to relax in the bath for hours. For a more energetic experience, the Satos go up to their rooftop, covered with turf and lined with short evergreens. One side is outfitted with deck furniture; the other offers a large rain shower. On hot summer afternoons, Hikaru and friends frolic under the falling water—and often soak onlooking grown-ups in the process.