The need to do more with less space has sparked a boom in house designs that are as playful and witty as they are livable. One of Japan's leading designers of kyosho jutaku, or ultra-small homes, is Tokyo architect Yasuhiro Yamashita.
Windows, in a variety of shapes and sizes, are scattered across a wall, or concealed near the base. A bathroom is separated by just a curtain. Furniture can be folded into the wall, allowing a single room to serve multiple purposes.
"'Lucky Drops' was built on an extremely long and narrow space. So light could enter only from the ceiling," Yamashita says, speaking in Japanese. "All the light comes in from the top. So the whole house becomes like a Japanese paper lantern." The boom in quirky small homes was fueled by new design and materials technology, which have slashed the price of a custom-built home by as much as two-thirds, making these homes affordable for singles and middle-class couples.
"Where the forms of these houses is very unusual, asymmetric, seemingly unbalanced or lopsided, it's because there's a room or certain functions that need to be accommodated," Brown says. "And rather than make everything be symmetrical and line up, they just said, 'Well, if this living room is just going to have to stick out, over the parking space, so be it.'"
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