FLAT I / Low-cost, lighting, visibility, and ventilation
Flat I is a renovation plan for a second-hand condominium for a couple in their early-twenties and their two-year-old child, nestled in the greenery of Kasugai, a suburb just outside Nagoya city – a perfect spot for raising children.
The clients expressed their need for space, and a design that emphasises low-cost lighting, visibility, and ventilation – all qualities often not associated with ordinary condominiums – creating an environment that is simple and warm.
To compensate for the slightly smaller size of the Western-style rooms, the corridor between them has been made slightly wider. Further to this, a mirror was fitted to the back wall, creating an illusion of space that effectively doubles the apparent length of the room, making an often forgotten space between spaces into one of Flat I’s most unique features. The entrance is no longer dark and narrow, but now bright and spacious.
This idea of compromise is unavoidable when adjusting the scheme of a building plan – when you add something, you must take something else away. When you augment, there is sacrifice – this is unavoidable. That said, there are smart ways to do this. In this renovation plan, though a large window in one of the main rooms had to be removed, in its place we added a smaller, but more useful window that adjusts to allow the perfect amount of light and air flow through the building. This window is not only functional, but also accents an otherwise empty wall.
Additionally, the entrance to the living room has been changed from a swing to a slide, maintaining the barrier between spaces without having to give up space in the corridor. When open, the door is flush against the living room wall, creating the appearance of a single space and providing ventilation in summer months. In winter, the door can be closed to isolate the warmth in the heart of the condominium. This ingenuity unites spaces and provides better user control than demolishing walls.
Retro glass was also fitted into the door to provide a glimpse into the room beyond, avoiding that closed-off feeling that comes from a solid wood finish, and also gives a burst of soft white light that diffuses throughout the room. Movement can be seen through this diaphanous threshold, confirming the presence of others in the home, yet maintaining privacy.
The clients here are plant-growers, and like many others enjoy the comfort of verdure and vegetation, but originally there simply wasn’t the space to cultivate plants in the kitchen. The homeowners were forced to allocate a separate area in front of the kitchen for their greenery.
We created hanging shelves that suspended this vegetation around the kitchen, in the interior of the room, the clients in and among the green rather than separated from it. This also created space for utensils to be stored attractively, and the reclaimed space also made space for the childrens’ toys in the living space.
Plants don’t think like designers, and don’t grow in uniformity, in planes and exact ways. Their untamed growth intertwines with the functionality of the kitchen, its inhabitants, and imbues a sense of life and vibrance into the room.
For this project, everything was hand-made. The kitchen, bathrooms, furniture and details are all made with plywood which has been oil-stained to bring out the character in the grain of the wood, making a warm, antique feeling, combining colors and textures that unify the space under one clear identity.
As this renovation was designed for a family with children, the floor and thresholds between rooms have been made-barrier free – both to prevent trips and falls, and to remove the risk of damaged and scuffed edges that may form over time. Solid materials are used for the flooring and finishing, provided a tough surface for children to roll around and play on.
The space has also been fitted with more modern features, such as arched washroom doors, retro-fitted sliding glass doors and hardware, and iron window frames
Spatial composition is about addition and subtraction. When something is augmented, something else must be sacrificed. That is the nature of renovation. It is also an opportunity. A chance to start again, to rebuild, allow the space to be reborn. Such opportunities are few and far between, but we are honoured to have been given the chance to do this for our clients.
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