Two far-flung sisters–one based in LA, the other in Hong Kong–set their sights on the relic next to their childhood home in Kanagawa, Japan, as their own bohemian work quarters when they’re in town. The century-old Western-style brick structure was built as a servant’s annex to the main house (the sisters once played in its crumbling rooms).
Architect Takaya Tsuchida of No. 555 artfully shored up the annex by celebrating the simple beauty of the original design. He and his team of three now have their office in the building, and the sisters drop in every few months.
Photography by Koichi Torimura.
Above: “In Japan, it’s rare to find an old Western-style building that’s still privately owned,” says Tsuchida. “The house and maid’s annex are in what had been a foreign settlement and were built for a German family.” Vacant for years, the annex–known as ASE, a combination of the sisters’ initials– was water damaged and crumbling when the sisters asked No. 555 to rescue it for them.
Above: Tsuchida set out to preserve the existing state of the building as much as possible. “It required a lot of repairing–structural reinforcement, plumbing and electrical work, and we installed drain outlets on the floor, so that the rainwater can flow out.” The plywood stair is a new addition.
Above: The original masonry and woodwork were updated with white paint. The painting and plastering crew included the architect himself, the sisters, and artist couple Juka Araikawa and Krister Olsson. See photos of the work in progress here.
Above: The sisters furnished their quarters sparsely with a few antiques and potted plants. The wire-framed hanging lights are Japanese construction site lamps.
Above: Tsuchida installed a new readymade pine floor and lightly whitewashed it so that the wood grain shows through. Learn about how to get easy Scandi-style whitewashed wood floors in Remodeling 101.
Above: An under-the-stairs sink–because the annex is used as a workspace, there’s no kitchen or shower.
Above: The windows (as well as doors, peaked roof, and some of the baseboards) are outlined in black.
Above: New plasterwork and an elegant light switch.
Above: The staff of No. 555 outside the annex. Go to No. 555 to see more of the firm’s work.
For more Japanese design, go to our Lessons from Japan issue, and don’t miss: