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An Inventive Sliver of a House in Tokyo by No. 555

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An Inventive Sliver of a House in Tokyo by No. 555

February 9, 2018

Presented with an impossibly narrow slice of land in Tokyo’s Ota-ku suburb, architects Takuya Tsuchida and Kano Hirano of No. 555 came up with the HSK Subako (the owners’ initials plus “birdhouse”). Known for their tell-it-like-it-is brand of design, No. 555 create dwellings that celebrate everyday materials and allow the stuff of life to be on view.

The owners of this particular perch are a product designer and architect couple. And since the former needed a place to work from home and to store his many bikes, fishing rods, and other gear, the architects accommodated with an entry that doubles as a workshop and store room. Unable to build out, the architects built up: Each of the two stories has a loft. And they detailed the house with matching birdhouse-like covered balconies on the front and back that light the living space and offer the owners a broad outlook from their little domain.

Photography by Ryoma Suzuki, courtesy of No. 555.

The back of the house abuts a verdant park. The structure with the wooden balcony is roughly 13 feet wide and 32 feet deep. It’s composed of fiber cement panels that No. 555 flipped so that the rough, usually hidden side is exposed.
Above: The back of the house abuts a verdant park. The structure with the wooden balcony is roughly 13 feet wide and 32 feet deep. It’s composed of fiber cement panels that No. 555 flipped so that the rough, usually hidden side is exposed.

The Living Floor

An open kitchen runs along the second floor anchored by living and dining balconies at either end.
Above: An open kitchen runs along the second floor anchored by living and dining balconies at either end.

The floor is wide-paneled oak with a brushed finish.

The open kitchen is composed of larch plywood finished with translucent white Osmo Wood Wax—a combination also used for the wall storage, vent cover, and Miele dishwasher panel. The counter is stainless steel and under the cooktop is a shallow fish grill.
Above: The open kitchen is composed of larch plywood finished with translucent white Osmo Wood Wax—a combination also used for the wall storage, vent cover, and Miele dishwasher panel. The counter is stainless steel and under the cooktop is a shallow fish grill.
No closed doors: A Muji Refrigerator and shelves with a microwave and toaster oven are incorporated into the dining area.
Above: No closed doors: A Muji Refrigerator and shelves with a microwave and toaster oven are incorporated into the dining area.

The back wall is larch plywood, which like the kitchen, has been finished with white Osmo.

The balcony overlooks the park—and provides the small structure with a sense of expansiveness.
Above: The balcony overlooks the park—and provides the small structure with a sense of expansiveness.
 The ceiling beams and wooden stair treads play off each other in a rhythmic pattern. “The owners can see the underlying structure and can customize the house easily,” Hirano says.
Above: The ceiling beams and wooden stair treads play off each other in a rhythmic pattern. “The owners can see the underlying structure and can customize the house easily,” Hirano says.
The living area is oriented to the front, south-facing balcony and brightened by a skylight. That’s the bedroom overhead.
Above: The living area is oriented to the front, south-facing balcony and brightened by a skylight. That’s the bedroom overhead.

Most of the furnishings are secondhand-store finds from the owners’ four years spent living in Sweden.

The Sleep Loft

The bed is angled under the eaves next to a sloping side window. Building codes in Japan allow for entirely open stairs, such as this simple steel railing.
Above: The bed is angled under the eaves next to a sloping side window. Building codes in Japan allow for entirely open stairs, such as this simple steel railing.

The Bathroom

The house’s lone bath is on the ground floor—”it’s a small house, so not a long trip,” Hirano says. The room doubles as the laundry: That’s a combination washer and dryer from Muji finished with a larch plywood counter that matches the open shelf.
Above: The house’s lone bath is on the ground floor—”it’s a small house, so not a long trip,” Hirano says. The room doubles as the laundry: That’s a combination washer and dryer from Muji finished with a larch plywood counter that matches the open shelf.

The walls are made of FRP (fiber-reinforced plastic), a waterproof, industrial composite, and the floor is concrete. The Wide Enamel Lab Sink is by Toto.

The rakish tub is a Kaldewei TForm Bathtub, a model made to be inset but here used with an exposed frame.
Above: The rakish tub is a Kaldewei TForm Bathtub, a model made to be inset but here used with an exposed frame.

Note the multiarmed hanging towel rack: It’s a repurposed hook for horse harnesses that the architects painted white.

The Ground Floor Entry and Atelier

The product designer’s workshop is right off the front door. Bikes are hoisted to the storage loft by Rad Bike Lifts; $22.37 via Amazon.
Above: The product designer’s workshop is right off the front door. Bikes are hoisted to the storage loft by Rad Bike Lifts; $22.37 via Amazon.
No. 555’s cross-section of the design details the loft spaces over each of the floors.
Above: No. 555’s cross-section of the design details the loft spaces over each of the floors.
Shoehorned into a group of narrow houses, the structure opens to parkland in the back.
Above: Shoehorned into a group of narrow houses, the structure opens to parkland in the back.

See more of No. 555’s work:

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