Inside Japan’s Micro Homes
Japanese architect Yasuhiro Yamashita has built some of the world’s most beautiful micro homes. With projects starting at just 182 square feet, Yamashita shares his own style for building mansions on top of mole hills.
Demand for small homes in Japan results partly from land scarcity, property prices and taxes, as well as the impending danger posed by the country’s regular earthquakes and typhoons. But some residents simply prefer a smaller home, seeking a minimalist lifestyle.
“In Japan, there’s a saying (‘tatte hanjo nete ichijo’) that you don’t need more than half a tatami mat to stand and a full mat to sleep,” says Yamashita. “The idea comes from Zen — and a belief that we don’t need more than the fundamentals.”
Of course, the beauty of a well-designed micro home is that it doesn’t appear fundamental at all. “Asymmetrical pieces of land can often be obtained cheaper than others. And it is an architect’s job to work with the land and fulfill the client’s request,” says Yamashita.
Build Towards The Sky
“When you look at an area in 2D, it might seem very small — perhaps the plot is just a few meters wide. But thinking in terms of volume, you can build the home higher and create more space. I try to make the house feel like it’s extending upwards into the sky, so it’s almost like the sky is part of the house. I also build high ceilings, so you don’t feel cramped.”
“What you see informs 60% of your perception of a space. Imagine that you’re inside an eggshell, with the same color and texture all over. There’s no real start or finish, no real corners. It is a visual effect that will make the space expand. I think that the color white makes spaces look larger, but I prefer to use the natural colors of materials rather than painting.”
Use Reflective Materials
“I generally use polished stainless steel features. They reflect light and make an area seem larger. In ‘Reflection of Mineral,’ for example, I used stainless steel in the kitchen and in the bathroom to make the space feel more expansive.”
Personalize Your Home
“A few factors affect my designs — the specificities of the land, the way the light hits the property, the neighborhood, and the client’s personal requests. A home is very personal. In ‘Reflection of Mineral,’ the clients wanted a strong, sharp-looking design. From there, I choose materials based on the design, depending on what would be best for the space.”