Minimalissimo


Jillian Japka

True design needs no ornamentation.

Nestled in a suburban neighborhood in Toronto, Canada is the delightfully modern Blantyre House. Completed in 2011 by Williamson Chong Architects, this house was designed with a focus on incorporating light into long and narrow spaces. Tall windows cover both ends of the thin house. Using windows of this height brings light deeper into the dwelling. The interior features a great room with an impressive kitchen unit. Floor to ceiling cabinetry provides storage and a clean, bright aesthetic. The dining table is incorporated with the kitchen island to save space in the shallow room. The second floor also features large windows which illuminate a small living area. The uppermost level of the home holds the master bedroom. Smaller windows and white walls provide a quiet sanctuary for sleeping. My favorite feature of Blantyre House are the windows. I love how every window is unique to the wall and room it hangs. The windows provide the home with a plethora of natural light and are also angled so as to provide the best views of the trees and sky. Photography by Bob Gundu.


Cliff House is a simple yet stunning residence on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Scotland’s own Dualchas Architects designed the structure to maximize the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The home is a single story with two bedrooms, two baths, and a great room for the kitchen and living areas. Every room, even the bathrooms, feature floor to ceiling windows. The windows flood the home with natural light and gorgeous views. Cliff House’s facade is clad in a silvery-brown lumber and warm gray stone, both of which were sourced locally. The low-lying structure, as well as the use of natural materials, allows Cliff House to integrate seamlessly into its environment. I love the view of the home from afar, it almost looks like it grew from the earth itself! Photography by Andrew Lee and Alistair Nicholls.


The Farnsworth House is a modern icon and a personal favorite of mine. Designed by the legendary Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), this timeless structure was completed for  Dr. Edith Farnsworth in 1951. The home is a small, one room retreat that hovers just above the ground in a rural Illinois setting. Floor to ceiling windows cover every inch of the exterior walls, punctuated by structural I-beams. The only opaque walls exist in a central core containing the bathroom, kitchen, and utilities closet. The furnishings are minimal and are mostly designed by Mies van der Rohe himself. The Farnsworth House’s clean lines, structural purity, and simple form are all classic features of mid-century modernism. At this time, removing the traditional clutter of walls, doors, and decoration was entirely unprecedented. As a result, Farnsworth House was famous even before its completion. A model of the home was first exhibited in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in 1947, four years before the building’s completion. The Farnsworth House has been in countless publications and exhibits since then. Unfortunately, the home has had several structural problems over the years, most notably its susceptibility to flooding. However, restoration effects are constantly in place, ensuring that the Farnsworth House...


M Residence is yet another stunning dwelling by acclaimed architecture firm Shinichi Ogawa & Associates. Completed in 2013 and located in Fukui, Japan, M Residence is a remarkably simple home for two families. One half of the structure houses a young couple and child, while the other is home to the child’s grandmother. Both halves of the home are nearly identical. The interiors feature an open-floor plan. The lack of walls lends a fluidity to the space and cuts out cumbersome square footage. Furniture is limited to only the necessities. Sliding panels are placed along the southern wall of the home, allowing the space easy exposure to the outdoors. Shared spaces include the porch, car park, and garden. M Residence is the perfect solution to living with extended family. Both families can enjoy the comfort and convenience of living so close, yet their divided spaces can easily feel a world apart. That Shinichi Ogawa & Associates were able to achieve this while maintaining the design’s effortless and minimal aesthetic is equally impressive.


Villa E is a luxury Moroccan home designed by Studio KO. Studio KO is formed of architects Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty, and the firm is based in both Paris and Morocco. Their architectural style expertly blends eastern and western design. Villa E is a lodge located at the base of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Viewed from below, the home appears to be a castle or fortress looming above the rugged countryside. But step closer and you’ll find a warm and comforting home with a distinct style. The facade is of Villa E is covered in Ouriko stone, a red, brick-like stone which is locally sourced and characteristic to the architecture of the region. The windows are carefully placed to create the most airflow and eliminate direct sunlight. In a hot climate such as Morocco’s architects must tailor their designs around the powerful desert sun. The interior features high quality materials such as marble and slate, as well as traditional Moroccan furnishings and artwork. And of course, every room with an oversize window is arranged to maximize the stunning view of the mountains. Villa E is perfectly suited to its harsh environment. I love how the design can be traditional and contemporary, luxurious and minimal. Every element pairs together effortlessly for...


International Royal Architecture, or I.R.A., have designed this bright and modern dwelling in a residential neighborhood in Japan. The home is called House of KKZ, a name derived from its proximity to the Kamikitazawa Railway Station in Tokyo. The structure is a straightforward white cube with cut outs for the windows and doors. KKZ is by no means large, only 110 square meters, but the thoughtful design results in a lovely living space for a family. House of KKZ is a spilt level with several loft spaces. The varying levels allow the space to feel large and open despite the building’s small urban footprint. Small, narrow windows are placed close to the ceiling on each level. These windows bring natural light inside while maintaing the residents’ privacy. White walls and light-colored wood contribute to the sunny feel of the interior. Built in furniture and storage keeps the home free of clutter.


A gorgeous white dwelling sits beside the sea on the island of Hong Kong. House W was designed by local Hong Kong architecture firm Cheungvogl. This modern home is constructed to utilize its scenic setting. The home is composed of three tall stories with large windows on each floor. The height and windows allow the residents to gaze out at the sea and passing ships. On the other side of the home doors lead to a garden terrace. Two main materials are used in the interior: rough, exposed concrete and crisp white walls. I love the simplicity of House W. The design is clean and contemporary, a perfect contrast to the lush landscape along the sea. A minimal house in a beautiful setting allows the mind to rest and reflect. House W is the perfect place to escape the busy city of Hong Kong.


This contemporary Tel Aviv Flat is truly a unique and stunning dwelling. Designed by the Israeli firm Pitsou Kedem Architects, this apartment defines luxurious minimalism. The home is a large, flowing space divided with concrete forms. One of the forms is a solid, free-floating wall which divides the dining room and bedroom. This structure contains hidden storage to help keep the home clean and organized. Another form divides the kitchen and living room with thin, concrete columns. The exterior walls of the home are almost entirely covered in windows which look onto the busy city below. The furnishings in Tel Aviv Flat are carefully chosen for their color and shape. Each piece is sculptural and contributes to the architectural design scheme. I love the division of space in this home. The open floor plan allows the apartment to feel much larger than it actually is. This layout also connects each space of the home physically and aesthetically, resulting in a fluid, seamless design.


Casa Spodsbjerg is a family summer home on a rocky beach in Denmark. Completed in 2010 by Arkitema Architects, this house is designed to take advantage of the views and characteristics of its site. The structure is composed of two staggered volumes on a concrete foundation. One volume houses the living rooms while the other holds the bedrooms and bathrooms. The living room utilizes floor to ceiling windows to achieve an unbroken view of the sea and beach. The bedrooms are on the second story and are more shielded, allowing for a quiet and peaceful place to rest. Casa Spodsbjerg uses a limited number of materials in its design. Concrete is used for the base and internal forms, the floors are a light hardwood, and the ceilings covered with a warm, slatted wood. This home is the perfect beach dwelling. I love how the two forms work with the geography of site to maximize the views of the surroundings. I particularly enjoy the way the materials work together in this structure. The light hardwood floors blend with the exposed concrete and are reminiscent of the sandy shore outside. The slatted wood ceiling warms the space and gives it a more natural feel. What more could one want in a...


Tuneful House is a peculiar looking home in a busy residential neighborhood of Shiga, Japan. The home was designed by FORM/Kouichi Kimura Architects for unique clients on a tight budget. Every space of Tuneful House has been carefully crafted to represent the personality of its residents while remaining affordable. The exterior of the home is quirky looking, with two horn-like forms protruding at the sides. This distinct aesthetic symbolizes the owner’s unique disposition. The interior spaces of Tuneful House are divided by platforms and a range of materials. This design limits the amount of walls in the structure. The most prominent room in Tuneful House, and the room which gives the home its name, is the music room. The music room is located at the entrance of the home: a prime location for a very important space. The rest of the living spaces are divided among the first and second stories. Tuneful House features neither expensive materials or elaborate details, yet it is a charming home perfectly suited to the personality of its residents.


This simple Japanese home may not look like much from the street, but step through its metal facade and everything changes. Cave House, designed by Kento Eto Atelier Architects, features a metal frame that is guarded and impervious on the street side, but open and welcoming in the back of the home. Just inside the structure’s entrance is a narrow garden, lit by a large opening high on the front facade. Sliding walls connect the living room to the garden, creating an indoor-outdoor style environment. These same walls are used in the rear of the home to link the first floor with a backyard meadow. Three bedrooms are located on the second story, accessed by a thin metal staircase. Two of the bedrooms possess a large window overlooking the garden. The third incorporates a mini balcony. My favorite pieces of architecture are those which blend the built and natural environments. Cave House is located in a residential neighborhood, but it showcases the same union with nature as a house built in a forest. This home proves that one does not need a site in the middle of the woods to design a structure with a strong relationship to the outdoors.


Private House is a vacation home located in a scenic and secluded part of England known as Cotswolds. Designed by London based architecture firm Found Associates, the house is an extension of an 18th century stone cottage. The structure extends from both ends of the old cottage but doesn’t fully envelope it. This design allows both the cottage and extension to feel like unique volumes living in harmony. Private House also sits harmoniously with the surrounding landscape: the large structure dwells low on the site so as not to block the picturesque vistas of the rolling green hills. The clean, minimal nature of the home lends itself to feeling like an art gallery. However, in the absence of artwork, the house and surrounding landscape are the objects on exhibit. I think minimal homes tend to make the best vacation homes: one can truly relax in a peaceful setting free of distractions. Private House won the RIBA National Award in 2012 and was nominated for the RIBA Manser Medal.