This Japanese House is one of the smallest Live Home 3D projects Lori and I have created, but for both of us, it is the favorite model we’ve worked on. It took a fair amount of research and even quite a few renovations to get something that was close to what a real Japanese house would look like. We did make a few concessions to our western lifestyle here and there, but overall we tried to stay true to Japanese style in our design.
I’m most proud of the private gardens that surround house. I finally came up with pond water that actually looks like pond water, and was ecstatic to find a model of koi fish in the SketchUp library to stock it with. It wouldn’t really be a Japanese pond without Koi.
You might have noticed the Honda Del Sol in the garage. If we’re going to be in Japan we need a little car, and I can’t think of anything more fun than the Del Sol we had for 20 years.
Upon approaching the house we are greeted with a traditional bamboo gate.
The front door leads to the tataki, or foyer. This room is sunken down a couple of steps to help keep the dirt out of the rest of the house. Please have a seat on the bench and remove your shoes. We have provided slippers for guests to use in the home.
Tea Room with Tokonoma
Tatami mats cover the floor. Tatami mats are made from rice straw, and are an important feature of Japanese homes. Rooms are sized around the standard 3 foot by 6 foot mats. Our tea room is a 12 tatami room.
Vintage Japanese homes would have a fire pit in the middle of the room. We deleted that feature in the interest of fire safety and healthy air. The tansu chest makes an excellent spot for the kitty to keep an eye on everything.
In the 18 tatami dining room we find a low table, with cushion chairs. The ceiling in this room is open, showing the curved form of the roof.
An antique kimono is displayed along with some blue and white pottery.
Our house is modern construction and energy efficient, but we like the idea of the heater table so we included it here. This is the room for reading, watching TV, and playing games.
Instead we decided on a hybrid Japanese/Western bathroom. In a Japanese bathroom, the toilet is in a separate room because it is “dirty” and slippers are often provided just to use while you’re in that room. The Japanese have really led the way with modern toilets that, I kid you not, even come with remote controls to adjust the heat and water flow. I skipped going that route too because I don’t want to have to call an electrician when the toilet doesn’t work.
They also have toilets that have a faucet built into the top of it so that as you wash your hands, it fills the tank with the gray water for the next flush. I like that idea for drought stricken California, and I found a model of that style toilet, but we ended up installing a traditional western toilet and separate sink. We did segregate the two into a separate room though.
The Japanese bath is a huge part of their culture, and nothing like an American bathtub. It’s closer to our hot tub in style, allowing a full soak, and it’s often communal. There is a shower nearby that you use before getting into the tub.
While most of the house has plain plaster walls, the two bedrooms are decorated with Bradbury & Bradbury Japanese wallpapers. I wish we had one more room in our real house so we could decorate it with their Japanese papers.
The furniture is a combination of Asian and Craftsman. Craftsman furniture was heavily influenced by Asian design so it seems appropriate to use in a western version of a Japanese home.
The garden wraps around the entire house and a meandering path provides a way to enjoy each section. We’ll start in the front yard by the entrance.
After my father passed away in 2005, mom was ready to downsize, and she decided to sell the 1960 ranch style house I was born in. While my siblings and I were helping clean up the yard getting it ready to put on the market, I noticed the Kerria and asked mom if I could dig up some to save.
She declined, saying she didn’t want to make a mess right before it was going on market.
While she was busy elsewhere my sister Melody, who happens to enjoy gardening as much as I do, helped me dig up a small section and I secreted it away. I planted it in our garden, and the next time mom came to visit, it was in bloom. She remarked how she had always loved that plant, and I then felt safe admitting how I stole it. I ended up propagating a new one for her.
Over the years mine died, but mom’s did well at her condo. When she passed away, my other sister, Linda, was able to dig a small clump, and I received that one to start again. That’s the clump that is in my greenhouse. I want to get it to a sizable clump before trying it outside in the garden again, since now there’s no backup. It’s been in the greenhouse for five years. It might go in the garden this spring.
I love that the clump I now have started in San Jose, came to Ferndale, went back to San Jose, and is now back in Ferndale for the second time. Its roots probably go back 60 years.
So that’s why when I started designing this Japanese garden, I knew I needed to find a spot for those cheerful yellow flowers.
That’s it for the tour of this house. Quite simple, with no great hall, library, billiard room or drawing room. Just two bedrooms and one bath, it’s quite a downsize from our 55 room castle. But we had a lot of fun working on this one, and love the way it turned out. Hope you do too.