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:
ubeharu-house-1.jpg

“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.
ubeharu-house-2.jpg

The patio also gives access to two stairways (that shape on the bottom right is the second one) to the roof:
ubeharu-house-3.jpg

One stairway rises past a shaft where plants grow up from the ground beneath the house:
ubeharu-house-4.jpg

The roof holds a small bedroom with views of the ocean:
ubeharu-house-5.jpg

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?
ubeharu-house-6.jpg

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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