Situated in Japan’s Hyōgo prefecture, this chic house makes the most out of a compact, steeply sloping lot. Designed by Shogo Aratani Architect & Associates, the dwelling sits on top of the hillside in two levels, each with a distinct purpose. The most important rooms of the dwelling are all situated on the top floor, enjoying skylights and window walls which feature compelling views of the homes downhill and of slopes for miles around. Below, private spaces and storage areas occupy a more closed-off portion of the house. Throughout, nearly half a dozen varieties of wood or more are present, with unique finishes for floors, ceilings, accent pieces, and structural components of the home. The residence’s kitchen and living room are focal points, with tall window walls and an outdoor deck completing the home’s architecture.
The house is built on a steeply sloping lot, but the architects kept preservation of the landscape keenly in mind when designing its form. The final product is a home that sits on top of the hillside landscape without burrowing into it like many slope houses do, featuring impressive views downhill and an unmistakable profile from the street.
At its downhill side, the dwelling features an open deck and a kitchen with all glass walls. All the building’s main public rooms are situated on the top floor to provide panoramic views of the landscape for miles.
In the kitchen, light comes from all three glass walls as well as from a deep skylight overhead, and the layout of the room is kept as uncluttered as possible to allow the light to travel further into the house. The majority of the home’s surfaces are wood, but the kitchen features a smooth metal shell for its countertops and stove hood.
The wood hues used inside vary depending on the application, with solid pine columns between the kitchen’s exterior window panes and two different lighter species on the floors and ceilings. In addition to those varieties, bookshelves in the adjoining living room and the adjacent outdoor deck both have unique tones and textures of their own.
A large array of bookshelves forms an unconventional barrier between the kitchen and living room, with a step downward denoting the official line between the two. The living room has wide and tall windows and a sliding door out onto the deck, but those windows don’t stretch all the way from floor to ceiling like they do in the kitchen, mostly because of the extra few inches of height at the bottom of the area.
The bookshelves on the main level, one installation of many throughout the home, are arranged in a triangular pattern between the kitchen and living room, creating an additional passageway along one side leading towards a bedroom area. The section of shelves along that interior edge is actually not a full bookshelf, but a thin open rack useful for hanging household items over.
Between the shelves, a hidden wooden staircase descends down into the more private lower levels of the residence. Railings extending from each bookcase help define the geometric shape and keep occupants safe from a fall.
All the species of wood used inside are united by a generally light tone, but vary extremely in texture and patterning from varieties resembling plywood to smooth and elegant woodgrain floorboards.
The house’s stairway features some of its most compelling geometry, making the most of the building’s unconventional shape, governed by the geography of its property. Hidden near the bottom of the steps is another set of built-in shelves, with space for hundreds more books.
The dwelling’s bottom level relies more heavily on artificial light sources than the glass-filled rooms above, but still receives its fair share of natural lighting from the staircase and from small, well-placed windows. The structure of the steps changes in its final few steps to a straight, contemporary wood block pattern.
Various private rooms and storage areas are kept downstairs, away from the public’s gaze but still within close reach of the public rooms upstairs. The hidden steps ensure that the two areas are distinct, yet easy to travel between.
Shogo Aratani Architect & Associates