Quiet Japanese charm, a quaint timber frame building with tatami mats and a peaceful zen courtyard. Seeking to create a guesthouse that captured the simplicity and slow pace of historic Japan, an old building in Kyoto was given a facelift by B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio. Known for their stunning restoration projects that reinvigorate aging Asian architecture, their previous projects include juxtaposing Qing dynasty architecture side by side with modern minimalist interiors.
Take a tour through this guest house, which offers a break from the big city lights and a touch of antiquity.
From the outside, the facade maintains the sloping tiled roof typical of Japanese architecture. A slatted front panel provides privacy and there is a wide entrance corridor that beckons you in; its concrete frame a hint of minimal modernity. Baseboard lighting guides your path.
With the aim to create a perfect and boutique homestay environment, inspiration came from Kyoto’s traditional and quiet lifestyle. Here the architects wanted to blend “the garden spirit” and integration of nature into daily life without throwing out the old entirely.
The cabinets and fixed furniture pieces were designed especially for the house, including an unusual storage arrangement under the staircase.
In a unique spin on keeping the spirit of the home alive, the materials used to construct the drawers under the stairs was made from old materials from the building, such as wood that was replaced during renovation.
“The most interesting inside room must be the living room with the staircase,” explains the architect. “It operates totally differently from before.” The older space was smaller, darker, and with less detail to the finishing materials. The new room makes great use of the street facing window space to let in plenty of light, in fanfare to warmth in the space.
One of the biggest challenges for the team was to assuage the original home owner’s fears of the home being torn apart completely. At the same time, the building requirements and regulations put in place by the local council meant that a lot of the original fixtures were desperately in need of modernization.
The project design took about seven months, but it took another eight for construction and to get through the building permit application procedures. “In Japan it’s a long process, and all you can do during the process is wait. Old houses never meet with contemporary building codes, and this is very important for the renovation strategy,” explains Chaos from the architecture team.
The concrete bathroom design trend sees no sign of abating. Blending warm wood with the cooling neutral hues of concrete, the bathrooms in this guest house err away from the traditional timber associated with Japanese bath houses and embrace the shadows and highlights of gray. Rather than stark and abrasive, you can play with concrete walls as a canvas to paint lighting or to emphasize other aspects of the room.
Another one of the interesting spaces is the long corridor which functions as an exhibition space, connects to the garden and an atrium. Looking out over the private and enclosed garden, guests are invited to find serenity.
The garden landscaping includes rock arrangements, trees and different plants, providing a space to stimulate meditation.
The Zai Chuan guest house puts together a handsome collage of Japanese architecture, traditions and designs to give visitors a quiet and pleasing stay in Kyoto hitting the right spot between old and new.
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