A Man with a Flashlight

Ryu Umeharu house – Living large in a tiny bungalow
April 2, 2007, 8:15 am
Filed under: Design, The East

Near the south end of Okinawa there’s a community of artists living near the beach. Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of the mother of one of the founding artists, so there was a music festival and general open house.

These pictures are from Ryu Umehara’s gallery space and cabin near the beach. It’s a rectangle about 12 feet by 36 feet. The central two-thirds of the rectangle is a living room and gallery for Umeharu’s paintings; the rest is a kitchen and a bathroom. On the roof there’s a small bedroom.

The rear wall of the living room opens onto a patio. Beyond that is a natural coral wall that the house was placed next to. Notice how when the sliding patio doors are open, it becomes one boundary of the interior space – complete with plants growing up the side:

“Outside” on the patio the interior flooring continues, and wooden slats and transparent corrugated plastic enclose the space visually and provide some protection from weather.

The patio also gives access to two stairways (that shape on the bottom right is the second one) to the roof:

One stairway rises past a shaft where plants grow up from the ground beneath the house:

The roof holds a small bedroom with views of the ocean:

A final touch, borrowed from traditional Okinawan houses – the sliding doors (which cover such a large entrance in front and back they should really be called sliding walls) have 3 different layers. First a sliding screen, then a sliding glass door, to let in air and light as desired. Finally a lightweight wooden wall slides into place, to seal the house during typhoons. Clever, eh?

The really lovely thing about this house is how compact it all is. I would guess around 500 square feet, plus the roof. As in many Japanese houses, it’s amazing how many separate interior spaces are created in a very small area.
Check out Umehara’s website here. Well click around anyway… I don’t read Japanese, unfortunately.

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