If you want to find a wonderfully designed small home, Japan is a great place to begin your search. There are countless delightfully and well designed small homes, tucking into weirdly shaped lots, narrow slots between adjacent buildings, or rising tall whilst sitting on a narrow footprint. They’re serene and minimal affairs by design, and they also almost always have an amazing sense of space, proportion, and offer liveliness and liveability that far exceeds their small sizes. And the Layer House by Hiroaki Ohtani is no exception.
The layer concept is brilliant. Both literally and figuratively. There are few traditional walls here – only alternating bands of concrete and glazing, each scant inches thick. The effect is sublimely luminous and dazzling, filling the home with a glow that just suffuses ever corner. Skylights at the top level complete the effect. The concrete bands also serve double duty, whether along the perimeter or in the central core, supporting planks that jut out to be stairs, tables, chairs, and more. These cantilevered surfaces further enhance the openness of the space, allowing the house to expand to its full 850ish square feet. Organized vertically, the house makes full use of its scant 9 foot width, rising all the way to a roof deck. Rich wood surfaces contrast with the concrete, and a quiet subterranean room contrasts with the vibrant kitchen near the top.
It is an exercise in rigour, deft and subtle and skillful proportioning and design, and a testament to creativity and showing that small can more than certainly be awesome.