A Japanese residence by Tomoko Ikegai and Arata Miyahara showcases a couple's collections
Masaaki Takahashi -- Interior Design, 6/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Returning to Japan after several years living overseas, an art-loving couple commissioned a Western-style house from designer Tomoko Ikegai and architect Arata Miyahara. If the result, located on a gentle slope in a tranquil Kansai District suburb, has the aura of a small private museum, that's hardly surprising: The glass, wood, and stone structure is filled with the owners' impressive collection of contemporary paintings and sculpture. But how many art galleries boast a 64-foot-long indoor swimming pool, tiled in vivid blue glass?
Ikegai, principal of IKG and the couples' longtime friend, came up with the overall concept for the three-level U-shape house. Her clients asked for a place of healing, a refuge from the stress of work where they could relax and re-charge. She envisioned a series of free-flowing glass-walled spaces arranged around a garden courtyard. Miyahara, principal of Studio Akili and Ikegai's frequent collaborator, turned her ideas into fully realized architecture.
"I tried to make circulation as fluid as possible," says Ikegai. "There aren't many obstacles to impede movement through the rooms. Plus there's great visibility between each area, which adds to the sense of openness, and you're constantly 'aware of the greenery outside." Even the main entry, which is on the second level, and central staircase overlook the garden through a double-height expanse of glass. To the right lie the living room, dining area, and study; to the left is the indoor pool. The master suite is on the third floor, which also houses a small but fully equipped gym.
At the bottom of the stairs, on the lowest level, a Japanese-style passageway—rectangular stepping-stones on a bed of pebbles—leads to a guest bedroom, bathroom, and compact kitchen. With its sliding paper screens, tatami mats, and tiny rock garden, this retreat is the only traditional area in the 7,500-square-foot house. The adjoining garage, designed by Hideto Irikawa, accommodates the owners' collection of vintage Porsches and Ferraris. The space has granite floors and is fitted with an extractor vent to siphon off exhaust fumes produced during engine-maintenance sessions.
The lighting in the garage—and everywhere else—was designed by Kazuhiro Kawamura; it sets off the cars as graphically as the Japanese and Western works of art that furnish the rest of the house. Installed to pleasingly casual effect, the collection includes ceramics and an oil painting by Pablo Picasso; colorful figurative murals in the living room by Greek fine artist and onetime stamp designer Alekos Fassianos, who came in person to paint them; and Indian sculptor Madan Lal's abstract organic marble forms, which rise from a reflecting pool in the courtyard.
The decorative pool appears continuous with the indoor swimming pool—its bottom covered in azure glass tile—that adjoins it on the other side of a glass wall. It's just one of Ikegai's strategies to create seamlessly connected interior and exterior spaces. "The ceilings are a uniform height, which establishes a sense of internal unity," she explains. "Then we used sliding doors in most places to smooth the transition from house to garden." According to Ikegai, the feeling of physical freedom translates into behavior. "You can take a dip in the pool when the mood strikes, relax in the living room, enjoy the garden, or take time to contemplate the surrounding art."
As Miyahara notes, despite its aura of Zen calm, "the house is very aesthetically elaborate." As much thought went into the selection of materials and colors—chosen for warmth, harmony, and drama—as into the composition of spaces. A blend of plastic and sawdust on the poolroom walls keeps them from looking cold. Other walls are made of slices of white granite laminated together for a heavily textured effect. And the underside of the freestanding teak staircase is covered with mirror-finished stainless steel so it appears to float in the air. Art or architecture? In this house, they're the same thing.