Much of the work at Studio Hopwood involves turning the tight spaces that we have in London into workable homes. Over time I have found that a modernist approach seems to be the best way to achieve this. I discovered many solutions in the work of Le Corbusier, although I do find his work a little too, “form follows function”. Consequently I also looked at the work of Carlo Scarpa especially his work for Olivetti at their showroom in Venice which is not only practical but delights with shape, texture and rhythm. Both architects must have got their inspiration from somewhere and they did, Japan. Like many modernist architects they studied a building built in the 17th century, the Katsura Imperial Villa, a sophisticated version of many Japanese homes which also reflects our modern world approach of being economical with space.
Just as those great architects turned to Japan to form their ideas about modernism we can also, to learn how to live well in smaller homes.
Here are a few features of Japanese living and how we have adapted them at Studio Hopwood.
A room can have multiple uses. For the Japanese living spaces are turned into bedrooms for the night by laying out futons which are stored in specially designed cupboards. In similar fashion I will often turn a rarely used spare bedroom into a more useful reading room and/or dressing room with a folding bed hidden in a wardrobe.
Open plan living seems like a great idea especially as without walls a space feels light and airy, however when cooking smells or the TV is blaring, zones need to be partitioned off from others. My solution is to use a sliding glazed doors inspired by Shoji screens which close rooms off without losing light.
The Japanese believe that every object even the wrapping of a present should be done in perfect harmony. It is the same for their homes. I tend to keep the finishes to both a minimum as said, even a palace can be built with just three. Such a simple approach can make a small space more breathable and a perfect backdrop to the special things that you might have.
Efficient storage is crucial when living in a small space. However it should be as discrete as possible by being formed, as in Japan, into the architecture of a building in other words go for integrated.
The most efficient of us often achieve very tidy, organised homes. Being not so good at that myself I used the help of Marie Kondo’s book, “Spark Joy” http://tidyingup.com. Tidy your home might be, but there is danger of being a little bit boring too. I’ve also noticed many tidy people are also obsessed with symmetry which is calming but maybe too much. To alleviate this take a look at the concept of Wabi-Sabi, which teaches that there is beauty in imperfection, in something that has worn in, a patina or broken and then carefully repaired. Nature can be quite symmetrical at times but Wabi-Sabi can also be seen in its sinuous organic shapes. In the designs at Studio Hopwood we strive to achieve symmetry to create a calm space but then subtly breaking it to create interest. I like to place objects that have a history maybe an antique or something natural such as slice of tree trunk used as a table in order to offset a modern linear space.
Do note, though that Japanese houses work in Japan not here. Interpret and be inspired by their ethos but don’t be literal, well not unless you like dressing up in a kimono on your day off.