As the days get shorter and we retreat even more inwards, we are undoubtedly looking to our dwellings for a sense of safety and peace. In Japan, Matsuyama Architect & Associates have been delivering calming, restorative designs for over two decades. One of their latest residences, Satsumasendai House, exudes serenity at every turn.
Satsumasendai House is a safe haven in multiple senses, most obviously in the street-facing facades, where openings have been eliminated save for the front doors. By restricting openings on the exterior walls, Matsuyama evokes feelings of security and privacy. Privacy is especially valuable in many of Japan’s cities, where the built environment is dense and the homes sit close to the streets. The light grey stucco siding contrasts with the structure’s hard form: the colour brings a warmth and softness to the uncompromising walls. The entrance seems to serve as a type of portal to another world. The entryway is recessed and elevated from the street, accessible only by an elegant white stair. For all the simplicity and sheer minimalism of the exterior, Matsuyama sure knows how to make a dramatic entrance. At the top of the white stairs, traditional wooden doors invite the lucky residents home.
The interior of Satsumasendai House is as bright and open as its exterior is opaque and unyielding. Soft, golden light washes over every surface, and each room offers a view to one of multiple courtyards. The ceilings and floors are alive with a warm, reddish wood, a material which extends to the kitchen countertops and frames the walls in key moments. The effect is one of overwhelming serenity: a mood we are trying to capture more and more as this year winds to a close. Matsuyama Architect seems to be an expert in this area; the serene quality of Satsumasendai House nearly flows right out of the screen.
As with many minimal residences, built-in furniture and storage is utilised to keep the interior lines clean and tidy. The long wooden countertop extends to become the dining table, complete with four coordinating chairs. The kitchen is primarily hidden behind neutral cabinets. These same cabinets create storage nooks in the entryway and living area. An oversized sofa in the living room provides a canvas for family activities.
Although sliding doors open to each courtyard, the central outdoor spaces are more for aesthetics than utility. Each courtyard features a central native plant surrounded by clean white stone. The floor to ceiling windows, combined with thoughtful lighting, display the plant life like art in a museum. Perhaps most importantly, these small outdoor spaces bring greenery and light to every room of Satsumasendai House.
Matsuyama Architect & Associates has proven their deft hand at creating minimal dwellings time and time again. With the dark winter months ahead of us, and so many of us staying home more than usual, may their peaceful designs bring inspiration and light to our own homes.