Minimalissimo


Jillian Japka

True design needs no ornamentation.

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.


Like many homes in busy Japanese cities, House of Hatsugano is designed with a focus on privacy. The site, located in a dense neighborhood in Osaka, provided a challenge for NRM Architects Office. How can one create a private home that still incorporates natural light and outdoor space? The architects respond to this challenge by designing a home with three key elements: an opaque facade, a courtyard, and a roof deck.  One of the most stunning features of the structure is the elaborate roof deck. The deck, invisible from the street, circles around the roof, looking down into the courtyard. The roof deck provides much needed open, outdoor space to the small property. The interior of House of Hatsugano is reminiscent of an art gallery. The furnishings are chosen carefully and are clearly the centerpiece of every room. The functional and service areas are tucked away in cabinets that blend with the walls. I love how this home breaks the traditional aesthetic of the neighborhood. The house looks ultra modern and cool paired next to its classic suburban neighbors.


If you find that the Ginan house appears to emerge from the surface of the earth, its because its made of earth: the facade is coated in a layer of gravel. Designed by Keitaro Muto Architects, this Japanese home is composed of two blocks of different size and shape. The blocks are separated on the outside by a small swimming pool, and connected on the inside by metal bridges. One block contains the bedrooms and the other houses the living and dining rooms. From the outside, the structure is mostly opaque, exuding a guarded feeling. On the interior, however, the home is open and airy. The outward sloping walls and high ceilings allow the home to feel much larger than it actually is. The built in furniture and monochromatic color scheme also contribute to lightness of the interior. The unique shape and material of Ginan House forces you to look twice. And there is nothing more pleasing than architecture that draws the viewer in, prompts questions, and leaves us with a lingering fascination. Photography by Apertozero.


The straightforward Holiday House Vindö  is located on a rocky hillside on Vindö island in the Stockholm archipelago, Sweden. The idyllic setting of pine trees, blueberry bushes, and exposed granite posed a challenge for architect Max Holst. How could one place a home here without leveling the site and destroying the beautiful landscape? Holst responded to the site’s unique condition with a one-story structure that hovers just above ground level. The home is accessed through a series of wood stairs and planks nestled in the hillside. A large, sheltered terrace is located on the eastern end of the structure. The terrace leads to an open living and dining room. The bedrooms are located on the opposite half on the home, separated from the public areas by a hallway that doubles as the child’s playroom. The materials chosen for this home are rooted in Swedish tradition. Painted local timber defines the entirety of the facade, while the interior uses natural timber for a light and airy aesthetic. This design is exactly what I expect from a well crafted holiday home. Lovely setting, minimal intervention, only the necessities. Photography by Hannes Söderlund.


A rugged house in a rugged environment, House at Camusdarach Sands is uniquely shaped to maximize the views of the sunrise and sunset. Designed by London based Raw Architecture Workshop, this home takes advantage of its picturesque location in Scotland by orienting towards the east and west horizons. The three story home is composed of a dark timber facade atop an exposed concrete base. The interior features bright white walls accented with light wood. The main living spaces are placed on the uppermost floor, so as to take full advantage of the spectacular views. The more private and less used spaces are located on the lower two levels. I love the unique form of this home. The angled structure is a wonderful design technique. House at Camusdarach Sands takes advantage of its full environment, from the ground to the sky. Photography by David Barbour.


Contrasted against the sunny, arid landscape in Portugal is the House in Quinta Do Carvalheiro. The home is designed by Italian based firm Giorgio Santagostino and Monica Margarido, also known as GSMM Architects. The form of the residence is directly related to the topography of the site. The structure is kept small so as to limit human intervention in the landscape. All of the rooms are arranged around a central patio. This patio connects the home to the outdoors without expanding the structure’s rectangular footprint. Large windows embrace the exterior while opaque walls protect the home from overheating at the sunniest points. I love how the house sits low on the horizon. At certain angles the landscape appears about to engulf the residence and pull it back into the ground. House in Quinta Do Carvalheiro achieves a perfect balance of man and nature. Photographs by FG + SG Fotografia de Arquitectura.


MiniMod takes pre-fab living to the next level! Designed by MAPA Architects, this intelligent structure is a lovely solution for alternative and sustainable living. The prefabricated modules are completely customizable, allowing the user to design a dwelling focused on their needs and preferences. After construction, the modules are transported via truck to their final destination. MiniMod is composed of a steel frame with natural recycled pine on the interior contrasted with painted pine on the facade. Several green technologies are featured in the dwelling; among them is a rainwater filter, ventilated facade, green roof, and LED lighting. The single module in the photographs is located in Brazil. Off-site and no waste construction allow the home to leave a minuscule environmental footprint. The 26 square meter floor plan includes a bedroom, living and dining rooms, and a kitchen and bathroom. Floor to ceiling windows and a covered patio connect the home with the outdoors. MiniMod has it all: the elegant design proves that prefabricated living can be beautiful and good for the environment. Minimal in aesthetic and minimal environmental impact, MiniMod is truly a win for contemporary living.


Hideg House  is a sculptural form emerging from the rocky landscape. Located on the site of a former quarry in Koszeg, Hungary, this wooden structure is the first realized project of the young firm Béres Architects. After three long years of construction, Hideg House is a modern vacation home which merges the natural and built environments. The single story design features a dark timber frame punctured with windows and natural wood cladding. The rooms are placed to the far sides of the home, while the voided center is a covered patio. The interior is bright, white, and simple. It is a welcome contrast to the dark exterior and busy terrain. All of the rooms are arranged to maximize the views of nature. The cabin overlooks the best of both worlds: one side faces the exposed rock face of the former quarry, while the south side offers a panorama of the forest. I love the juxtaposition of this design. Pairing nature and man-made structures side by side results in a captivating aesthetic.


Look carefully or you might miss the tiny Yokaya restaurant and residence in Fukuoka, Japan. This humble white rectangle is nestled on a busy street between several tall condo buildings. Designed by rhythmdesign, the structure is a mere 135 square meters and houses a restaurant on the ground floor with an apartment above. The front facade is entirely opaque on the upper stories, while a cutout on the ground floor invites passerby into the restaurant. Wood and concrete are the main materials used in the interior. In the restaurant, the simple design allows the food to take center stage. The apartment above is arranged with a similar aesthetic: built in storage keeps the space uncluttered and the furnishings are limited to essentials. I love the modest design of this duplex building. The clean lines of the architecture and precise use of materials come together quite elegantly. Yokaya is quiet and reserved, but it is its little form that stands dignified on this bustling street.


B House is one of the few landmarks on the soft, rolling meadows of Segovia, Spain. Designed by CH+QS Arquitectos, this home was inspired by a prominent color in the natural scenery: yellow. This environment is speckled by yellow in every season. Flowers, wheat, leaves, sheep and sun brighten the terrain with their pleasant hues. B house accentuates these hues using warm wood and soft lighting. The structure is small, almost miniature. Eliminating unnecessary space allowed the architects to shrink the home’s footprint. Indoor and outdoor common areas are situated in the center of the home, with oversize openings framing the views to the east and the west. The private functions of the home are pushed to the outer edges, while the basement den accommodates the children’s playtime. House B is a humble home which enhances the beloved fields that surround it. The architecture emerges from the ground almost organically. With a bit of imagination it’s easy to picture the home growing from the earth along with the yellow trees and flowers. Photographs by FG + SG Fotografia de Arquitectura.


This sleek home is located on a sandy site in Comporta, Portugal. Designed by RRJ Arquitectos, this structure meets the needs of living in a harsh environment. Sun protection is a main concern in the scheme of House in Comporta. The single story home sits low on the site, maximizing coolness and minimizing sun exposure. The thick, concrete walls guard the home from the sun at the most vulnerable points. All the windows are recessed in the facade for extra shade during the brightest parts of the day. Clean lines, white walls, and hardwood floors are featured on the interior. I love how this home merges perfectly with its environment. The concrete facade appears to emerge directly from the sandy floor. The home is also sized so as to enhance the view of the trees and sky, rather than distract from them. House in Comporta is a perfect example of a structure inspired by the unique characteristics of its site. Photographs by FG + SG Fotografia de Arquitectura.