Smart Space Solutions: 14 Innovative Japanese Home Interiors

Extremely narrow lots and busy urban locations are no big deal for ingenious Japanese architects creating comfortable, daylight-filled residential interiors with a few crucial design tricks, like the use of staggered open platforms instead of closed-off rooms. Interior courtyards, faux facades concealing secret gardens, strategically placed windows and totally transparent walls make the most of limited space.

Transparent House NA by Sou Fujimoto
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Few Japanese houses are quite as eccentric as this one – a multi-story, glassed-in home with no stairs, no closed-off rooms and no privacy. House NA by Sou Fujimoto is built on a thin, split-level steel frame full of small platforms that don’t have a preset function, so they can be used however the inhabitants like. The house is almost more like an experimental installation than a real residence, given all that glass – you’d have to be quite an exhibitionist to live there. The further you walk into the home, however, the more complex and opaque all of those built-ins become, obscuring the vision of neighbors and passersby at least a little bit.

Translucent Rooftop Shed Skylights by Tato Architects
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The need to extend the availability of daylight in an area of Japan that stays dark for much of the winter led to this novel solution by Tato Architects: placing transparent sheds on the roof of a partially subterranean home to act as giant skylights. From outside, the sheds look like greenhouses, while inside, they are bright, light-filled spaces for working, playing and lounging.

Treehouse Residence by Ryo Yamada

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Envisioned as a treehouse in an urban context, this home by Ryo Yamada doesn’t actually look anything like a treehouse from the outside. The interiors, however, bear that tacked-together, DIY feel, especially given the wooden walkways that connect one open upper-level platform to the next. Located in Sapporo City, the house is essentially a large shell filled with individual ‘treehouses’ that can be moved around within the space, added to or removed altogether.

Courtyard Home with Street-Like Hallways by Suppose Design Office

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This unusual house by Suppose Design Office is set up like a neighborhood block rather than an enclosed residence, with individual disconnected rooms under a large glass roof. The resulting spaces between the rooms function more like streets than hallways, with each room feeling like its own little house.

House H by Hiroyuki Shinozaki Architects

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A stark white house on the outskirts of Tokyo conceals a complex, completely open interior in this project by Hiroyuki Shinozaki Architects. Eschewing interior walls, the design uses Y-shaped supports stretching from the pine floors to the ceilings and a series of staggered platforms to create individual spaces.