In Japan, a country that worships hot water, many people begin their day with a sip of green tea and end it with a soak in a deep tub. Designed by Curiosity, a Tokyo-based multidisciplinary design studio, this residence at Uehara Gardens, with its chef-ready kitchen and spa-like bath, caters to both appetites.
Located on the top floor of a “mansion” (as Western-style luxury apartment buildings are known in Japan), this recent renovation for a family of four features a sublimely spare interior intended for relaxation. “All your senses should calm down inside the home,” explains Curiosity president Gwenael Nicolas. Defined by muted gray walls, softly lit ceilings, and custom furniture created for comfort, the heart of the home is its expansive living/dining room. Tucked in back are three bedrooms, also surfaced in light colors. Against this backdrop, the kitchen and bathroom—both encased in distinctive Mongolian granite—seem like a matched pair.
Reflected in a mirrored wall at the apartment’s entry, the kitchen appears as a huge block of dark stone, both inside and out. Integrated with its granite walls and lining the room’s interior are counters, cabinetry, and built-in appliances, with a circulation path down the middle. An open counter for eating and entertaining coupled with a large pass-through merge the kitchen with the surrounding space. To maintain the stone enclosure’s sleek lines and unbroken surface, Nicolas minimized details and carefully considered the color palette. “We chose materials based on how they come together,” says the architect. Burned and waxed to bring out an almost leatherlike texture, the stone, the chocolaty-brown wood millwork, ceramic tile flooring, and plaster walls read as one, while the stone-fronted dishwasher, embedded oven, and cooktop blend effortlessly with their surroundings.
Echoing the kitchen, the bathroom has equally exquisite finishes that turn a function-oriented place into a sybaritic space. “In my country, the bathroom is for cleaning the body, but in Japan it is for clearing the mind,” observes the French-born Nicolas. In the Tokyo apartment, it consists of a sink-lined dressing area and, in keeping with the Japanese custom of washing before soaking, a bathing area with a separate shower and tub. Down the hall, two toilets occupy tiny rooms of their own.
Uniting the bathroom’s two parts, a single material—granite—forms the walls, sink, and tub. The architect complemented these fixtures with fittings from the Sen series that he designed for the Italian plumbing manufacturer Agape. Intended to make the hardware disappear, they incorporate spigots and shelving into a single strip of brass, a small touch that has a big impact on the bathing experience. Thanks to details like this, the bath evokes the spirit of a Japanese hot springs inn. “It is easy to forget that you are in the middle of Tokyo,” muses the architect.
Size: 2,000 square feet
Completion Date: December 2014
Shibuya, Tokyo 151-0063
+81 3 54520095
+81 3 54549691
Owner: Gwenael Nicolas
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Paints and stains: APE painting light grey
Floor and wall tile:
WAGON: Origonal Oak wood wagon
SOFA: C-1 Sofa, Cassina
Dimming System or other lighting controls: Lutron